For the first time ever, Scotland had qualified to take part in a World Championship event.  The Senior Team had won a prestigious Bronze Medal at the European Championships in Dublin in 2012, thus earning the right to be one of the teams from Europe to go forward to the World Championships. 

The 2013 World Championships were held in beautiful, exotic Bali, Indonesia, from 16th to 29th September 2013.  As usual, the three World Championship events were held simultaneously:      

  • The Bermuda Bowl for Open Teams;
  • The Venice Cup for Ladies Teams;
  • The D’Orsi Bowl for Senior Teams.

There were 22 teams in each event, with teams qualifying from each of the eight zones of the World Bridge Federation.   In total, 32 countries were represented, Bahrain being the only other country for which it was a first appearance. 

The three Championships were run on identical formats.  This consisted of a full round-robin of 16-board matches over 7 days with the top eight qualifying for the knockout stage.  In this stage, each of the matches in the quarter-final, semi-final and final were of 96 boards, played in 16-board segments over 2 days.

The Selection Committee decided to select the team that had won the European Bronze Medal:     

  • Willie Coyle & John Matheson
  • Derek Diamond & Victor Silverstone
  • John Murdoch & Iain Sime
  • NPC: Harry Smith
  • Coach: Trish Matheson

Unfortunately, John Matheson, who had been a mainstay of our team in Dublin, decided that the journey would be too onerous in his current state of health, and that he would have to drop out.  This also meant that we also had to lose his wife, Trish.

Following a Trial, Willie Coyle qualified to rejoin the team, this time with Gerald Haase as his partner.  It became clear, however, that a different line-up would suit the team better, with Victor Silverstone partnering Willie Coyle and Gerald Haase partnering Derek Diamond.  I presented this proposal to the Selection Committee and it was agreed.  In addition, it was agreed that we would not fund a coach but would instead appoint one of the bridge-playing wives who would be travelling with us as coach to assist me when required.  Derek’s wife, Rhona, was appointed. 

Thus the full team was now:      

  • Willie Coyle & Victor Silverstone
  • Derek Diamond & Gerald Haase
  • John Murdoch & Iain Sime
  • NPC: Harry Smith
  • Coach: Rhona Diamond     

Scotland had been playing in European Championships as a separate country since 2000, but prior to 2012, the best performance of the Senior Team in the European Championships was in Warsaw in 2006 when we came 8th, and that was the best result of any Scottish team in European Championships.  The country had been used to low expectations and the success in 2012 was an exciting surprise.

However, having seen the team play in Dublin, I was confident the result was fully deserved, and that, if the team could continue to play as well as it had done there, then it could be a force to be reckoned with in Bali. 

My target, therefore, was for the team to qualify from the round-robin by coming in the top eight.  We would need to play very well, but I felt it was achievable.  Beyond that would depend on who we played, how tired we became, and how we coped with the extreme pressure.

We arrived on 13th September, which gave us 4 nights and 3 full days before the actual play began.  It was important that the six players should rest, adapt to the 7-hour time difference, and get used to the temperatures, which were somewhat higher than they were used to at home!

In an event such as this, it is very unlikely that any team will win all its matches.  What is important is to play a tight game, taking advantage of opportunities presented, and ensuring that, if the opposition do perform well, any loss is limited.   We won 15 out of the 21 matches.  Of the 6 losses, 4 were kept as small losses giving us 6 VPs or more.  Only 2 matches were major losses.  Frustratingly, these were the only two matches where Scotland featured on BBO: match 15 against The Netherlands, and match 16 against USA2!

However, the team had succeeded in its first objective; we had qualified for the knock-out stage in 7th place!  We were over the moon.  For Scotland to achieve this at its first ever World Championship was an amazing achievement.

We were very unfortunate in the draw for the quarter-final.  We met a team of American professionals, and, as this was one of the few teams we had lost badly to in the round-robin, they had the maximum carry-over of 16 imps against us.

This was a match where everything went wrong:     

  • All three pairs played poorly.
  • All luck seemed to go the American way.
  • The relatively weak sponsor had very few decisions to make or hands to play.

Despite that, we took a large number of imps off them, almost as many as some of the winning teams in the other matches.  However, imps were thrown away on other boards, and the result, sadly, was a convincing loss.

A subsidiary event had been running from the end of the Round-Robin stage.  The Trans-National Teams was open to all teams knocked out of the three main events, or indeed to teams formed out of parts of these teams.  In addition, more than 50 other teams had come to Bali solely to play in this event.  The team wanted to continue as an entity so we entered this event, now in its third day.

The format was a Swiss Teams for 15 rounds with the top eight qualifying for knock-out rounds.  We entered on a score of 12 VPs for each of the ten matches we had missed. 

We received a very tough series of draws.  We started with a Chinese team that was in the lead by almost a full clear match, had won all 10 of their previous matches, and did eventually end up winners of the Swiss part of the event.  We beat them by 7 imps.  We then had to play what was effectively a mixture of the Brazilian Open and Senior Teams, we won by 27 imps, and were now lying 9th.

Next came a young but very strong Polish team, which itself only went out in the quarter-finals by a small margin to the eventual winners.  We lost by 12 imps, and had dropped to 10th place.  We were now drawn against the eventual winners, another team of American professionals!  In a close match, we lost by 8 imps, which effectively ended our chances.

Dejected, we now had to face the Chinese Open Team, and we lost this by 18 imps, a disappointing end to our event, but it’s hard to keep going once you have been knocked out of the main event, and then are faced with an almost impossible task in the secondary event.  Interestingly, we had performed very well relative to most of the teams that had come from the main events.

I felt that, with the interest our qualification had generated and the generous response to our fund-raising efforts, it was very important that people at home should be kept informed and be able to feel involved.  I therefore arranged for a special website to be created, through which I could communicate with the SBU membership.

In all I posted 86 photos, and submitted 32 reports, which, excluding the hand records, came to about 20,000 words.  1,430 unique visitors accessed the site with a total of 79,307 hits.

Overall, our fund-raising came to over £10,000, and the team would like to thank all the clubs and members of the SBU for the generous contributions made.

I feel we achieved a lot.  For a first appearance at a World Championships, we performed well.  Both by our results and our whole approach to the event, we are confident we were a credit to Scottish bridge.

 

Harry Smith

27th October 2013.