The end to the European Championships Qualifier — from an English perspective — was one of the most dramatic ever witnessed. England had been struggling and was out of the top-eight qualifying places — in ninth, eight VPs behind Hungary in eighth place. With only one ten-board match to go, against Germany, things looked bleak, and with nothing much happening on the first nine boards, England could do nothing but pray for a miracle. And a miracle they got! This was the very last board of the tournament (see diagram).
David Bakhshi and Tom Townsend sat N/S for England. Bakhshi took a practical shot at 6♥ at his second turn. There wasn’t much to the play (although three declarers managed to go down in 6♥). David ruffed the ◆A lead, cashed a top trump and the ♣Ace and used a trump entry to lead another Club towards hand. In the other room, Kieran Dyke for England opened 2♠, the German South overcalled 4♣ to show his two suits, Michael Byrne bid 4♠ and North made a misguided raise to 5♣. This was enough for South to take a shot at 7♥ and England gained 17 IMPs. Even this was not enough for England to qualify; they also needed something favourable to happen in Hungary’s match against Greece. The Hungarian N/S had to deal with a 2◆ Multi opening from East, and ended up collecting 500 from 4♠X. The Greek South, on the other hand, simply bid 6♥ over a 2♠ opening. This cost the Hungarians 14 IMPs and now, but only now, England had overtaken them by a minute margin and are heading to the Bermuda Bowl! Mike Bell and Ben Norton are the third pair on the England team.