Tuesday, 7 July 2009

European Youth Championships 2009

Hands up all those who know anything about Poiana Brasov, apart from the fact that it is the venue for The European Bridge League’s 22nd European Youth Championships.

Well, reading from the EBL’s website I have gleaned some small pieces of information. It is a ski-resort close to Romania’s seventh largest city, Brasov, in the central region of the country known as Transylvania, better known perhaps for its links with the Dracula story than bridge. The town has a spectacular setting in a mountainous area. The scenery looks dramatic and no doubt there will be some drama at the bridge table.
There are three team competitions and England has a team participating in each category, Under 26, Under 21 and Under 26 Girls.

The largest competition is the Under 26 and when the tournament gets underway this week on Thursday there will be 23 teams including the England Squad. Twenty three rounds are squashed into nine days with just one rest day. Those of you who think that a congress is tough should try one of these Championships. Matches are of twenty boards. The rate of play is quite slow because with screens eight and a half minutes is allowed for each hand. That is two hours fifty minutes a match and on almost every day there are three matches. That makes for a long day starting at 10.30 am.

Chris Dixon is non-playing captain of the squad and he organised an exhibition match in the spectacular setting of Bath’s Pump Room as a warm-up for the team on the weekend of 4/5 July, before the flights out to Romania on Wednesday.

The U26 England team played three twenty board matches against our World Champion Women’s team from the Mindsport Games in 2008. The surroundings were somewhat unusual as tourists enjoying Bath’s wonderful attraction wandered past the bridge players. Music from a trio in the restaurant provided a unique atmosphere, but the players appeared completely unfazed as they concentrated on the match in hand.

Mike Bell and Ed Jones started the match against Catherine Draper and Ann Rosen

At the second table Fiona Brown and Alex Morris were up against Heather Dhondy and Nevena Senior, watched here by Ben Green the team coach.

The teams were welcomed by the city of Bath and the Pump Room. The two team captains, Chris Dixon and Pat Davis, start the day in relaxed fashion.

Passers-by watch as the match proceeds.

The first match was a tough one for the U26s and the Women’s team showed their mettle, coming out on top by 52 IMPs and 25-5 VPs. There were lots of swings in this match and unfortunately for the U26 team far too many went to the experienced World Champions. Match Two was a much tighter affair, with less swings, but with a 28 IMP margin to the Women’s team, another loss was recorded by the Juniors, 11-19. Pride was very much at stake in the final match and it was close throughout. The Juniors were losing by just one swing at the halfway mark , but outscored their opponents 14-0 in the second half to achieve a fighting win by just four imps and a 16-14 margin.

There was some good bidding and play by both teams, but perhaps the Juniors were shown the level of concentration and determination required by their more experienced opponents. As a preparation for the forthcoming tournament, it was really worthwhile and the team have followed it up with more work with Chris Dixon and Ben Green.

Hopefully all this work will be reflected in a good performance in Brasov. Details about the tournament will increasingly appear at the official website, with results and bulletins. BBO will doubtless have some coverage and as we get to hear about it we will publish links here.

The Under 26 team is:

Alex Morris and Fiona Brown

Chris Owen and John Atthey

Ed Jones and Mike Bell

NPC Chris Dixon and coach Ben Green