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Bowling Along 8 - Slip Sliding Away
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The last qualifying day started well for us when Sabine Auken & Roy Welland had a misunderstanding on board 1 and landed in a 7 that was playable but doomed on the layout. After that they played really well. I liked their auction to their next, more successful, grand slam:

West
Q87
10954
QJ
A943
North
104
AKQJ6
642
K72
East
AKJ9653
AK987
8
South
2
8732
1053
QJ1065
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
3
P
5
P
5NT
P
7
P
P
P
D
5
7 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

Sabine's 5 was optional exclusion keycard blackwood, which is a mouthful but very effective. Roy's 5NT showed a keycard (outside of of course) and a good hand in the context. Sabine accepted the good news and pumped out 7. In the other room, our boys lacked the machinery to be confident of the position and settled for 6.

We copped a heavy loss 16-54 (2.15 VPs) and that was ... not the end of our tournament. We were on 189.62 and "only" 21.24 behind 8th. That was Egypt with a tough draw, so we still figured 225 would qualify. That meant we needed a pair of 18's to get in, maybe 17's for a shot. Tough but better than being dead.

We moved on to Indonesia for match 20. We know these guys well from the Asia-Pacific championships and lots of other tournaments around Asia (and occasionally Australia). They haven't been having a great Bowl, but they're very experienced and have been very successful.

The first board of the match sparked a lot of discussion, and a game swing out:

West
A986
K865
J95
J2
North
J54
A974
10642
84
East
KQ32
J2
3
AK10965
South
107
Q103
AKQ87
Q73
D
17

Both tables played 4E. Our declarer got punched by two top 's. Now what? He went for the simple line — draw trumps and hook the . When that lost, the best he could do was guess correctly for one off. The successful line is to continue with 3 top 's. In the other room, we put declarer to the guess at trick 2. When he passed the test, he was home.

What is the right line (rather than the merely successful)? What is the right defence? The margins on this sort of hand are very small and the analysis can be very complex. For example, you have to ask yourself why the Indonesian defender chose to continue 's (when he knew declarer had at least 5 's)? Did he think 's were 4-1? Did he know that 's wouldn't run?

The conclusions you draw weigh heavily on your cardplay choices

We lost this match 20-45 (4.08 VPs) and that was ... not the end of tournament! Although it was going to take a miracle for it not to be. At just over 19 VPs short of 8th, we were going to need a monster win in the last and a few favourable results. Still, we're in Lyon to play bridge. Who wants to die wondering?

Getting a 20 was going to be a tough ask against USA2. Rather than go wild, I told our guys to go in and just play the toughest hardest bridge they could. To grasp the opportunity to take on one of the world's best teams in a (technically) counting match and test themselves. In my experience, chasing a big win almost always leads to a large and silly loss from which you gain nothing and learn nothing. Big chases almost always come off by hanging tough, getting a swing or two early, and applying consistent pressure throughout.

There were some very interesting hands in this match, but curiously the thing I liked most was that the biggest swing was 6 IMPs. We lost 9-14 (8.52 VPs) when some matches were turning over 4 times as much

Tattoo Status: Well, my wife and my skin are both very happy but otherwise we had a very disappointing day where we just couldn't do anything like what needed to be done. By contrast, our mates from New Zealand averaged over 17 for the day and snagged the last qualifying spot on 224.64 over a brave Egypt (even though Egypt came into the last day in 8th, many pundits thought they would get blown away by their last day combo of Sweden - USA1 - Bulgaria). 

In Australia, we play a lot of tournaments with (Swiss) qualifying to KO finals. We're all used to handling that pressure and coming through — we wouldn't have made it here if we weren't all very good at it. The standard is obviously higher at the Bowl, but even so we all feel like we should have made a better fist of today. Something to take home and work on for next time.

So that's it from me from Lyon. I hope you've enjoyed this series. Until next time!

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