I’ve just returned from two weeks playing in the European Open Championships in Montecatini in Italy, and I’m so whacked I can hardly get out of bed. Playing pressurised bridge for nearly ten hours a day is exhausting, but try doing it under the relentless heat of the Tuscan sun, in a huge tent with inadequate air conditioning (three players actually collapsed). We all grumbled like mad, but of course I loved every second. I only wish I’d done better: I reached the A-final in both the mixed and women’s pairs, but played poorly each time, which was hugely frustrating for me and my poor partners. Not as frustrating, however, as failing to win gold by a mere whisker — which is what happened to Germany’s star players, Sabine Auken and Roy Welland, in the mixed pairs. They looked untouchable right up to the last few boards, until the Polish pair Justyna Zmuda and Michal Klukowski began snapping at their heels. When the final deal came, they were separated by just 0.70 of a match point:
Roy (West) made what seems to me a very aggressive opening bid of 1♣. When North bid 4♥, Sabine naturally doubled (although afterwards I heard her blaming herself for not passing). When South doubled 4♠, she bid 4NT to get Roy to pick a minor, but when he bid 5♦, North brought out the red card. The ♠5 was led. Three down, 500. At the other table, Klukowski passed with the West hand, North bid 3♥, and when the bidding came back to Klukowski, he doubled. Justyna bid 4♣, and there she played, undoubled. Even with the helpful♠6 lead from South, she had to go three down. But the cost was a mere 150, enough to secure the gold medal. Ouch.