Back to Veldhoven for the most important event: the World Youth Teams Championships.
I was playing in the U26W category. We arrived as Vice-European Champions, a title won last summer with a slightly different team. Our most experienced pair from last year’s competition has been replaced by two players bringing a breath of fresh air: Eulalie Bonin and Ninon Bens, aged 16, who shone at their first championships in that category.
The rest of the team consisted of the pair Wilhelmine Schlumberger–Constance Belloy, and Clara Bouton, my partner for 2 years.
Objective Top 3, objective achieved!
The objective of the team was to step onto the podium although none of us was familiar with the knockout stage yet. My own objective was also to grab a medal and play well despite the week before which turned out to be quite demanding (Mixed followed by Open pairs at the European Championships).
The format of the event was a round robin (22 x 12-board matches, 2 against each participating team) followed by the knockouts taking the shape of quarterfinals.
We finished 2nd after being defeated by 11 IMPs by Poland, a very good team.
Sweat and relief
Here is a slightly stressful deal played against the American women’s team in the round robin.
Me: 1 Spade
Clara: Game-forcing 2 Hearts
I only bid 2S as a rebid because my suit is not nice enough to rebid it at the 3-level from the second round. I could also have shown my two-suiter via 3C, suggesting a 5-4 and 16+ points (reverse bid), but I feared that I would have difficulties to show my sixth spade later without the dustbin bid of 3S. My coach Wilfried Libbrecht told me that I should have started with 3C anyway.
Over 2S, 3S by Clara: it sets spades as trumps and shows ambitions for slam.
I show my first control with 4C (3NT would show a hand not as good as mine, which is really nice given the information I have shared with my partner so far).
5C by Clara. I interpret it as an Exclusion Blackwood with Clubs. It is a Key Card Blackwood (trump Ace and King) from which the Ace of Clubs is excluded. The Exclusion Blackwood is used when you have a void in the suit. You usually play 30-41 responses over 5C. I have 2 key cards (Ace and King of Spades) to show. Out of habit, I bid 5H, forgetting that I must switch to another suit! Indeed, 5D would show 0 key cards, 5H 1 and 5S both.
But how to make up for it? I thought that having a nice hand, I could just bid one level higher over my partner’s response, i.e. 6S over 5S. But 6S comes! I decide to bid 7 anyway, trying to correct my previous bad response.
Dummy comes down after a heart lead, which makes me choose my line of play within the next second: the chances that West underled his King of Hearts are very low, so I decide to win with the Ace of Hearts directly, play the Queen of Hearts covered by the King in East, King of Clubs ruffed in dummy and Jack of Hearts to discard the losing Diamond in my hand. A double ruff follows for a contract just made.
On a lead other than a heart, a club for instance, I would have had much more trouble to choose between the diamond finesse, the heart ruffing finesse and the heart finesse!
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