Day 5 from the World Youth Teams Championships in Veldhoven, the Netherlands. Under 26 Coach Michael Byrne has written the below update following the team's progress:
On our final day we were tasked with extracting as much as we could from the weaker teams we had remaining in order to climb the table and finish respectively and to that extent the day went pretty well.
The first match was against Germany, who we know well from the 30 minute bus ride we were forced to get each day to and from the venue.
They were generally soft and we piled on the imps losing only a partscore swing and this final explosive board:
What would you lead against this auction?
W N E S
1C 2S 5C P
6C P P P
Your hand (having made a weak jump overcall at love all) is this:
The choice appears to be between banking the AS and speculatively trying a red suit.
At first glance it appears that the lead makes no difference when you see the full hand:
The bidding was ridiculous of course, and the slam has no play. ALMOST no play, as the heart spots proved interesting, and the only lead to let it through was indeed a heart. When south contributed an honour declarer could then draw the trumps and run the 9H to gain a discard from dummy.
(It appears that South can defeat the slam by ducking the first trick. This would not be so bright if partner had led from 1086 or K86 however).
A big loss to England then? Not at all, in the other room South doubled 5C, perhaps thinking it was an advance save against the 4S contract he was going to bid. West redoubled and everyone stood their ground.
Although the defence scored a trick more, that was still +800 to England and held the loss to 3 imps, contributing to a comfortable win.
Next we faced China who were challenging for a place in the top 8 and we played well to score a comfortable victory. The hands were of little interest (some of the sets are very spicy and some are quite quiet) and our major pick up came when they played the wrong game and went down, while we made a routine 3NT.
Our 3rd match of the day was against Japan, and this time it was a take of two halves. After 4 boards we were 25-0 down, but we fought back strongly to win the rest of the set 24 imps to nil.
This was a good team board where we "doubled up".
Sam and Daniel sitting NS quickly bid to 4H, after West had doubled for take out after 1H P 2H. East didn't make the mistake of leading a club and instead chose the 8S. Never the less Sam found a way home by squeezing West in spades and diamonds late in the day.
At the other table Liam overcalled 2S and North chose to make a "defensive double". What exactly that means I can't tell you but South (who in fairness did have a defensive hand and a trump trick) also chose to pass and that was a comfortable +470 to England, to give us 13 imps.
In the final match of the day we faced India, who were doing very poorly. The bridge was of the interesting variety and in an effort to end with a big win we gave away a few points being overly keen. Despite this we ended with a big swing and won the match, always a good way to finish.
Since our slam bidding has been pretty modest this was a nicely bid hand that was missed in several other matches.
6S is almost cold, since you can ruff three hearts using dummy's high trumps. You might think a 5-1 heart break would spoil the party, but if South has a singleton then you can lead a heart to the King and a heart off. If South ruffs in you can subsequently take a ruffing finesse even if South began with 3 trumps, and fall back on the diamond finesse.
In any event North led a diamond and now we could draw trumps and give up a heart.
You might be expecting me to say that India missed the slam and we gained a huge swing, but they bid accurately to 6S on a strong club auction, and it was an honourable flat board.
Although we did not do well enough in the round robin to threaten to qualify, my team always tried their hardest and I was proud of the fact they didn't give up.
Many of the team are young enough to play in several more European and World Championships and the experience will do them good - it hurts to finish this low in a championship and they have all resolved to make sure they do better.
Tomorrow they will play in the World Youth Board a Match Championship and I am sure they will produce a good showing.