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.