We played in a bracket KO yesterday. Well perhaps sat down at the table and tossed random cards is a better description, so in the evening we just watched some of the Spingold action.
I chose to watch Bocchi and Brenner play against Patrick Huang (Taiwan) and Edmund Tse (HK), but it turned out that Brenner was just the card shuffler as George Jacobs turned up on the dot of game time.
Watching the Italians play is an interesting experience. Bocchi always has the card ready for the lead that he thinks that declarer, or partner, should be making. If either of them does anything different then there is a perceptible shrug because one of the them has gone wrong. Like many top players Bocchi does not score (presumably remembering the hands) which is a pity as Geo is hopeless at counting the tricks too and so there is always a post mortem to actually uncover what happened. On one occasion they were still debating the number of tricks halfway through the auction of the next hand, but all in a very friendly manner.
On a quiet set of boards Bocchi took one action that I found interesting because he judged a hand quite differently from most. Holding ♠Qxx ♥Qx ♦Kxxxxx ♣Qx, he heard Geo open 1♦ and then next hand doubled. I think most players would show a good raise to 3♦ at this point, but Bocchi redoubled. This was passed round to the doubler who bid 2♣, Bocchi bid 2♦ and this was passed out making 9 tricks.
Bocchi clearly judged that the hand probably belonged to them (Geo looks to have a sound opening style) and that his soft values meant that he could afford to go slowly.
I also found out that making a thoughtless discard (defending a doubled contract) when you have a top Italian as your partner is not a good idea. Young Adam may be mtvesuvius on BBO, but it was Bocchi who was erupting at the table, in the middle of the hand. Opponents unhappy, Geo apologetic to everyone, but the rest of the set passed off without incident.
Stacy popped in with a hand to go to give some moral support. She introduced me to Bocchi ("who are you?" -- actually just a "ciao" but I think it means the same) and Geo (apparently my comments on her blog make me "a very witty man", wonder if he'll like this?).
So we are taking the day off today for some sightseeing, kibitzing, photographing and a leisurely meal this evening.
We lost to the allstar Strul team by 41 IMPs, but we did give them a scare.
Our 11 IMPs lead after the first set probably told them that we were not to be underestimated and they responded to lead by 13 IMPs at the half. In the third set Fantoni and Nunes played particularly well and we lost a further 40 IMPs to put ourselves in a really difficult position.
But we refused to lie down and I think the increase in Norwegian and Italian chatter showed that there was concern at both tables halfway through the final set. To our credit we did score sufficient IMPs to win the match but gave too many back. However but for my clear defensive error and (my) psychic overcall, that cost us 25 IMPs, it would have been very close.
So we are out of the main event. For the second year running, Alan, Dee, Sam, Tim, Alex and I have showed that we can compete with the world's best players - just need to start beating them now!
Today four of us start another knockout and then look to have a day off before the weekend's two-day Swiss. Sam and Tim will be playing in the mixed BAM tomorrow, so will compact (1-day bracket ko) or pairs today.
In other Spingold news, our Chicago team mate Han Peters, playing with Arend Bayer, had a great win yesterday against the Dutch national team. His reward is to play the remaining members of the Dutch team who are in the Ekeblad squad! A good time for history, even if it's only yesterday's, to repeat!
So you get ranked a lot (well, perhaps a little) higher and there is no chance that you have to play Nickell, this must mean an easier draw, right?
Hmm, well we drew the USA1 Bermuda Bowl team (Robinson, Boyd, Woolsey, Stewart, Doub, Wildavsky) as our first opponents in the quads (three of four teams qualifying). We were down 11 IMPs at the half but actually leading by 2 IMPs after 18 boards, but a couple of slam swings went against us (we'd say unlucky, they'd say well-judged, truth somewhere in the middle) gave them the momentum and they eased through.
So in the evening we played the #58 seeds. Tim and Sam were a little down with their card at the half, as it seemed to be a line of negative scores with them going off persistently at the four-level, plus missing what seemed like an easy slam. In reality they generally made a trick more than the folks at our table, we gained 14 IMPs on the 'easy' slam hand, and we had a healthy 35 IMPs lead at the half. We added more imps in the second half for a comfortable win.
So we have assumed the #58 position. Time for another easy match as we play the #7 seeds STRUL (Becker, Lindquist, Brogeland, Fantoni, Nunes) in a 64-board match today. Alex has suggested that Nunes-Fantoni will be saying that we are in the wrong seats, as we'd usually be sitting behind them kibitzing at this point!
Stacy couldn't quite manage it on Saturday so, to show blogger solidarity, we failed to win our 2-day bracket knockout by 1 IMP yesterday. At least in the bar afterwards we were looking at all the 7 IMP and 10 IMP losses rather than the odd overtrick, but in reality we were not that bothered (unlike, I expect, Stacy whose event was slightly more important) and happy to get a good warm up. Of course everyone falling asleep in the final session did not help our cause.
Unfortunately the same could also be said of Judy and Sharon, who failed to place in the 0-5000 LM Pairs. Yet to see them but I'm sure they'll be back today.
So we are all ready for the Spingold today. We have risen from the depths of being the #106 seed to the dizzy heights of #71. Some may say that there are fewer teams, others may think that they randomise the lower seeds in blocks of 8, but we are happy that the ACBL has recognised the true international class of our team ... and that the other four of us are just hangers on.
I haven't seen the draw but I expect we will be playing a quad match, with three teams qualifying. The middle of the field is pretty random so it all comes down to the luck of the draw and, whatever, just playing well.
It seems like only yesterday that Alex and I attended our first American Nationals in Washington DC, but everyone else is saying that it was seven years ago. Our sense of déjà vu was compounded by being welcomed by David Rodney at the reception desk - David is a Brit who was part of the organising committee last time and our team mate for that visit. Despite all of our respective travels we all end up in the same place - amazing :)
Our team is almost the same as last year. Alan and Dee are back hoping to take it to Meckwell again, and Sam is playing with Tim (my normal Peebles team ... when I'm there).
Sam and Tim arrived on Thursday so they could play in the Life Master Pairs. Unfortunately the better they played the worse they scored and they failed to make the cut. But they did find team mates for the bracketed knockouts over the weekend so the Friday evening arrivals could play as a four too.
We won both our matches in bracket 3 yesterday, despite everyone feeling pretty tired in the evening session. Hopefully today we'll be a little more awake. Sam and Tim lost their second match in bracket 4 and will play in the one-day Swiss instead.
I haven't met Stacy yet but she is also blogging. We are not in the same hotel but our paths will definitely cross.
We met our Buffalo women, Judith and Sharon, last night at the restaurant. They were playing in the 0-5000 Life Master Pairs and feeling fairly good about their performance - as they then went back and scored 61% in the evening I guess they are feeling better than that now, qualifying in top spot for today's final. Go girls!
I'll probably publish few hands while I'm here this week. No hand records, being awake at the wrong time and just trying to relax when we are not playing (by which I may just mean eating and drinking) are not conducive to fighting with any of the publishing tools. But we'll see how it goes.
So just off to enter the Spingold and convince them that Tim is the Meckstroth of English and Welsh bridge and deserves to have some seeding points ... so that we are not #106 again!
It was Thursday, so must have been another junior practice game. This time I also played but got young Adam and Jakob to bring a fresh face to the opposition.
Board 1 was a tricky auction for both East-West pairs and, although the best contract is clear, it's not obvious how to get there.
Slam was never in the frame and it was just a matter of finding the best game. We failed, when Alex was unable to show good support for both my suits. On another day 4♠ may be the right contract.
Not the most convincing of auctions but they got to the par spot. Slam is a little less than 46% so the real test is to find 5♣ on these cards.
Later on both Alex and I had to decide what to open in third seat. Perhaps due to some of my comments regarding his pre-empts, Alex opened a solid weak two bid in third seat, but my one-level opener proved more effective when confusion reigned over who really had their bid:
Perhaps Gyles was not able to double for takeout in the balancing seat and decided to hope for vulnerable undertricks with no clear fit.
At the other table Adam was able to demonstrate his playing ability:
Ducking the initial heart was essential and ducking the club looks marked when Alex did not continue hearts.
Adam is playing for the USA at the World Youths in Istanbul so will meet up with the all the Scotland U26s next month. Meanwhile they will have a final warm up game next Thursday.
Earlier this month Memphis MOJO blogged on A void: Don't leave home without one. Last night I took this advice to heart as I held six voids in 33 hands (probability of holding at least one void is 19:1) and naturally this led to some interesting bridge.
I was playing with Anne, one of our victorious Lady Milne team, and we seemed to handle most of the randomness as our 59% proved to be 2% clear of the field. No doubt it was the 37 pages of notes that she sent for the evening - is this worse than Sam's 10 pages for the 2-board knockout? Perhaps not.
I thought we scored well against Sam and Fiona when I appeared to make the right decision:
Two diamonds, two spades and one club gave us +500 against a non-vulnerable game and it was a top when we played it early on, but in the end we only scored 60% as a raft of +650s hit the scoresheet with people (presumably) doubling 5♥.
Later on we scored a massive top when Anne made an excellent decision in the auction. Naturally our opponents could have done slightly better, but the board was lost very early in the piece:
Anne's decision to double, rather than bid on with her 4-7 distribution, made it fairly irrelevant how tricks declarer actually made as two down would have been a top for us, but we put declarer to some tough decisions and misguesses resulted in +1100.
It'll be four weeks before I'm back at the Russell Cup, what with visitors and the Summer Nationals, but at least no shortage of bridge.
The juniors had an excellent 28-13 IMPs win last night against experienced Scottish players. Perhaps most impressive was the fact that there was only swing above 5 IMPs and the youngsters were the beneficiaries.
And before we say that it was a flat set of hands, Italy beat Norway by 69-25 IMPs when they were played the first time in the 2002 Europeans.
Eleven tricks were made at all four tables on this hand but they all took a different route in the auction:
BBO Open Room
Gyles (South) took the direct approach.
BBO Closed Room
Eric (South) took the opposite view and it led to a slightly dangerous auction.
European Open Room
Duboin (Italy, South) also took the direct approach. Not a bad man to copy.
European Closed Room
Brogeland (Norway, South) had the most room but settled for a simple overcall and it is of some interest that he did not double. Note Lauria's choice of 1♦ as the opening bid.
This looks a simple hand but it is important for regular partnerships to establish their understandings in such auctions. Does doubling a pre-empt and then bidding a new suit show a GOSH (good one-suited hand) or does it show 'a flexible hand'.
More players are now using 'flexible' doubles over pre-empts. For example, for many Eric's 4♠ could be made holding a strong 5314 hand and Dee might be considering a club slam.
But, most importantly, partnership agreement is vital.
Stephen and I had an average evening in the Russell Cup, but with few average scores. I made a couple of poor matchpoint decisions (playing the wrong slam, for example) and, on two hands, matchpoint pessimism affected us both and we missed (what turned out to be) good games.
Boards against team mates are always competitive and the hands were helpful when we play Harry and Finlay:
I could have taken +500 by doubling 5♣ but the lure of the slam proved too much for me. When Stephen signed off I decided that bad breaks were likely after Finlay's vulnerable game bid and settled in 5♠. When Harry failed to find the heart lead we made 12 tricks for exactly 50%. As we would have gone down in 6♠ doubled it was a fine stop.