USA under 16 team brings home bronze medal from China

In late December 2017, the U.S. Bridge Federation held the Junior trials in each of four divisions for the opportunity to participate in the 17th World Youth Team Championships in Wujiang, China, Aug. 8–18. I was honored to be the captain for the under 16 team winners: Michael Hu, Harrison Luba, Rory Xiao, Jonathan Yue and Arthur Zhou, with Michael Xu being added to the squad.
The United States also sent two teams in the U26 category, one in the U21 category and one in the Rona Cup for Young Women under 26. Canada had one team in each of the U26, U21 and U16 divisions. All told, 76 teams from 33 countries attended.
Not being an experienced international traveler, I did not know what to expect, but my experience was wonderful. Some of the players and their parents spoke Chinese and were immensely helpful with logistics. One went so far as to organize a tour for a large group of U.S. and Canadian team members. Our hotel was first-rate: spacious rooms with lots of amenities, perhaps the most important being U.S.-compatible power outlets near the bed and sink. Meals were provided, if so desired, in a huge buffet setting with plenty of seating. The staff was universally friendly and worked hard to overcome any communication difficulties.
To all those who aided our group during the tournament, I say xie’xie (thank you).
The tournament kicked off on a Wednesday evening with the opening ceremonies. It was inspiring to see all the players from different countries take part. As captain, my role started a
bit sooner. I would be responsible for setting our team’s lineups and preparing our players for opposing methods they needed to be aware of. The WBF has the players submit convention cards (CCs) in advance to allow others to prepare for these methods. The WBF is admirably strict in requiring all players to have a copy of their CCs as well as imposing severe penalties for any electronic devices at the table, so checking that the players had their CCs and not their phones became another element of my role.
The U16 division had 18 teams, more than anticipated. Each team played four 12-board matches during the qualifying stage – a grueling schedule. The top eight teams would advance to the knockout stage.
The tournament started inauspiciously for us on Thursday. One of our players took ill and was unable to play. It made my lineup decisions easier, but put pressure on the other two pairs.
This deal helped us to an early win in our round-one match against France:
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