The story of the Venice Cup at the World Championships courtesy of Alex Adamson, our man in Wuhan - get the full story from @SBUWomen at Facebook.

So that's it. The speeches have been spoken, the medals presented, and the national anthems played (or in the case of Denmark, sung).

It was a great event for Europe. The top three in the Open were Poland, Netherlands and Norway. In the Women's, Sweden won gold against China, and England came third. In the Seniors the top two were Denmark and England, and in the Mixed, Russia beat the USA with Romania taking bronze.

Europe is in the ascendancy and we were one of Europe's representatives. Our final thoughts are a mix of joy at having been involved, confidence built by knowing that we are comfortably at this level, and frustration that we could have done better. But apart from the winners, everyone finished regretting their missed opportunities. This has certainly been one of the highlights of my bridge life.

We are grateful for the support we have had before and during the event. Now we all return to domestic competition. The National League starts next weekend!

We will see you all soon.

Alex

Thursday 26 September

Scottish participation in the events is petering out. Five of us played in the Board a Match event yesterday. Sam did well in combination with a Dane and two Norwegians.  My team had a rejig from the Transnational Teams.  I played with Liz, while Danny and Helen played together.

The event was great fun.  We finished just below average.  Liz and I played two boards against US stars Kit Woolsey and Bart Bramley. On the first they defended against me very well and and held my 2S contract to eight tricks. That won them the board. On the second they had a mix up with their defence to our Weak Notrump and ended up in a crazy 5Cx going for 1400. That meant that we won the second board making it a flat set!

I had the good fortune to he written up in the online bulletin for a hand from the Transnational Teams.

I plan to watch quite a lot of the finals, but there is a plan gathering for a group trip out tonight.

Wednesday 25 September

This was the final day of the Transnational Teams. My team, Scotland Blue, started poorly, with two losses.  We bounced back to finish with three wins. The last of these was a big win against the Argentine Open Team. That helped push us up into 55th place out of 118.  Scotmark finished in 87th.

Tomorrow some of us will he playing on a board a match competition.  This is not a form of scoring that I have played in before. It is essentially extreme match points. Every board is compared against your other table and scored as a win, draw or loss. Beating the other table by 1000 is the same as an overtrick.

P.s., look out for a hand that I defended in the bulletin tomorrow. Mark Horton was keen to use it.This was the final day of the Transnational Teams. My team, Scotland Blue, started poorly, with two losses.  We bounced back to finish with three wins. The last of these was a big win against the Argentine Open Team. That helped push us up into 55th place out of 118.  Scotmark finished in 87th.

Tuesday 24 September

For us, the second day of the Transnational Teams.  For the elite, the second and concluding day of the quarter finals.

Dealing with the Scots first.  My team (Alex, Danny, Anne & Helen) had a positive day. We won four out of five matches, but all of our margins were small. We have moved up to 98 VPs with 100 being average. Today we played four teams from China and one from South Korea. Mostly, they were playing Precision Club, which has been the most popular system in China for many decades. Part of the fun of these events is  playing against people with a different bridge culture. Our last opponents would simply not believe that Danny and I were playing count signals as our primary method.  I was questioned at length, with increasing incredulity. They went on to bid seven contracts, six of which we beat.  Our friends in Scotmark (Liz, Fiona, Sam and Lone Bilde from Denmark) had a tricky day but finished on the up.  

I am a bridge nerd.  For me, this world champion cycle is my World Cup and Wimbledon rolled into one.  If I was not here then I would have taken time off work and be watching online, and loving it.  But the experience is on a different level when you are at the event.  Seeing the events unfolding before your eyes - who looks tired? Who looks nervous, and who has determination written in their eyes, their walk?  Then the celebrations and commiserations.

England Seniors were 1 IMP down to China with one board to go, and squeaked through. The England Open team had been 65 IMPs up against the great USA 1 team.  The Americans fielded Meckstroth, Rodwell, Levin and Weinstein for the last 32 boards and ran out winners by 33 IMPs.

One interesting thing was that of the sixteen teams who finished in the top four of their event, and thus got to pick their opponents,  seven won and nine lost.  There is great strength in depth in all of the events and it would be a genius, or a fool, who predicted the winners.

Paula and Sam
Paula and Sam

Sunday 22 September

So ends our Venice Cup campaign.  It started in Ostend last year, it saw the team practicing in many countries including Sweden, Turkey, Poland, England and Ireland.

It saw fourteen wins and nine defeats in the main event here in Wuhan.  We defeated three of the teams that qualified.  We may not have made the very top tier but we showed that we well and truly belonged at this level. The pairs were all very supportive of each other and made the captain's job as easy as it could be.  My thanks to them for inviting me to join the team on this journey. I for one had never expected to take part in this cycle of events.  They have shown that they belong here and I hope that Scotland will feature in the Venice Cup again before too long.

Today we had a very high scoring match against USA 1. We built up a large lead and withstood a massive comeback by them.  We won by 4 IMPs, but slipped three places because of other scores.  In the last match we played Denmark. Like us, they were out of contention, though both teams still tried hard.  In fact we might have tried  little too hard.  This was not a good set for pushing in the bidding and we lost what proved to be a fairly one sided affair.  It didn't change our position or theirs.  Our final total of 240 VPs was 10 above average,  although the distribution of the scores makes it look less successful. 

We would like to say thank you to all of the clubs and players who gave us their support and enabled us to be here.  Most of us are now going to take part on the Transnational Teams.  Danny and I are going to play with Anne and Helen as Scotland Blue.  Liz, Fiona and Sam are teaming up with Danish star Lone Bilde as Scotmark.

Three days, and 150 boards lie in wait for us.  Having been card-perfect while watching on vugraph Danny and I now have to face actual opponents without being able to see all of the hands!

Best VuGraph seat in the house

Saturday 21 September

This was the penultimate day of the Round Robin.  Our plan was to build on yesterday's three wins: to keep winning, hope to get a big one at some stage, and hope that other results were favourable.  The plan started well with  a win against France.  Our lead slipped a little towards the end but we still got 13.5 VPs, climbed a place to 11th, and closed the gap to 8th place from 20 to 17 VPs.

The second match was where our plan hit the buffers. We played USA 2, the team above us, and managed to take the wrong view in most of the close decisions.  The Americans capitalised and we only managed 5 VPs.  We were down to 13th place and 27 VPs behind the crucial 8th place. Our final match of the day was against New Zealand. This followed a similar pattern to the French match: we took the lead, they pulled us back, but we hung on to win. That moved us back up to 11th.

This event is scored by Victory Points, not by wins and losses, but I think we can take pride in having won 13 matches and lost 8 to this point. Hopefully we can add to that in tomorrow's two matches. If our wins had been a bit bigger, and our losses a bit smaller, then we could have been in the top third of the field that qualifies.  We still have a mathematical chance, and our aim is to finish as high as we can, be that eighth, ninth or whatever. Scotland doesn't get to these events often and we want to leave as strong a mark as we can. We'd also like to finish as high as we can amongst the European teams. We were 7th in Ostend, and are currently 5th of the 9 European teams in Wuhan.

Let's see what we can do tomorrow.

The hall outside the playing area starts to fill up as players wait to score up. You scan a barcode on your badge to get you scoresheet, but etiquette is to score up with team mates before doing so.

Friday 20 September

Today our fight back had to begin.  Before play I explored the attractive park across the ten lane road from the venue. It seems like a nice relaxing place to wander around in.  

We were playing three of the less successful teams in the event so it was important that we come away with three wins.

First up were Brazil.  This was a good match in many ways, but there was one hand that could have made a huge difference.  Our opponents were having a slam auction. One checked f0r aces, found that.they were missing one and signed off in 6H.  The other decided to override her and bid 7H!  Had the Scot on lead held the missing ace then that would have been one down, instantly. Unfortunately it was in the other hand and our player had to guess. She guessed wrong so we lost a lot of points instead of getting a big gain. Even with that, we won the match, getting 13 VPs, but it could have 18.

Our second match was against Trinidad and Tobago.  They  played better than their position would suggest, but we got a decent win, nearly 15 VPs.

Finally, we played India. This was a bit of a seesaw affair. Whenever we pulled ahead, they pegged us back.  We recorded another win, with 13 VPs.

The net result was that we moved up three places over the day, back into the top half of the field.

We have five matches left, and they are generally against teams that are in the same part of the rankings as ourselves.  First up is France, directly below us.  We need a good day tomorrow to stay on the hunt on Sunday, and a few other results going our way would be useful too.  Even if the captain need to escape to the park at some stage!

We have kept ourselves in this and will continue the fight. 

Bulletin News

Big Panda makes an appearance in the Friday bulletin (with Liz) and a report of the Scotland v Canada match.

Thursday 19 September

This was a day to forget for us. Indeed, I hope we put it as far behind as possible when we return to the table tomorrow. 

Our first match was against China.  It was a high scoring match, but most of the points were against us, and could have been avoided. We got 3.5 VPs out of 20.  Next we played Norway. Our play was better here but we seemed to have no luck.  It was disappointing to lose - I  think we were worth more than the 7 VPs that we got. Our third match was against Japan.  After a slow start, we were in the lead going into the last four boards. Unfortunately, we couldn't hold on and slipped to another small defeat.

The good news is that there are still eight rounds to go, we are still above average,  and we have played eight of the nine top teams.  If we play well then we will qualify.

Wednesday 18 September

We started with the strong Swedish team.  They gave us few chances.  We missed a penalty double, and they bid and made a game against us that was very hard to beat when played by South.  Had our pair bid it they would have played it from the North side and very likely gone off.  The result was a medium sized defeat, with us getting 5.4 VPs out of 20.

In the second match of the day we played Hong Kong.  The Round Robin is effectively a 368 board event, and in that number of hand it is inevitable that there are times when the wheels will come off.  That happened to one of our pairs, causing us to drop quite a lot of points, and the other pair were not having a great match.  The important thing is that both pairs kept their focus and fought back.  The lost points were recouped, and a slam swing at the end allowed us to record a small win, by 5 IMPs.

Match three of the day was on BBO, against Canada.  This proved to be a fairly close affair with few swings of note. We took an early lead and held on to most of it to win by 5 IMPs once more.  The net result is that we have slipped a few places, down to 11= (with Canada).  We scored 28.4 VPs our of a possible 60 today.  If that is our worst day then we will probably be okay.  The top 15 are now all at least 12 VPs above average!  This one is going all the way.

With that last match, we passed the halfway point of the Round Robin.  Tomorrow is going to be one of our toughest.  We will face the teams currently placed first (China), third (Norway) and fourth (Japan).  We hope to take the chance to close up on them.  The first two of these will be on BBO (at 3:00 and 5:30).

On a different note, I had one of my greatest bridge accolades.  The system in place is that when a player has a complaint about something that happens at the table then the Director consults with a number of experts to see what their opinion is before coming to judgement.  In a ruling on an incident between two of the top teams in the Bermuda Bowl (the Open Teams Championship) I was one of the people that the Director consulted!

Tuesday 17 September

Were you one of the few watching Scotland - England at 3:00 AM?  If so, you saw a close match with two big swings each way, but Scotland won the small swings and came out 6 IMPs ahead.  England had been sitting second so this was a good win for us.  In the second match we played South Africa.  This was easy viewing for the captain, with the traffic running very heavily our way. A slam swing on the penultimate board carried us to a win by 60 IMPs, and a maximum 20 VPs.

We went into the last match of the day in fourth place.  We faced the Netherlands, who had had a dreadful first day but since then had won five consecutive matches to climb from 21st to 7th.  This proved to be a set of boards with a lot of potential slams and grand slams early on.  Three of them provided swings in our match. We each bid and made one missed by the opposition, then we bid one that went down on bad breaks, missed at the other table. Sadly, the closing straight went poorly for us until we staged a small recovery right at the end - another slam bid and made by us that the Dutch missed.  We scored just under 6 VPs - not great, but it is important not to get wiped out. That meant that we finished in 7th place on 108 VPs - averaging 12 a match, and above both USA teams.

The field is becoming quite skewed: fifteen of the 24 teams are above average, one is just below, and the bottom eight are starting to lose touch.  We are not at the halfway point yet, but we will start to see the number of realistic top-eight finishers be whittled down.  Mind you, it would not surprise me if at least a dozen teams had a chance come the last match on Sunday.

Tomorrow we start against European Champions Sweden, followed by Hong Kong, and then finish with Canada, who have spent almost the whole event in the top eight. That match will he on BBO at 9:30 AM.  Now I'm going to do my paperwork for tomorrow: get out the system cards for Wednesday's opponents and the summaries that I have put together in advance, write the players' names on the cards of their first opponents, and their table number, file away todays' cards in readiness should we play any of the same teams in the knock-out stages, and write an email to the team with all tomorrow's details.

Then to bed!

Bulletin News

The Scotland v Australia match is covered in Bulletin 3.

Monday 16 September

We started on BBO against Poland, one of the best teams in Europe.  We played a very tight match against them. We had a nice start. On the first two hands we judged correctly at both tables to let them play, and we beat all four of these contracts. These two 4 IMP swings proved to be the biggest of the match as we finished winners by 11 IMPs to 9.

Our second match was against Chinese Taipei. They had made a good start to the event and were sitting above us.  We gave them very few chances and capitalised on their mistakes.  Again, we held them to less than an IMP a board, beating them 39 - 14.

Our final match of the day was against Pakistan. This one had more of the character of yesterday's matches in that to start with all the swings went against us.  With a 6-1 spade fit and all the suits stooped do you play 3NT or 4S? We chose wrong (3NT), they chose right.  21 points between you and a 10 card diamond. Are you thinking about 5D? They bid it, we didn't - wrong again. We were 24 IMPs down with six board to go. Finally, the momentum turned our way. We pulled back 23, so lost by 3 IMPs.

Still, it was a good day. We have scored 71 VPs form six matches, so just about the 12 average I think will be good enough.  And we have climbed a place to 7th, though the field is very bunched.

Tuesday will be a difficult day for us.  As well as starting with high-flying England we will finish with the Netherlands.  In between, we have the South Africans. Though they are low in the table they have played five good teams already - undoubtedly the toughest start of anyone in the competition.

Keep Bridge Alive in the Wuhan Bulletin

#keepbridgealive in bulletin 2

Sunday 15 September

We started with Tunisia - not one of the favourites, but for the first ten boards they were comfortably up against us, leading by 20 IMPs. However, our players stuck to their usual style and were rewarded with a series of swings in the final boards. We edged a win by 6 IMPs.

Next we faced Russia. All of the European teams are good and for the first half they overwhelmed us, as we fell behind by 33 IMPs. Again, we fought back. This time we had left it too late, finishing the match 6 IMPs behind. That meant that after two matches we were exactly average. 

Our third match was against Australia, who were on almost the same score as us. This match was pretty close for the first hour, then we took control. We won by 24 IMPs to finish the day 8th/24, with an average of just under 12 Victory Points (VPs).

It is really too early to be looking at the table seriously, but there is no doubt that some of our rivals got off to poor starts today. 8th will be the magic number at the end of the round Robin, next Sunday, as that many teams qualify for the knockout stage. My modeling suggests that an average of 12 VPs is likely to be about the cutoff score. So all-in-all, a solid start.

Tomorrow we start with one of the hottest teams in recent years - Poland. This match will be on BBO at 4 AM. After that we will play Chinese Taipei and Pakistan. 

Saturday 14 September

Today was about final preparations, familiarisation, administration and then the Opening Ceremony.  At 18:30 we all gathered for the Opening Ceremony - 96 teams in four events all still hoping for what they judge to be glory! So now we are as ready as we are going to be. Systems have been read and reread. The team knows when and where they are to be tomorrow. I'm looking forward to getting started.

 

Friday 13 September

The venue was much busier today, ahead of registration and the opening ceremony tomorrow.  Fiona and I went for a look around.  It is psychologically helpful to have stood in the playing area and the BBO room, sat at a table, opened and shut the screen, even pushed the bidding tray backwards and forwards a few times.  It's good to know where the nearest toilets are, where the second nearest set are in case the first is too busy, where the snacks are and the vugraph room etc.

We have over 350 boards ahead of us (and hopefully more) but experience has shown us that it helps to hit the ground running.  We have also seen that teams that turn up just in time usually start slowly.  That's why we are here a couple of days early.

Thursday 12 September 2019

The Wuhan International Conference and Exhibition Centre is massive.  Big though the bridge event will be, it will only take up a corner of the building. The main event just now seems to be the Contemporary Arts and Crafts Exhibition.

Most importantly, some tasty looking bakeries have been identified on the route. 

Updates from Alex Adamson in Wuhan.