Friday, 14 March 2008

Mike's Update 3

There seems to be lots to report and look forward to.

The Junior Camrose and Peggy Bayer tournaments were a great success. These are the Home Internationals competed for annually by England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Junior Camrose is Under 25 and the Peggy Bayer is Under 20. It’s a gruelling contest as both groups play two matches of 12 boards against the other 4 countries. That’s 96 boards in two days and for teams of four that means a very demanding schedule. Many of the teams have six players and so can rotate and enjoy some rest time. There is of course intense rivalry especially between the Scots and the English who have traditionally supplied the strongest teams. It’s a great opportunity to experience international bridge and all the teams acquitted themselves well. After England’s great performance in the Channel Trophy in December, there was a great deal of confidence that a clean sweep could be achieved.

The Scots had other thoughts and the first round of matches left them ahead in both competitions. In the Junior Camrose the Scots narrowly beat England 19-11, and Northern Ireland showed they were no pushover with a battling draw. Perhaps even more of a surprise was the Peggy Bayer, England’s strong and experienced team had been held to a draw by Scotland, while better performance’s against the other teams left Scotland with a small but significant lead. Could England reverse this in the second round of matches? Well in the Peggy Bayer they could not. The crucial head to head match was a repeat of the first round draw and again the pattern was exactly the same — the Scots scored a mighty 73/75 against the other nations and that was enough to ensure that the Peggy Bayer Trophy went north of the border.

England Peggy Bayer TeamWhile it is difficult not to be partisan and it was a shame to all of us that the English team of Tom Rainforth, James Thrower, Jennie Marvin, Liz Roberts, James Paul and Graeme Robertson pictured here with NPC Mike Byrne and resident guru Alan Shillitoe could not catch the Flying Scots, it was hard not to be impressed by the fantastic poise and almost flawless performance of the Scots team. Philip and Frazer were the best pair of the weekend in the Peggy Bayer, but they were closely followed by brother and sister, Yvonne and Ralph. Remember that this was a team of four so the team played all 96 boards — and yes Ralph is twelve. I thought they were fantastic. Well done indeed.

Scotland Peggy Bayer TeamThe winners of the Peggy Bayer Trophy — Yvonne Wiseman and Ralph Wiseman, Philip Morrison and Frazer Morgan with NPC David McCrossan

The Junior Camrose was a different story. Northern Ireland showed that it was not just a two-horse race in the second round robin by scaring England before losing by a handful of imps and beating the Scots. They’d left themselves too much to do after the first half of the competition and everyone knew that the England Scotland match might well be decisive. For England Steve Raine and Dave Cropper faced Alex Wilkinson and Andrew Sinclair in the Open Room. Over the weekend Steve and Dave were England’s most high-scoring pair. Alex and Andrew are highly experienced and probably the Scots best pair. In the Closed Room English hopes rested with Fiona Brown and Susan Stockdale against the Ellisons, Myles and Gyles. It was all very tense. 100 or so spectators watched in the vugraph theatre and a thousand or so on the internet. The crucial match was broadcast as 8/10 on BBO. If you want to view the boards but don’t know how to, contact me and I’ll explain how to replay the twelve boards that won the Junior Camrose for England. Board 1 was a bit lucky. England bid to an uncomfortably high 5H but made 11 tricks as Scotland led 1-0. There followed some mixed chances for both sides, but England gained imps steadily and at 20-1 were sitting pretty. Board 20 was perhaps the decider. It was one of those distributional nightmares, where everyone bids a lot and no one knows who can make what. Fiona and Susan should have defended 5 doubled but bid on to 6. When this was doubled and went one off they had a bad score. Could Alex and Andrew do better to rescue the match for the Scots? Alex had:

A K 9 7 5 A K 8 7 5 3 6 5

and after a couple of rounds of bidding, he knew of a Heart fit and values opposite but his opponents had bid 4. Alex choose to bid 5, which he intended as Exclusion Blackwood, a convention which asked his partner about Aces but ignoring Spades. Steve Raine added pressure by bidding 6 and Andrew doubled after a considerable pause. This was the crucial moment of the 2008 Junior Camrose. Alex knew that his agreement was that this double showed the A, but was also aware that his partner’s hesitation suggested that he might well forgotten this. Ethically we must not profit from information that we gain from hesitations or speed and the like and Alex in what the English team regarded as a highly ethical bid chose to bid 7. When this was doubled and two down his team had lost 7 imps rather than gain a possible 14 and realistically had lost the Junior Camrose Trophy. It wasn’t all over and after a tense match with Northern Ireland, England started their last match against Wales just 3 Vps ahead knowing they had to score well to guarantee the trophy. They managed a maximum win and 25 VPs to finish on top. It had been an exhausting weekend for all concerned.

Alex WilkinsonAlex at the prize-giving being awarded a prize for his ethical approach to the game by Steve Eginton, England’s NPC.

England Junior Camrose TeamThe England Junior Camrose team in happy mood, just before the start of their final match. Alex Morris, Mike Bell, Susan Stockdale, Fiona Brown, Steve Raine and Dave Cropper.

The early date for Easter has meant that lots of events have been crammed into a few weeks and fixture congestion has made it difficult for everyone to get time off school, uni and work. An U25 and an U20 team have been playing in a major junior tournament in Amsterdam this week, and details of their scores can be found here.

The Junior Bridge Challenge is going on at Loughborough this weekend also and results and photos will be on the website next week.

There is still time to enter the U25 pairs in London over the Easter weekend. Entry forms can be found here.

The entry fee is only a fiver for a two day Butler Pairs Tournament and brings with it free entry for Sunday’s Swiss Teams. There is a great atmosphere and stiff competition. Do contact me if you want more details:

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