Under 21 coach Charlie Bucknell has written a final blog from the European Championships
The team are very excited to have made it through the Round Robins with such a nail-biting finish. Today, we faced Israel in a crunch match that had several spectacular features. With that said, let us simply dive straight into the action:
The first set was excellent – we sprung into the lead 51-34 after some enterprising bridge.
Jamie Fegarty led the ♠6 to the Jack, Queen and declarer’s king. Declarer was immediately frightened that the spades might be disadvantageously placed and considered how to best scramble 9 tricks. He decided to test diamonds and should they fail, he can fall back on hearts 3-3. After cashing ♦AK and receiving the bad news, declarer now tried hearts and they were 4-2 so West could get in and unblock the ♠10 before pushing a club through. Declarer could only muster up 7 tricks and was down two! It was a great choice of lead from Jamie to go for the slightly emptier (but less likely to cost) spade suit and keep the ♣KQ behind the strong 2NT bidder. At the other table, they chose a low club from East which did not turn out so well! Declarer (Henry Rose) now had no fear and could take a diamond finesse and even made 11 tricks.
Buoyed by a strong first set, the same four headed in for the next 14 boards where a little bad luck went against us, resulting in a 35-19 loss, but crucially leaving us ahead by 1 IMP at half time! Team spirits were high and keen to battle for the second half and prove our mettle.
In the 3rd set, our players found some excellent leads to beat a slam, but were pushed back by the aggressive bidding from the Israelis who found favourable layouts to make their slam. Some quiet overtrick IMPs drifted both ways leaving us slightly behind with 14 boards to go. 10 IMPs is known as “one board” so the match was still extremely close and could go either way.
The final set was nerve-racking. I have not seen so many IMPs fly in a Quarter Final for some time! It was an excellent start with England picking up 22 IMPs in 3 boards before the Israeli juniors had a second wind and gained 32 by the time we had finished the 8th board. Just like a tennis match, England gained a slam swing in before a game swing out sadly cemented the final result in a 19IMP loss. We are all exceptionally proud of how they played and look forward to seeing how the next generation of players delights us next year with some more excellent bridge!
By Charlie Bucknell