We played the first weekend of the National League this weekend. With the Second Division splitting to form Second and Third Divisions after the first weekend, our first goal was to avoid qualifying for the third division. With a couple of matches to go, it was looking close, and then we lost heavily to the Burn team in our penultimate match, and didn't think we were in with much of a chance. Luckily, a few of the other teams who were on the verge of qualifying also lost, and a big win in our last match was enough to see us sneak through in 7th place (8 teams in the 2nd division). You can find the full table here.
We do actually move up a bit when you remove the games against the lower six teams, with a somewhat more creditable 6th place, but we're still a good way behind the three teams at the top. We did manage to beat both Wickens and Adamson in the first round, but it will have to be a pretty spectacular set of scores next weekend if we're going to overcome that sort of difference. Ian Burn's team is the biggest winner from discarding the matches against the bottom six, gaining a full 40 VPs when compared to Adamson, and actually starting the second weekend at the top of the division, despite only finishing 4th overall.
The reason we didn't do better is mostly because we didn't play well enough. There were, as there always are, several chances that we could have taken which would have seen us win the matches we lost. We managed an impressive 20 IMP swing out on one board (both 6CX and 4HX+2 making against us...). Our team mates had a similar sort of weekend, some ups and some downs. If you believe the Butler, we were pretty evenly matched - they were .19 IMPs a board better than us, just sneaking positive, whereas we were just negative.
Adam and I had a couple of system mix-ups, but most of our errors were just straight up errors, and could just as easily have been made if we had been playing Culbertson, instead of the strong diamond we (for some reason) have decided to adopt.
Here's one where I think we were a bit unlucky:
Seeing both hands, you might not be overly excited to play in 6 clubs, but on the auction I (with the West cards) knew that Adam had exactly a 4-3-1-5 shape and 11-15 points... given that there were only 13 points missing outside of diamonds, I felt that 6 clubs was at worst going to be an even money chance, and just bid it. Adam played it quite nicely, winning the opening lead, ruffing two diamonds and playing off three rounds of hearts, hoping North would have to win and would be endplayed in spades. Unfortunately North had another club to return, and the slam was one off. South did have the spade 10, so the slam can make double dummy on the intrafinesse in spades, but that wasn't really a very realistic play, unless you're wiling to run all the clubs and back yourself to read the spade suit when South has to find two discards.
We'll get a bit more practice in before the next weekend, and hopefully I'll be a bit sharper, as we'll be more definitely in the middle of bridge season. First goal, once again, will be to avoid qualifying for the third division next season...