Thursday, 9 August 2018

England Girls - day zero

I am not used to being greeted like a long-lost brother by anybody, chiefly because I haven’t lost any brothers for very long. So when two of the Youngsters greeted me warmly as I arrived at our hotel I knew there was an ulterior motive. Sure enough, they had not got any convention cards and had heard I had a printer.

Mind you, I nearly didn’t have a printer since my luggage and I had boarded different aircraft to Shanghai, but one of the things that always impresses me when I visit China is the helpfulness of its people. Hotel and airport staff combined to reunite me with the equipment and I continued to the site of the World Youth Championships here in Wujiang. I was delivered to the wrong hotel, but a young volunteer on the tournament staff made a swift phone call and one of his friends acted as my personal chauffeur to the right hotel.

While we waited for him my helper asked me which team I represented. “England” I said. “Are you a player or a leader?” he enquired. I was not certain whether I should take greater pride in my manifestly youthful appearance or my obvious qualities of generalship, but settled in the end for neither.

Sally Brock, our actual general, and I returned to the wrong hotel for the Captains’ Meeting and the Opening Ceremony. In order to prevent the former from being a completely routine affair for experienced captains and coaches, the organisers invariably introduce a new barmy regulation. This time we have to tell our players to pre-alert if a sequence like 1C-1D-1NT might bypass a four-card major. Doubtless people have been reading Bird and Anthias on Winning Notrump Leads, but their unbid major suit doubletons keep finding declarer “unexpectedly” with four and letting the contract through. This cannot go on.

At the Opening Ceremony a speech by Mr. Zhu Guoping, the Director General of the Board and Card Games Administrative Center of the General Administration of Sport, Party Secretary of the CPC Board and Card Games Administrative Center Committee, won great applause by being shorter than his job description. The caterers had hit upon a brilliant wheeze for converting the players to a healthy Chinese diet by cooking an innocuous radish-like vegetable so that it outwardly resembled chips. The juniors were fooled only momentarily, and there were platefuls of the stuff lying around afterwards.

I’ve got an England Junior Bridge Team shirt now, which is more than I had when I played on an England junior bridge team. Time to pull it on and rally the troops for battle. When is Saint Crispin’s Day, anyway?

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