Ray Lee

The biggest step

Shanghai, Monday .

There’s a huge difference between qualifying for the playoffs here and making the semifinals.  Just winning that one match puts you in the final four, and 3-1 on to come home with a medal.  It also means four more days of bridge and no vacation, but that’s another story!

For those who don’t know how these competitions work, let me explain what happens in the Bermuda Bowl, Venice Cup and Seniors Bowl after the Round robin phase.  Each field is now down to 8 teams.  The first place team gets to pick its semifinal opponents from the teams that finished 5th-8th.  Then the second place team gets to pick from the three remaining, and so on.  Several people told me that the worst place to finish is fourth, because then you get to play the team no-one else wants to face.

In the VC, USA 1 picked first and chose Egypt, to no-one’s surprise.  Then Germany chose us — which to me was a surprise.  We were clearly a team with momentum, while England had struggled throughout and didn’t look that good to me.  So then China went for England, leaving USA2 stuck with defending champions France (see what I mean about finishing fourth?).

The USA 1 team also got to pick their semifinal bracket, and chose China.  However, if both USA teams win, they have to play one another.  So if we win, we’ll play France if they win, or else the China/England winner (I’m assuming USA 1 takes care of Egypt, which right now looks likely).  I would like our chances in the latter scenario.

Meanwhile we have to play Germany, and we got off to a poor start.  Linda was getting sicker, and retired to bed after she and Pamela had struggled in the first stanza.  We dropped about 20 IMPs in that set.  So Sylvia and Isabelle came off the bench, and proceeded to fight a valiant holding action for the next 32 boards.  We lost each set by a few IMPs, but there was more to it than that.  This pair are very aggressive (playing 10-12 notrumps, for example) and my feeling was that Auken and von Arnim wouldn’t enjoy playing them that much.  I also followed the standard strategy of putting my best player (Francine) at the other table in Sabine’s seat, and it all seemed to pay off.  We ended the day down about 28 — with plenty of boards left.

The Germans had seating rights in the fourth set, and I was delighted this morning to see they had moved Sabine and Dani from their almost invariable North-South seats to avoid a third set against Sylvia and Isabelle. We don’t have seating rights now until the last stanza, but the junkyard dogs will be back in their faces again in that session for sure!  It’s still anybody’s match, and if we can a few back in the first two sets, anything can happen.

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