The normal order of things, that is England and Ireland fighting it out, was disturbed when Wales thrashed Ireland in the final round. As they will be at home for the second weekend they have a real chance of winning the trophy for the first time.
The Scottish performance was disappointing. The first match against the weakest team provided the only win and losing to both Welsh teams was unexpected.
The Camrose is not a world-class event but does feature many of the better players in the UK and Ireland, although selection and other issues meant that some of the best did not feature. The top two pairs from the English Premier League were not selected but their strength in depth meant that they were still favourites. The Irish Green Machine is not playing as a team of six, but rather split up over the two weekends - I have no idea whether this is to bring on other pairs (always a good policy) or for personal reasons. Wales' traditional top pair, Rees and Kurbalija, split up just before the trials but this made life easier for the selectors who could pick the team who did so well at the Europeans.
I think we are all very used to watching the stars of the game on BBO, playing in important tournaments or even the daily Jimmy Cayne (jec) match. One thing we should all have learned is that they make a lot of mistakes, far more than most probably would have expected. This is most evident in their defence and declarer play, where they seem not to have the advantage of seeing all 52 cards as the commentators and kibitzers can. But if there is one area that the world-class players seem to get right more often than not is judgement in the auction. Even when they have a catastrophe in the bidding, losing a cricket score, it is often repeated at the other table.
So it was no surprise that a lot of card-play errors were seen over the weekend. Fair to say that some of these were pretty blatant and avoidable, but it does go to show how difficult the game can be at times. But the real difference seems to be the huge number of imps that were won and lost in the auction.
And perhaps the real difference between the world-class professionals and the better UK players is down to the sheer number of boards that the professionals play. They get far more of the difficult auctions right when under pressure.
And the performance of the Scottish pairs?
Sime/Matheson and Short/Walker finished in the middle of the pack with the Outreds some way behind, but I think all will be disappointed with how they played. The same could be said for most of the pairs in the event as the overall standard of play was disappointing. Everyone had lots of opportunities to do better, but it seemed that for every really good thing done the result would be handed back within a couple of hands. A real game of ping-pong.
Now we wait to see what the selectors will do, as they have free rein for team in the second weekend. Any pair can have a bad weekend, although if you chose for that to be a trial weekend you will not get into the team! It is hard to imagine not picking Spears/Murdoch, given how close they were to third place in the trials. The real question is whether a fifth place finish with a single win brings wholesale changes or just tinkering. Luckily no longer my job!