Friday, 25 August 2017

42 Down, 48 To Play, Venice Cup FInal, Lyon, Day 13

Overnight, we trail the Chinese by 42 IMPs in the final of the Venice Cup.   Although this might seem like a big deficit, the reality is that over 48 boards, there is a very good chance of us turning the match around.

In both the previous two knock-out matches, we established a reasonable lead (more than 60 IMPs) only to have the advantage wiped out completely - indeed against Sweden, they went on to establish a lead of their own (23 IMPs).  So, in this match, a very different pattern has emerged and, at least for the time-being, we are doing the chasing.  

The psychology of holding on to a lead is interesting and it is important that we don't let them get much further ahead.   A small win in the fourth stanza is likely to make the Chinese somewhat nervous.

Finger crossed !


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Going For Gold - England in the Final. Venice Cup, Lyon, Day 12

It went right down to the wire but in the end, we prevailed in our semi-final against Sweden by the margin of 205 VPs to 188. 

For many watching, this match was an emotional roller-coaster ride with England establishing an early 67 IMP lead only to have this cut to 30 overnight.   Then, in an extraordinary four deals, we lost a further 47 IMPS.   In a flash, a healthy advantage had been reversed and, at that stage, we trailed by 23.

The players showed incredible resolve and came back strongly, re-establishing the lead by the end of the fourth stanza.  From this point onwards, the match remained tight with England managing to keep the Swedes at arm's length.

Sweden have had a fantastic Venice Cup, winning the round-robin stage very convincingly and playing some very fine bridge against us.   Although they must be disappointed, they should be congratulated on a very fine performance.

Now, our thoughts move forwards to the final, in which we will face China who defeated Poland by 236 IMPs to 157.  This will be another tough proposition but the players are in buoyant mood and are eyeing the challenge with some confidence!


Thirty Ahead At Half-Way Stage. Venice Cup, Lyon, Day 11

After 48 boards of our Venice Cup semi-final, we lead Sweden by 30 IMPs overnight.   At one point the lead was as much as 67 IMPS but some aggressive play by the Swedes led to an erosion of our advantage.

Nicola Smith and Catherine Draper performed admirably on this deal.

Board 26. Dealer East. All Vulnerable.
♠ K J 7
K 9 6 5
7 5 3
♣ A K T
♠ A Q 9 6 3 2
Q
Q 6
♣ Q J 9 8
Bridge deal♠ T 8 5 4
T 7 4
K 8
♣ 6 5 4 3
♠ -
A J 8 3 2
A J T 9 4 2
♣ 7 2

Nicola Smith                       Catherine Draper
      South               West               North                    East

        1D                    2S                   3NT                     Pass
        4H                   Pass                 5C                       Pass
        5D                   Pass                 5H                       Pass
        6H                   All Pass

After the 2S overcall, Catherine made the practical call of 3NT, which Nicola removed to 4H.   This would make no sense on a 4-card suit and so, in conjunction with the opening bid, Nicola had described the 6-5 distribution.   At this point, Catherine made a key decision to try for slam and cue-bid the club control.   This was all the encouragement that Nicola required - 13 IMPs to England.

There are still 48 boards to go so there is still much to do.   Hoping for a good day!

Monday, 21 August 2017

England Through to the Semi-Finals. Venice Cup, Lyon, Day 10


In what turned out to be a very tense affair, England emerged victorious against Russia in our quarter-final encounter.  Having established a substantial lead (over 60 IMPs at one stage), the nerves started to jangle as the Russians clawed back the deficit.  Indeed, for a very short period during the fourth stanza, they had managed to draw level.  A strong finish enabled us to re-assert our advantage and, in the end, we won by 220 IMPs to 199.

One of the gains was on this deal:

Board 11. Dealer South. None Vulnerable.
♠ KJT8
AQ94
T
♣ 9732

♠ A43
73
8643
♣ AQJ8
Bridge deal
♠ 752
KJT652
J
♣ K64
♠ Q96
8
AKQ9752
♣ T5


After South had "gambled" 3NT, Sandra Penfold had the unenviable task of having to find the killing lead.  In such situations, it is often correct to cash out immediately because it is known that as soon as declarer gains the lead, he or she will have plenty of tricks.   For this reason, against a gambling 3NT, it is a good idea to lead an ace, enabling the best defence to be appraised upon seeing the dummy and receiving partner's signal.   Accordingly, Sandra began with the ace of clubs.   Holding the club king, Nevena Senior encouraged by playing the four (reverse attitude - low means like) so Sandra continued with a second club.   Before you could blink, England had taken the first five tricks - 3NT one off!

At the other table, Fiona Brown declared 3NT from the North seat.   The defence was not so ruthless and Fiona made her game.

The Russians played very well to fight back so tenaciously but we might have eased to a more comfortable victory had it not been for some rather cruel luck in the slam zone.  Specifically, on two separate occasions, we incurred a heavy loss by bidding slam, only to find the trumps splitting 5-0!


Quarter - Final Results

Sweden    193             Israel          160

England    220            Russia         199

Poland      171            Indonesia     152

China        183           Netherlands  134



The 96-board semi-finals will be played over the next two days and the line-up will be:


Sweden   versus   England    

and

China      versus   Poland


Can't wait !









Eleven Up, Sixteen To Go, Venice Cup, Lyon, Day 9

With sixteen boards to play in our quarter-final match against Russia, we hold an eleven IMP advantage.

Fingers crossed !

Taming the Russian Bear. Venice Cup, Lyon, Day 9

The 43rd World Bridge Championships are being held at the "Cite Centre de Congres" in Lyon, outside of which there is an enormous statue of a "Russian Bear".   We enter today's play, confident in the belief that three lions on the shirt will be more than enough to cope with a lone bear!

At the half-way stage of our quarter-final we are leading the Russians by 133 IMPs to 98.  There are 48 boards to go so this is a significant but not, as yet, decisive advantage.

Having clear bidding agreements in a well organised system can reap big rewards.  This is illustrated by the following hand that helped us to establish our lead.


                                   ♠ A 8
                                   ♥ K Q 8 5 4
                            ♦ J 8 2
                                   ♣ J 7 2
♠ K Q J T 7 6 4 3
A
A Q
♣ T 6
Bridge deal♠ -
T 9 3
K T 5 3
♣ A K Q 8 5 4
♠ 9 5 2
J 7 6 2
9 7 6 4
♣ 9 3


At one table, the opening bid was 1C, indicating a strong hand or a weak NT - the "Polish Club" system.   Nevena Senior overcalled 1H and East showed her clubs.   Some confusion ensued in that, East's bid was merely competitive and West became worried that East had a string of clubs but a poor hand.   This uncertainty led to the slam being missed.

In contrast, Fiona Brown and Sally Brock bid:

1S              2C   (FG)
3S              4C   (cue-bid)
4NT           and on to a nicely bid slam

Fiona's jump to 3S announced that spades were playable opposite a void.   This was a useful agreement to have because it enabled Sally to cue-bid 4C with confidence.   In a standard system, a 3S rebid is necessary, merely to indicate a non-minimum opening, so this board can be seen as being a good hand for the treatment that 2C is forcing to game.

Indeed, it was one of two hands in the second stanza of the match when our pair bid a making slam with a very strong suit opposite a void!

The overnight scores, after 48 boards, in each of the quarter-finals are given below:

Sweden        97          Israel        107 - the winners of this match are our potential semi-final opponents

Russia          98          England   133

Indonesia     101        Poland     103

China           88          Netherlands  70


Looking forward to a good day's play !

Derek :)
 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Russia Next! Venice Cup, Lyon, Day 8

The Venice Cup has reached the quarter-final stages and we have been drawn to play against Russia in a match which is due to last 96 boards.  

The round-robin came to its conclusion yesterday.   On the final board of each match, there was potential for a very large swing with East/West having to bid the following cards:

♠ K
A K Q J 5
A J 5 3
♣ Q 5 3
Bridge deal♠ A Q J 9 3 2
4 3
Q 9 6 2
♣ A
A grand slam was available in spades and the difficulty in the auction was to avoid the 4-4 diamond fit.   If England could produce a swing in against the Poles and USA I gain in their match, it was possible for the Americans to qualify.   When the dust settled, however, the necessary swings had not materialised.   As had been looking likely for some time, the two finalists from Chennai, 2015 (France and USA I) had failed to progress to the knock-out stages.

With the top eight teams qualifying, here is the final table:

1SWEDEN288.19
2CHINA279.51
3RUSSIA269.68
4INDONESIA263.50
5ISRAEL257.86
6ENGLAND256.46
7NETHERLANDS256.37
8POLAND245.05
9USA1233.91
10ITALY224.23
11FRANCE213.82
12ARGENTINA204.39
13AUSTRALIA202.07
14BRAZIL194.02
15USA2190.25
16EGYPT189.39
17CHINESE TAIPEI181.85
18NEW ZEALAND171.75
19MOROCCO161.54
20CANADA122.75
21INDIA114.35
22JORDAN94.56



For the quarter-finals, Sweden had choice of opponents from those finishing 5th - 8th, opting for Israel.   China selected the Netherlands and Russia chose us.   Then, the Swedes, as the first-placed team were invited to select their potential semi-final opponents and, by so doing, the draw was complete.  Here it is:

1)   Sweden    versus    Israel                                                    2)  Russia     versus   England

3)   China       versus    Netherlands                                          4) Indonesia  versus  Poland

In the semi-finals, the winners of (1) will play the winners of (2).

It will be possible to follow proceedings on BBO.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Quarter-Finals, Here We Come! Venice Cup, Lyon, Day 7

We enter the final match of the round-robin, secure in the knowledge that we have qualified for the knock-out stages.   Our main concern now is to finish as high as we can because the top three teams are allowed to choose their opponents in the quarter-finals.

The reigning champions and hosts, France, will miss out and USA I, the beaten finalists from two years ago, also, are in a precarious position.   Indeed, they will be relying on us to inflict a heavy defeat on Poland, currently in eighth position, in our match, which will give them a chance to move up from ninth.

We have played well so far today showing great resilience after yesterday's disappointment which had left the team somewhat battered and bruised.  In fact,  from my point-of-view, things might have gone from bad to worse as I made my way back to the hotel through the park.   I had been perusing a copy of Sally and Fiona's convention card when I was somewhat surprised by what seemed to be a giant red squirrel hurtling towards me.  Fortunately, it caught sight of the convention card, froze in sheer terror, turned and ran for cover.   I have since found out that there are many red squirrels in the park and that they scurry about all over the place.

Meanwhile, with one match to go in the round-robin, the current standings are:

1SWEDEN276.71
2CHINA259.51
3INDONESIA254.98
4RUSSIA253.26
5ENGLAND251.84
6ISRAEL242.48
7NETHERLANDS239.64
8POLAND229.67
9USA1221.62
10FRANCE209.56
11ITALY206.92
12ARGENTINA199.77
13AUSTRALIA198.49
14USA2190.25
15BRAZIL186.31
16EGYPT180.87
17CHINESE TAIPEI166.11
18NEW ZEALAND160.27
19MOROCCO158.85
20CANADA118.31
21INDIA98.79
22JORDAN91.29


Let's see who we get in the quarter-finals!

Derek :)

Friday, 18 August 2017

Nearly there... Venice Cup, Lyon, Day 6

Qualification for the knock-out stages of the Venice Cup is close to being assured thanks to a strong surge on days four and five.   This morning, however, our winning streak of seven matches came to an end when we suffered a disappointing defeat at the hands of Israel, who did play extremely well.

With five matches of the round-robin remaining, the top eight teams have pulled away from the rest and with France and USA I more than 20 VPs behind eighth place, it looks likely that the finalists from two years ago will not qualify.

Currently, we are lying in second place and the standings after the sixteenth match are given below:


1SWEDEN219.94
2ENGLAND205.51
3INDONESIA202.13
4CHINA200.93
5ISRAEL197.61
6RUSSIA195.13
7POLAND192.83
8NETHERLANDS190.64
9FRANCE169.84
10USA1166.85
11AUSTRALIA166.49
12ITALY166.16
13USA2162.29
14ARGENTINA157.94
15BRAZIL143.46
16EGYPT143.08
17CHINESE TAIPEI133.20
18NEW ZEALAND124.37
19MOROCCO120.74
20CANADA98.67
21INDIA85.05
22JORDAN74.14






Thursday, 17 August 2017

"Lightning" Strikes! Venice Cup, Lyon, Day 5

Day 4 was a good one for team England, with three victories.   The morning match against arch-rivals, the Netherlands, had a dramatic climax - see below!

One aspect of an international tournament is that of the many different systems and approaches adopted.   For example, rather than being the norm as it would be in England, the "Weak No Trump" is regarded by some with a fair degree of suspicion and some players need very little excuse to double it.   This can lead to some very exciting bridge!

Imagine you are Nevena Senior, at unfavourable vulnerability, holding:

S K102   H  84   D 97653   C K106

Sandra Penfold's 12-14 NT opening is doubled and so you remove to 2D, which, in turn is doubled for take-out - an anxious moment, perhaps?   Your LHO decides to remove to 2S (whew!) and, suddenly, there is a chance to turn the tables as the opponents continue, trying 3NT.   Nevena found a very sharp double of her own.   This was vindicated when a ruthless defence resulted in defeating the contract by four tricks - +800.   One up for the Weak No Trump!

In yesterday's encounter with the Netherlands, there were many swings and exciting deals.

Here is one of the big hands:

Board 22. Dealer East. E-W Vulnerable.
♠ Q
K Q 4 3
7 5 4
♣ T 7 5 3 2
♠ A J 9 7 6 4
J
A Q 9 3
♣ A 9
Bridge deal♠ K 8 5 2
A T 9 8 7 5 2
K J
♣ -
♠ T 3
6
T 8 6 2
♣ K Q J 8 6 4

Carla Arnolds         Sally Brock    Martine Verbeek          Fiona Brown
        North                    East                   South                        West
                                      1H                      2C                             2S
          4C                       5C                    Pass                           5NT
        Pass                      6H                    Pass                            7S

Sally's 5C bid showed a good hand with spade support and a void in clubs.   Fiona and Sally have an agreement that they can bid 5NT to ask for key-cards when 4NT has been by-passed, which proved to be extremely useful on this hand.   It elicited a 2 key-card response and Fiona leapt to the making grand-slam - very impressive but just a flat board!

The Dutch had opened up a 13 IMP lead when the final board of the match appeared.


Board 32. Dealer West. E-W Vulnerable.
♠ 8 5
Q 7 6 4 3 2
Q 7 6
♣ T 7
♠ K Q J T 7 2
-
K 9 5 3
♣ A Q 9
Bridge deal♠ A 6
J 8
A J T 8 4 2
♣ 6 4 2
♠ 9 4 3
A K T 9 5
-
♣ K J 8 5 3

Catherine Draper        Wietske Van Zwol    Nicola Smith          Magdalena Ticha
        North                               East                    South                         West
                                                                                                               1S
         Pass                                3D                        3H                            6S !
          7H                                  7S                       Double !                

East's 3D response was natural, non-forcing and invitational, based on a strong suit.   Opener's rebid certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons and Catherine was faced with her first difficult decision.   With impeccable judgment, she took out some insurance by sacrificing in 7H, only to find that her next decision would be that of finding the best opening lead to 7S, which Nicola had doubled.

Doubles of this kind, referred to as "Lightner", have lead-directing overtones.   The rationale is that by doubling, a player can direct partner to find a lead that, otherwise, would not have been chosen.   There are many variations on this theme but against slams in suit contracts, such doubles are often used to obtain a ruff at trick one.  

Certainly, Catherine had been asked to find an unusual lead.   In the cauldron of a World Championships, on lead to a doubled grand-slam, it is imperative to keep a clear head.   Without the double, a club lead might have been indicated because, obviously, the opponents are fully prepared for a lead of the bid and agreed suit.   So Catherine reasoned that Nicola was after a diamond ruff and, accordingly, led one.

One off and victory in the most dramatic fashion!

Since then we have chalked up three more wins, the last of which was an emphatic victory against the strong Chinese team this morning and we are now in a healthy third place.

After 13 rounds, the "scores on the doors" are:

1SWEDEN169.41
2POLAND169.35
3ENGLAND164.14
4NETHERLANDS163.77
5RUSSIA160.32
6INDONESIA160.10
7CHINA158.33
8ISRAEL145.14
9FRANCE143.76
10AUSTRALIA138.59
11ARGENTINA135.81
12BRAZIL129.74
13EGYPT123.73
14USA1123.72
15ITALY122.32
16USA2121.26
17NEW ZEALAND104.22
18CHINESE TAIPEI101.23
19MOROCCO99.15
20CANADA88.99
21INDIA67.53
22JORDAN67.39



Derek :)