Day Four, Wednesday 18th September
We start against two couples from Canada. We bid, play, and defend better than they do to pick up five double-digit swings, winning the match 64-20. Next up is a Russian team who are pleased to point out that our two teams are placed first and second. On the third board they have a Precision auction, in every sense, to 5C which is the best contract in theory. But the defence knows a lot about declarer's hand, and Barry is able to give her a problem which she gets wrong. Meanwhile, Frances and Graham bash 3NT, the defence misguess which suit to lead, and it rolls home. The Russians hit back with a cold grand slam, but then they again misdefend 3NT at one table while going off in 5minor at the other. In the end we win a scrappy match 49-36, and Russia are no longer in second place.
We are politely informed by a Director that, after careful consideration, it has been decided not to adjust the score from our match against New Zealand. What had happened was that an opponent failed to see that his partner had doubled an artificial spade bid - if he had he would have bid the suit - and passed. Major bridge events are played with a wooden screen placed diagonally across the table, separating North and East from South and West. Bidding cards are placed on a tray which is slid under the table after both screenmates have made their call. The New Zealander realised his error before the tray had been passed, and wanted to change his pass, so the Director was called. The rule is that a call is considered to be 'made' when placed on the tray and released, and then cannot be changed unless the player has made a mechanical error. The Director established that the call had been made, and that the call was the one the player had intended, and therefore could it not be changed. Meanwhile, the players on the other side of the screen could not hear the discussion, but they knew that the Director was ruling on something, and taking a few minutes doing it. And when the tray eventually came through the New Zealand woman elected to bid again in a position where she might well have passed us out in three clubs, enabling her side to bid and make four spades.
The ruling was the Director call hadn't, in the words of Law 16B, 'demonstrably suggested' anything in particular, and that the player was therefore free to do as she thought best. It's fair to say that opinions differ about the interpretation of 'demonstrably' and I respectfully disagree with this one. There are no appeals here, but we can ask for a review of the ruling if we choose. However, the ruling given had been carefully considered by very experienced Directors, so we accept it with thanks for the trouble they have taken.
Our third match was against Poland, like Sweden fielding a different team from in the Europeans. Frances and Graham had an excellent match against Russia, but this time things go badly for them. It's a relief to find that Michael and Fiona have done well, and we lose 39-28.
I conduct a brief review with the team of results so far. All three pairs are doing very well playing two out of three matches each day, so we'll carry on with that: my aim is simply to play each pair at the times they're likely to perform best. The system is that after each match I have to log on to a computer and declare which of our players will sit North, South, East, and West, without seeing the opposing captain's choice. Once both captains have submitted their line-ups, they appear on a big screen for all to see.
Over dinner, we award play-of-the-day to Fiona, for this board against Canada. Defending 3NT, she led a diamond to the king and ace. Declarer tried leading the two of hearts to the 5, 8, and jack. Michael continued with the seven of diamonds, which held, and a third diamond to declarer's queen. Declarer pressed on with hearts, hoping to find the suit 3-3 and to keep North off lead. This plan was doomed, but Fiona alertly simplified matters by putting in the king, crashing Michael's queen. Meanwhile, Barry after the same play to the first trick tried the jack of spades at trick two, which North wrongly covered, so he had three spade tricks and his contract.
We're just past half way in the Round Robin and we're still in the lead.