The tournament lived up to its name as many people had to battle through snow to get to Falkirk for the toughest weekend in Scottish bridge. Strangely there was little snow in Falkirk and Edinburgh, but those of us in the borders had a couple of inches before setting out on Friday and Alex got one of the last planes from Gatwick before the weather set in there.
There were 25 entries but one team, from the Gloucester area, withdrew when their airports were closed. Twenty-four is a much easier number to handle for the directors, but unfortunately they messed it up right from the start. A large part of the field wasted the first sixteen boards as additional boards were introduced that were from the Saturday morning set - our two 16-board matches in the triad became two 10-board matches. Highly dissatisfactory but not the first time in the past twelve months where the SBU organisation has failed its top players. I was unimpressed by the late apology and how the team handled this.
Playing with Anne and Sheila, we won both matches in our triad comfortably, one of only three seeded teams that were able to do that. Some were very unhappy that good boards had been wiped out and the reduced number of boards, combined with a strong Scottish field, increased the chances of upsets. However I believe Reg and Diana were unaffected and played two full matches in their triad, winning it and gaining revenge for last year by beating the seeded BENNETT team.
After Friday night's triads it is 16-board head-to-head matches on Saturday. We beat CLOW and DI MAMBRO comfortably to be one of the two undefeated teams, the other being Sam and Tim in the PUNCH team. We lost to them by about twenty-odd imps to lose our first life.
We drew GREENWOOD for the 24-board quarter-final. After a scrappy first half, the second half was little better but we emerged with a decent win, putting us into Sunday's morning semifinal. As PUNCH remained unbeaten they were given Sunday morning off and we'd play BENNETT for a place in the final.
The semifinal was twenty-four boards but with only two imps between the teams there was all to play for in the final set. We seemed to get most things right and put on 35 imps for a comfortable win. A win that we were all pleased with since we'd lost in the semi two years ago.
The final against PUNCH was over thirty-two boards. I thought it was an error-strewn match but there were only six imps between us at the half. The second half looked closer but we lost a further eleven imps, but there were a couple of boards that would have changed the result and everyone had had the opportunity to win.
We were naturally disappointed but it was an improvement from last year. We'll now have to emulate Tim and Sam, who were the losing finalists last year!
The PUNCH team, Sam Punch/Tim Rees and Brian Spears/Paul Barton, were deserved winners, going unbeaten throughout the whole event.
Four years ago I blogged about how the SBU could improve the event. The venue is much better now, but I don't recall any welcome (but could be mistaken). There is very little promotion of the event, numbers are static and the results are still hidden on the SBU site. Looking on the front page it might never have happened, which is disappointing.