Saturday, 10 October 2015

It's a Bronze! - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (15)

Our campaign in Chennai has ended with the winning of a bronze medal (maybe one each if we are lucky)!

The roller coaster ride continued all the way to the end of the event.  Starting the day 32.3 IMPs ahead, the lead was reduced to a mere 7.3 IMPs after the morning set.  In this stanza, we had bid an excellent game and an excellent slam, both failing on the rocks of bad distribution in the trump suit.  If these had made, the lead would have been close to 60 and we would have been able to relax but it was not to be.

The atmosphere was to become even more tense as the Dutch continued their revival.   Indeed, as we began board 70 (out of 80), the Dutch led by 10!  Then came this remarkable hand:

Board 70. Dealer East. E-W Vulnerable.
♠ -
K 7
A 6 5
♣ A K Q J T 9 6 4
♠ T 9 5 4
A 4 2
K J T
♣ 5 3 2
Bridge deal ♠ K J 8
Q J T 9 8 6 3
8 7
♣ 8
♠ A Q 7 6 3 2
5
Q 9 4 3 2
♣ 7
 

East opened 3H, south overcalled 3S and it was difficult to know how to proceed on the north cards.  A practical shot of leaping to 6C was chosen (as it was at many tables).  The Dutch declarer was unable to garner 12 winners but ours, having lost the ace of hearts at trick 1, tried the effect of cashing her clubs whilst East, naturally enough, pitched a diamond.   Declarer continued to cash the entire suit and, also, the king of hearts whilst discarding all the diamonds from dummy, thereby magnifying the threat of the spade suit.   West, unable to discern declarer's void, held on to her spades and jettisoned the KJ10 of diamonds!  

To everyone's surprise, Sally Brock was able to cash the 6 and 5 of diamonds to land her slam!   From that point, further favourable swings allowed us to re-establish our lead and push on to win by 25.3 IMPs.

Congratulations to all the players; Sally Brock, Fiona Brown, Heather Dhondy, Catherine Draper, Nevena Senior and Nicola Smith and also to the hard-working coach, David Burn.

It was far from easy but, in the end, we had won the Bronze! 


england ENGLAND 0 19 19 45 64 44 108 13 121 44 165
netherlands NETHERLANDS 5.67 20 25.7 16 41.7 34 75.7 38 113.7 26 139.7











Friday, 9 October 2015

32 Boards Away From The Bronze - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (14)

With 32 boards to play today, we are leading the battle for the bronze medal by 32 IMPs.   The lead is far from decisive but it is a good position to be in. 


As usual, there were many highs and lows during the first 48 hands but we managed to pull away towards the end of yesterday's play - gaining two game swings due to good declarer play in one room and tight defence in the other.


Team c/o Segment
1
Tot
2
Tot
3
Tot
4
Tot
5
Total
england ENGLAND 0 19 19 45 64 44 108  
  108
netherlands NETHERLANDS 5.67 20 25.7 16 41.7 34 75.7  
  75.7


In the final, the French are leading USA II by the narrowest of margins, 96.7 - 96, and I am hoping that our match does not become as close as that !

Having played so well so far, there is every reason to be confident!







Thursday, 8 October 2015

Courageous Fightback Comes Up Short - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (13)


Beginning the day's play with a deficit of 46 IMPs, England fought back valiantly but, in the end, it was not quite enough. 

The play on this the second day of the semi-final had been exciting to watch with several moments of high drama.  After many twists and turns along the way, the lead had been reduced to seventeen IMPs as board 90 (out of 96) was placed on the table.   The French bid to 5C and we waited for the lead with bated breath.

A heart lead would have resulted in a gain of 13 IMPs (gap down to four) but when a well-reasoned (but unsuccessful this time) trump lead was chosen, the gap widened to twenty-seven.   We came back again but, alas, time ran out and our challenge for the Venice Cup was over - so near and yet so far!

Congratulations to a very strong French team that played extremely well throughout the match (particularly in the card-play).

Team c/o Segment
1 Tot 2 Tot 3 Tot 4 Tot 5 Tot 6 Total
france FRANCE 6 28 34 43 77 37 114 37 151 29 180 31 211
england ENGLAND 0 25 25 21 46 22 68 25 93 52 145 41 186



So, now we have a play-off for third place against the Dutch who pipped us for Gold in the Europeans last year - the bronze medal awaits!










Bermuda Bowl - England Open Team Part 10

A quite simply heart breaking conclusion to our Semi Final against Poland. After fighting to stay in touch with our opponents for much of the encounter, a fabulous rally in the last set saw us win back to back fifteen imp swings to take the lead with six boards to go. Losing eight imps on the next deal, we then had four flat boards but unfortunately lost a double part score swing on the last deal to lose by 1.67 imps. However we were delivered a ruling during the last set, and we felt that the ruling was incorrect as the players the director polled had not asked the correct question. Upon review, we were told that the directors were going to poll new players and make a fresh ruling. For a short period we believed that justice would prevail, however our hopes were dashed for a final time late last night. Incredibly proud of my team and how they fought, four days of bridge against unbelievably high quality of opposition in the QF and SF matches. It will be hard to dust ourselves down today for the Bronze Medal match, but that is what I hope we can do and get the medal their play has so richly deserved.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

And it's farewell from me ~ Seniors Transnational II and other things

Not a good day for English bridge. As well as the disappointment of the Women not making it to the final, and the heartbreak of the Open Team's last board exit, I have to report that the English Seniors were eliminated from the Transnationals. All very sad. They have been a credit to England and to English bridge.

On a lighter note, I spoke to Bob Hamman (or was it Dustin Hoffman?) just after he qualified for the final of the Senior event, and asked him if he would do us the honour of writing a commentary on four deals for the 2016 Night of the Stars event. Obviously I caught him in a good mood and he said yes. If you don't know about NotS, it is a fantastic charity event, organised by Terry Hewett. There is an auction of Stars in November, and the event itself is in February. You can find out all about it at www.nightofthestars.org.uk/.

On an even lighter note, I played with Jenny Price (wife of England Senior Superstar, David) in the Open Pairs today. We were using screens (first time for Jenny), so I was unable to see her puzzled expressions as she tried to understand some of my bidding. I am pleased to say we bid and made 6NT on the first board and, at that stage, we were leading the field. At the end we were the top English, nay, British pair (although, in the interests of unbiased reporting, I should remind you that all three English teams were still playing in the major competitions). Jenny now has has an English badge and a World Bridge Federation player number.



This will probably be my last blog from Chennai, so let me finish by thanking Roger O'Shea and Pharon Financial Advisers for helping me to be here, and the Senior team for putting up with me.

Backs to the Wall - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (12)

After a slow start, some unlucky views and a day when the French got the better of most of the big swings, we are trailing by 46 IMPs in the semi-finals.   This sounds much worse than it is.  To catch up 46 IMPs over 8 boards would be a serious problem.  Over sixteen boards, the task would be difficult but achievable but over 48 boards, it is very manageable.   If we play well today, there is every reason to believe that we will make the final.   A sprinkling of good fortune would help!


Team c/o Segment
1 Tot 2 Tot 3 Tot 4 Tot 5 Tot 6 Total
france FRANCE 6 28 34 43 77 37 114   114   114   114
england ENGLAND 0 25 25 21 46 22 68   68   68   68


In the other semi-final, USA II leads the Netherlands by 112.5 to 81.

Hopefully, there will be better news to report tomorrow!




Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Back in Business ~ Seniors Transnational I

The beaten quarter-finalists were allowed to join the Swiss stage of the Transnational for the third day of three, all of them starting in joint 20th place. The eventual top 16 would progress to the knock-out phase. The English Seniors played five 10-board matches, won four of them, and finished in tenth place. Then it was time for me to go to another captain's meeting for the draw. The Russian-Polish team (called Buras) who had won the Swiss had first pick from the bottom eight and chose “English Seniors” (read it in a Russian accent). I shook him warmly by the hand and told him I would have picked him if it had been my choice. I am not sure he believed me. Either way, we are suitably affronted and will show him the error of his ways over 48 boards tomorrow.

"Dwell not upon thy weariness, thy strength shall be according to the measure of thy desire." Arab Proverb 

There was an interesting piece in the Bulletin a couple of days ago. Bob Hamman, one of the all-time great bridge players (winner of 12 World Titles and 50 North American Bridge Championships, and here in Chennai, playing in the USA1 Senior team), is founder and President of SCA Promotions. SCA were involved in some capacity (not drug-related!) with Lance Armstrong. A film (The Program), about Lance Armstrong and his fall from grace, has just been released. In it the part of Bob Hamman (see photo) is played by … Dustin Hoffman. Bob is over six foot tall, which makes the casting even more bizarre.

Three of the England Supporters Club, the England BridgeMates, have left Chennai. They have been replaced by Ian Painter, who had an unintended detour via Bangalore. I was introduced to Ian by one of my team as “Our NCP”. If anyone can think of any characteristics shared by a car park and a moderate bridge player, please let me know. 

England Victorious as Tensions Mount - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (11)

It was board 87 (out of 96), the American declarer was playing an extremely awkward 3NT, which had failed by two tricks in the other room (+200 to USA I).   At trick 7, having performed miracles up to that point, declarer led towards the AJ109 of diamonds in the dummy, second player playing low.   Would she play the ace or would she play the jack?   There was no way for her to tell which would work best but a successful decision would have propelled USA I into the lead for the first time in the match since board two!

The tension was virtually unbearable.   Coming into the final set, we had been protecting a substantial, though not enormous, lead of 24 IMPs  but this had been gradually eroded, board by board.

Declarer paused.   She considered.   She considered again.   We held our breath.

Ace!

Any joy?  well, yes, if you were English!

That was close, very close - but having contemplated the prospect of our entire lead (and more) completely disappearing, we moved on to board 88 ahead by 12 IMPs.   The moment seemed pivotal and from then on, we pulled away, eventually winning by 42 IMPs.   It had been a fabulous performance and a thoroughly deserved win against very tough opposition !


Team c/o Segment
1 Tot 2 Tot 3 Tot 4 Tot 5 Tot 6 Total
Usa USA1 16 19 35 30 65 22 87 43 130 38 168 16 184
england ENGLAND 0 44 44 40 84 19 103 45 148 44 192 34 226


So, now it is the French in the semi-finals and we will begin six IMPs down but in very high spirits...


Bermuda Bowl - England Open Team Part 9

WOW! What a day here in Chennai. We started the day just two IMPs to the good against the legendary NICKELL team (USA I). We had a first set with some nice plus positions, with both pairs doing many good things, leaving us 24 ahead with 32 deals to go. Despite board one of the penultimate set proving very unlucky for us (6D went down when the clubs were 6-0 and the Americans found that lead and 6NT was bid and made next door), we recovered marvellously to find ourselves 48 imps ahead with sixteen deals to go. However, with our opponents being famous for big last set comebacks, this was not a time for complacency. Having made sure my guys were seated and ready for battle, I retired to my room to "watch" (the polite version) the final set. What unfolded made for pretty unpleasant viewing for an ever so nervous NPC and the players who sat out the final set. Several double digit swings on the bounce reduced the lead to just ten imps after 7 boards of the set, however the team showed fantastic resilience in the face of enormous pressure to outscore the Americans 10-4 over the last nine boards, to ultimately record a 20 imp victory. As an observer, I was thoroughly exhausted by the time the match ended, so I can only imagine how the players must be feeling! However tomorrow we will face the very tough Poland team, once again a match of 96 boards over two days. Hope you will be able to tune in on www.bridgebase.com to once again (hopefully) enjoy the show!

Monday, 5 October 2015

The End of the Road ~ Seniors QF II

Those of you who have lost a 24 board match by 6 IMPs, or a 32 board match by 8 IMPs, will know how it feels to lose a 96 board match by 24 IMPs. We drew the first segment and then won the second segment 53-16 to close to within 12 IMPs. Things got even better when we out-scored the Poles 15-1 over the first three boards of the third set and actually took the lead. Alas, it was not to be; the Poles rallied and eventually won by 24 IMPs, 219.5 to 196. We have played them many times over the past few years; some we have won and some we have lost. They are nice guys and I hope they make it to the final.

"Winning may not be everything, but losing has little to recommend it.Diane Feinstein
The England Senior team will now 'drop into' the Transnational, which has been going for a couple of days. There are 146 teams playing, 99 of them made up of Indian players. After one more day of Swiss teams, the top 16 teams will play a knock-out that finishes on Saturday morning. Winning the Transnational is a world title in its own right; perhaps the equivalent of the mixed doubles at Wimbledon.
And, of course, the England Seniors will supporting the England Open and Women's teams. We're sorry we couldn't make it a perfect three out of three in the semi-finals, but we wish them the very best of luck. England certainly needs a sporting success to celebrate, and maybe bridge can have some coverage now that the rugby challenge has ended. (Another match I am glad I didn't stay up past midnight to watch.)

To cheer us both up, let me tell you a joke (you will have to forget it immediately, because I will probably use it in an article sometime): 

"If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, then you probably shouldn't repeat the finesse."

Bermuda Bowl - England Open Team Part 8

After the first day of the tough Quarter Final against the USA I team, we lead by two imps. Some very exciting boards meant plenty of IMPs changed hands, with several big swings. We had a particularly fine second stanza, but as you might expect the vastly experienced USA team came back at us strong in the third stanza. 48 boards to play, and a place in the World Championship Semi Final is up for grabs. The team are fed and watered, and hopefully tucked up in bed to get a good night sleep ready for tomorrow. Good luck, boys!

Hot and Spicy - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (10)

 Venice Cup Quarter-Final

England    103     -     USA I     87                                 (after 48 boards out of 96)

After 48 boards of the quarter-final, having started the day sixteen IMPs behind (a carry-forward from the match between the two teams in the round-robin phase), we have taken the lead against USA I, 103 - 87 IMPs.  Indeed, the 16 IMP advantage had been eradicated after just two boards of the match.

On board one, the Americans tried 6H, which Catherine Draper doubled in the hope of persuading her partner, Fiona Brown, to lead a club.   Fiona obliged, Catherine ruffed and 6H X went one down.  At the other table, Nicola Smith and Sally Brock bid to the superior contract of 6C, which could not be beaten.   This sensational start was followed by 1NT doubled making with two over-tricks on board two - England in the lead!

We extended our lead with some exciting bridge but matters were to get more spicy when the Americans appealed, retrospectively, for an alleged failure to alert a conventional bid.  They had suffered an adverse game-swing owing to a misunderstanding, which had become apparent immediately.   It was only after the session had ceased that they "remembered" that there had been a failure to alert and that this failure caused the misunderstanding.  Although the directors believed that there had been an alert, it was difficult to ascertain the precise sequence of events (no DRS in India!) and, due to a technicality, they ruled in the American's favour.   Feeling somewhat aggrieved by this, we are looking forward to the next forty-eight boards with a firm resolve! 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Insert own Poland/Polish/Pole pun here ~ Seniors QF I

From the rush of three opponents a day (blind line-ups, studying different opposition systems, getting an instinct feel for their style of play) to a 96 board match over two days (seemingly more leisurely, but actually the same playing schedule, and against tougher opposition).

We started badly against the Poles, with some poor decisions in the first 16-board segment, and some bad luck in the first half of the second segment. At one stage we were 75 IMPs down, but we bounced back to trail by 52 going into the third segment, and we played well to pull back a further 23 IMPs. A deficit of 29 is definitely recoverable and the team retired for the night in good heart.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”  Churchill

Gunnar Hallberg seen here on the right, with partner John Holland, would like me to send greetings to all at the Avenue Bridge Club in Hove.


Please suggest a caption; best so far:

"Look! It says Gerber?" "Does it come with rice?"

"But I've never heard of an East Pole and a West Pole."

USA I Awaits in the Quarter-Finals - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (9)

Rounding off with a satisfying victory against USA II, England moved up to finish fifth in the round-robin phase.   We did get quite close to third, which would have enabled us to choose our opponents in the quarter-final but we are happy to have qualified.   We seem to be hitting form at just the right time...


Venice Cup, Final Standings for the Round-Robin

1   Denmark                                        304.11
2   USA II                                           288.03
3   USA I                                             281.05
4   Italy                                                278.87
5   England                                          277.73
6   China                                              274.12
7   Netherlands                                    274.09
8   France                                            266.55


So now we are entering the knock-out stages.   Denmark won the round-robin, had first choice of opponents and opted for France.   USA II chose China, USA I chose us and that left Italy to play the Netherlands.   USA I probably opted for us because they were able to carry forward an advantage from our round-robin encounter - so we begin our 96-board marathon, played over two days, sixteen IMPs down.

The semi-final draw was made too and if we progress, we will play the winners of Denmark versus France.  We are in a very confident mood and looking forward to the day's play!




Saturday, 3 October 2015

The finishing line ~ Seniors Day 7

As you probably know by now, we did it! Thank you Manchester; we may call on you again. We settled the nerves with a fine win against India. Our hosts were hospitable. We dropped 5 IMPs on the first board – again! – but then recorded 11 plus scores to win by a Millennium Max and move up to fifth place. The way the draw for the quarter-finals is done, it doesn't really matter where you finish in positions 4 to 8; only the first, second and third teams get a choice. Our sights were set on avoiding ninth place, rather than rising to an unlikely third.

The match against USA 1, including Zia, Rosenberg and Hamman was a wild affair, with 114 IMPs changing hands. After four boards we were 1-38 IMPs down, including two slam swings, so it was a relief that the guys managed to get us back to a 48-66 loss. We had dropped to sixth but, with some of our rivals playing each other, we only need 9 VPs from our last match, against Canada, to qualify. As it happens, we won by 47 to 27 IMPs, and got 15.00 VPs (a Granada – the year that France & Aragon divided Naples) and finished fifth. The last two days have been among the most emotionally draining of my life, and it was great that the Open and Women's teams qualified too. Only England and USA have teams left in all three events.

Then, while team went off to to a relaxing dinner, I was in a Captain's meeting where the details of the quarter-finals were sorted out. The England Seniors got a sort of compliment/complement (delete where not applicable) in that the first three teams didn't choose us, so we will play fourth-placed Poland over the next two days and over 96 boards. Poland will start with a 4.5 IMP lead, because they beat us by 9 IMPs in the Round Robin. If we beat Poland, then our semi-final will be against Australia or Sweden, but I am not going to mention them again until Poland is/are (select to taste) done and dusted. The other difference in the knock-out stages is that we no longer have a blind line-up; for half the six sets we will choose who we play against, and vice-versa.

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.Eleanor Roosevelt

Before all the bridge, I went to the annual meeting of IBPA (International Bridge Press Association). Among the awards (best bid hand, best played hand, etc) was one for IBPA personality of the year. That was given to Boye Brogeland  whose name will be forever associated with bridge in 2015.

I was stopped in the corridor by an Austrian player who asked me my opinion of one of the cheating scandals. Since he began by saying “Eric, ...” it was apparent that I was not who he thought I was. I could have used an American accent and told him that I (or rather, Eric Rodwell) thought they should be publicly flogged, banned for life and exiled, but I didn't think of it in time and, anyway, it would have broken the EBU guidelines on the impersonation of a real bridge player.

Derek Patterson, my opposite number with the England Women's team, had the idea of going up to Mr Rodwell and saying “Simon, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your articles in English Bridge.” He says he will do it if five other Englishmen/women do the same thing on the subsequent five days. He'll tell you how it goes in his blog  over to you, Derek.

Bermuda Bowl - Time for a Clash of the Titans!

After seven hard days of bridge, with highs and a few lows thrown in, our team smoothly progressed to the Quarter Finals of the most celebrated bridge event in the world. We finished in 4th position of the round robin, and in the QF which starts tomorrow we will play the USA I team, who we beat in the round robin to give ourselves a carry forward of +11 imps to kick things off. The match will last 96 boards, and doubtless there will be many ups and downs for both sides, but tune in tomorrow to watch will be certain to be an exciting and hard fought contest. The winners of our tie will face Poland or France in the Semi Finals (unless both USA teams get through, which of course we hope to ensure does not happen!). Keep cheering for us - we can here it here in Chennai! With both the Ladies and Seniors team progressing also, there is a feel good factor to team England here and we hope to take advantage!

Roller Coaster Update - On to the Knock-Outs ! - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (8)

The roller coaster is ending on a high, qualifying for the knock-out stages with a match to spare!  In the final match, we are taking on USA II and there is still a chance of a "Brucie-Bonus" - finishing second (unlikely) or third (possible if results go our way).

The issue is that, for the quarter-finals, the first-placed team has the advantage of choosing their opponents from the teams finishing fifth to eighth, the second-placed team gets second choice and so on.   One advantage of being able to choose the opposition is that it makes sense to select a team that you beat in the round-robin phase because you are able to carry-forward some of the winning margin when playing the knock-out match.  That said, this advantage is small and maybe it is more a matter of choosing the opponents you like to play against.

To overtake USA II, we require close to a 20-0 victory but to overhaul USA I (playing Denmark), something not quite so extreme may suffice although other results will have to go our way too - see below:

Venice Cup, Leading Scores After Match Twenty (out of twenty-one)

1   Denmark                                         289.72
2   USA II                                            282.63
3   USA I                                             275.44
4   Italy                                                265.83
5   Netherlands                                    263.78
6   England                                          263.13
7   China                                              262.36
5   France                                             258.31
9   Poland                                             239.97

Roller Coaster Update - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (7)



The match against Canada went well (16-4) but the Poles had a similar result to stay in touch.  We play Venezuela next, while Poland takes on Egypt.   A good result in this round could see us move out of Poland's reach, thereby ensuring a place in the quartrer-finals.   Meanwhile, there is still a chance of moving up the table.

Venice Cup, Leading Scores After Match Nineteen (out of twenty-one)

1   Denmark                                         280.33
2   USA II                                            266.54
3   USA I                                             262.16
4   Italy                                                259.80
5   France                                             254.05
6   Netherlands                                    253.17
7   China                                              248.39
8   England                                          244.80
9   Poland                                            224.05

The Roller Coaster Gathers Pace - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (6)


England's passage through the round-robin stage of the Venice Cup  has been anything but serene.   The roller coaster ride continued on day six when, after a huge dip on Thursday, we bounced back with three excellent results.

This, in conjunction with Poland incurring a heavy defeat at the hands of Italy to round off a poor day for them, has resulted in an extraordinary turnaround.   Despite having started the day fourteen VPs behind the Poles, we are now twenty-one clear of ninth place !


Venice Cup, Leading Scores After Day Six (eighteen matches out of twenty-one)

1   Denmark                                        265.33
2   Italy                                                253.55
3   Netherlands                                    249.26
4   USA II                                            247.29
5   USA I                                             246.07
6   France                                             240.30
7   China                                              231.32
8   England                                          228.54
9   Poland                                            207.32
10 Canada                                           191.68

We begin the final day of the round-robin against Canada and then we face Venezuela before a showdown with USA II.   With the top eight teams qualifying for the knock-out stages, I'd settle for a day without fireworks !


Friday, 2 October 2015

Getting back on track ~ Seniors Day 6

We started the day in eighth place and we reckoned we needed 40 VPs or so to stay in contention. We dropped 5 IMPs on the first board against New Zealand, but gained on seven of the remaining 15 boards to run out winners by 36 IMPs to 5, although the 16.88 VPs we earned still left us in eighth spot.

USA 2 was a tough low-scoring match. We held the lead briefly early on, but we had to wait until the last board to regain the lead (3NT was made by Gunnar Hallberg, and defeated at the other table by David Price and Colin Simpson). 26-21 in IMPs and 11.48 VPs saw us move up to seventh. Hard work for one place; during the match we had been lying at various times fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth.

Last up was China. Again we went behind on the first board and it wasn't until David Mossop and Paul Hackett bid and made Six Diamonds on the penultimate board that there was gap of more than 6 IMPs between the teams. 41 IMPs to 27, and 13.75 VPs to England. (This is a called a 'Westfriese', commemorating the year the sea wall broke and the northern Netherlands were flooded.) We had scored 42 VPs (equalling our best ever day) and moved up to fifth place.

We have another tough on Saturday, the last day of the Round Robin. We are closely followed by Poland, Norway, Austria and Sweden, with India still in touch in tenth place. Sweden (ninth) are only 4 ½ VPs behind us. 

First we play the hosts, India (bridge playing membership: 5,900). Then USA 1 (167,000), the current leaders. Their team includes Bob Hamman, Zia Mahmood and Michael Rosenberg (not bad, eh? and their other three players are pretty good too). The last of our 21 matches is against Canada (20,000). I wonder how the alcohol-free evening (see Seniors blog 5) will affect the bridge?

One of the duties of the NPC is to read emails that are sent to him, on behalf of the team, by the organisers. One such warned that all players must wear their team shirts when at the table. I am pleased to report that the England Senior team has a perfect record in this regard. Another duty is to enter the team line-ups on-time. After one warning, an offending team is fined 0.5 of a VP for the second offence, and then 1 VP for each subsequent offence. Some warnings have obviously not been heeded and the penalties are beginning to appear on the scoreboard. One team lost its match so heavily that the extra 1 IMP fine meant that the team finished with a negative score.

Paul and Olivier Hackett, and John Holland would like to send greetings to all at Manchester Bridge Club. A tide of good thoughts from you all might just help the Seniors qualify. Don't waste your astral energies on the Open and Women's team, they are in better positions that we are and don't need your help; not until they reach their respective finals, anyway.

We are still masters of our fate. We are still captains of our souls.”  Churchill (Quoting William Henley)

"Don't Panic Mr. Mainwaring !" - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (5)


Three heavy defeats (and a lot of bad luck) yesterday left England fighting for a qualifying spot as the round-robin phase nears completion.   Now in ninth place, some fourteen VPs behind Poland, there is work to be done over the next two days.   Having played most of the top teams already, however, there is no need to panic!

On the menu today, the starter is Japan, to be followed by matches against India and Jordan.   If we play to our normal level then there is no doubt that we will qualify due to the fact that the teams above us have to play each other.  If we play well then fifth place is probable but a top-four finish will require some surprising results elsewhere.   Having said this, the margin for error has become very small.

Currently lying tenth, Japan will provide reasonably tough opposition but a good performance in this match should set us up well for a good day.


Venice Cup, Leading Scores After Day Five (fifteen matches out of twenty-one)

1   USA II                                            215.52
2   Denmark                                         213.48
3   USA I                                             212.32
4   Netherlands                                    206.62
5   Italy                                                205.606   China                                              204.36
7   France                                            198.37
8   Poland                                            189.29
9   England                                          175.26
10 Japan                                              158.65




Thursday, 1 October 2015

Bermuda Bowl - England Open Team Part 6

Another good day for the Open Team here in Chennai. We started the day with a tough looking fixture against the legendary NICKELL team from the USA. They fielded their front four, but a cracking performance saw us record a 22 imp win. Special mention must go to our very own David Gold who twice outdeclared the famous Jeff Meckstroth to bring in two game swings. Match number two featured some spicy deals against the South Africans, and we consolidated in excellent fashion with a 47 imp win. Last of all, we faced the New Zealand team. A tight set of boards saw us win by 18 imps, although there is a ruling which *could* go in our favour pending. All of this put together saw an excellent moving day, leaving us in third place. Tomorrow we face the UAE, China who lie in second place overnight, and Japan. Two days of the Round Robin remain, so every imp counts even more so now. Tune in and wish us luck!

As an aside, two members of our team have recorded videos for the WBF, and they even (erroneously) invited the npc to do one - they can all be found here:

http://www.worldbridge.org/chennai-videos.aspx

More than bumps … potholes ~ Seniors Day 5

The first match, against Norway, was a disappointing defeat, 12-35 in IMPs, and that meant we dropped to seventh in the table. The match against Ireland, who had overtaken us and moved into sixth, was a little better. We were in the lead at half-time, but five scores in the out-column (and only 1 IMP in) gave the Irish a 44-37 IMPs victory. 

We were still in seventh place and now played Sweden, who had had a 20-0 victory in the previous round, and had leapt up to ninth place. (Remember, it is the top eight when the music stops that qualify for the quarter finals.) There were only two flat boards and the lead swung to and fro. At various stages of the match we were in 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th positions. 11 IMPs in on the last board meant we finished with a 45-42 win in IMPs and got 10.91 Vps, known as a Floris (after Floris II of Vitte, who became Earl of Holland in 1091; but you knew that already, didn't you?). The Floris put us into eighth place.

So, a tough day, but at least we had halted our run of losses and we can now look to tomorrow. Or, as Lyndon B. Johnson put it:

"Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose." 

Friday is the penultimate day of the Round Robin. We have got New Zealand (bridge playing membership: 14,400), USA 2 (167,000) and China (61,000 … who are they kidding, I am sure they have more bridge players than that). New Zealand are lying 19th at the moment (out of 22); USA 2 are 4th, and China are 17th. I remember the 10-team Round Robin in Croatia where we lost the first of our nine matches and, after a couple of boards in the second match, we were in last place. We won that match, and the next seven, and won the event. Our situation is not as serious as it was then; we still have six matches to go and plenty of time to ensure we make the cut.

Mahatma Gandhi's birthday is celebrated on October 2. (He was born in 1869). It is known in India as Gandhi Jayanti and is a national holiday. No alcohol can be sold for 24 hours, even in hotel restaurants. To judge by the rolling gait of a couple of the French team, they had stocked up with double consumption this evening. The day is also known as the International Day of Non-Violence, but the WBF has said that penalty doubles do not contravene the spirit of the holiday.

The Heat Is On - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (4)

Day five of the Venice Cup and the English are preparing themselves for a very tough day.   With matches against the Netherlands, USA I and Denmark, most definitely, the heat is on.   Success in these matches will ensure qualification for the knock-out stages and leave us fighting for the top three positions but it does not rate to be easy!  On the other hand...

Yesterday, we scored a remarkable 58.13 out of 60 to move up the table (briefly overtaking Denmark before they recovered slightly).   Most of the contenders, however, had a good day and the overall effect was for the top nine teams to move away from the rest of the field as can be seen from the table below:

Venice Cup, Leading Scores After Day Four (twelve matches)

1   USA II                                            186.23
2   USA I                                             170.24
3   Denmark                                        167.04
4   Italy                                                165.45
5   England                                          164.81
6   Netherlands                                    161.10
7   France                                            158.08
8   China                                             154.64
9   Poland                                            149.74
10 Australia                                        126.01
11 Chinese Taipei                               124.01
12 Canada                                           123.81


Bermuda Bowl - England Open Team Part 5

Day five saw us have our best day so far. We started slowly, with a small win in a fairly dull set of boards against Egypt. Next up were Jordan, and a win by 44 imps saw us getting a little closer to our first target of getting into the qualifying spots (Top 8). Last up we would face a France side clearly in form as they had led for most of the round robin so far, but a virtuoso performance saw us record a massive 56 imp victory, to move us for the first time (and hopefully not the last) into the top eight. Tomorrow sees us face USA I (Including the legendary Meckwell pair), followed by assignments against South Africa and New Zealand. Hopefully we can have another good day to consolidate.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

More bumps in the road ~ Seniors Day 4

And it all started so well. Our first match was against Tunisia, who were in the bottom five. We steadily built up our score, with David Mossop bringing home a grand slam on the last board to take us to 71 IMPs to 4, and through the 20.00 VP barrier. (20.00 is known variously as a Millennium, a Sydney or a Mad Cow, that being the year of the disease).

We had hoped to do something similar to Chile, who were also in the bottom five, but in the event we needed a 2 IMP swing on the last board to give us the narrowest of victories by 43 IMPs to 42. We were still lying first, but the pack had closed up.

Austria were lying fourth and had lost their first two matches of the day. Unfortunately they decided to recover by whupping us by 41 to 2 in IMPs, leaving us with a miserly 2.03 VPs. They got three double-digit swings, all vulnerable, and that was that. We were above average for the day, but that isn't enough when you're near the top, and we had slipped to fifth place.

Nobody said it was going to be easy and we plan to bounce back tomorrow. I brought along a quote, just in case we had a bad match, and this is it:

Even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward.Victor Kiam

Tomorrow we will play Norway (bridge playing membership: 8,900) who are one position above us in fourth. Then comes Ireland (1,900), who were seventh in the European Championships and came in as very late replacements when Sri Lanka (132) withdrew. I am sorry that BJ O’Brien and Michael MacDonagh were unable to make the trip to Chennai. Ireland are seventh at the moment. Last we have Sweden (23,200). Sweden were silver medallists in the European Championships last year, and are currently tenth. Tough matches all, but twice the reward if we can win them.

Paul Hackett told me an interesting fact about India: the reason the time difference is five and half hours dates back to the days of the British Raj. It meant that that when they turned their watches upside down, they got the time in England!  Of course, it's one hour out in Summer Time, whose centenary will be in May 2016. It doesn't work with a digital clock (I've just tried it), except perhaps once a day with a particular combination of 1s, 6s, 9s and 0s. Can any egghead reading this please let me know.

Mixed Raises - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (3)

On a day of mixed results, England managed to rise to seventh place in the overall standings.   Meanwhile the 'great Danes' continued their impressive progress and still lead - some 36 VPs ahead of us as we start play on day four of the championships.

The first objective is to finish the round-robin in the top eight, thereby qualifying for the knock-out stages but it would be advantageous to finish in the top three, which would enable us to choose our opponents in the quarter-finals.   Bearing this in mind, we are looking forward to a good performance today but standing in our way are the teams from Chinese Taipei, Guadaloupe and Pakistan in matches 10,11 and 12.

With Canada, placed thirteenth, within fifteen VPs of our total, there are many teams still battling for  the qualifying slots and, certainly, there is no room for complacency.  

Leading Teams after nine matches (out of twenty-one)

Denmark                      142.84
USA II                         132.93
USA I                          125.24
Netherlands                 121.63
France                          115.67
Italy                             115.13
England                       106.60
Poland                         104.78

Time to move through the gears !

Bermuda Bowl - England Open Team Part 4

The day started with two matches against European teams. First up was Denmark, and a win by 15 imps got us off to a good start. Match 2 was against the high flying Bulgarian team. With a board to go we were 40 imps to the good, but a slightly unlucky last board saw us misguess the queen of trumps in a slam when it was guessed in the other room, meaning a final margin of 23 imps, but still a fine win against a very good team. Last up we played Canada, and unfortunately a disappointg loss by thirty imps left us in 12th position. The good news is that we still have seven teams below us left to play, so we are hopeful that day 4 will prove to be moving day, despite a tough looking last match against France who currently lie second in the round robin by only 0.05 VPs! Come on boys, it's time to get our groove on!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Moving through the gears ~ Seniors Day 3

We started against Egypt, who were lying three-quarters of the way down the table. I was a bit worried (as I am sure you were) when we were only 29-14 up after 10 boards, but a fine finish, including a double game swing worth 16 IMPs, saw us run out winners by 68 IMPs to 14 (19.52 VPs, an Elizabethan) and hold on to first place.

We were hoping for solid wins against Pakistan (who rested their Z Mahmood) and Japan, who were both in mid-table. The match against Pakistan was very low scoring and we lost 13-17, despite winning five boards to their three. The loss was almost entirely due to a 25% slam that was bid and made by Pakistan. 

Japan was another close-fought match which we won by 34 IMPs to 23, worth 13.04 VPs (13.04 is known as a Stirling to commemorate the fall of Stirling Castle, the last rebel stronghold of the Wars of Scottish Independence).

We are now third, behind Austria and Australia. We are 3 VPs off the top spot, but a reassuring 22 VPs ahead of the ninth-placed team. 

On Wednesday we will start with Tunisia (bridge playing membership: 150). Next are Chile (1,640), who replaced Argentina, when the latter withdrew. And we finish with the overnight leaders Austria (2,800), who have been at or near the top of the table since the beginning. The match starts at about 1pm UK time, so please remember to do your bit and cross your fingers for a couple of hours.

Yves Aubry, President of the European Bridge League, held a press conference at lunch time. He spoke about what the EBL was doing about the pairs who had been accused of cheating. He warned that it would take time, because the accused were entitled to a fair trail. I found him positive, and a lot more convincing than the WBF President; I believe we will see some action.

To end on a happy note; today was Olivia's Hackett's birthday and she celebrated with Paul and the team in an Indian restaurant in the hotel. 


l-to-r: David Price ("Gosh, did he really bid Four Diamonds on that?"), John Holland, Paul Hackett with partner number one, Olivia, and partner number two, David Mossop. 

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.Henry Ford

Moving Day - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (2)

They say that the third day of a golf tournament is "moving day", as the contenders for the title jostle for position.   Despite there being four more days in the round-robin after this and with eight teams qualifying for the next stage of the event, I am viewing our day three as a chance to establish ourselves near the top of the table. 

Denmark's remarkable start to the event, averaging nearly 19 VPs per match over the first two days, gives them a 42 VP advantage over us but this lead is deceptive, given the high quality of our opponents in the early matches.   It will be interesting to see if we can catch the Danes by the end of day four - maybe optimistic but not an outrageous suggestion!

Today, we will be sampling a taste of the southern hemisphere with matches against New Zealand, Brazil and Australia. 

I noticed in our pre-match notes on the opposition that, "New Zealand is a misspelling...".   Be that as it may, here's hoping for some more good bridge today!

Warming to the Task - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (1)

Venice Cup, day two - the English women warmed to the task.   There had been no chance to ease our way gently into the tournament, having been assigned  three tough matches on the opening day.   These were against Poland, France and China (all likely qualifiers for the knock-out stages) and, although the results were not disastrous, things did not go as we might have wished.

It was important, therefore, to produce a good performance in match four against the Italians, fourth in last year's European championships.   On boards one and two, lady luck did not smile on the English but after a very polished performance, we overturned an early deficit to emerge victorious in a tight match. 

With renewed confidence, the momentum gathered pace in the next two matches, resulting in two near-maximum victories (versus South Africa and Egypt).   After a day of very fine play, we ended the day in ninth position and having played four of the top teams already, we are handily placed for the rest of the round-robin phase.



Bermuda Bowl - England Open Team Part 3

A rather rough day for the Open Team in Chennai. The first match of the day saw us take on a strong Brazilian team, and some rather unlucky boards saw us lose by 25 imps. Next up was Singapore - and a couple of ropey results gave us a 13 imp loss. Last up came the strong USA II team, and in a set of boards which didn't offer too much scope for big swings we lost by 10 imps. Whilst results were disappointing today, I am optimistic that with a small upturn in form and a bit of a following wind we can turn things around tomorrow with matches against Denmark, Bulgaria and Canada. You can follow the results at http://www.worldbridge.org/repository/tourn/chennai.15/Microsite/Results.htm


Monday, 28 September 2015

A bit of a bumpy ride ~ Seniors Day 2

As predicted, it was a tough day … for me, anyway. The team performed heroically, but I found it exhausting, following their roller-coaster progress board by board. 

We were behind against Indonesia until the eleventh board (of 16), but then a fine grand slam, bid by David Price and Colin Simpson (against a slam slam at the other table), saw us take the lead, and we hung on for a 29-24 IMP victory.
  
Poland played their top two pairs against us and won a high-scoring match by 50 IMPs to 41. This was our first loss and it dropped us down to third place.

For the third match we were up against the leaders, Bulgaria, so it was what followers of football like to call a 'six pointer'. This was another nail-biter to watch; after seven boards we were 4-19 down and had slipped to sixth place overall. Then 28 unanswered IMPs saw us win the match 32-19 and, with the other results going our way, we were suddenly lying in first place!

It is all incredibly close; the host nation, India, are in eighth place, just 8 VPs behind us. And there is still a very looong way to go.

Tuesday’s menu is Egypt (bridge playing membership: 913). Then Pakistan (525), whose team includes a certain Z Mahmood. No, not that one, but Zakir Mahmood. We are saving the other Z Mahmood for later. Third up are Japan (7,600). 

The England supporters' club are here in force. Godfrey King is the founder and organiser, and with him, looking good in their England BridgeMates shirts, are June Forte, Maureen Dennison, Gill Harris, and Ruth and Paul Vogt. The European Championships are in Budapest next June; please let Godfrey know if you are interested in seeing some fine old structures there (and I am not referring to the England Senior team).

Never give in and never give up.Hubert H. Humphrey