Wednesday, 15 August 2018

U16s diary - final entry

By NPC, Giorgio Provenza

So it’s all over, we’ll be coming home soon.

This morning we played the last two rounds of the consolation. We drew with Denmark and a bad loss for the leaders, Germany, meant that seven teams started the last round with a chance to win.

That meant that most teams went there bidding aggressively trying for big swings. It happened to be a set full of traps, with many misfit hands where the winning strategy was to bid less, rather than more. And that it is not our strongest suit!

We ended up losing to Greece, which as a result won the whole thing. There might have been another reason behind the team overdoing it in the last round. We had a bet that if they had won the consolation I would have shaved my head. Right here in China, in time for stepping up onto the podium. They were so desperate to see that happen that we ended up declaring at both tables several times, often one level – or two – too high.

There was no time to think about the missed opportunity (my head, not the medal!) as we headed to the football pitch. With 37 degrees and some 95% of humidity it wasn’t a match for the faint of heart. Literally. The final score shall remain a private matter among the team :)

After the prize giving, where we celebrated China 3, France and USA for their well deserved medals, we went out for dinner in a place near our hotel. Given that our Chinese does not go further than hello and thank you and the waiter’s English did not even match that, choosing the food proved to be a more challenging task than bringing home the several unmake-able slams we have bid during the tournament.

In the end we let them choose for us and we ended up having the most singular meal. I wish I could send some pictures, but the wifi at the hotel is terrible.

Assuming everyone wakes up at 4 am, by Thursday evening we should be back on British shores.

It has been an amazing experience and we would like to thank everyone that made it possible.
First of all our sponsors – Tetragon and Nofearbridge – and with them Elisabeth and Reade Griffith and Leigh Harding, that made those deals possible.

Then all the members that through counties, clubs and individually have so generously donated to allow us to pursue our challenge. It’s been heartening to see how the world of bridge has come together in this circumstance.

I would like to thank Laura, who has accepted to be my copilot, whose help before and during the event has been priceless. Dawn and Peter, who have looked after us from the EBU headquarters. Meena and Alan, who have been – and hopefully will be in the future as well -  part of the coaching staff.

Very soon it will be time to start planning the new cycle. After a holiday (hopefully deserved) with my family, from the 31st to the 2nd of September I will be in Phasel Wood for the EBED Junior Teach-in. Scouting for the next bridge stars!

U21s diary - part 5

By NPC, Michael Byrne

Whilst we fell short in our efforts to come in the top 8 I am still immensely proud of my team who never stopped trying even when it became clear it was a hopeless task. They have given everything in order to train and compete in what is a magnificent event and I know the experience will do them and their bridge the world of good.

We are more determined than ever to come back next year fighting stronger than ever and to learn from all our mistakes so that next time we mount a serious challenge.

U26 - last day of the round robin: the end

Our 20th match, and penultimate match, was against Singapore.  We know one of their pairs rather well - Ryan and Jazlene, who are Cambridge students.  And despite Singapore's position above us in the rankings, we thought we had a good chance to win the match.

Alas for us, things went badly almost from the start.  On board 3, Singapore bid a poor grand slam, needed to find heart and club length in the same hand, which could then be squeezed.  And there they were, so we lost 11 IMPs instead of gaining 14.  We got a swing back on board 8 by bidding an making a fair 6NT.   Board 10 offered a choice of games between 3NT and 4S.  It's not an obvious choice looking at two hands, but with all four in view 3NT was decisively better, and that's what Singapore chose while we went the other way.  We lost more IMPs on several deals where the cards disfavoured our perhaps inferior aggressive actions, and lost the match decisively, scoring only 1.96 VPs and falling to 12th place, out of contention.

Our final match was against USA2, who had started the tournament poorly but were now in 4th place.  I told the players that there were positions at stake for other teams, and we should do our best, but for some at least their hearts were no longer in it.  We lost badly again, but had enough of a buffer that we stayed in 12th.

Before the event, my assessment was that I'd be pleased to get into the last 8, and that a top-10 finish would be a good performance.  12th is fair, four places better than in the previous World Championship.  I am making plans to gain at least four more places next time.

None of this would be possible without the generous support of donors large and small, and most of all the contributions of players at EBU-affiliated clubs everywhere - a very small part of your table money provides the basis of the funding for our teams.  Thank you all.

U26 - last day of the round robin, match 1

We started the day in 9th position, needing to climb just one place to play in the quarter-finals.  But there was a gap of 12 Victory Points to Israel in 8th, and we would need a healthy haul of VPs from our three matches.

Our first match, on paper the easiest, was against China Hong Kong, in 17th place.  We gained a fortunate swing by overbidding to 6S on the first board when a singleton queen scored on an opening lead away from the king.  But on board 3 West had to lead against 1NT-2C, 2D-3NT (strong NT and Stayman) from 743 A97 Q1073 Q86.  Most players at my local club would lead a diamond in tempo, and that beats the contract easily.  But expert practice has moved against this sort of lead, experience and bridge logic having been fortified by computer simulations.  So our West led the seven of spades.  The problem with computer simulations is that they assume double-dummy defence and play after the lead, which in this case would require East to make a highly non-obvious diamond switch on winning the ace of spades.  East didn't find it, and the defence actually selected made things easy for declarer.  Meanwhile the Hong Kong West, who perhaps plays at my local club, had no difficult in leading a diamond and beating the contract.

Things got worse for us on board 7 when our pair missed a cold 6D which the Hong Kong North sensibly guessed to bid in a pre-empted auction.  On board 12 a very conservative view caused us to play a cold slam in game: fortunately our opponents did the same.  And on board 13 Hong Kong again bid 6D which we did not, mainly because their system told them to open 1D with 4-4 in the minors while ours told us to open 1C.  The slam was somewhere around even money, and making this time.

We picked up IMPs in ones and twos, but lost the match by 12 IMPs, translating to 6.52 VPs out of 20.  We'd picked a bad moment to play below our best and a little unluckily.  However, France, previously 7th, had lost quite heavily to Sweden, so the gap to 8th had reduced by half a Victory Point, albeit we were now in 11th position.  We had tough matches to come, against Singapore in 7th place and USA2 4th, but we still had a chance.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

U16s diary - Part 7

By NPC Giorgio Provenza

We had another 20-0 win, but it wasn’t against India…

With the team seemingly in control and a seemingly easy first match, I took a few hours off this morning, to find out when I re-emerged that the match v India had been a wash out, but in favour of the South Asians.

A good lesson to learn here, never underestimate your opponents!

In the second match of the day v China 2 we started off pretty well, going 20 IMPs up after 4. The Chinese came back strongly though and prevailed by 13. With this we have lost all the 4 matches against the Chinese teams, make it 5 with the online final. Not a track record to be proud of.

The third match of the day was a marginal loss to Germany.

Then the sad news. The Polish team had made arrangements to leave tomorrow such as to make impossible for them to play 3 matches. That meant we had to play one more match and the football was cancelled.

Worse than that, I had to find 4 players willing to play. The kids are now running out of steam, there are very few flat boards across the field and this very tight schedule is taking a toll.

We improvised a little with pairing, but that did not stop us from winning 20-0 our last match of the day.

We are now in 2nd place in the consolation, with two matches to go. Germany have a good lead on us, but we will try to catch them, if we can.