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Bowling Along 4 - Topsy Turvey Tuesday
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We started day 3 playing against the raging favorite in Bridge Winners' poll - USA1. If you're looking to measure yourself and your prospects, there's no better or bigger test.

The match was very quiet after 12 boards, 13-7 our way with the "big" swing of 6 IMPs going to us on board 2 on an amusing auction:

West
976
A
K732
KQ872
North
KJ
87543
AQ64
J10
East
A1042
J1096
98
965
South
Q853
KQ2
J105
A43
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
1
X
XX
2NT
P
P
P
D
2NT North
NS: 0 EW: 0

The defence for Beauchamp-Thomson was a roadmap to one off - club to the Queen, spade to the Ace, another club. In the other room our NS had the auction to themselves via 1 (Precision) - 1 - 1NT. On a low club lead, that racked up 8 tricks pretty quickly.

As captain, the thing I really liked about the first 12 boards was that we were ahead after a long run of little hands. Normally teams like USA1 just grind out IMP after IMP after IMP on the little hands. At the score up, our guys were rightly pleased that they'd "run with".

USA1 are a super-professional outfit (e.g., they didn't really know Andrew Peake so they researched his bidding style - and weren't at all surprised at how aggressive he can be). 

On the last 4 boards, we mixed some skill and some fortune to bring in 2 game swings. Board 13 hit system features for us in both directions:

West
KQ8
A10952
7542
K
North
53
Q4
K6
AQJ7542
East
AJ109
KJ876
QJ3
8
South
7642
3
A1098
10963
W
N
E
S
1
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

Beauchamp-Thomson sitting EW got to overcall 2 (sound hand with at least 54 in the majors), which landed 4 with West. When North led 5, it was all over. In other matches, mighty Tor Helness and Henky Lasut tried A against 4-W and got their diamond ruff.

In the other room, Peter Gill got to open 2 Precision. After X, Andrew Peake bounced to 5 straight away and EW really had nowhere to go except X and collect 200.

We wound up winning 33-10 (15.56 VPs). 16 boards is a short test in this huge event but it was definitely good to pass this one!

Match 8. What can I say. Oof. Bulgaria got pumped in the morning match. Beauchy said "beware the wounded animal" which was prophetic.

We were loose where we had been tight against USA1 and got down 56-0 over the first 11 boards.

One big difference between the top teams like USA1 and the contenders like us (and Bulgaria) is that the very best teams almost always find a way to salvage something from the wreckage. Hamman called it winning ugly. 

We did fight back with a few swings late, but we went down 13-64 (0.75 VPs). Oof.

As an aside, the "new" WBF VP scale encourages endgaming. If you know you're down heavily, IMPs in are worth a lot more than extra IMPs out because the VP scale shrinks the value of those extra IMPs out. The old scale had the very good feature that you could lose more heavily than you could win. That meant victors didn't get a huge bonus from desperate opponents, and desperate players had to pay an increased penalty for being desperate. Discussion for another day, but the VP scale needs a tweak.

We played Egypt in the last match of the day. The match featured something you very rarely see - a flat board across the field in a grand slam.

The very next board was secretly interesting.

West
AKQ10
AQ7
Q976
Q9
East
84
J10864
KJ
K1076

After an uncontested strong auction, you land in 4 by West. North leads 5 around to the 9 and your 10. What now?

Andrew Peake foresaw potential entry problems and took a direct line - cash A then play a heart to the J (to preserve the Q entry to his spade tricks). If hearts are 3-2, he's cold as long as there's no spade ruff. When hearts were 4-1 (K952 in South), he needed that hand to have both minor bullets to avoid North being able to promote a 2nd trump trick for South.  That's about 75% all up, and good enough this time. 

There are more complex lines available but they can fail embarrassingly too.

We ran out the winners 35-12 (15.56 VPs again).

Tattoo status: Starting the day in 8th by 0.02 VPs, we ended the day ... tripling our margin over 9th to 0.06 VPs. To paraphrase Tom Lehrer, days like this feel like you're sliding down the razor blade.

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