The second weekend of the English Premier League was held in Manchester. A top and bottom affair for us as we'd play the leaders and last-placed teams after the first two matches.
Our match against Bowdery did not start well. On our first board we bid a poor slam that at least went two down so we could always hope that they'd look in the other room, whilst knowing it was really 13 imps away. Over the next ten boards we did not get a positive score, including two games that only made on our lead. The only plus point was that they'd missed an easy slam.
Finally we got a positive score, one notrump making exactly, +90! Buoyed by success we tried one notrump on the next board but our negative scores returned as it went down. The rest of the set we just bid a few normal games and saw the opponents find an excellent sacrifice against our game.
So we scored up with a little trepidation but won the set 56-51 imps. And we were slightly positive in the butler, not least because most had let the games through and often after having doubled them.
The second set started a lot better as we found a good slam sacrifice and made a doubled game. We then bid a 50% slam: the downside was that we wrong-sided it through my first two bids, but the upside was that nothing was known about dummy and my honour distribution was unclear. They failed to find the killing lead (making the normal one) so that brought in 13 imps. However we did have two disasters in the middle of the set, allowing a three notrump to make and then losing -1100 after our one notrump (14-16) was doubled. All this meant a lot of imps and the set was tied 51-51 imps. Just the 208 imps exchanged over forty boards.
The final set seemed a lot quieter. We bid all our games, went down in an excellent slam but expected that to be flat. I guess we felt that there not many places we could lose imps, but did not expect to gain many. So it was a surprise that we won the set 74-23 imps. Aside from sacrificing against the failing slam (lose 15 imps), it had been one-way traffic for Mike and Simon as they profited from a lot of strange decisions and mistakes by their opponents. Three of our games were swings and three part-scores were game swings too.
This meant an excellent 22-8 VP win.
The second match of the weekend was against the Harris team. I don't know them but I have seen them playing in various events abroad although they were trailing in the league. As it turned out they were not a strong team and exciting hands in the first two sets meant that we were able to set them lots of problems that they struggled to solve. We gained 81 imps in the first 20 boards, another 60 in the second and ran out comfortable winners and a 25-0 VP win.
So we are second in the table after four of the seven matches. We are 2 VP behind Rosen, who we play in the final match, and 3 VP ahead of Penfold. However Penfold's last three matches are against lower-placed teams and we also have to play Dhondy, who are only 10 VP behind us. All set up for an exciting finale.
In the top division some very strange happenings. Allfrey, pre-tournament favourites and holders, are only 4 VP clear of a relegation spot. Janet de Botton's team, who generally do well, lie just above them. Leading everyone by 12 VP is Ewart, last year's promoted team, but they have a tough final weekend when they play the three teams directly below them. However I think there is a good chance that they will come through and win the event.
Perhaps some problems from the event later in the week.