Saturday, 23 June 2012

Dublin Seniors - the Last Post

The Seniors gave it their all but were beaten by the Irish in the last match of the event.  There were slams there for the bidding and the beating, but it turned out that even if we had got the maximum 25 VPs, it still wouldn’t have been quite enough to make the top six. 

Memories of Dublin 2012?  The Women’s Gold medal, the army of friendly and helpful yellow-shirted Irish volunteers, the Open team qualifying for Bali (contrary to the predictions of some), the persistent light drizzle, the Scots winning their first ever European or World medal, Monaco’s transformation from mere principality to European super-power, and finding a plaque  to the Reverend Benjamin McDowell (my great-great-great-great-grandfather) in the Abbey Church in Dublin. 

Dublin, Open - Final

The open team are coming to the end of a hard ten daysbplay in Dublin. Yesterday we produced a magnificent performance to beat the mighty Italians 19-11 despite a fair amount of bad luck. Then we ground out a tight 16-14 win against the Irish. In the evening we played Sweden, they did some very good things and we mounted a late revival to get 11VPs, leaving us needing 8 VPs from the last match v Israel this morning to guarantee qualification for the Bermuda Bowl, and we still have a chance for a medal. Fingers crossed!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Dublin Seniors - part 10

First of all, congratulations to the English ladies playing in the Women’s team.  A wonderful performance and a richly deserved Gold medal.  Bravo!

The Seniors had a bye in the morning, probably the best part of the day to have it.  Well rested (these relentless ten o’clock starts can be tiring for us elderly folk), they beat Bulgaria 20-10.  In their second match they overcame Spain 18-12, a result that would have been even better if East, not West, had held the king of clubs on the last board, allowing the English slam to make.  

Nevertheless, the dream of going to the World Championships is still on; we need a big win against host nation Ireland in the final match of the championships, and a couple of other results to go our way.  Let us hope that that the wonderful Irish friendliness that has pervaded the last ten days extends to tomorrow morning.  English table presence plus Irish table presents – that should do it.

By the way, I understand that the Irish Senior team have been given a list of defensive tips to learn by heart.  It must be working, because Pat’s partner has been heard to exclaim “We’ve got them down pat.”

I must leave you now to go and work on my final rousing motivational speech (the last one was described as Churchillian, oh yes). 

Dublin Ladies FINAL

We had a close match against Sweden in the final round but it was enough to secure the Gold Medal with 9 victory points to spare. All six of the team played very well over the last 11 days and are to be congratulated on this fine result. It means we go to Bali in September 2013 for the Venice Cup installed as one of the favourites for a medal.

Dublin Ladies 11

A quick update after the first match of the final day. France have won 20-10 against Sweden to reduce our lead from 10 to 8. Not too much damage. In the final round they play the Netherlands and we play Sweden. If we get 17 then it does not matter what else happens. More later.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Dublin Seniors - part 9

It was a tough day today.  We started by losing narrowly to Demark, 14-16.  We conceded slam swings on the first two boards, so coming back to a near draw was a minor achievement.  We then beat the leaders, France 16-14.  Alas, we lost the third match to Scotland, 11-19.  It was a painful loss, it always is against the Scots, but we now wish the them the best of luck in qualifying for their first ever World Championships (they are lying third).

Our situation is serious.  We have a bye tomorrow morning – we get credited with 18 VPs for that – and then we play Bulgaria and Spain.  I have been in touch with Roy Hodgson to swap experiences.  He says we should concentrate on defence and a flat back four.  I certainly agree with the former and will sleep on how I might incorporate the latter.

Don’t tell anyone, especially not Sofia, but our secret weapon will be unveiled tomorrow; Gunnar tells me he has a lucky Wimbledon Bridge Club pen.

Dublin Ladies 10

A fine win 25-4 against Germany in the first match of the day made our position look very strong but France kept going by getting 25 also. Turkey got mashed by Scotland(thank you) and their challenge looks over. In the second match we lost only our second match this time to the Netherlands. A small loss became worse with an adverse slam swing on the last board to make it 8-22. We still have a lead of 10 with two matches to go. Our bye will give us 18 more and then we play Sweden. France also have two relatively tough matches against Sweden and the Netherlands. The best or worst will be known by about 4.30 tomorrow. Whatever happens it will be in our hands come the last match so if the captain selects wisely and the players play well we will be ok however a few thousand crossed fingers would not go amiss!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Dublin Seniors - part 8

We started with a 11-19 loss to Israel*.  That was followed by a narrow 16-14 win against Sweden, and we ended the day with a 20-10 win over Wales, leaving us still in 9th position.  We are 9 VPs short of 6th place, which would earn us a trip to the World Championships in Bali, and 15.5 VPs off the medal positions, which would earn us open-topped bus parade through Aylesbury.

Our opponents tomorrow are all lying above us – Denmark (currently 3rd), France (1st) and Scotland (4th).  So, fingers crossed for as much of the day as you can manage.

* Yes, I know, Israel are not really in Europe, but the European Bridge League base much of their organisation of the event on that of the Eurovision Song Contest, in which Israel are allowed to perform.  Ireland’s own Terry Wogan and Graham Norton are doing a fine double act on VuGraph.  GN: “Ooh, look, he’s got a Yarborough.”  TW: “That’s nil pwa.”  (Sorry, I don’t know how I get you to read ‘points’ with a French accent.)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Dublin Seniors - part 7

Today was the first rain-free day in Dublin since the championships began and the England recovery began with two fine wins against Norway (21-9) and Turkey (22-8), moving us up the table from 9th to 4th.  England then went on to beat the Ukraine one-nil, but before that, back in Dublin, we lost a bridge match to on-form Italy and dropped back to 9th.  We’re halfway through the tournament, so there is time to rise again – and the team are determined to do so.

The level of my bridge ability has become apparent to the team from my comments during the post-match discussions.  This could prove to be an important factor over the next few days; when faced with a tricky decision, the England Seniors will now ask themselves “What would Simon do?” and do the opposite.

Let us how the strategy works, first against Israel, just behind us in 10th spot, then against Sweden, lying 5th and lastly against Wales, who are currently 15th.

Talking of Wales, commiserations to the Welsh Open team who went into their last match this afternoon needing a big win to make it into the final stages.  They didn’t get it, but well done on a brave campaign.

Open Team VIII

First objective achieved - we qualified for the second round robin of the Europeans. We finished in second position in our group, with a good carry forward leaving us in 2nd position overall as we start the second round robin. Tomorrow we play Greece (1000) and then Germany (1330). On Thursday and Friday we play three matches each day, and then a final match against Israel on Saturday morning. Keep tuned!


Dublin Ladies 9

Two matches today. First Austria who we beat 22-8 and then a bloodbath against Bulgaria with 150 imps changing hands including about 11 double figure swings. When the music stopped we had won 19-11. That with the help of some favourable results puts us 15vp's clear of Turkey with 4 matches to go(one of which is our bye). Tomorrow is a day of rest and recuperation and we are back in the action on Thursday at 10:00a.m. against Germany.

Dublin Ladies 8

Yesterday we suffered our first reverse against Israel. They started dreadfully in the event but have recovered to be in a qualifying place. They beat us 17-13 and played well. We then played the auld enemy and narrowly triumphed and beat Estonia in the last match. We still lead by 5v.p.s from Turkey. France are 12 back but did some recovering yesterday and still represent a threat.

Today we have two teams in the middle: Austria who have a lot of experience and then Bulgaria who are a young team who are very up and down and it is wise to set a field with plenty of slips and gullies.

Tomorrow is a whole day off before returning for the last 4 key matches. In our case one of those is a bye and at this stage getting 18 for this is no bad thing as the nerves start to jangle.

As a final aside the programme says that two women held the record for 19 European appearances until this championship when Nicola is playing her 20th, more than anyone else and a tremendous record which includes Gold Medals in 1975, 1979, 1981, 1997, 1999 and 2001(the first 5 as Great Britain and the last as England)

Monday, 18 June 2012

Dublin Seniors - part 6

Not a good day at the office.  We came from being 1-19 IMPs down to beat Belgium 47-31 (19-11 in VPs), but then lost by 8 VPs to 22 against Germany in a very swingy set of boards. We had hopes for the third match against bottom team Finland, but lost that 7-23.  We are now in 9th place.  Tomorrow has been designated bounce-back Tuesday.

Tuesday’s opponents are 10th placed Norway, against whom we have a good record (sorry if I am tempting fate); Turkey, who won the Seniors title eight years ago but are now lying in 15th place; and Italy, who are 11th and against whom we don’t have a good record (I don’t mind if fate reads that last bit).  

Roger O’Shea of Pharon Independent Financial Advisors has been in touch to wish us good luck.  The EBU doesn't pay for the Seniors’ travel and accommodation, so Pharon’s sponsorship of the England Senior team is most welcome. 

Open Team Part VII

A slightly disappointing 13-17 reverse against Luxembourg yesterday was followed by a 19-11 win against "Croatia" complete with their star English player Ben Handley-Pritchard. We now have a bye in the second match before we face Finland this evening. We remain in 2nd place in our group, but have Estonia and reigning world champions the Netherlands to play tomorrow. I will update you again when qualification is complete.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Dublin Seniors - part 5

An excellent 19-11 win (45 IMPs to 29) against title-holders Poland has kept us in equal first place on 60 VPs.  We had the second grand slam swing of the event when Paul Hackett and Tony Waterlow bid to a very good 7D. Paul & Tony then beat 6C on the next board, a contract successfully brought home by John Holland in the other room.

We have a full day tomorrow when we face a good Belgium team (currently lying 3rd with 59 VPs), followed by Germany (in 7th place) and Finland (19th).

I popped into Dublin this morning to do some research into my family tree and visited the church where one of my ancestors (a hell-fire preacher there from 1788 to 1824) has a memorial plaque.  I will use him as an inspiration for my next motivational pre-match team talk.  Expect to see the English Seniors full of righteous wrath and smiting their foes (in a non-physical way, of course).

Dublin Ladies 7

One match today vs Poland. As it was 1st vs 3rd it might, I suppose, have been on BBO but they preferred the equivalent of Gillingham vs Rochdale instead. We had a grim start and were 30-0 down after 3 boards but the team showed their resilience and came back to win 68-42 which converts to 20-10 in victory points. We are now in the second half and our record to date is played 10 Won 8 and Drawn 2. Tomorrow is a three match day against Israel who started badly but have been getting better, Scotland who have been doing well and Estonia who after a big first round win have been struggling.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Dublin Ladies 6

Excellent day. We took 23 from Belgium in the first match and then 23 more against Denmark in the second match. That puts us first in the table but France despite a couple of dodgy results are continuing to chase and are 8 behind us. Tomorrow we have only one match which is against a dangerous Polish side. We will also move past the halfway point in the event. Currently the tables for the three events read 2nd 1st 1st. A long time since that has been the case I suspect.

Dublin Seniors - part 4

Inspired by (and eager to match) the wonderful performances of the Open and Women’s teams, the Seniors got off to an excellent start to their campaign.  They had a good 20-10 revenge win against Estonia (including a grand slam bid by Gunnar Hallberg and John Holland that was only reached at three of the other 17 Senior tables) and an even better 21-9 win against the Netherlands. The net result is that we share the lead with Belgium.

The answers to the two questions raised in yesterday's blog are: the Estonian revenge was chilled and, yes, John Holland did sit out against the Netherlands.

We only have one match tomorrow, but it’s a toughie.  Our opponents, Poland, are the defending champions in the Senior event, and highly fancied for a podium finish.  They have the same team as they had in the last two European Championships, in Pau and Ostend.  A lot may depend on how late the Poles stay up celebrating (or drowning their sorrows) after tonight’s match against the Czech Republic in Wroclaw, in those other European Championships.

After Sunday things get much busier; we have a full schedule of three matches a day from Monday to Friday. 

Open Team Part VI

A good day here - we lost narrowly against Poland's front four and then we got a splendid 24-6 win against France - and we finish the day in 2nd place. Luxembourg tomorrow.

Dublin Ladies 5

We had a good win in the first match of the day against Greece which featured Susan & Fiona collecting 1000 from 1NTxx. At the end of this round we were the only unbeaten team in the tournament and courtesy of two draws we remained so at the end of the day. The draw against Ireland was a little disappointing but last time in Ostend we lost to them so this represents improvement. This weekend is not exactly a heavy time with two matches today and only one tomorrow but all of them are against top half teams commencing with Belgium.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Open Part V

A productive day for the Open Team in Dublin. We started off with a convincing 21-9 win against the Iceland team - who in all of our view are a certainty to qualify for the second week, so a very satisfying result. Second up we faced Romania, who were lying comfortably in a qualifying position - we managed to record an excellent 23-7 victory against them (even after this they are in a qualifying spot). Last up we had somewhat of a local derby against Wales - a tight set of boards saw us triumph 18-12 - leaving us having picked up 62 from the day - a great effort from the boys. Tomorrow we have a very tough ask, we play Poland at 1000 and they are playing their front four, and then we play France, which will be on Vugraph and BBO at 1330. We are currently in second place in our group, behind only the very strong Monaco team. On Sunday we play just one match against Luxembourg, then just two more days of the first phase remain. Let's hope we keep at it and keep winning!

Dublin Seniors - part 3

The Seniors have all arrived at the venue, and so has their luggage.

Their first match on Saturday is at 10:00, against Estonia, who have a national bridge membership of 526. Not all of them are over 60, so their pool of available seniors won’t have been that large. In the previous two European Championships they finished 16th out of 20 and 19th out of 23. A nice easy start for England? Not at all; Estonia beat us 25-5 in Pau and 16-14 in Ostend. We are hoping that revenge is dish of the day. Come back tomorrow to see if it was served cold enough.

Our second match could hardly be more different; the Netherlands have a national bridge membership of 88,641. The tournament organisers have asked us to rest John Holland for the match because they are worried that it will confuse BBO spectators to have the Netherlands playing East-West and Holland playing South. Do you think ingratiating ourselves with the organisers early in the event is a good idea?

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Open Team Part IV

Today we once again played three matches, fortunately this time we were able to use all three pairs. We got a good 21-9 win against a dangerous Austrian side, followed by a tight 15-15 draw with Switzerland. In the last match we played a strong Russian outfit on BBO and Vugraph, and we played well and squeezed out a 17-13 win, leaving us in 8th position. Tomorrow we play the strong Iceland team (1000), Romania (1330) and Wales (1640). We will be looking to have a heavy scoring day before facing France and Poland on Saturday. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Dublin Ladies 4

Today was a second successive good day. We played Italy first and conceded precisely 0 imps in the whole match winning 36-0 which converts to 22-8.

Second up we played Turkey who we expected to be in the lower half of the table at the end but they had started with three wins including beating a strong Dutch team. We started strongly but the Turks scored a goal or two at the end but we ran out 18-12 winners and we are currently 3rd in the table.

Tomorrow is a three match day vs Greece, Norway and lastly the home nation Ireland. We lost to Ireland in Ostend in 2010 so will be looking for revenge.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Open Team Part 3

It has been a very difficult first day in Dublin for the Open Team. Unfortunately Andrew Robson has had to return to London as a result of an illness within the family. That meant a decision had to be made about what to do for the best of the team, and it was decided that Andrew and his partner Alexander Allfrey would have to be replaced, and we were incredibly fortunate that Tom Townsend and David Bakhshi were available to step into the breach. We are also grateful to Tom and David's Pachabo teammates, who released them from their duty to play in the final of that event this weekend. They booked their flights out to Dublin, and arrived this evening. What that meant is that unfortunately we had to play all three matches today with the same two pairs - 60 boards at this level in a day is incredibly tiring. We started off with a well played match versus Monaco, when we lost 11-19. Then we managed to hoover up Cyprus securing the maximum, 25-1. But in the last match tiredness perhaps kicked in and Denmark played well to beat us 21-9. Having said that, we have emerged from a difficult day with 45 VPs on the board, and with Tom and David here to bolster things from tomorrow, we hope to kick on and qualify for week two before making a push to qualify for the Bermuda Bowl.
Tomorrow we play Austria (1000), Switzerland (1330) and finally Russia (1650) - the Russia match will be on BBO and in the on-site Vugraph theatre.
I must add that the whole team reacted impeccably to an extremely trying set of circumstances, and the team would also like to send their best wishes to Andrew and his family.

Dublin 2012- Ladies Blog 3

A good first day. We started against France, one of the favourites for a medal. In Ostend two years ago we got only 10 vp's against them but today we played well and beat them by 8imp's which converted to 16-14.
In the second match we played Spain who are unlikely to feature in the leading positions. We got 24v.p.s against them and finished the day in 3rd place. The captain is pleased!
Key data
1. First 3 for a medal
2. First six to qualify for the Venice Cup in Bali(better than Middlesbrough, perhaps)
3. Our score compared with two years ago. We are +9 after day 1

Dublin 2012 - Seniors, Part 2

Still a couple of days before the Seniors arrive (on Friday) and play gets underway (on Saturday). I’ve come out to Dublin a few days early (at my own expense, I hasten to add, before you complain about misuse of EBU pennies) to check on the facilities for the Seniors (they like their rooms to have access by lift), inject funds into the Irish economy and cheer on the English Open and Women’s teams.

Did you notice that in the blogs about the female event they are Ladies, but now that they are in Dublin they have to be called Women (European directive 36C). The transformation took place on the flight, as they flew over Wales. Genteel manners and blue-rinse perms were replaced by steely determination and sensible shoes.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Open Team - Part 2

So we have all arrived safely in Dublin. We had the Opening Ceremony this evening, which was a shorter affair than usual, and the team settled down to what will no doubt become our regular dinner venue for the next ten days - a eastern style on site restaurant. Tomorrow morning we face the newly formed Monaco team - for this match Crouch/Patterson will take on Helgemo/Helness in the open room, while Forrester/Gold will take on Nunes/Fantoni in the closed room - a mouthwatering clash which you will be able to follow live on BBO at 10am. We then play Cyprus in the afternoon match before being on BBO once again at 1650 against Denmark. We are hoping to get off to a good start, and the points we score against Monaco and Denmark probably will have extra significance as we carry forward 100% of our totals against the teams who qualify for week 2 from our group if or should I say when we qualify. Please watch and support our guys, and hopefully we can bring you some cheer to brighten up our gloomy June days.

Monaco cleared for Dublin

The England Open team will have a game first thing on Wednesday after all!  Monaco, England's scheduled opponents, have been given last-minute clearance to take part.

Pierre Zimmermann’s and the Fédération Monégasque  de  Bridge have  prevailed upon  the European Bridge League to allow the team of Fulvio Fantoni / Claudio Nunes, Tor Helness / Geir Helgemo and Franck Multon / Pierre Zimmermann as players, with Jean-Charles Allavena as NPC and Krzysztof Martens as Coach, to enter the European Team Championships in Dublin. The EBL had previously refused the Zimmermann team permission to play, citing that residency requirements of two years had not yet been met. The new EBL position is that September 2010 to June 2012 constitutes two years’ residency. This brings the European competition rules into line with the WBF rules. Earlier, the Monaco team was faced with the rather absurd position of being able to compete for the Bermuda Bowl in Bali in 2013 if they qualified, but not being able to compete in the European qualifier.

Was this the right decision? I'm not sure ....

Friday, 8 June 2012

Dublin 2012 - Ladies, Part 2

The European Women’s Bridge Championships take  place in Dublin between June 12 and June 23 alongside similar events for Open and Senior teams. You can follow all the action here with the regular blogs on the EBU website.  

The Women’s series will be played as a single complete round robin with all teams playing each other in matches of around 20 boards We have high hopes of our selected team:

Heather Dhondy & Nevena Senior
Nicola Smith & Sally Brock
Susan Stockdale & Fiona Brown

NPC: Jeremy Dhondy      Coach: David Burn

England last won the Women’s Championships in 2001 in Tenerife although there were numerous triumphs for Great Britain in the preceding years.  But this team offers a terrific blend of experience and youthful talent. Nicola Smith MBE,  for instance, has been a leading international player for over thirty years and was a member of the British teams which won the Venice Cup, the women’s world championship, in 1981 and 1985, and which finished second in 1976.

Sally Brock, meanwhile, played and won her first European Championships in in 1979, partnering Sandra Landy. She too was part of the Venice Cup-winning team of 1981.  Heather Dhondy won three European titles between 1997 and 2001 so she will be hungry for fresh success. Nevena Senior has represented Bulgaria as well as England (and Britain) and won the European Ladies Pairs as long ago as 1987.  Susan Stockdale and Fiona Brown don’t have quite the same medals to boast about (as yet)  but they have already played a key role in enabling this team to qualify for the Venice Cup.

Our team is talented, glamorous … and desperate to win!  

The top three ladies’ teams get medals, while the top six qualify to play in the World championships in Bali in 2013.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Dublin 2012 - Seniors, Part 1

The European Championships are taking place in Dublin between June 12 and June 23.  England are fielding strong teams with genuine chances of a medal in the Open, Ladies and Seniors events  but, of the three, the best chance of all may lie with our trusty Seniors.

The European Senior series will be played as a single complete round robin provided that the number of participating countries is sufficient. It is anticipated that matches will be of 16 or 20 boards, depending on the number of matches to be played.  Our ever-youthful line-up, sponsored by Pharon Independent Financial Advisers, is as follows:

Paul Hackett & Tony Waterlow
Gunnar Hallberg & John Holland
David Price & Colin Simpson

NPC: Simon Cochemé

England has never won the Seniors event since it began in 1995.  Like the England footballer team, our Seniors have had more success at a ‘worldly’ level. Five of them (all apart from Waterlow who has replaced Ross Harper) won the 2009 D’Orsi Bowl (Bermuda Bowl for Seniors) in Sao Paulo, having finished 7th  in Europe and being called up to Brazil as reserves.  Three of them (the other three H’s) then went on the win the World Championships the next year.

As in the other two events, the top three teams in the Seniors get medals, while the top six get to play in the World championships in Bali in 2013. I’m not sure their bus passes will stretch that far ….

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Dublin 2012 - Open, Part 1

European Championships fever is upon us. Can the new England manager Cope with a team of jaded old has-beens and prima donnas and get beyond the quarter-finals? Will he opt for a diamond formation or rely on throw-ins? But enough of the football; what about the Euros that really matter, the Bridge Euros taking place in Dublin between June 12 and June 23? Surely that represents a much better chance of national glory?

If you can’t be there to wave the flag and encourage Peter Crouch to do his Robot Dance each time he brings in a grand, why not keep in touch with the action via the blogs on the EBU website? We hope that the NPCs will bring us all the drama as it happens and the rest of us can point out helpfully how that 3NT could have been made on an intra-finesse and triple squeeze.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, the boys who will be representing us in the 51st Open Event are as follows:

Tony Forrester & David Gold
Andrew Robson & Alexander Allfrey
Peter Crouch & Derek Patterson

NPC: Simon Cope; Coach: Ben Green

The Open series will be played in two round robins: in the first round robin (qualifier), teams will be divided into two groups, according to their ranking in the preceding 3 European Team Championships. At the end of the qualifier, the 9 best ranked teams from each group will be determined, which will advance to the second round robin (final). The remaining teams will finish the championships at this point.

England (as such) has never won the Open event. You have to go back to 1991 when Great Britain last claimed the title. Forrester and Robson survive from that triumph where their teammates were John Armstrong, Graham Kirby, Tony Sowter and Roman Smolski, with Sandra Landy as NPC. It is surely time to make up for 21 years of hurt.

The top three teams in each event get medals, while the top six get to play in the World championships in Bali in 2013. How can we fail? Come on, Eng-er-land!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Dublin 2012 - Ladies, Part 1

The Ladies team are off to Dublin in little over a week. The entry is smaller this time than in Ostend which means some gaps in the schedule. It might have been better if the matches were longer i.e. 2 on each day of about 30 boards instead of 3*20.  I'll try to report daily on their progress once the event has started. First six make the World Championship due to be held in Bali in September 2013.