Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Mike's Update 2

There seems to be quite a lot going on in Junior Bridge at the EBU all of a sudden.

I suppose the biggest news — exciting this one — is that a new Youth Committee has been set up. "Wow!" you say, but then you add "What good will that do?" I’d better try and explain.

The EBU has lots of individuals, staff, officers and members who are working hard to try to encourage young people to take up bridge and to encourage and support those who already play. It’s not so easy for them all to link up and find out what’s going on in other places. It’s not so easy to find out which initiatives work and how to run successful recruiting or training. Everyone wants to help. So we have to co-ordinate and communicate. It may not sound very exciting, but I really think it’s going to work. Click here for a list of the Youth Committee.

It’s easy to focus on the superstars of Junior Bridge who get to play international tournaments, but first I’d like to start with what I think is a fantastic example of a success story. The North East Bridge Association held a Congress on 9th-11th November and some schools events took place alongside the main Congress on Saturday. Seven teams of four played bridge and six more played minibridge. That’s over 50 young players! The winning school for the bridge was Yarm School and for minibridge, Polham Hall Junior School. More details and photographs can be found on the NEBA’s excellent website by clicking here. Lots of girls as well as lads played which is great to see and Polham Hall was an all-girl team. Well done to all those who took part, especially the winners.

A heat of the U19 Pairs took place in London at the Young Chelsea Club in Earls Court last weekend as well. The winners — who finished with an incredible 70.24% — were Robert Sassoon and Philip Railing. Eight pairs took part and five qualified to play in the final which will be in London, as part of the EBU’s Easter Festival. Full results can be found by clicking here.

Three teams have been picked to play in an international tournament in Utrecht at the headquarters of the Dutch equivalent of the EBU. This will be held just before Christmas on December 21st to 23rd and is known as the Channel Trophy, a fourway competition involving the Netherlands, France, Belgium and ourselves. There will be three competitions — Under-25 and Under-20 and for the first time a U25 Women’s competition.

The first two teams are very much changed from the teams that represented us in the European Championships in the summer.

For the U25s Alex Morris and Mike Bell are a very experienced pair who won the trials held in October. Alex is the son of EBU Board member, Jeff Morris and has played bridge since he was twelve. He is a former Young Player of the year and has already reached the final of the Gold Cup. Mike is a system "nut" always searching for the perfect transfer or relay sequence. They are both sure to feature in future Junior and maybe Open Teams. Ed Jones and Ben Paske were members of the U20 team in the European Championships in Jesolo, who only failed by 1VP and on the very last board to secure the bronze medal. Playing now in a new partnership, they impressed all who watched them in the trials and led the competition until the final stages. The third pair John Atthey and Chris Owen have both been very much involved in University and starting professional careers of late, so to some extent bridge has taken a bit of a back seat, but after John’s success last month in the Great Northern Swiss Pairs, Chris has shown that he is in good form as he was the winner of both the major events at the NEBA Congress mentioned above. All three of these pairs are available for this season and next and are central in the selectors’ plans for the next European Championships.

In the U20s team there are also new faces as well as a couple of old ones. Rob Myers has renewed his partnership with Dan McIntosh. This is another pair with lots of transfers and relays. If Dan sits still long enough to play a hand it will be a miracle, but they are a promising pair for the future. Tom Paske has moved on from terrorising his big brother Ben, to a new partner in Adam Hickman. Graeme Robertson and James Paul are the third pair from Bedford School and Reading School respectively. All three of these pairs are taking part in a training weekend at the Welsh Bridge Union’s Congress in Llangollen this weekend so look out for their results.

I’m not sure how politically correct it is, but inevitably the U25 Women’s Team gets called the "Girls’ Team". This is the first time that there has been a "girls’" event at the Channel Trophy and everyone is very excited about it. The Netherlands may well be able to field a strong team, but nothing is known about our Belgian or French opponents who did not take part in the European event in July. We are fortunate to be able to select five of the six players from those Championships. Fiona Brown is playing with Susan Stockdale instead of Nicola Macdougall. Susan is easily the most experienced Junior U25 Woman, she has already played for England’s Ladies’ Team and was part of the U25 squad in Jesolo. She and Fiona have been selected for the Junior Camrose and are intending to play in the England Women’s Trials. Fiona is living in Harrogate, but is Australian and has played in bridge tournaments all over the world. She finished fourth in the World Mixed Pairs in Verona in 2006 with her Irish international partner Hugh McGann.

The other two pairs, Laura Macdougall and Alice Kaye and Jenny Marvin and Elizabeth Roberts both played in Jesolo, so we hope the experience they gained there will stand them in good stead in this new event. Some of this event will be broadcast on BBO.

But as I said at the start Youth Bridge is not just about internationals and the best players. I heard some more good pieces of news this week.

The first concerns work that Dave Muller and Ron Adams have been doing. They are County Youth Officers for London and Middlesex respectively. Dave got in contact with a project called Trans-Age. The idea is to increase contact between different generations and through the project, minibridge is being taught in three schools. Let’s hope that one of those learning will be a future Junior and maybe Open International. For more details contact me or Dave.

The second piece of good news was that Reading School have received funding from the Youth Opportunities Fund. This has enabled them to purchase a duplimate machine which will help to teach and improve the skills of their players. There are lots of ways that Bridge Clubs and players can support Junior Bridge.

Finally advance notice — the EBU is hosting the Junior Camrose event in Manchester on 16th-17th February. Teams will be coming from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We are hoping to make a big splash of this with maximum publicity for bridge and its juniors and I will be working with Matt Betts on this. We plan an exhibition of minibridge and hope for lots of visitors. There will be a vugraph presentation where the bridge will be displayed on a large screen with commentary. Why not plan a visit from your Bridge Club to encourage our young players? Further details can be obtained from me or Matt.

Please let me know of your events and competitions so I can mention them here.

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