I captain the Blue Lightning on-line bridge team, playing in Group G of the BBO League on the Bridge Base Online site.
I have seven regular players in our team, with three established partnerships, but still we often have to play with irregular partnerships as arranging matches is often fraught. The main job of the captain is to cajole his players into a time/date that the opposition captain is trying to cajole his troop into - often a lots of emails, frustration and worrying times until the match finally kicks off.
Last night we played Sharpcats, a team from Poland. Our team consisted of Alan (Bedfordshire), Graham (Hampshire), Mike (Berkshire) and myself (Scottish Borders): Alan and I have played on-line a few times but this was to be the first outing for Graham and Mike.
The match started badly when the opposition failed to show. So we decided to play a few hands together and wait a little while to see if they turned up. About 30 minutes later the Sharpcats captain appeared, expecting to play an hour later than agreed. Different timezones can often cause a problem but, in this case, they had just made a mistake that they apologised for.
The format of each encounter is two, independent, 12-board matches.
Alan and I started the first match solidly. On the second board a marginal opening bid allowed the opposition to find an excellent sacrifice over our game: it looked unlikely that our pair would find this so a probable 11 IMPs swing out there.
The next two boards were undistinguished except for the last card. On board three the opposition missed the chance to make the Beer Card when holding two winning diamonds and playing the seven first instead of second! This error would have cost us a beer, but they did say that they had plenty of beer anyhow :)
On board 4 I made no mistake, winning the ten of clubs on the last trick (in a spade contract) so Alan now owes me a Coke.
The next few boards seemed quiet boring until we got to the tenth. Alan and I bid to 6♠ holding the following cards:
♠ J 10 6
♥ Q J
♦ 9 3
♣ A K Q 7 6 2
♠ A 8 5 4 3
♥ A K 9 5 2
♦ A K J
Not a good contract, especially when only 10 tricks could be made with the 4-1 spade break. Although we were hopeful that the opposition would reach the 5-level, they played safely in 4♠ and we lost another 13 IMPs.
A couple of poor decisions (well, decisions that turned out poorly) at the other table left us with a loss by 32 IMPs, meaning a 7-23 VP loss.
After a short coffee break, the same lineups returned for the second match (switching opponents).
The match started well for us when the defence missed a couple of opportunities and I made a 22-point 3NT contract. Things seemed to be running our way this time: they missed a game (thanks to Alan's preempt), went four down vulnerable on a partscore hand, doubled our making game conceding a vulnerable overtrick and so it was hard to see where we could lose points.
Indeed that proved the case and we ran out winners by 37 IMPs, revenge with a 25-5 VP score.
As we finished first we hurried over to the other table to see them finish the last couple of hands. Neither pair shone on board 11:
♥ Q 8 4 2
♦ A Q J 8 5 4
♣ A 5
♠ K 8
♥ J 10 6 5 3
♣ K J 6 4 2
Our opposition bid to 3NT by North (after an undistinguised Wilkosz auction) and were lucky to find the ace of spades well positioned, otherwise they would have lost the first 7 tricks! Mike and Graham were even luckier with South playing in 5♥ on a spade lead. With no legitimate play to avoid losing two hearts tricks, Mike crossed to dummy and led the queen of hearts. East mistakingly covered with the ♥K when holding three hearts and his partner's ace crashed on the same trick - bridge is an easy game!
Blue Lightning leads the group table but has played more matches than the other teams. Our aim is to finish in the top four places and qualify for the knockout stages, so we will have to do well in our final two games.