Most teams have a host of international players, although if you have been following our international fortunes this may not appear significant but they are still the best players in the country. Most teams have Grand Masters at every table, although Scotland's generosity with national masterpoints at its congresses means that this is not as significant as it may appear, but it does mean that they are very experienced tournament players - but our GM opponent held ♠K ♥K107 ♦AJ104 ♣A9853 last night and opened one club and rebid three clubs over his partner's one spade response - just sayin'.
The Berwick squad does not have any international players, in fact not even any international trialists. Malcolm and I were the two GMs in the team at the start but, unfortunately, he is moving to Yorkshire but still managed to play the first six matches.
So the team were pleased to get our first point against Merchiston, one of the stronger teams, with a small loss in the second match (you get one point if you lose by less than 2% of the total aggregate). But in the vital game against the weakest team we could only get a small win (2-1 for a 1.45% win) and this time last week we were bottom of the table with three matches left and no Malcolm.
At half-time in the match against Falkirk A last week we were 3,000 points down, no surprise against one of the stronger teams who had Anne playing at table three and Steve, one of my Scotland Camrose team last year, at table four! But something strange happened in the second half, I'm still not really sure what, and we emerged winners by 500 points, a small win (1.35%) in a high-scoring match but still two very unexpected points.
This meant that our match against Linlithgow last night would probably decide who would be relegated alongside Waverley, who are already down.
This was our second attempt to play Linlithgow as they failed to turn up for the first match. It is said that their captain had the wrong date in his diary, but as we have never had any form of apology from him some of the team have drawn their own conclusions. They were fined one point by the committee (personally I would have suspended their captain for the lack of apology, surely just common decency would demand a brief explanation after the Berwick team had literally driven through a blizzard to get to the venue in January) but we had lost Malcolm due to his move, so our team was definitely weakened.
We were 400 points down at the break, mainly due to a slam going down at table one. It was not a great slam, but certainly not hopeless, but the defence were able to put declarer to a guess before he discovered the 4-1 break in a critical suit and, reasonably, he got it wrong.
But things improved in the second half as we piled on the points at all four tables to gain a big 3-0 (12%) win. With one match to go first division status is in our own hands. We play Nomads next week, the current champions, and a match we'd never expect to get anything from. However they are having a disastrous season and are actually level with us on points, so there is a real chance of some points. In reality it probably will not matter as Linlithgow need to beat Dundas and Falkirk B, two good teams, to avoid relegation, but it would be nice to finish on a win.
I was sitting West in last night's match and had practically nothing to do. Playing with LotG we don't have many agreements so what do you lead after the following auction:
Your opponents are playing 4-card majors and a strong notrump. Your lead?
We played the boards out of order but our final hand was the following:
If you step through the play you'll see my line and, if you use the GIB button, you might notice that you have to be pretty much card perfect (even at trick two) to make the contract. Luckily I fell into the winning line to gain a game swing. At table three Ros found the killing diamond lead at trick one and the play was mistimed at the other tables. In an otherwise boring evening it was nice to make a small contribution to the win.
These last two wins have really been a team effort. Not everyone has played well all the time, but even when people had have a poor set they have come back fighting in the second half. The only advantage that Berwick has had is that we can normally put out regular partnerships.
One more match to go. Relegation unlikely but possible, finishing in the top half of the table unlikely but also possible - an interesting season.