Monday, 30 September 2013

Bali 16: It's the end of the world as we know it

We had an excellent first set on the final day but a poor second one where the lead disappeared so we started the final set 7 behind and although there were several chances up as far as Board 94 we couldn't quite do it. Silver is nothing to be other than proud of and its the first medal for 28 years in this event for our team.

At the medal ceremony Fiona & Susan were congratulated on joining the rest of the team as World Grand Masters.

England's final position also means they qualify for the Sport Accord games in Beijing just before Xmas.

Later today we start the trek home from the most hospitable of islands. Next time in 2015 the venue is likely to be Goa.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Bali 15: Day of destiny

We've reached the last day. 48 boards between us and a third successive Gold medal. At the half way stage we are 4.7imps behind. Yesterday featured some big swings and some big hands. In the last set a lightner double beat 7H when the opening leader for the USA had a choice of two five card minors. She got it right. In the other room Fiona has bid so there was no guess and the opposition viewed to retreat to 7NT to gain 2! The last board of set 2 earned us 16 when a take out double was interpreted as penalties and in set 3 it was worth 14 when the opponents bid 6C against Heather & Nevena which went 3 down whilst a penalty of 800 was extracted at the other table.

In case you were wondering Miss World is over and it was won by Miss Philippines. Although I missed the ceremony the end was marked by a first class traffic jam which would be the envy of many a large city. The preparation now turns to the visit of Mr Obama and curiously female statues, all of which are very respectable, have been covered with sarongs.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Bali 14: At last a medal

England completed a demolition job against China yesterday. As in the quarter final we built a good lead on the first day and were very solid on day 2. So this win guarantees at least a silver medal and our first Venice Cup medal of any colour since 1985. Nicola and and Sally were on that team also. We play USA2 in the final. They have good players but not very experienced partnerships so I am hopeful the next two days will bring the right result.

The conference centre here is big and our event is not the only one going on. Yesterday the candidates for Miss World 2013 arrived. The majority of them were wearing World Rhino Day tee shirts presumably to show their environmental credentials. To save you checking Google it was on Sep 22. The final is tomorrow and their area has now been roped of which stops the players going to ogle and the audience for Miss World seeking to filch our free coffee.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Bali 13: The final beckons

England had a good day yesterday and built up a useful but not decisive lead to take into the second half of the semi final. The winners play off for the gold medal over 96 boards and the losers have an 80 board play off for a bronze medal. England played in this in Veldhoven in 2011 and are very keen not to have to do it again.

At all world championships people can and do watch on BBO although Our Game also is broadcasting to China. Today's bulletin tells of an offer made by Our Game, a Chinese Internet Company to pay for exclusive rights to broadcast in future. No decision has yet been made by the WBF but the many keen BBO viewers will be looking on with some concern with the knowledge that BBO have provided an excellent free service for more than a decade.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Bali 12: End of the road for some

The quarter finals ended with mixed news for the English teams.

The women played three steady sets and never looked like relinquishing the lead they had built up on the first day. They now play China in the semi final. A win guarantees at least a silver medal. If you get up early to watch note that play starts at 3 a.m. on Friday.

The open team started the last set 65 behind and quickly moved 27-0 ahead but they could not maintain this and although they won the set lost by 52 overall. They did well to qualify and Monaco are tough opponents.

The Scots ran out of steam and conceded with one set to go. They are now in the transnational event.

At the end of the quarter final there was a second round of drug testing. The seniors don't get tested. The other two series do have tests and one of our players was selected.  50 pages out of 125 in the regulations are devoted to this topic and as there is one list of prohibited substances it means bridge players are subject to the same restrictions as greco-roman wrestlers!

Outside the venue they are preparing for next week's visitors and as that will include Presidents Obama and Putin a lot of street sweeping and minor repair is going on.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Bali 11: Who will be knocked out?

After 21 short matches the 96 board versions have started.

In the women's event England started with a good set and consolidated with two more positive sets to lead by 84 at the half way stage. The final set when the two strongest US pairs were playing and we won 38-9 was especially impressive.

In the open event England fell 40 behind but hit back hard on set 2 to take the lead. Monaco then won the last set to lead by 37. Still all to play for.

The Scottish seniors are facing a mountain to come back from 93 down.

The IBPA is the International Bridge Association and it has just made its annual awards. One of the open team, Andrew Robson, was a winner of the Personality of the Year in the year when he was also made an OBE. You can read more at

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Bali 10: End of the round robin

A good day for the home countries as both English teams and the Scots qualified for the quarter finals. Normally the winners can choose any of the 5th to 8th teams in the ko but to complicate things a new rule allowed 4th, 3rd and 2nd to decare themselves available for selection by a higher ranked team. This was billed as being fairer. I thought it wasted enough time to delay my evening glass of something fortifying. Predictably 0 teams availed themselves of this unmissable opportunity and it did not take Nostradamus to predict this would be so.

The English women play USA1. They start eight behind as a result of losing the qualifying match. USA1 have a sponsor and expect her to appear early in the match and not at the end.

The open team have been getting stronger and finished the round robin well, making the early struggle to stay near a qualifying position just a bad memory. They now play Monaco and start 4.33 ahead but this will be a tough match.

The Scottish Seniors did well to qualify and play the USA in the quarter final.

The women's hotel had a surprise for one of the team at 4.30 this morning when water started dripping through a light fitting. This was a follow up to what seemed to be an earth tremor in the early hours. Ideal preparation for a big knock out match!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Bali 9: Final day nerves

Today is the last day of qualifying and the nerves will be jangling. The women start in 5th place but have two difficult matches to end with against Japan who are in 9th with a chance of qualifying and France who are almost certain qualifiers. Yesterday as a welcome maximum (our 3rd) against South Africa but in the final match of the day lost heavily in the last 3 boards to go from a winning to losing position against China meaning we have work to do today.

In the open partnerships returned to normal. We had an excellent day with three wins (against China, Monaco and Poland to leave us 6th. We now have a good chance of qualifying but still have two tough matches to come out of three.

In the Seniors the Scots still have a good chance with an important first match against fellow contenders Australia.

The walk home from the centre to hotel has been given an extra excitement by the upgrading of the pavement. The new version comprises small pink stones coupled with large square shields which mask drains. Where these are not yet fitted there is a large deep hole with no guard around it. The captains duty last night extended to helping Nicola avoid these obstacles so that we had a full team today.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Bali 8: Only six to go

The round robin has two more days to go.

In the Women's series England had an excellent day winning all three matches' two of them against almost certain qualifiers. There is a modes carry forward from these matches to the knock out stages so if, for example, we play the Netherlands we will start 8.67 imps up.

In our first match against USA2 Sally & Nicola made a grand slam missed at the other table and in the second match Nevena will have known it was her birthday when she & Heather bid a grand on an early board followed immediately by a 1400 penalty when the Dutch saved over a slam that was only making if you dropped a stiff king offside. A solid win against Australia in the final match has left us 4th and in good shape to qualify.

In the open series there were some partnership changes and we saw Forrester and Robson in action for the first time in years. Two good wins brought us into a qualifying position but a loss to the Netherlands means we are 9th with two days to go and a tough run in. It may favour us that we have other countries in contention to play starting with China.

One of the jobs of a coach is to produce some notes on the peculiarities of the opposition. David Burn adds a note about the country concerned so the players can demonstrate extra knowledge. For example "If you do not know where Indonesia is you are currently lost. The country was under Dutch colonial rule for about 350 years during which it was a more or less peaceful place where not much happened. Upon becoming independent it was occupied by the Japanese who conducted regular massacres then engaged in civil wars which killed another million people. In an attempt to shake off the Dutch imperialist oppression it was decided to drive on the left but this decree reached only half the people with the result that everyone now drives in the middle". 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Bali 7:Happy Birrhdays

By way of coincidence two of our team (Nevena & David Bakhshi) have birthdays today. A gift of large numbers of vps will be appreciated.

The women's team despatched Guadeloupe by the maximum and then had a good win against Indonesia. A loss against Sweden in the last match left us sixth. There is a gap of a match between the leading seven and the chasing pack which is encouraging although with nine matches to go a lot can happen. I commented earlier that the qualifying score would be quite low (under 11.5 looks almost certain). Max Bavin, WBF Chief TD, believes if it is lower than previous years it will be by only a tiny amount. Interestingly if you get fined 2vps for an infraction that used to represent 2 vps out of 25 or 8% whereas with the new scale it is 2 out of 20 or 10%. This gives the captain's lectures concerning slow play and mobile phones 2% more relevance but I haven't noticed the team being 2% more attentive!

The open team were 39-0 down to Guadeloupe which was grim but they recovered to win and also won well against Chinese Taipei in the final match. This leaves them still in touch with the qualifying bunch.

In the Russia of the 1980s there was someone on every hotel floor equipped with a samovar. In Bali a similar overstaffing is apparent with six to serve a drink and get the bill in the hotel and an extraordinary number of security personnel everywhere which seems to have more to do with full employment than any particular worry.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Bali 6: Half way looms

Today sees the half way point in the round robin and some of the slow starters are beginning to get going. There will be some bleary eyes as we all start an hour earlier today because of a religious festival.

The women's team moved into a qualifying position with three wins against middle to lower ranking teams. There are some tougher days to come but the team are playing well. A good position in qualifying is important as it influences choice of opponent in the ko.

The open team had a torrid day losing two matches and beating Egypt  in the final match to relieve the gloom. To make things worse their NPC has had to return home due to ill health. We all wish Simon better quickly. Some vps are needed today!

The Scottish Seniors had a tough day yesterday but came through it well and are in 3rd place

The USA are not keen on the multi. They are allowed to bring their written defence to it to the table which causes derision amongst the Europeans. Sadly I'd didn't help when an opponent opened the dreaded multi and his partner responded 2H. Now a 3H overcall was thought to be natural by one hand and a two .suited by the other. That gave 15 imps to the opponents.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Bali 5: The marathon continues

The headline of the blog is taken from the bulletin and with six rounds gone and fifteen to go before the ko it seems like it.

The women had a couple of disappointing results but finished with a good win against New Zealand to keep us in contention.

One effect of the new VP scale complete with decimal places seems to be a flattening of the scores and it looks as if under 12 vps per match will qualify comfortably.

The open team had quite a tough day and after losing narrowly to Italy beat both Canada and USA1 to stay on the edges of qualification. Both USA teams are behind the pace at this stage.

Away from the bridge everyone we have met on the island is as friendly and help as possible. Balinese hospitality is worth the trip on its own. The road from the airport is a bit rough and not all that direct. No problem. A new one will open before we return.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Bali 4: Early jockeying for position

After the good win against India the women found it tougher against Poland and USA1, both likely qualifiers for the knock out stages. Today features theoretically easier matches although our final opponents of the day, New Zealand, have started well. At this early point we are in a qualifying position.

The open team had a tough day after an encouraging opening win against India. The loss against South Africa leaves them outside the qualifying positions at this early stage.

Away from the bridge there is a need to keep a close eye on the number of zeros in the currency. Eating is quite cheap, drinking wine quite expensive. Its hard to cope with a final bill for, say, five at dinner and say "good value, only 1.2 million" To add fun some notes for widely diverging amounts are very similar. The waiters are more practised at recounts than election tellers!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Bali 3: Finally we start

Thanks to Rodney Lighton & Richard Fleet who spotted some minor errors in the Women's player list (See blog 2). A new version has now been posted.

For those of you who like to watch on BBO we start at 4a.m. UK time. Match 1 is just complete as I write. The women won 20-0 and the open team got 18.77. The new VP scales make split ties near impossible. The second match is at 7.30 and the final one of the day at 10.10. In 2011 these 3 matches brought 42 vps out of 60 in the women's event. I'll be pleased with that today.

In the women's hotel there will be little chance of missing the start of play as there is a musical accompaniment to breakfast which starts at 7.30 and can be heard in all rooms. The centre, grounds and hotels all are hot on security and there are checks galore but all conducted with courtesy and charm.

In the Seniors event there is no English team but there is a Scottish team, the first ever to qualify for a world championship. You can follow their progress at

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Bali 2

The countdown continues and the open captain and one of his team have gone ahead to spy out the land in Bali. Reports so far indicate it is what we all expect: a rather nice, warm place.

If you look at the shirts of the England Cricket team they all have numbers representing when they first played for the team(W G Grace is 24 and Alastair Cook is 630). A list of the England Women who have played in World and European events since the first European Championship in 1935 has been produced and can be found here. (Thanks to Simon Cochemé for the research for this document). Nicola Smith is number 49, Sally Brock 59, Heather Dhondy 72, Nevena Senior 76, Fiona Brown 84 and Susan Stockdale 85.

A list for the open team will be produced soon. Any volunteer to help would be most welcome!

If you look at the file some of the early entries are in the form of Mrs X with no initials so if you have any knowledge of those far distant times then please let me know.

The forthcoming World Championships are the 41st. The series started in 1950 with the Bermuda Bowl.  The Europe team in 1955 comprised 6 players from Great Britain and this is the only time we have won. We won a silver medal in 1987 in Jamaica and Tony Forrester  was a part of that team.

The Women's event, the Venice Cup, started in 1974. We have won in twice in 1981 and 1985. Nicola Smith and Sally Brock were a part of both of those teams. We haven't yet won a medal since we became England not Great Britain but were 4th in the last Venice Cup in 2011 in Veldhoven.

Play starts in the early part of next week with a full round robin and you will be able to follow it all both on the WBF site here and also on BBO.