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Inaugral EBU Inter-National Teams Championship 2020

Opposed to being downhearted, the English Bridge Union decided to take advantage of lockdown to launch a new Teams event for players who are members of the English Bridge Union, but who have some kind of affiliation to another country.

One of my advanced students asked if I would play for the Southern Africa team and, last Saturday, we settled down to a long all-plays-all qualifier, the top four places making it through to the semi final.

The hands throughout were, allegedly random, but there were many slams, very tight games, horrible trump splits and opportuntiies for good defence.

The above hand helped my team - Julia Davies, Sekhar Pillai, Roger Pratt and PSM - scrape into fourth place, just qualifying for the semi-finals.

To say that Roger bid every inch of his hand would not be an understatement, but he fully justified his optimism by playing the hand perfectly and scoring 10 tricks.

In the semi-finals, the Southern African team faced Malyasia, and it was a battle of the slam bidders.

Starting with 2D and rebidding 2NT, in our system shows a 4-4-4-1 hand with 19pts or more. When West indicated hearts (3H - as shown above), East's 3S bid showed a non-minimum hand with singleton spade. This is justified because all of East values are aces and kings and a connected queen - a very pure hand.

Once West cue-bid 4D, showing Ad, East took over, using RKCB and, upon hearing that partner held two aces, plus the trump queen, East bid the grand slam.

At the other table, E/W managed only to reach 6H, and this swing, together with good work by our team-mates, led our team to win the semi-final match.

At the end of what had already been a long weekend, at 6pm on Sunday evening, just two hours after the close semi-final, we settled down to the 24 board final, versus a team of fine Scottish players. By this time, the bridge was not all it might have been. On one hand, our team failed to bid a relatively simple slam, on another the opponents went off against us when, at the other table, our team-mates successfully negotiated it.

Usually at teams, it is the thin games which make all the difference: whether you bid and make them, or whether you find the best defence. For us, it was all about slams.

Ultimately, it came down to the most vertiginous of endings. Roger and I bid two small slams with nine trumps missing the queen. With an ace out against us, we needed to guess what to do in trumps. Luckily we did. At the other table, our opponents misguessed on one slam and, probably correctly, settled for 5S on the other.

Somehow, amazingly, we had won.

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