As hosts of this year’s Lady Milne Trophy — the women’s home international series — England get to field two teams. At the last minute, I decided to compete with a young and talented player, Qian Li — despite the fact that we’d never played together before. We managed to fit in just two practice games, so we were obviously delighted to end up coming fifth in the trials, winning a place on the second England team. Now we can put some proper time into our partnership before April’s championship!
Another new(ish) partnership — Nicola Smith and Sarah Bell — also took part, and came second. Just weeks earlier, they’d come second in the European women’s trials, securing their place on the England team. Nicola is, of course, a multiple women’s world champion; Sarah is an up-and-coming star. Together, they seem to have a wonderful dynamic. I was particularly struck by their defence on this deal from the European women’s trials.
Nicola (South) led the ♣5. Declarer won with the ♣J and played a low diamond to dummy’s ◆J. Sarah (North) won the ◆Q and swiftly found the expert switch: the ♥K. Declarer could still make the contract by ducking, but she won the ace and cashed ◆AK, hoping for a 3–3 split. Nicola threw a spade on the ◆K. Declarer now played a spade to the ♠K and then the ♠8. Sarah won and cashed the ◆9. Now Nicola found the discard to beat the contract: the A♠. Sarah exited in hearts. Declarer won and played another spade. Sarah won and played a heart to Nicola’s ♥10 for one off.