After lunch, the RR enters its final match with everything still to play for, the main contenders for the remaining 2 spots are:
3 ITALY 284
4 SINGAPORE 281
5 FRANCE 280
with Norway having an outside chance.
Coincidentally, the last matches looked Ryder-cup style with PABF vs the Rest:
Italy vs Australia
Singapore vs Canada
France vs Japan
Well, we would really need to depend on Australia and Japan to do well against France and Italy. Similarly, the French team could be seen approaching the Canadian team during lunch to encourage them to do well against us.
Of the 3 matches, our match looks the toughest. Not only is Canada placed highest among the 3 teams, prior to the last match , the Canadians have only lost one match single digit (8-22 to Norway). It is no wonder, everyone was expecting us to fall short again. In fact, after the event, I gather that back in Singapore, many supporters were not too optimistic of our chances too.
As I prepare for this blog, I read in a book on the attributes of a winner in tournament bridge. "Card sense, endurance, stamina, etc. Besides that, you need to have intangibles like a driving will to win and confidence" I strongly agree with what was written. In fact, many ppl have asked how do we acquire or train on these. I do not have an answer for them. Having a strong mental aspect is vital in many sports and games and it seems to me to be an inborn characteristic. I suppose the first step is to treat playing bridge very seriously, not just a game.
In Bangkok though, it didnt seem like we were underdogs. We were strangely confident. In fact, midway through the RR, I had predicted we will make it through. We had chose the hard way by failing to capitalise against the weaker teams but we are still hanging in there... Just like a drama script, we didnt come so far to fail at the last hurdle.
Still, we knew we need a big score against the tough Canadians to continue our run. With that in mind, I picked up my first hand of the board.
Well, as you can almost predict, first hand of a critical match.. I had another poor hand but yet another tough bidding decision:
♠ T 9
♥ J 9 7 5 4
♦ 8 5 3
♣ J 8 6
Partner deals and open 1C. I see no reason to respond, and LHO balanced with 1NT (11-15) Partner dbls to show a 18-20 bal. Your bid?
On any other day, I would choose to takeout to 2H. I'm sure that would be the expert's bid in a bidding poll... Still, I knew we only have 20 boards to break down the strong Canadian team and this could be a big chance to start the flow of imps, I judged to pass the dbl. Here was what declarer saw:
♠ Q 5 3
♥ T 3 2
♦ T 9 4 2
♣ K T 7
♠ J 8 4 2
♦ A K 6
♣ Q 9 4 3 2
LHO (Poon) led the ace of S and went into a trance before switching to a H! When declarer led a club to the T, the floodgates opened: +500 and 8 imps to us (They made 3H at other table) Good start?
We should have added to it on the next board.
Vul against not:
♠ T 3
♥ A T 7
♦ Q 7 6
♣ A 8 6 3 2
Partner opened 1S RHO came in with 3D, you passed to partner who reopened with a dbl. Your bid?
Poon decided to go for the vulnerable game bonus and bidded 3NT. Unfortuately I had:
♠ A J 7 5 2
♥ K Q J 4
♦ 8 2
♣ K 7
8 tricks was the limit. The winning decision (later we agreed it was in fact the correct decision) was to pass the dbl for penalty. That would have meant another 500 instead of the 5 imp lost here. (Our opps got to play in 2S)
Still, it was clear it would be the set of penalties.. and so it proved:
NV against Vul,
♥ A 9 5 4 3
♦ J 8 6
♣ A K J 6
RHO opened 2S (weak), No doubt influenced by how 'bloody' things were, I chose a slightly off-shape dbl. It hit jackpot when partner held:
♠ A J 6 4 2
♥ K 8
♦ A K 7 2
♣ T 4
With opps red, it was an easy decision and we soon had +1100 for 12 imps: the Canadian opps landed in 3NT after a multi opening.
Things got better:
♥ K Q 8 7 2
♦ A K Q
♣ T 8 7 6 5
i opened 1H, LHO overcalled 1S, partner jumped to 4H, RHO was in there with 4S,your bid?
Well, I had learnt my lesson bout bidding at the 5 level :-) , so I was there with 5H, promptly dbled and when partner had a perfect:
♠ J 8 7 6
♥ A T 9 4 3
♦ T 7 3
I had 12 tricks for +1050 and 14 imps when the canadian opp at the other table passed 4S which went 1 down. Looking at the scoresheet.. 1050 is a very common score achieved 8 times in the Youth Category!
Well, you know it's your day when things goes like this:
♠ Q J T 7 4 2
♦ K T 9 8
♣ T 7
♥ Q T 6 3
♦ J 7 6
♣ A K 9 6 4
After South opens 1C and LHO dbled, North jumped to 2S (meant as weak but construed as a fit jump) After that, they languished in the bidding to stop in 4Cx (4S would be better) and went for another 500 and 12 imps for us when teammates stopped very well in 3S.
It wasn't all about penalties:
♠ Q 5 4
♥ J 2
♦ A K J 7 2
♣ Q 9 8
♠ A 7 2
♥ A K T
♦ Q T 8 4
♣ J T 7
After East have overcalled in S, you end up in 3NT on the 8 of S lead. East plays the 6 (small encouraging), Plan your play.
Declarer took the ace, led a D to the J and led the J of H immediately, East played the 9 (std count). Declarer elects to rise with the K and run the D, throwing a S from hand. East had a singleton D and discarded 2S and 2C. The ending:
♠ Q 5
♣ Q 9 8
♥ K T
♣ J T 7
when declarer led a club, East rose with the ace and played the 5 of H through. Your play? Do you trust the club ace (denying the K)? Trusting the H play rather than the club play, declarer rose with the K and played another club, the only winning play when East have something like:
♠ K J T 9 6
♥ 9 5
♣ A K 4 3 2
East would have been endplayed on the club to lead a S to dummy's Q.
Unfortunately, for declarer, the club play was the honest one, East held:
♠ K J T 9 6
♥ Q 9 5
♣ A 6 4 2
When West put a S through when in with the club K, it meant 5 tricks for the defence. Noone else in the whole field went down in 3NT, when our teammates took 10 tricks, so that meant 10 more imps for us.
Our next chance:
NV against Vul,
♠ T 9 8 7 6 3
♥ K Q T 8 7
♣ A 9
Partner pass, RHO opens 1NT, you dbl to show either one long minor or both majors, partner bids 2C to ask which hand you have. You bid 2S to show both majors with longer/better S. Now LHO comes to life with 3D which partner dbls. Do you pass?
Well, thanks to your brilliant 2S, partner will not be off to the best lead ever. As a passed hand, how many tricks can you expect partner to have? Most experts I posed this problem to chose the safer route and took it out. I personally agree with this analysis at any normal match.
At that point of time, there was no question: We had opps at our mercy and this is the perfect chance to seal the match. I passed and the contract was quickly 2 off for +500 (It would have been +800 had partner led a H). We didnt know it then but our teammates misdefended 4Sx and allowed it through for -590, 3 imps away :-)
Both sides did not distinguish themselves on the following hand:
♠ A Q 7 5
♥ T 5
♦ A J 7
♣ A J 8 6
♥ K Q J
♦ K Q 8 5 4
♣ K Q 5 2
South deals and West comes in with a both majors cuebid, both N-S pairs failed to reach the cold slam for a push, settling in 3NT for a push. Strangely, only 3 pairs got to slam although there were several taking the penalty to compensate for their slam.
Towards the end came your final test:
Vul against not:
♠ A K Q J 8 6
♥ K J T
♦ 9 7 2
Partner opens 1H, RHO bids 2NT (minors), you cuebid to show a good hand with S suit. Now LHO raised the stakes to 6C... Partner cuebidded 6D! Your bid?
Well, partner surely has grandslam interest and you have unexpected H support for him, together with a solid S suit. Surely 7H/S has a chance? You would think I would have gone for broke at that stage of the match.
Nope, I took a full 2 to 3 minutes to consider my bid and finally decided to opt for 'safety' and bid 6H. The opps promptly cashed the Ace of clubs! Partner had fallen in love with his hand:
♥ A Q 9 6 5 4 3 2
♦ A 5
♣ 5 3
Luckily, i sidestepped his 'trap' and got a safe +980. It was a push when our teammates likewise did not find the cheap sacrifice in 7C.
When the match ended, we were more than optimistic. In fact, our opps began congratulating us on our 'sure' qualification. After all, they had just witnessed our monster set and it really is unthinkable we wont qualify, especially with 2 spots available!
Well, it was not to be. When we came out of the playing area to the vugraph room, we saw that with 2 boards to go (both boards were flat), the leaderboard was:
3 ITALY 306
4 FRANCE 301
Oh well, Italy is winning 23-7 and so had the 3rd spot sewn up. More importantly.. we were tied with France for 4th place on 301 VPs... France is winning 22-8 and we 'only' won the match 20-10! We are not clear on the tie-breaking prcedures , even up to now.. but what it means is that we are not through yet.. how agonising!
As we nervously waited for the last few boards to end, we 'know' the last couple of boards were pretty flat so it rates to be a tie between us and France! That was until, we met our third pair in the vugraph room.. they had been diligently tracking our results from the room. There was no doubt were every bit as excited as us...
Alex was the first to break the news to us.. that Kelvin and Liyu has mis-scored one of the boards in the open room... They had credited the game they made to their opps! That means we have won the match by a bigger margin than the score reflected.
You can imagine the frenzy when they came out of the other room, we hurried to verify the board was not misboarded and that they had indeed entered the score into Bridgemate wrongly. Another search for the Canadian team to verify the mistake and then search for a director to have him acknowledge the change in score. Next , we have to go to the scorers to get them to key the change into the sytem.. All this while everyone was gathering in the lobby looking at the results...
At the end of it all, we overcame the Canadians 69- 28 imps (23-7 VP) while the Italians faltered on the last board against the Australians:
1 USA 1 328
2 POLAND 309
3 ITALY 304
5 FRANCE 301
6 ISRAEL 293
7 NORWAY 291
8 EGYPT 263
Nothing can describe how relieved we were that we managed do the 'impossible'. It has been a hell of a ride for us and thankfully, all's well that end well.. for us that is.
We saw the French team after the match as they realise they no longer had to tie-break. Oh well, we have been in the position before and we really feel for them.
It is not easy to come so far and miss out by so little. Understandably, they left after the match but when we met up the next day, they were more than gracious and had words of encouragement for us. Kudos to them...
The last few posts seemed to have been lost, here are the direct URLS to them:http://bridgestoriesofbridgeboy.blogspot.com/2006/10/semifinals-usa1_05.htmhttp://bridgestoriesofbridgeboy.blogspot.com/2006/10/semifinal-part-2-usa_05.htmlhttp://bridgestoriesofbridgeboy.blogspot.com/2006/10/3rd4th-playoff-poland_05.htmlhttp://bridgestoriesofbridgeboy.blogspot.com/2006/10/conclusion-victory-banquet.html