Friday, 12 August 2016

BAM consolation event - Day 2 qualifying

As we approach the end of the week, the players are now at full throttle and showing what we knew they had in them. The two days of consolation BAM qualifying have been very encouraging. The English Lions (Alex Roberts, Shivam Shah, Yvonne Wiseman, Freddie Illingworth) led from start to finish and topped the field at a canter. They now start with the most carryover (0.77 points per place) in the 14 team all-play-all final tomorrow. Even more encouragingly, the English Cubs (we're thinking of this as the new official team name for the U15 squad - let us know your thoughts!) consisting of an U25 pair (Ankush Khandelwal and Ben Norton) and an U15 pair (the previously mentioned Oscar and Liz, both just 13) romped home in 8th place. This was even more impressive considering the strength of the field was significantly greater today. Teams knocked out in the QFs of the main events had dropped in, but they managed to improve their position. This was a big step up on the level of competition in the U16 event and they handled it even more brilliantly than we could have hoped. Indeed, Liz is comfortably the freshest of all of us here and could easily do it all again...

Thursday, 11 August 2016

BAM consolation event - Day 1 qualifying

By NPC Alan Shillitoe

What a difference a day makes. On Tuesday the U26 team was quite flat having nothing to play for apart from trying to beat France. And they did - at last the opponents bid a grand slam worse than 50% that went off! Unfortunately normal service was resumed in the last match against Canada and another dubious effort rolled in against us!

So on Wednesday it was into the consolation Board-A-Match qualifiers. Two boards, all-play-all today with a second qualifying day tomorrow with drop-ins from the QFs of the main events. After that, the top 12 will qualify for the final on Friday. And the English Lions certainly roared as they led and pulled away all day to leave themselves in a very strong position. The Cubs, who included a pair of U16s who were gluttons for even more punishment, also finished in the top half today. Oscar Selby and Liz Gahan certainly made their mark, not least on one unfortunate Australian pair. Oscar had doubled their 3H effort for penalties and their opponent from down under attempted to psyche his way out of it with a confident redouble. There were some shaky passes before this became the final contract, but then the defence was unerring and moments later the contract was 2-off for +600 and a clear win on the board. They won't try that one again in a hurry!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

End of the u16 Event

The u16s have finished in 8th, following knock-out losses to USA and the Netherlands. The team played very well in spite of being very tired at the end of a long event and celebrated a successful event with a trip to the gelateria (actually the third trip that day), where Henry was very sad to be told that he was not allowed to buy an extra large pot of "the really blue one".

We left early this morning for the airport, braving torrential rain to find our bus. In spite of the walk being less than a minute, several of the team members looked as if they'd walked through a shower and our luggage was dripping.

It was only at the airport that we discovered that Henry had been so taken with the "no smoking" card in the bidding boxes that he had walked off with one of them...

We did, however, leave two u16s behind in Salsomaggiore. Oscar and Liz, not content with having played for the last six days, persuaded two of the u26s to form a team with them in the BAM consolation event. This means that we now have two teams playing: the English Lions (four of our u26s) and the English Cubs (two u26s playing with Liz and Oscar). At the end of day one the Lions are leading the event and the cubs are in a very respectable 10th of 24. Given that this is an u26 event this is a fantastic start for a team fielding two u16 players!

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

U26s - end of day 5 report

By NPC Alan Shillitoe

There is one day left in the round robin and we are now out of contention (short of something truly insane happening) for the quarter-finals. The team has actually been playing quite well over the last few days and their form has reflected the performance level we expected before the event began. They turned over perennial bete noir Poland and should have also finished off USA1 and Norway who are both locks for the top 6. After a long period drifting in 15th spot, the team has caught a number of teams in front and has the opportunity to go past some more to get a finish that more accurately reflects their worth.

After today, assuming that something beyond crazy doesn't happen, the team will drop into a 3-day BAM consolation event with all the other teams who failed to qualify from all the sections. There will be one last chance of some silverware!

Monday, 8 August 2016

End of Round Robin for U16s

The U16s finished their round robin with a win against Indonesia this morning. This meant that they had won over half of their matches (7/13) and qualified for the "B" final and will now play off for places 5-8. Given that we came in as one of the less experienced teams in the event this is a fantastic result and the players should be very proud of their performance over the last week.

Our semi final will be against the USA team and then we will move on to a final against either China 1 or the Netherlands. The format has meant that they have an additional set to play today so it will be a tiring end to a long event but spirits are high and the players are all keen to finish on a high.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

U26s on Day 2

by NPC Alan Shillitoe

Another difficult day. Hong Kong played well and didn't give much away. Sweden played almost perfectly and Australia came back well at us, although we held on for a narrow Ashes victory - the urn can go to Aylesbury. Today therefore has to be moving day. Nothing less than good wins over Argentina and Germany will do. China and USA1 will be much tougher opponents, but maybe there might be a few more opportunities coming our way - after a couple of days where the field has been playing tight (especially so against us!), it looks as if as players are getting more relaxed, so their game is too. One can only hope for our sake!

U16 Day 3

U16s Day Three

After three days of play the U16s are lying in 9th, not far from the teams ahead. They have played with consistent care and good humour and are unlucky not to have gained more vps from several of their matches. In particular, they lost swings when France bid to a grand slam on a finesse and a small slam on rather more, both of which came home to hand victory to the French side.

They have had a fantastic time at the tournament so far, eating vast quantities of (brightly coloured) ice cream, drinking obscene amounts of coke (Harry reckons he has averaged 8 cans per day), telling "hilarious" jokes ("If a chameleon is on a car, what colour is the chameleon?" "The same colour as the car!!!") and playing yet more card games. As I write this, Liz is laughing at the chameleon "joke" all over again.

Liz's endless energy and cheerfulness have been greatly appreciated by the rest of the team and by the U26s, who have been particularly nice to her since she bought a large bag of cookies.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Under 26s - Day 1

by NPC Alan Shillitoe

Here we are in Salsomaggiore Terme, which as the name suggests is an old spa town, but is also a getaway spot for many Italians. It sits nestled in the foothills of the Appennine mountains and it is HOT here! Fortunately, most of the air-con is working and this being Italy, there is some absolutely top notch ice cream to be had - a fact not lost on the U16s in particular.

The playing venue is the local Palace of Congress and for this event, the security is tight. There are police stationed on the doors and all badges are scanned on entry. It's also tight in the playing areas. Following the recent scandals in the game, the WBF are conducting random electronic sweeps of unsuspecting players.

However, we're all here to try and play some cards and the U16s have been showing their older compatriots the way. Three wins out of three and they are off to a great start. It's been tougher for us with the bigger boys and girls. The team didn't actually play that badly at all in the first three matches (against Netherlands, Hungary and Finland) but only recorded the one win against the Finns - just one or two cards in different places would have sen the team much higher up at that point. The final match of the day against Japan was disappointing though and every error got deservedly punished. So the team is on the back foot ahead of tomorrow's three matches - but it's a tough day. Hong Kong are first before the table topping (and very strong) Swedes and finishing off with the Ashes clash against the boys from the land down under.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Great First Day from the U16s!

The u16s are off to a great start in their competition, winning all of their first three matches, including against two particularly tough teams. This leaves them fifth overnight, a very promising beginning. The team is significantly less experienced than the six that finished fourth in Tromso, making their good play today all the more impressive.

The players have enjoyed the seemingly endless supply of ice cream and pizza that the hotel and local cafes provide; the warm and sunny weather doesn't hurt anyone's mood either. Several players from other teams have remarked that they wish they could join the England u16s as they are the most friendly and cheerful group around.