Wednesday, 10 July 2019

European Youth Team Championships: Blog by Michael Byrne

Day 1: 

Day one of the European Championships has started well for England U21s. 

In Match 1 we enjoyed a comfortable victory over France, with two good slams bid and made at both tables and a third exciting one. Liam and Dan bid 6C (which was a good contract) but it should have gone down with the main side suit breaking 5-1 and missing the ace. The French doubled (I'm still not sure why) and this confused the singleton into leading something else, +1090 was just what the doctor ordered. 
On the last board they doubled us in 1NT and Sam had no problem rolling in the overtrick on careful play, +380 was a pleasing way to finish the set. 

In Match 2 we had a losing draw (-4imps) to Poland, which included a flat grand slam bid and made on the last board.  We opened 1D on Axxxx, A, AK109xxx, Void and reached 7S despite a weak jump overcall of 3C, partner introducing spades. They reached 7S by opening 1S (absolutely sick frankly), it was missed at several tables.

In Match 3 we faced World and European Champions Sweden, and we were leading comfortably with a few boards to go, but again a small loss resulted after a few slip ups towards the end. The result in itself was not so bad, but it could have been much better.

Today (by the time you read this) we face Turkey, Norway and the Netherlands, two of the weaker teams, then old friends from the Channel Trophy. 

Day 2:

After some tricky hands in the open room against Turkey we came out to find team-mates smiling, an easy 20-0 against Turkey was just what the doctor ordered. However we struggled against Germany in our next match, they did some really successful things (not good things mind you, just things that worked) and we got walloped by 42 imps.
Our last match was against The Netherlands and this time we got back into gear and crushed them from the get go. By the time the last board appeared on the table they were so dazed that they thought a 2S overcall of stayman was the unusual NT and went for 800 in a 4-3 fit at the 3 level. 
We are now just 3 vps off the lead and know we can beat anyone. 

Day 3:

Three more decent wins have moved us into the gold medal position, and we are enjoying good luck as well as good form. The hand of the day definitely has to be 6H rolled in by Liz and Sam. After an auction in which both players bid as if they had three more tricks we arrived in 6H, needing one of two club make 5. 6H was no play at all and we were prepared for a swing out. However after wrapping up the club suit we ran a few trumps and lo and behold one of the defenders through all of his diamonds away to let us make the last two tricks on dummy with the 10C and the 9D, and 1430. This was not only a huge swing (team-mates were -200 in 5S) but also the flurry of Italian under the screen made it clear the defenders were about to go on tilt and this they did in spectacular fashion. 

Day 4 and 5:

4 straight losses have brought us down to 5th, which whilst an excellent position (the top 6 qualify for the world championships) seems disappointing after leading the event. Losing to the weaker teams was a great shame but in fairness they simply played a lot better than they did in the first round robin. I am confident that we can raise our game and return to our winning ways. 

Day 6:

A very exciting match against Sweden led to a wining draw for us, which is important if we are going to overtake them. 
The second match of the day was against the French and everything seemed to go against us. They played for Kx in 1NT and we played for Jx so they made 6 tricks and we made 4, they passed a 12 count and it didn't cost, and finally they played in 6D with a trump suit of singleton ace facing KQ10xxx whilst we were in 6NT. 

So a loss then? No, unlike the French we played well and for every lucky board they had we had two sensible ones and we won by 20 imps. This has closed the gap at the top and given us a serious chance of breaking into the top 3 if tomorrows matches go well. 

Day 7:

Wow!! What a fantastic finish to a great event. On the final day we had a winning draw with Sweden (who are current world champions) then smashed the Poles and beat the Dutch for the second time. 

We moved into the Bronze medal position, and can go home happy. 

I am proud of all my players and it was truly a team effort, everyone gave their all and can go home with their heads held high. 

 Next stop the world championships in a years time!