U16s continue preparations for China

The England U16 squad has held another training session as it prepares for the 2018 World Youth Team Championships, being held in China in August.

Squad leader Giorgio Provenza has written a new blog, below, to keep you updated.

As noted in this article, we'd be delighted to hear from any members who would like to support the teams in any way - please don't hesitate to contact us. You can also make a donation to the fundraising effort through EBED's website, here.

"The first weekend of February has been a busy one for me. On the Friday I was invited to attend the Surrey Schools Cup. This competition has a glorious history, having been on the bridge calendar since 1969. Among the winners of that first edition there was Tim Warren, who is now the County Youth Officer for Surrey and the relentless organizer of the Cup itself. A notable past winner is Michael Byrne, nowadays an England international and squad leader of the U21.

On the 3rd of February a record breaking number of 84 kids, aged between 10 and 18, convened at Roehampton Club for an afternoon of bridge and minibridge. It was refreshing and encouraging to see so many young players having fun in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, yet trying their very best to win.

With so many youngsters interested in the game, the goal should be to involve them even more and get them to play bridge in our clubs as well as in the school ones. Since the event, I have been in touch with the teachers who run those clubs (I cannot thank them enough for their efforts) trying to put in place strategies to achieve this goal.

On this topic, there is a success story that I thought I’d share with you. A few years ago Holly Kilpatrick – having run a bridge club in a local school in Oxford – decided that those enthusiastic kids who were learning the basics in school would have probably enjoyed the chance to play – and learn – more. Having found a suitable location (a church hall) the Oxford Junior Bridge club was born. The first Sunday afternoon no one showed up! The second week only one boy turned up. He had 4 teachers all for himself and enjoyed it thoroughly though. This could have been enough to discourage even the most enthusiastic teacher. But Holly and the other volunteers didn’t give up. The club – with some financial support from the Oxfordshire Bridge Association in the first year — grew bigger and bigger and is now thriving more than ever.

It is not by chance that I held the 2nd training weekend of the U16s in preparation to the World Championship in Oxford; in fact 8 of the 21 kids who attended came out of Holly’s club! And if you are wondering about the only attendee on that Sunday afternoon, well, he is now one of the “veterans” (can you be a veteran at 13 years of age?) of the team, having already competed for England in a European and a World Championship!

Thanks to the hospitality of Oxford Bridge Club, we had two days of fun, hard work, a lot of brilliance and some furious bidding…

The newer members of the squad worked with Meena on consolidating their basics, with a mix of lessons and practice hands to play.

I and the senior members worked on slam bidding, the goal being having a more disciplined approach to the topic (you be the judge if that worked: one auction went 2C – 7D)

Everyone then took part in a playing session and afterwards Alan drove us through the analysis of the most interesting deals.

The weekend would not have been a success without the help of the parents, who drove, cooked, hosted and filled in when the need arose.

The highlight of the weekend was probably a Grand slam bid off two aces and the Queen of trumps. The overoptimistic bidder said the slam had some play though. All it needed to make was for the opening leader not to cash her Ace, for her partner to hold up three times with the other Ace and for declarer to guess the trump Queen. Easy!"