Day 5 - In the Zone
We are starting to get near the business end of the tournament. Five out of eight days have been played, and while there is still a lot of bridge left to play, many of the teams here in Seoul are left without much hope of medals. However, for the Zone 6 teams (everyone except Australia and New Zealand), there is significant interest in coming in the top 5 or 6 places.
Why? Because the APBF is the qualifying tournament for 'the big one': the Bermuda Bowl/Venice Cup/Seniors' Bowl. Zone 6 sends three teams to each World Championship (this time to Lyon), and teams have to qualify through the APBF.
Excluding Australia and New Zealand, the top placed team in each of the Open, Ladies and Seniors' qualifies directly to Lyon. The next four teams from Zone 6 qualify for playoffs held after the main Championship is over. The format is: 2nd plays 3rd, and the winner takes the second spot in Lyon. The loser of that match plays the winner of 4th and 5th for the last spot. So, each position up the ladder is incrementally more advantageous.
For many of the Asian teams, this will be the number one goal - to make it to the World Championships. Last time (2015) the third Open spot at the Bermuda Bowl was decided by 9 IMPs by China over Indonesia, with China making a comeback in the last set of the playoff match.
Zone 7 has two spots in the World Championships, and these always go to Australia and New Zealand unless New Caledonia or French Polynesia field a team and beat one of Aus/NZ in a playoff for the berth. This has never happened in the Open (but has in the Ladies and Seniors). Neither of the smaller federations have sent a team to Seoul this time around. This means Australia and New Zealand will play off for bragging rights only on the 6th of June in the Open, Ladies and Seniors' series.
Of course, even though Australia and New Zealand are not playing for the right to contest the World Championships, all teams are expected to play as hard as possible all the way through the event, with the stakes so high for the Asian teams. With NZ in the lead and Australia above halfway, they won't be giving anyone any gifts over these next few days.
The Open team had an excellent day yesterday. They beat China Hong Kong by 8 in the first match of the second round robin to score 12.44, then had their bye in the second round. They played two of the minnows in the afternoon, needing to score some points to get back in the thick of things. They did not fail in this mission, recording a sweet 20.00 against Kuwait and 20.00 against Korea 2 to put 64.44 VPs on the pile from the day.
The Open team climbed only one place on the day but are just 25 VPs off the podium with 11 matches to play.
What would you bid on this freaky hand from the first match of Day 5?
Imagine you decide to bid 5♠, and the auction continues:
Would you pass it out, on the grounds that they didn't bid slam until you pushed them there, and might go down? Or would you sacrifice in 6♠?
There are some good reasons to bid. You have a void in their suit, always nice for high level action, and a double fit in the majors. All of your cards are working, and there is a fair chance your ace of spades is not standing up on this auction.
Against that, who really knows what is going on. Maybe they are sacrificing against your contract! Or perhaps not, given the 5♣ bid.
It would be a good idea to "sacrifice" this time, as the full deal was:
Not only was 6♦ making, but so was 6♠! A double slam swing. As you can imagine, this deal caused some big swings over here in Seoul. In the Open, there were swings of 16, 17, 18 and even 19 IMPs on this hand, the biggest being when Chinese Taipei played Korea 2 (also when Indonesia played Thailand) and made slam in both rooms, one having been doubled.
In our Australian Open team's match, the swing was only 5 IMPs, the smallest in the room! How so? 7♦x in one room, down one, and 7♠x in the other room, also down one. Australia was on the right side of the swing.
Our Ladies had a decent day, starting with two nice wins (19.83 and 17.19) against two of the lower-placed teams, Singapore and Hong Kong. They were disappointed to lose against Thailand by 5 IMPs, but still scored 45.44 from the day's three matches. Chinese Taipei, who started the day in second position, did not have as good a day, and were overtaken by Australia. Keep it up girls! They play NZ in the first match of Day 6 on vugraph.
The standings at the end of Day 5 in the Ladies:
Ladies standings after 3 rounds of the second round robin. Eight rounds remain to be played.
Our two Seniors' teams started the day in sixth and ninth positions, and were sixth and eighth at the end of the day.
Australia 1 started very strong, taking 20.00 off Singapore and putting them to bed without supper. They continued with 16.03 against Chinese Taipei 1. After lunch, they were disappointed to lose 20-35 to Australia 2 (5.81), and had their worst result of the event so far in the last match, losing by 41 IMPs to bottom-placed Japan 2. Nevertheless, they are 18 VPs off the podium and have realistic chances of catching up.
Australia 2 scored just under average on the day. They scored 10.66 against Chinese Taipei 2 (who were in the middle of the field) and 6.52 against Korea 1 (near the bottom of the field, a disappointment). Beating their compatriots by 15 IMPs in the afternoon was a welcome recovery, and losing by 4 IMPs to top-five team India in the final match was no disaster. Australia 2 did not move much up or down on the day's results.
In the Juniors, Day 5 was the end of the second round robin, unlike the rest of the fields who have just finished their first round robin. They started the day in fourth, 17 VPs off the podium, and played the teams placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th over the day. First up were China, the big guns, and the boys led 16-0 for a the first few boards, but then lost a few swings back and ended up losing by 11 IMPs (6.77) - a fair result given the strength of China's team. An important match against Chinese Taipei was next, and the Juniors had a great win, 51-28, to score 15.85 and catch up almost 12 VPs on second!
They had a disappointing loss to Singapore scoring just 2.96, but I told them to compose themselves and knuckle down for a big match against Indonesia on vugraph (who had just overtaken us into fourth place). Matt Smith and Jamie Thompson in one room, and Nico Ranson and Chris Rhodes in the other, both played some great bridge to win 45-12 to overtake Indonesia back into fourth. Hopefully you were online to watch them win the match and score 17.49 VPs.
In the Girls, they had a light schedule, playing an important match against China Hong Kong before having a bye in the afternoon. Australia started the day in third with Hong Kong just 3 VPs behind in fourth, so this was a crucial match. The girls had several tough swings out, including a 16-IMP loss on the freak hand shown earlier, and wound up losing the 28-board showdown 62-103.
In the afternoon, the Girls had a bye, but most of them came back to the venue to watch the Juniors play on vugraph. There was a big Australian contingent to applaud Nico and Chris as they walked down the stairs having finished a triumphant segment. The atmosphere was really fantastic, and it is great to see the teams supporting each other through the event.
Celebrations in the foyer after the Juniors put up a big win over Indonesia on vugraph in the last match of the day.
The Girls have five more double-segment matches to play, and will have to win by bigger margins than China Hong Kong to reclaim their position in third place. In the morning, the Girls play unfancied Thailand and will hopefully be able to put up a big win.
Good luck to all the Australian teams as we start to get near the end of the 51st APBF Championships here in Seoul!
Posted by Liam Milne on Saturday, 3 June 2017 at 13:06