Mixing with the Cambridge crowd made me wonder if I am too old, after refusing Paula's kind offer to camp at Brighton, the next rung up was to stay at Catherine's parents' house (they've just moved out). This boasted the luxurious facilities of 30 minutes drive from Brighton, no beds, no fridge, and tepid running water. I soon sussed out that if you awoke at the crack of dawn (approx. 9.30), you could get the hottest water.
The weekend didn't start well, as I had written off the company car the day before, and volunteered to take Nadia/Victor, plus three tons of luggage. We arrived after a pleasant journey in plenty of time (as is my wont) for a lengthy system discussion with Julian. Unfortunately Paula made him ten minutes late, and he turned up in illegal shorts. I went over my standard system discussion with unfamiliar partners as we picked up the hands. (1) Don't try anything clever, (2) Don't double (if it's going off I like to double), (3) Support when you can, (4) Lead my suit, (5) After I've passed and then bid, don't raise, and I added another, (6) Don't give Paula a lift again. (She is in a different time zone to the rest of us!)
I like partnering Julian as he is good at following the system, plus he does all the scoring, getting us to the right table, etc, which leaves me to focus on the cards. The objective was to be in the top section at all times, and be the top pair of all those staying at the house. We achieved both these aims, being 20th out of over 600 pairs, Chris and Gareth being 50th, and Catherine and Sarah picking up the prize for the leading junior pair (for about 6000th position, maybe slightly higher!).
Chris was upset, so duly won the Sunday night pairs with 69% with Catherine. The midweek events boasted the Brighton Challenge - the leading two pairs getting a weekend for two, and the winner an additional prize of a china cat. Catherine early on had set her store for the cat, so it was irrelevant whether Chris or I won, as she still got the cat. The midweek events were good for the house. Nadia and Victor reached the semi-finals of the knockout teams, Chris and I were runners up in the Championship Pairs, and with the addition of Catherine and Jon Cooke, won the midweek teams. Chris and Catherine were 9th in the mixed pairs, whilst my partner and I cunningly played in some 2-1 fits. Thus with one event to go Chris was leading, a Polish International was second, and I was third. Going against some bad luck we managed second to secure the top two prizes.
The main event was the Swiss Teams. I was lined up with Catherine, and Chris with Jon Cooke. The tactics included Catherine wearing a low cut dress, and Catherine and I were to follow suit and wait for Chris and Jon to bring in the bacon. Drawing the Indonesians, the defending champions, in the third match didn't seem a good start, nor did letting through a vulnerable game on the first board. But two hearts doubled plus one, and three hearts doubled off two when a grand was on, led to a comfortable win.
Next we had to play Price, the eventual winners, and this didn't start well as I went off in a cold contract. However. picking up 1100 against a part score didn't look so bad, and we scraped a narrow win. With 117 after seven matches we looked good and safe. After a delay waiting for the prizes we lost the mext match 18-2, which put the pressure on. The next match against Bakhshi and McGann was exciting, with teammates gloomily saying they got everything right against them. We had also gone off in a grand, but +950, and a cheap sacrifice saw us pick up a 12-8 win. All we needed was a draw from the last match to make the A final, or 6 for the B final. Teammates missed a slam, but Catherine's weak two on x xxx Qxxxx Kxxx was enough to induce opponents to bid a grand, two off, for a 16-4 win.
In the final I played well below my previous performance, and Chris and Jon didn't seem on the same wavelength. Despite Catherine playing like a goddess throughout, we only managed 4th. To make up for this, Chris decided to win another prize with Catherine on Sunday evening, with their standard 69%.
The haul from the house included two free weekends, a china cat, and about 800 of EBU vouchers, so a good Brighton Experience; enough for Chris to suggest a repeat next year!