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Corn Cairdis 2012 - Alaric Cundy's Personal Reflections

The Corn Cairdis

In Irish Gaelic the word corn means trophy or goblet and cairdis means friendship and so An Corn Cairdis translates as "The Friendship Trophy". Its origins lie within the history surrounding the Camrose Trophy - the annual 'Home International' competition that is contested each year by national teams from all the 'Home Unions', i.e., England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland - plus Ireland. During the 1950s, during a period of heightened tension between England and Ireland over the question of Northern Ireland, and following an insensitive act by one of the English officials, the Irish team dropped out from the Camrose, and also from the Ladies' equivalent event, the Lady Milne Trophy.

Some years later, in an attempt to foster a culture of "let's be friends again" the Corn Cairdis was born. Originally six teams of four from Ireland competed against six equivalent teams from England; the two line-ups comprised an Open Team, a Ladies Team, a Junior Team, an Officials Team, a County Team, and a Club Team. Later, when the Irish returned to competing in the main international events, the format of the Corn Cairdis was changed to that which exists today. The event is now contested annually by just three teams of four - English Bridge Union (EBU) Officials, an English County Team, and a Club Team from within that County, competing against three equivalent teams from the Contract Bridge Association of Ireland (CBAI). In 2011, the event was hosted by Warwickshire CBA at the West Midlands Bridge Club (WMBC) in Solihull. The WMBC just happens to be the primary club of my brother, Tony, who was selected to play in the club team in 2011.
The Corn Cairdis Trophy
The Corn Cairdis Trophy

The 2012 Event - Organisation

The event runs on a two-year cycle, so this year it was the turn of the Irish to host it, over the weekend of May 5th / 6th, at the Mount Errigal Hotel, in Letterkenny, Donegal. The team that had represented the WMBC in 2011 was not fully available this year, and thus it was that I found myself receiving a suggestion that I simply couldn't turn down, namely to partner my brother Tony this year, together with team-mates Adrian and Prue Knight from the WMBC. The format of the event is that each of the teams of four plays four ten-board matches against its 'opposite number' team (i.e., Club v Club, etc), and two ten-board matches against each of the other two teams, i.e., a total of 8 matches / 80 boards. Opponents are swapped after every ten boards, so everyone taking part plays at least ten boards against every member of the opposing team. Last year, in fact, the format was slightly different, with each team playing four 20-board matches, with opponent swaps half way through each of those matches.

As Tony reported to the WMBC website "'This was a great event again this year." The Irish hospitality was second to none, and the playing area and the hotel accomodation were superb. The match was played, as intended, in a spirit of friendship and fun - though everyone was trying to win! The organisation was perfect, including the computerised scoring; for good measure, the excellent Director had very few 'call-outs', and the whole event ran very smoothly. The Saturday Night Dinner at the hotel was great too.
The Corn Cairdis EBU Club Team
The Corn Cairdis Trophy EBU Club Team: left to right - Alaric and Tony Cundy, Prue and Adrian Knight

A bit of Personal History

My brother, Tony, taught me how to play Bridge when I was just nine years old - so that must have been about 20 years ago, or perhaps a little more than that... There was an active 'Bridge School' within his Sixth Form - sadly, frowned upon by the powers-that-be, but never-the-less it survived. Most weekends, three of Tony's friends from school would visit our home to play Bridge. Already by then an aficionado of card games such as Whist, I used to sit and watch. Sometimes, only two of the friends came, and they needed a fourth player... As 'Spock' might have said to Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise "It was Bridge, Captain - but not as we know it!" Tony went off to University and then his career took him to settle in the West Midlands, whereas after University, my career brought me back to Essex. Prior to the Corn Cairdis, the last time we actually played together was in 1972 - just forty years ago - when as part of a weekend visit, Tony and I played in a local West Midlands Congress in the Men's Pairs, and came away as winners, with a bottle of Scotch each.

The 2012 Event - under way at last!

We spent the last few weeks prior to the Corn Cairdis exchanging e-mails and phone calls about a system, and we settled on a scheme that had elements of both our normal practices, based around 4-card majors, a 12-14 No Trump, and a 2-way Multi with Lucas weak twos. Hey, ho, it was going to be an adventure... Not having played together for forty years, and with no practice runs feasible, we both hoped for a couple of gentle boards to start - maybe 1NT - 3NT, or 1NT passed out - just to settle any nerves. It wasn't quite like that...

On the very first hand, our opponents bid to 6. I was on lead, and fortunately I stumbled into an opening lead that proved to be challenging for Declarer. Picture yourself as Declarer holding: T972, KQT7, A982,7 opposite a Dummy that held AK3, A932,Q, KQJT4, and that this is the first of 80 boards in a major event. The opening lead is the 4. Clearly if the trumps break 3-2, then this contract will be a 'doddle' - 4 clubs, 4 trumps, two spades, the Ace of diamonds, and a diamond ruff - but then if it were a 'doddle' I probably wouldn't have highlighted it...

I'll return to this hand after we have looked at our second board, on which the dealer was North, and North / South were vulnerable, and I held the East cards..

The Bidding

Well, OK, I confess that I should have had better values for my 3 bid. The thing that worried me was that South might have held a scattered 11 or 12 HCPs and decided to pass partner's 3, and my partner - remember this was second board in and he was an unknown quantity - might have passed the hand out. Not wanting to risk that outcome, I stuck my head above the parapet. I suppose, if anything, Tony could be accused of being a bit conservative by simply bidding 6, but there is an awful lot to be said for taking the direct route in situations such as this one. Now put yourself in the shoes of South, facing the need to find an opening lead. It very much sounded as though a diamond lead was expected, and maybe an unexpected choice would pay dividends. South led the K... As Dummy went down, I quietly sighed in relief as at least they had not cashed the two top diamonds straight off. However, with clues both from the bidding and the opening lead that there were wild breaks around, this contract still looked precarious. A 3-0 trump break would have been awkward, as indeed would a bad club break. I took the opening lead in Dummy and played the Ace of Clubs and a second club, which I ruffed, taking great care to preserve my potentially critical 3. When I laid down the K and the queen appeared, things were looking more secure. I now led a second trump to Dummy's Ace, still taking great care to preserve my 3, in case it was needed as an extra entry to Dummy via the 5. In fact, I felt a sense of disappointment when it transpired that the clubs broke evenly and my careful treatment of the 3 was unnecessary. Thirteen tricks duly rolled in. At the other table, our opponents played in a safe game contract, yielding a healthy swing to us.

So, back to the first board. Have you decided how you are going to play this hand, in particular, how you will tackle the trump suit? Clearly, you could pick up a 4-1 trump break either way - but which way? Bearing in mind that you also need a diamond ruff, that question in fact answers itself: you have no choice but to shorten Dummy's trumps via the ruff, and therefore, you can only actually pick up Jxxx if it is in the WEST hand. The actual deal was as follows:


I believe that the winning line is as follows, though it is a bit 'Double Dummy'. Win the spade lead in Dummy, and immediately run the King of clubs. If East ducks continue running clubs, throwing spades from hand, but in practice East is likely to rise with the Ace, and to return a second spade, won again in Dummy. Now Declarer plays the diamond to the Ace and a diamond ruff in Dummy, followed by a trump to the King, followed by another diamond ruff. Now Declarer cashes Dummy's A, and runs Dummy's clubs. West is powerless to stop 12 tricks.

In practice, our opponent failed to spot a winning line, and went one off. Meanwhile, at the other table, Prue and Adrian played in a safe 4+1. So that was +24 IMPs in the first 2 boards we two brothers had played together in 40 years! Thereafter we hardly looked back.

We did, however, have a few 'wobbles', only one of which could be said to be down to misunderstandings. I can't quite remember exactly how it happened, but we somehow contrived to play in 4, vulnerable, on a 5-1 fit, after a Lucas 2 style opening from our opponents. Fortunately nobody doubled, because they were frightend that we would find a more sensible berth, such as a making 4, so that disaster only cost us 11 IMPS. There was also a very 'thin' 6 contract that we missed on a hand that would have been ideally suited to the Inverted Minors methods that we both play with regular partners, but was beyond the limits of our make-shift and untried system. Unfortunately for us, our opponents from the CBAI County team were one of the few pairs in the room to reach it.

The Corn Cairdis Trophy
Tony (on the left) in action

We also both suffered from what we termed "the board 75 effect" towards the end of the event, when tiredness took its toll. I was exceptionally lucky with my 'Board 75' moment. I opened 1 third in hand on a queen and jack laden 12-count that included 5 spades. With my regular partner, I would have opened it 1NT, but that is not Tony's style. My LHO thought for quite a while before producing a double, and Tony thought for even longer, before bidding 2NT. By now I was miles away, and when the bidding came back to me and I came to, I saw the 'pass' and the '2NT' cards in front of partner, and concluded that he had around 11 HCPs and a balanced hand, so I passed. Of course, partner was in fact showing 'a sound raise to 3'. I don't make a habit of playing hands with a 5-5 fit in a major suit in 2NT, but that was where Tony found himself. With a bit of a following wind, he scrambled 6 tricks, for what still looked like a costly -200. However, clearly the Luck of the Irish had crossed over to WMBC: the much more sensible 3 played horribly and also went for -200, and a flat board. Tony was less fortunate with his 'Board 75' moment, and that one cost us 7 IMPs.

But I suppose that in 80 boards you are entitled to the odd wheel coming off, and in between those mishaps the IMPS continued to accumulate for the Club Team, and for most of the match we were vying with the Irish County team to be the best placed team of four overall. However, after 70 of the 80 Boards, collectively the EBU trailled by 1 VP, but on the last round of ten-board matches, all three EBU teams were facing their primary opponents, and all three of them won to yield an overall win for the EBU by 369 to 350 VP. To see the full results, please click here.

The EBU Team The Momento All the contestants, plus officials from the CBAI
The EBU Team. Front row, left to right: Philip Mason, Alaric Cundy, Peter Stocken, Joyce White, Tim Matthews
Back row, left to right: Prue Knight, Babs Matthews, Tony Cundy, Adrian Knight, Bill White, Barry Capal, Hazel Capal
The fine Crystal Glass Momento, as presented to each competitor by the Northern Region of the CBAI All the contestants, with officials from the CBAI and from the Northern Region

Heading home

Both pairs in the Club Team had chosen to travel via Belfast, where we stayed overnight on the Friday and Sunday. We had a hired car to travel to / from Letterkenny. After the match late on Sunday afternoon, the four of us decided that we had time to take the scenic route back to Belfast, via the North Coast of Ireland, and a short ferry hop across to Northern Ireland, and then round the 'Causeway Route' along the North Coast of Northern Ireland.

The sign at the ferry intrigued us: the ferry runs daily every hour, on the hour, from 7 a.m. through to 7.15 p.m. Oh well! The key thing was that on that particular day, the 6 p.m. ferry sailed at 6 p.m. On Sunday evening, the sun was shining and the wind had dropped, so potentially it was a beautiful evening. However, we were kept on our toes by the rather low temperature that accompanied those delights. We found time, amongst several diversions, to meander over the Giant's Causeway, and, later, remembering that we hadn't actually stopped to eat, to sit down on the sea wall at a delightful coastal town, munching fish, or chicken, and chips, whilst watching the setting sun over the sea and looking out to Scotland. That was all a million miles away from the rather dodgy slam on the second of the 80 hands we had played earlier. Then it was eventually back to bed in Belfast, though not before another couple of Guinesses. The following morning, our planned tour of the Falls Road and Shankhill Road were thwarted by the Belfast Marathon, which happened to be running past our hotel, and had led to numerous street closures, but instead we managed to squeeze in a very quick look at the Titanic Quarter. Then a quick hop back to Birmingham, a look in on my son, and the drive home. It all added up to quite an extraordinary four days.

Onwards and Upwards...

It has already been agreed that Yorkshire CBA will host the event in 2013, and hence the reciprical visit to Ireland in 2014 is already ear-marked. Conversations have started concerning the hosting of the 2015 event.

Having established links with the CBAI, we have programmed to run a heat of the CBAI Simultaneous Pairs at Mountnessing in February 2013, with the likelihood that it will then become an annual fixture.

Acknowledgements and Thanks

My grateful thanks are due to many, including:
  • To the Contract Bridge Association of Ireland and its Northern Region for hosting the event, and also for providing some of the photos used in this article
  • To the Mount Errigal Hotel, in Letterkenny, Donegal for providing such splendid facilities and services
  • To Peter Stocken and colleagues from the English Bridge Union for making it possible, and also to Peter specifically for his skills at digital editing
  • To the management committee of West Midlands Bridge Club for authorising me to represent them
  • To Prue and Adrian Knight for coping with potentially eccentric team-mates, and for being such good company, to Adrian for acting as chauffeur and travel guide, and to Prue for others of the photos used
  • To Tony, firstly for the original idea for the partnership, and then for coping with me so well over the 80 boards
  • To our spouses, Janet and Dorothy, for their patience and support

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