SIXTEEN self-formed two-pair or three-pair teams will assemble in Sydney on December 8 to compete over six days for the right to represent Australia at the open and women's Asia-Pacific championships in Hong Kong next June and, three months later, the corresponding world championships in Bali.
If a two-pair team wins its trial, the Australian Bridge Federation selects its third pair from a shortlist compiled by the four successful players.
Thirteen of the 84 aspirants are Canberrans. Eight are in four (of 10) open teams: Roy Nixon partnering Bernie Waters and Stephen Fischer, partnering Melburnian David Morgan, comprise one of the latter; David Appleton partnering Peter Reynolds are half of another; Ian Robinson and Ian Thomson, each with an interstate partner, are in one of the four top-seeded teams, as is Griff Ware in another. Two of the three pairs in one (of six) women's teams are Sheila Bird partnering Karen Creet and Julia Hoffman partnering Melburnian Jenny Thompson; another three-pair team contains Margaret Bourke and Elizabeth Havas, each with an interstate partner.
Today's deal from the 2012 trials reappeared in Australian Bridge as a Bidding Forum problem. Shown only North's cards and asked what they would bid at the given vulnerability and IMP scoring opposite South's first-seat (ostensibly 15-17 HCP) 1NT opener, 17 of the 19 expert panellists preferred Pass to 2 (Stayman). Note that the Bidding Forum system says nothing about whether 1NT denies a five-card major or about how opener's rebid opposite 2 (which, it states, ''promises a major'') might distinguish between a five-card or four-card holding.
There is a link at www.australianbridge.com (where readers can also find out how to subscribe to this well-regarded quarterly magazine) to what panellists, the forum director and many readers have said for and against the alternative answers to this problem. What actually happened at the 14 tables is no less interesting.
In the open trial, seven Souths were allowed by their own systems (and chose) to open 1NT, compared with three who opened 1. Only one West, not unreasonably at the vulnerability, refrained from passing 1NT. His weak 3 overcall went two down undoubled for what could have been a 12-IMP gain but became a five-IMP loss when, at the other table in that match, his teammate went one down in the theoretically unbeatable 4 by South.
Whenever West passed over 1NT, North also passed and, at only one table, so did East. Best defence takes 1NT two down; but after the ''obvious'' opening lead of 7, South could not be defeated and was somehow allowed to make three overtricks, but still lost 10-IMPs compared with 4 bid and made at the other table. All the other Easts understandably competed when 1NT came round to them, with varying outcomes which can be scrutinised by visiting www.abf.com.au and clicking on ''2013 Open and Women's Playoffs'' and then on ''Past Playoffs''.
In the women's trial, only one of four Souths opened 1NT compared with three who chose 1; but it was always East that became declarer, once in 5, thrice in 4, never doubled and, of course, never making, for small IMP swings.