Lots of young players took part in the Brighton Congress and there was no better advert for the skill and expertise of our young players than the win of John Atthey and Simon Cope in the largest event of the the whole congress, the Swiss Pairs. John, who is 23, is an important part of the U25 Squad, and although Simon is now too old to be a junior, he is much involved in coaching and encouragement of our junior teams. Simon and John led for much of the competition, except for a sequence on Saturday evening, but they came back strongly on Sunday to win comfortably in the end.
This was a great performance; a look at the top thirty places shows that the entries included a large number of players and pairs with international experience. Both players will be playing in the newly formed Premier League, starting next month, albeit in different teams.
Other young players in the top twenty pairs included Mike Bell, playing with the U20 Squad Manager Mike Byrne, who finished 11th; Andrew Woodcock and Ollie Burgess, who will represent England in the U28 team at the Mind Sports Olympiad in Beijing were 13th; and Dan McIntosh, with Chris Cooper, was 19th. Dan is in the U20 team for the same event. The huge strength in depth of the field at Brighton provides a great opportunity for serious squad practice and the junior players all welcome the opportunity they are given to take part.
We are currently discussing how more suitable midweek competitions could be organised for our young players to enter alongside the two big weekend events. The midweek teams was a strong event, bolstered by the entry of a Dutch junior team and, with 28 teams competing, the largest event for years. The competition is KO, played each afternoon and was a triumph for the junior group. Mike Byrne and Simon Cope joined up with Mike Bell, the Paske brothers and Ed (Ken) Jones. They coasted through the week and although the final was a close affair they were worthy winners.
Most of the other mid-week events are relatively light-hearted, and the juniors seemed to enjoy swapping partners and joining in. (Indeed when I took part in the Speedball Pairs one night I seemed to be the oldest player in the room — it was great fun. If you've never tried Speedball you really should give it a go — three minutes a board and a Bridgemate to cope with as well!)
The second weekend of teams saw less Junior success. Ollie Burgess and Mike Bell, in different teams, made the 'B' Final, which put them in the top 16 of the 193 that entered. The highest placed all junior team were our Camrose team from this year: Fiona Brown, Susan Stockdale, Dave Cropper and Steve Raine who finished 53rd, just outside the top quarter. The first named pair will also be in Beijing with the U28s.
Off to Loughborough this weekend for the Junior Teach-in. It will be great to see all the young keen bridge players hoping to learn and set off on their first lessons. There is still room for extra participants, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or John Pain at email@example.com.