Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Final match - part 2

5 to go: lead is 0.1 over Dutch, 4 ahead of Italy in 4th

Final match as it happened

Start:  3rd place, 4 VPs behind Italy
1board:  moved into second with a 9-IMP swing
 2 boards: more IMPs and England moves into the lead.
 3 boards: another swing in, England ahead of Netherlands by 4 VPs
 5 boards: 2.5 VPs ahead, 7 ahead of fourth...
7 boards:  3 ahead of Netherlands and Italy, 5 ahead of France

8 boards: 1ahead of 2nd and 3rd, 4 ahead of Italy
 7 left... 2.5 VPs ahead.. 4 ahead of Italy
 6: lead by 0.3 over the Dutch, 4.1 over 4th

One Match Shoot Out to Decide the Championships

The top four countries are separated by a mere 7 VPs. Fourth-placed France play the bottom team whilst England, in third and 4 VPs off the lead, face mid-table Norway.

 We suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Italy this morning turnng the last few days into a roller-coaster ride of the sort that makes Alton Towers seem like an amusement park.

Hoping for the best!

It's Going Down to the Wire

The final day's play has arrived and each team has two matches to play.  England maintains the narrowest of leads with four teams all entertaining thoughts of winning.  Overnight, the top of the leaderboard looks like this (20 VPs available per match):

England.                 278.74
Netherlands.          278.45
Italy.                       266.54
France.                   261.27 

Having enjoyed an advantage of 10 VPs at the start of the day (following an excellent win against the Netherlands) losses against Germany and Poland allowed the Dutch to take the lead.  A nerve-jangling vicory against Spain, however, proved to be sufficient to regain the ascendency overnight by the slenderest of margins.

The Dutch might feel that they are favourites at this point in that they have matches against lowly-ranked teams, whereas we have to play Italy (medal contenders) and then Norway.

The pressure on the players will be intense and this factor could play into our hands having been there so many times before.  In the cauldron of the playing arena, a cool head can be worth several VPs and we are confident of maintaining our composure as the pressure intensifies.

 The match against Italy will be on BBO, beginning at 9:30 a.m. BST.  I hope that, like me, you will be watching the drama unfold - right down to the wire!

Monday, 30 June 2014

European Bridge Championships Croatia - Open Team Part 6

The final of the Open series started well for us, with 16 VPs against Estonia. Unfortunately we had a couple of small losses against Ireland and France, leaving us a little below where we would have liked to be going into the penultimate day. However, a superb performance in the first match against Germany has got things fully back on track, with matches against Russia and Croatia to come later today, before a blockbusting last day against Norway, Sweden and Monaco to finish things off.

We are crossing our fingers for good play and good luck - and if we get those two things we will finish in a great position.

European Championships - Seniors - Aftermath

The celebrations are over; the players have departed. I am staying on for for three days to support the Open and Women's teams in their quest for glory.

The Senior Butlers have been published: John Holland and Gunnar Hallberg led the field in the Swiss with 0.98 IMPs per board; David Price and Colin Simpson topped the rankings in the Round Robin with 1.02 IMPs per board, followed by Paul Hackett and David Mossop in second place with 0.96 IMPs per board. A great team performance. We know that the Butlers are not the be-all and end-all of a pair's performance but I would be rather be top then tenth, wouldn't you?

I was approached by a director who wanted my opinion on a board on which he had to give a ruling. It was the same director who had consulted me before. "I already told you,"  I said, "I am not qualified to give you an expert view." "It's OK," he replied. "The board was played by two teams at the bottom of the Senior consolation event and I was told to consult some players of the same standard." I took it as a compliment ... he thought I was good enough to play in the European Championships!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Heat is on in Opatija

England's challenge for the Gold medal received a boost when the Netherlands faltered during Saturday's play, especially against Russia.  Meanwhile, our ladies were playing some excellent bridge to record big wins against both Israel and Denmark.  Our position improved dramatically as the day's events unfolded: starting 20 VPs behind the Dutch but ending up within 3 VPs of the lead.  The Italians are in second place and the French should not be discounted (14 VPs behind us).

 40 VPs ahead of seventh place, qualification for the Venice Cup is virtually assured and so the focus is firmly on winning a medal - preferably a Gold!

With the top teams having to play each other over the next three days, we seem to be  hitting form at just the right moment and so today's clash with the Dutch is a mouth-watering prospect in our attempt to emulate the success of the English senior team - hearty congratulations to them!

Most definitely, the heat is on!

European Championships - Seniors - Day 8 - rhymes with Great

The day started with England in first place, 5.2 VPs ahead of Sweden. A marvellous 73-11 win over Bulgaria (20-0 in VPs) more than settled the nerves and increased our lead to 10.01 VPs. 

The next match was the big one - against Sweden. We were on VuGraph and chief commentator Barry Rigal declared himself impressed with some of the bids and plays made by John Holland and Gunnar Hallberg (who is Swedish by birth, of course). The result was 41-21, 15.00 in VPs and that meant we were 20.01 ahead of Sweden, who were still in second place, and we had therefore won the event with a match to spare! Brilliant! But wait ... there was a ruling by the director about an explanation at one of the tables. We lost 1 IMP and our VPs went down to 14.80, so we were no longer a match clear of the field. Slightly deflated, with the celebrations on hold, the troops went back to the table to finish the job. We beat Norway 25-24 (10.31 VPs) and this time there was no doubt. England were the European Senior Champions!

The closing ceremony was for the seniors only ... we were given the Roudinesco trophy (ours to hold for two years), some individual trophies and some lovely medals. They may not be made of Gold, but mine is worth its weight in gold to me. We sang 'God save the Queen' lustily, and in a variety of keys, making it the only time the team were not in harmony. The organisers sprang a surprise by playing a second verse, but we took it in our stride. 

Congratulations to Paul Hackett, David Mossop, David Price, Colin Simpson, John Holland and Gunnar Hallberg. You were brilliant, guys, and it was an honour for me to part of the team. 

My thanks again to Roger O'Shea and Pharon; without his support I would not have been here.

And now the focus switches to the England Open and Women's teams. They both have a good chance of a medal and I hope that the performance of the England Seniors will inspire them to great things.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

European Bridge Championships Croatia - Open Team Part 5

The first phase of the Open Series has drawn to a close. It has left us with a good feeling and positive vibes for the three days of play that remain in the final. We qualified top of our group, leading from 2nd placed Israel. When all the carry forward scores are taken into account, we lie 5th in the final of 18 teams. We have already played 8 of those, so have 9 left to play. Here is our order of play:

Sunday 29th June

1130 vs Estonia
1420 vs Ireland
1710 vs France

Monday 30th June

0930 vs Germany
1330 vs Russia
1620 vs Croatia

Tuesday 1st July

0930 vs Norway
1330 vs Sweden
1620 vs Monaco

The likelihood is that we will be on BBO fairly frequently, with fewer matches to choose from now. Spirit in the camp is good, the local fish we are eating for dinner is great, and we are ready to go for the final three days. Wish us luck!

Dutch Ladies Fly Back to Front

In Opatija, the flying Dutch team has recorded a series of victories to move to the front of the field in the ladies' event.  As the round-robin format unfolds, however, they are still due to meet their main rivals, all of whom will be hoping to clip their wings.

We are in third position, some 20 VPs behind, having, during the course of yesterday's play, suffered a rather unlucky defeat at the hands of the French but recovering with victories against Ireland and Estonia.

All the top teams have tough run-ins and, with nine matches remaining, the prospect of winning Gold is still realistic.  On the menu today: Israel and Denmark.  Here's hoping for two good wins!

European Championships - Seniors - Day 7

A very good day for the England Seniors ... wins against Denmark (30-11 IMPs; 14.80 VPs), Austria (50-38 IMPs; 13.28) and Belgium (65-18 IMPs; 18.87 VPs) and suddenly we are leading the field. Early on in our second match on Thursday we had dropped to 10th place; now five consecutive wins have seen us rise to the top. The Belgium match included a board where John Holland and Gunnar Hallberg bid to a grand slam which, even to my untutored eye, looked likely to be flat. However, their opposite numbers played in 5NT, a very rare occurrence; I believe it is statistically the least likely of the 36 possible contracts.

I am pleased to report that the team dined well and retired to bed early. Or so I hope. Maybe I should have resorted to the tactics employed by the NPC of the famous Italian Blue Team; not only did he see the players to their rooms, he then made them give him their trousers so that they couldn't sneak out to a nightclub.

(Today's bulletin contains a detailed report by David Bird on Thursday's match against Ireland. For the first time at a major championship the Bulletin Room is not a hive of busy journalists; six or so reporters are following the matches on the internet and emailing in their reports from their homes around the world. Sadly for him, David is in Hampshire and not sunny Opatija.)

Our last three games are against Bulgaria (currently lying 7th) and then Sweden (just behind us in 2nd place) and Norway (4th at the moment). I hope you will be able to follow the events, on BBO (if we are scheduled to play there) or the rolling scoreboard. I am sure the players will be calm and focused, but it's going to be a nervous day for you and me ...

Friday, 27 June 2014

European Bridge Championships Croatia - Open Team Part 5

Today started very well, with a superbly played match from our boys against Hungary who still have a chance of qualifying despite our victory by 29-6 netting us 15.5 VPs. Next up was an eagerly awaited match against current Bermuda Bowl Holders Italy. Whilst this Italian team is not as strong as it has been, a 17 imp victory and thus 14.4 VPs was a result we could really be happy with. With some momentum behind us, we headed into the last match agains the very strong Poland front four players. There were a couple of missed opportunities, and these resulted in a small loss by 11 imps, netting us 7 VPs. The day featured two grand slam deals, one in set 1 and one in set 3 - both deals were flat in 7C and 7H/N respectively - a sign of good bridge!

We finish the day lying in third place in our group, and we finish the first round robin tomorrow with meetings with Belgium, Latvia and Turkey. The second two are of heightened important as they are both currently in qualifying positions for phase two.

European Championships - Seniors - Day 6

Thursday was a Seniors only day. While the Open and Women's teams were recharging their batteries, the remaining 25 Senior teams (defending champions France failed to qualify for the final and withdrew) played on. All five tables were on VuGraph and/or BBO for all three matches. 

The final ten-team Round Robin did not start well. Our first match, against Ireland, was dominated by board 2. The Irish bid to 6C and made all thirteen tricks. In the other room John Holland and Gunnar Hallberg bid to the cold 7C - Ireland sacrificed in 7D - England bid on to 7S - Ireland doubled (a Lightner Double) - the opening club lead was ruffed - 17 IMPs away instead of 13 IMPs in. 7S would have made if the opening leader hadn't held all three missing clubs. The Irish played well and we lost 22-52 (3.27 VPs), dropping to 9th place.

Next up were the favourites, Poland. We lost a game swing on the first board and were lying 10th and last. But not for long. The England team rallied and recovered to win 23-20 (10.91) and move us up to 8th.

The third match was against fourth-placed Hungary and a fine 51-18 win (17.17 VPs) saw us move back up to 6th, and back into a qualifying position for the World Championships. 

Today we have Denmark (whom we didn't play in the Swiss), second-placed Austria (whom we beat in the Swiss) and Belgium (to whom we lost in the Swiss). 

On a personal note, I was consulted by a director who seeking opinions on a bid, before giving a ruling. I told him I was a mere NPC, and didn't want my non-expert opinion to be used in determining a ruling that might affect the outcome of a match. It was flattering to be asked ... he actually took me for a bridge player!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Battle of the Sexes

Today has been a rest-day for the ladies, providing an opportunity to recharge the batteries and prepare for the second half of the championships.   On a wonderful sunny day, the green baize of the card-table was exchanged for the aqua-blue of the sea and the red clay of the tennis court.  In what was one of the most eagerly awaited "Battle of the Sexes" since Billie-Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs, the outcome - a tie - confounded local bookmakers and was announced as a triumph for humanity.

 On a more serious note, we rejoin battle behind the Netherlands in second place, having completed yesterday's play with a defeat of the mighty Russians after slipping up against a resurgent Romanian team.

 First up tomorrow: "le crunch" against France, which rates to be the sternest test to date.

European Bridge Championships Croatia - Open Team Part 4

We have reached the day off, and we appear to have reached it at rather a good time. After a disappointing loss to neighbours Wales yesterday, we had two thumping wins against Romania (who were leading our group at the time) and Serbia (who were loitering around the qualification cut off). Those two resounding victories featured some fine play, and left us top of the group by the narrowest of margins. We restart on Friday morning at 0930 against Hungary, and then we play Italy at 1330 and Poland at 1620. We are hoping to maintain the momentum heading into the second phase. Although it is as yet unknown, I think it likely we will be on BBO for matches against Italy and Poland.

The day off will be used to recharge batteries - with some players just relaxing in the hotel and some seeing some of the local area. Whichever they choose, they are looking forward to getting stuck in again on Friday.

European Championships - Seniors - Day 5

Our first objective has been achieved: we have made it out of the Swiss and into the ten team Round Robin. In our last three matches we beat Norway 43-27 (14.18 VPs) but then lost to Belgium 19-36 (5.61 VPs) and Bulgaria 42-51 (7.45 VPs). We go into Round Robin in 6th place with a carry forward of 9 VPs. A dramatic last day saw joint favourites France finish 11th and thus fail to qualify. Poland had led for most of the event but took their foot off the pedal and were overtaken by Norway. Belgium started the day in 11th place but had three good wins and climbed to third. Ireland got a swing on the last board and moved past Hungary and England into fourth place.

The nice thing about a Round Robin is that we now know who we are playing for each of the nine matches. We start the day with Ireland (whom we narrowly beat in the Swiss) and then face Poland (who beat us) and Hungary (against whom we drew).

I have been asked about the bidding sequence I mentioned yesterday. The deal was played against Ireland and the hands were:

PRICE                 SIMPSON
K Q 8 6 4 3          A J
K 8 3                    A Q
Q 10 6                 A 8 7 4
9                          A K J 4 2

And the full sequence was:

1S - 2C
2S - 3D
3NT - 7S

In 13 Senior matches, only one pair languished in game. Thirteen pairs were in 7S, eight (including Ireland) were in 6S and four were in 6NT. Against the 21 spade slams (including against David Price), six Norths led the D5.  What's surprising about that? Well, North held K-5 doubleton! The only three declarers who went down in 7S had had the D5 lead. I was told at dinner that night that it is a fairly standard expert lead when the DA is known to be in dummy. I can't wait to try it out. Who says these blogs can't be educational?

The EBU doesn't pay for the travel and accommodation costs for the Senior team, nor for the NPC. I would like to thank Roger O'Shea and Pharon Independent Financial Advisers for their support. They also supply the smart shirts worn by the seniors - that's their logo you can see on our shirts in the team photo.   

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Lightning Strikes - Italy falters and England Goes Top

Whilst the storm-clouds gathered above, Italy's 14 VP lead was obliterated by an English thunderbolt (46 IMPs against Austria) which has propelled them to the top of the table.

 For some time, it has been true that we have yet to play any of the teams above us - much less of a problem now than it seemed a few rounds earlier!

 There is still a long way to go and the next hurdle is the dangerous Romanian team - fresh from their conquest of Italy.

Turkish Delight for the English in Opatija

A late surge (20 IMPs from last two boards) against Turkey helped the English ladies to move up the field in Opatija.  This was followed by a strong performance against the host nation and by the end of the third day, England had moved into a medal position.

For the first time in the event, we are closer to the leaders (Italy - 14 VPs ahead) than the 7th placed team (Spain - 15 VPs adrift) and with six teams qualifying for the Venice Cup (the World Championships)  in 2015, this is a reassuring state of affairs as we near the half-way point of the tournament.

European Championships - Seniors - Day 4

We started our third day of the Swiss movement with an 8-47 loss to Sweden (2.03 VPs) and we dropped to fourth place. Next up was Ireland. We were heading for a good win, helped by a majestic bidding sequence by David Price and Colin Simpson to a grand slam missed by the Irish. (The sequence ended ... 3NT - 7S). However, two game swings in the out-column saw us finish with a 35-30 win (11.48 VPs), but that was enough to move us back up to third place. Our last match of the day was against Austria and this time it was the English who got the two late swings to turn a small win into a big win, 59-28 (16.88 VPs). Although we had an average day, with just over 30 VPs, the other matches worked in our favour and we had moved back to where we started, second place.

There are three more Swiss matches to go. After that the top ten teams will break away and play a complete Round Robin of nine 16-board matches. Each team's carry-forward will be based on its position in the top ten, not its absolute score. So it doesn't matter if Poland top the table by 10 VPs or 50 VPs, their carry-forward will be 20.25 VPs. Second will get 18 VPs, third will get 15.75 VPs, down to tenth who will get zero, and be more than a match behind the leaders. ("20.25?" I hear you ask. Yes, it seems that they employed the same group of mathematicians who devised the 'two decimal point' VP scale. More on that anon.

We start today with Norway; after that who knows. Maybe Denmark, Bulgaria or the Netherlands - all good teams. We are currently on 114 VPs and we think we will need 132 (an average of 11 per match) to qualify for the final. If we can do that, we then need to finish as high up the top ten as possible. Our footballers and cricketers have lost in the last couple of days - the England Seniors will be trying to bring some joy back into your life.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

European Championships - Women - Part 2

The English ladies have moved into the top six as the championships progress.  In a turbo-charged second day, the team recorded emphatic victories against Bulgaria and Serbia.  Unfortunately, we slipped into reverse against Greece this morning, leaving us 20 VPs off the lead but still in one of the six qualifying places for the Venice Cup.

We will face Turkey and Croatia later today - hoping to consolidate our position!

European Championships - Seniors - Day 3

The Scottish Women's team had beaten the England Ladies (albeit by only 2 IMPs) on Sunday and the England Seniors needed no other motivation than to avenge this wrong when they met the Scotland Seniors in a top-of-the-table clash first thing on Monday morning. (Such is the strength in depth of Scottish senior bridge that none of the team that won the bronze medal in Dublin two years ago (Scotland's best ever major international result) were in the team this year.) The English team restored our national pride with a 69-33 win (17.59 VPs) and we moved back to the top of the table. We started by making 5H doubled in one room and 4S in the other, always a good way to settle an anxious NPC's nerves. 

Next up was Poland, the team who ended our Olympiad hopes the last time we met, in the quarter-finals in Lille in 2012. They have a very experienced team (unchanged for the last three European Championships) and they did for us again. After 11 of the 16 boards they were leading by 35 IMPs to nil, but a late rally saw us recover a bit to a 15-43 loss. That was only 3.58 VPs, but better than it might have been and we were now lying third. 

Mark Horton, the editor of the Daily Bulletin, and a man who knows about such things, had written that Poland and France were the two favourites for the Seniors' title. As luck would have it, our next opponents were France, the reigning European Champions. We had beaten them narrowly in Dublin and we did so again - a fine performance after the defeat by Poland. The score was 22-7 (with ten flat boards), 13.97 in VPs, and we were back up to second.

After that we had to wait awhile for the computer to do it's work and tell us that our first opponents on Tuesday morning would be Sweden. 

What do Croatia, Switzerland and Germany have in common? Well, many things, I am sure, but the one I am thinking about is their name for their country, and how completely different it is from what other people call it. The Croatians call their country Hrvatska. Similarly Helvetica / Switzerland and Deutschland / Germany (and Allemande, of course). Any others? 

Monday, 23 June 2014

European Bridge Championships Croatia - Open Team Part 3

Day two got underway with a very tough encounter against Bulgaria which was featured on BBO, an almost certain qualifier for the second phase of the championships. A hard fought encounter resulted in a narrow loss by only three imps, resulting in 9.09 VPs. Match 2 was against Lithuania, and a virtuoso performance at both tables blew them away by 69 imps to get the full 20 VPs (not so easy to achieve!). Last up we played the 2011 Bermuda Bowl Champions, the Netherlands, once again featured on BBO. The Dutch played well, and we were staring down the barrel with 4 boards to go. However a late rally meant we recovered to lose by 20 IMPs, for 5 VPs, but there may be a ruling to come in our favour - I will update on that tomorrow.

Tomorrow sees us face Denmark (BBO) at 930, Israel (BBO) at 1330 and Switzerland at 1620. Another tough day at the office, but one to embrace. The organisers have moved the day off from Wednesday to Thursday as a result of the weather forecast, so on Wednesday we will be playing Wales, Romania and Serbia, and we will have Thursday off instead.

Tune in tomorrow for the next installment!

European Championships - Women - Part 1

The English women have a somewhat fragmentary programme for their first few days. Two matches on Sunday resulted in a narrow loss to Scotland and a narrow win over Sweden, leaving the team in mid-table with a VP score calculable only by supercomputers. The team has a bye on Monday morning, then matches against Bulgaria and Serbia. A full day of matches on Tuesday will be followed by a day with no matches at all, and the tournament will actually start on Thursday.

European Championships - Seniors - Day 2

An eventful start for the Seniors, even before a board was played.. First, the Serbian team hadn't entered their line-up, so the two England pairs were unable to study the systems of their prospective opponents. Then only three Serbs arrived before the start of the match; the fourth one arrived 15 minutes late. A gaggle of TDs (what is the collective noun for Tournament Directors? Suggestions, please) decided that the play would start at board 4 (because boards 1, 2 and 3 were visible via BBO and the internet). We were given 3 IMPs for board 1, because it had been completed at the Hackett-Mossop table, and boards 2 and 3 were hand-dealt and played as substitute boards. Serbia was also fined 3 VPs for being late. How much all this kerfuffle affected the Serbians, I don't know, but the English quartet played calmly, and very well, and recorded a victory by 63 IMPs to 10, which was 19.43 to -2.43 in VPs.

England were in first place and then played the team lying second, Hungary. We were 1-27 down at half-time, but a fine recovery (I'd like to take credit for an inspiring half-time talk, but the 16 board match is played straight through) saw us finish with a 28-28 draw.

That dropped us to third and a match against Turkey. We continued our excellent form and won by 60 IMPs to 10, which translated into 19.16 VPs for us. Back up to second and a match against the leaders, Scotland, on Monday morning.

After that it was down to the harbour for a very strange meal. The organisers had invited the top local restaurants to set up stalls from which they provided excellent food for the players and thus tried to drum up business for the rest of the event. Strange, but enjoyable, and a good way to mingle with players from other countries.

So, a successful first day but, as you know, the problem with a Swiss is not just getting to the top table, but staying there. I am sure many of you have experienced the dreaded Swiss Roll.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

European Bridge Championships Croatia - Open Team Part 2

We finally got underway today. Our first match was against Bosnia and Herzegovina, who were no doubt super excited to make their debut in a European Championships. They played well, and a set with some spicy deals provided plenty of interest, and didn't catch us at our best. We lost narrowly. In the second match of the day we faced the Faroe Islands, and we recorded a convincing win with both pairs having some nice results to settle the team down. Today proved what we already knew - there are no "easy" matches in a modern day European Championship.

Tomorrow we move forward with a match versus Bulgaria (930am) on BBO, then Lithuania (1330) and finally the Netherlands (1620) on BBO. A tough day at the office, but an exciting one and the kind of day which these championships are all about. The team have been packed off to bed already, and are hopefully getting a good nights sleep ready for the resumption of battle tomorrow.

Onwards & upwards!

European Championships - Seniors - Day 1

The preliminaries and formalities are over. The NPCs have been briefed on the rules about mobile phones (off and visible if in the playing area), electronic cigarettes (no), the new appeals process (there isn't one), and so on. The speeches at the Opening Ceremony were acceptably short - and Croatian President Ivo Josipović was indeed there.

Now the serious stuff begins. The Seniors are playing for seven days, three matches a day with no light days or days off. The 26 teams play a 12-round Swiss for four days and then the top ten teams play a complete Round Robin for the last three days. It is not an ideal format but the organisers didn't anticipate a record-breaking Senior entry.

The Seniors set the ball rolling, if I may mix my sporting metaphors, at 10:30 local time. The Open and Women's teams get a lie in and join us for their first match (and our second) at 14:30.

Because it is a Swiss we only know our first round opponents, Serbia, and we don't know much about them because this is their first time in a major championship.

England cricketers have a number on their shirts that indicates how many people have represented England at cricket before them. Thus the current captain Alastair Cook wears 630. I have produced a similar list for the England Senior players in European and World events (which didn't start until 2000). Paul Hackett is number 11, Colin Simpson is 21, David Price is 22, Gunnar Hallberg is 25, John Holland is 26, and David Mossop is 27. (The full list, and those for the Open and Women’s team can be found on the EBU website under Internationals – History.)

Saturday, 21 June 2014

European Bridge Championships Croatia - Open Team Part 1

The Open Team have all arrived safely in the picturesque town of Opatija in Croatia, situated at the top of the Adriatic Sea. The hotel is excellent, and close by to the playing area which is important so that the pairs who are sitting out any given match can go back to the hotel to switch off and relax if they so desire. The first day (Sunday 22nd June) is only a two match day, starting at 1330 UK time we face Bosnia and Herzegovina and then at 1620 UK time we face the Faroe Islands. Many matches will be broadcast on BBO and we would welcome your support! The team is:

Tony Forrester & Andrew Robson
Jason Hackett & Justin Hackett
David Gold & David Bakhshi
NPC Simon Cope
Coach Ben Green

We are all excited to get underway tomorrow, and looking forward to a no doubt tough but hopefully successful 10 days ahead.

European Championships - Seniors - Introduction

The Senior team all arrived in Opatija yesterday afternoon and evening. The group from Manchester were late, but made it eventually, after the rest of us had gone to bed. I have been in Croatia for eight days. If you want to believe I was here early to check out the playing facilities and make sure the hotel chef was going to prepare suitable English fare, I won’t disabuse you. For the rest of you, I have been enjoying a beautiful country … Dubrovnik, Split and Plitvice, a stunning National Park with wonderful lakes and waterfalls. (The last sentence was sponsored by the Croatian Tourist Board.)

The England Senior team is the one that won the trials way back in January. Seniors bridge in European and World Championship really only started in 2000. David Price and Colin Simpson are making their seventh appearances for the Seniors. This is a sixth Senior cap for Paul Hackett, a fifth for Gunnar Hallberg and John Holland and a first for David Mossop (who has come back to England after representing Switzerland for a number of years). This is my third time as non-playing captain.

The team is primarily playing for the European Championships, with medals awarded to the first three teams. In addition the top six teams will qualify for the World Championships in Chennai (formerly Madras) in 2015. There they will play for the d’Orsi Bowl, the Seniors equivalent of the Bermuda Bowl and Venice Cup.

The England team, with Ross Harper in place of David Mossop, won the D’Orsi Bowl in São Paulo in 2009. (They actually came sixth equal, rounded down to seventh, in the European Championships in Pau, but were first reserves and went to Brazil when a team dropped out.)

Today is a day of preparation ... player registration, a captains' meeting to discuss various regulations and procedures, and the opening ceremony, which will be attended by the President of Croatia (not the President of the Croatian Bridge Federation - although no doubt he will be there too - but the top man in the country).

Monday, 19 May 2014

2014 Teltscher Trophy - the aftermath

Another eventful day at the Teltscher Trophy: a heavy loss against Great Britain (less than 1 VP), followed by good wins against Northern Ireland (15.66 VPs) and Scotland (16.38 VPs).

Our final match was against Wales and a 1 IMP loss (9.67 VPs) meant that we held them off and finished in third place, with a just-above-average overall score. We signed off with one of our trademark double game swings, the third of the weekend; 17 IMPs from 5H made in one room and 5C doubled plus one in the other. If only the whole weekend could have been based on such a strategy.

Great Britain won their last match against Ireland, but not by enough to close the gap between the two teams.   It was great to see two 91 year olds, Bernard Teltscher and Tony Priday, battling it out to the last – and they were second in the Cross-IMPs table!   Ireland finished on 122.47 VPs, ahead of Great Britain on 120.44 and England on 100.51.

The event was superbly run by the NIBU, and the England team's thanks go to them, and to Ian Lindsay for his sponsorship of the event.  It is tremendously popular with the players, many of whom have been competing with each other for decades.  It is fiercely competitive but played in a great spirit; a wonderful advertisement for bridge.

And last, but not least, I would like to thank Roger O’Shea of Pharon Independent Financial Advisers for his sponsorship.   The EBU doesn't pay full travel and accommodation costs for the Senior team and NPC, so Pharon’s support is most welcome.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

2014 Teltscher Trophy - Sunday

A day of lows and highs.   We started off losing to Scotland by 23 IMPs (4.14 VPs) and to Ireland by 22 IMPs (4.34 VPs) and at that stage we were lying sixth.

The only way was up and we recovered with a good win over Bernard Teltscher's Great Britain team (17.63 VPs) and a small revenge win against Ireland by 15 IMPs to 8 (12.16 VPs) on a particularly dull set of boards. We have been becoming used to at least two slam deals every match … and the realisation that slam bidding doesn't become easier just because you are older and wiser.

With four matches to play today, Ireland have a fairly comfortable lead with 80 VPs, followed by the pack of Wales (63), Great Britain (61) and England (58).

Chris Owen, Clive's son, is here supporting England. Chris was part of England’s winning team in the Junior Camrose in 2006 and 2011. Like Son like Father, we hope.

Now I must go and work on my motivational speech. “We can still do this, lads” I will tell them. (Seniors like to be called 'lads' and 'boys'.) “Look how Arsenal came back from two-nil down at Wembley yesterday.”

Saturday, 17 May 2014

2014 Teltscher Trophy - Saturday

This event is using the new WBF VP scale for 14 boards, where scores are given to two decimal places.  The mantra behind the concept is that 'every IMP should count', but the change has found little favour with players and (particularly) journalists.

Play got under way yesterday evening with matches (14 boards each) against hosts Northern Ireland and Wales.

England were leading the whole event after two boards, thanks to board 2, where South doubled Clive Owen's 3NT contract, asking for the lead of Brian Senior's first bid suit. Holding AKQ10xx in the suit, this seemed like a good idea to South – and indeed it was; the defence can take the first ten tricks.  Unfortunately for Northern Ireland, North took out the double to Four Spades.  This in turn was doubled and went three down for 800 to England. Some missed opportunities saw Northern Ireland fight back and win the match by 42 IMPs to 21 … a mere 4.54 VPs for England.

The team bounced back against Wales in another set of distributional boards.  The highlight was making game in both rooms for a 15 IMP gain. There was a Grand Slam, reached in both rooms of the England match.  I saw a pair on VuGraph get to it in 3 bids (or should that be calls?) over diamond pre-empts by the opposition … Double, 4S and 7S.  A  slam swing to Wales got them back into the match, but England ran out winners by 46-27, 15.60 in VPs.

Played finished at about 23:15 and there was just enough time for a quick cup of cocoa before bed.  After two matches, every team has won one and lost one. Next up for England are Scotland (lying sixth at the moment) and the Republic of Ireland (lying first).

In response to my previous blog, Richard Fleet told me that the 'Junior Camrose' did indeed have a sponsor in the early days; the event is played for the Cutty Sark trophy.  So where the event is named after a person (Lord Camrose or Lady Milne) the event keeps its name.  But where the event is named after a commercial sponsor, then the event drops the name when the sponsor drops the funding.  Seems fair to me.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

2014 Teltscher Trophy - Introduction

There are five competitions between the Home nations and the Republic of Ireland: for Open teams (the Camrose), for Women’s teams (the Lady Milne), for Juniors under 25 (known as the Junior Camrose), for Juniors under 20 (the Peggy Bayer) and for Seniors.

The Seniors’ event was known colloquially as ‘the Senior Camrose’ until last year, when Bernard Teltscher, Patron and Sponsor of the event since its inception in 2008, donated the trophy that bears his name.

What you can deduce from the first paragraph is that, if you want to donate a trophy for a bridge event, the Junior Camrose is the one in need.

The Teltscher Trophy is played over a single weekend with a double round robin of 14-board matches. A Great Britain team, led by Bernard Teltscher, brings the number of teams up to six. Great Britain can win the event (and did so in 2009 and 2012) but cannot win the title/trophy. Bernard may be bringing the numbers up to six, but he is certainly not there just to ‘make up the numbers’; last Sunday he and GB team-mate Victor Silverstone won the London Senior pairs.

So far England have won twice (in 2008 in Oxford and in 2010 in Ayr), Wales have won once (in 2011) and Scotland three times (once outright in 2013 and twice by finishing second behind Great Britain).

England is represented by Clive Owen & Brian Senior, and David Kendrick & Roger Gibbons. Brian has fulfilled his destiny by becoming a Senior (thus saving much confusion at Selection Committee meetings). He has already played Open bridge for Great Britain, England, Ireland and Northern Ireland. David is completing his troika, having represented England in Junior and Open Camrose events. Clive and Roger are winning their first caps.

Please support us by watching from the comfort of your home as events unfold on BBO.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Lady Milne Trials

The Lady Milne trials are being held at Richmond Bridge Club on January 24-26. 

21 pairs have entered and they will play a complete round-robin of five-board matches (with one sit-out).
The top three pairs will be invited to represent England in the Lady Milne in Ireland on April 11-13. As with the Camrose, the home nation will have two teams. England are the defending champions.

The Lady Milne started in in 1934 as the Ladies Championship of the National Bridge Association. (Lady Milne was assistant secretary to the NBA.)  It became the trophy for the Ladies Home Internationals in 1950. So far England have won 48 times (including one tie with Scotland in 2011), Scotland 12 times (including one tie), Wales three times and Northern Ireland twice. The Republic of Ireland rejoined the event in 1998. 

Two of our multiple world champions, Sally Brock and Heather Dhondy, are taking part. Sally is partnering Susanna Gross, with whom she has qualified three times, winning the Lady Milne on each occasion. Heather is playing in a new partnership with Sarah Dunn. Last year’s three winning pairs are all playing again: Gillian Fawcett & Jane Moore, Lizzie Godfrey & Pauline Cohen, as well as Brock & Gross. Former German international Barbara Hackett, wife of Justin Hackett, is playing in the trials for the first time, partnering 2011 Lady Milne winner Dinah Caplan.

Heather Dhondy holds the record for Lady Milne wins - 13, ahead of Nicola Smith (not playing this year) with 12. Of those who are playing in the trials, Sally Brock has seven wins and Sarah Teshome and Gillian Fawcett have six each.

At the other end of the scale there are some Trial debutantes, who will be playing with screens for the first time. We wish them, and all the competitors, good luck.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

2014 Camrose - First weekend

January is a busy month for International Bridge, starting with the trials for the Senior team for the European Championships, which took place last weekend, and ending with the Women’s Lady Milne trials at the end of the month.

In between the focus switches to the Open team and the 2014 Camrose.  The first weekend is being played in deepest mid-Wales, in Llandrindod Wells, the scene of Wales’ only Camrose victory, in 2011.  England will be hosting the second weekend in easily-accessible Manchester in March.

The two English teams each includes a married couple playing together as a partnership, a comparative rarity.  England has Nevena and Brian Senior, the EBU team has Catherine Curtis and Paul Fegarty.  John Holland played two Camrose matches with Michelle Brunner after they were married (and two before).  Before that you have to go back (I think) to Jane and Tony Priday in the ‘70s.  Frances Hinden and Jeffrey Allerton have played together for England in the recent past, but not as a pair.  They are both playing for the EBU team this year, but not on the same weekend.

The two English teams play each other on Friday night (and I do mean night - the match is scheduled to finish at 23:35).  You can follow that match impartially on BBO, and after that you can support both teams independently and vociferously for the rest of the weekend.