We share the driving there, an hour and a half each way. My bit is extremely stressful, as the roads are windy and when Anna tells me to "keep to the inside" I think she means hug the hedge, but actually she means stay closer to the middle of the road. It all feels incredibly dangerous. John Faben is in the back, and when we get there he compliments Anna on how calm she is when I'm driving, which I think might be a subtle way of saying he was terrified when I was at the wheel.
There are 140 pairs in the Peebles Hydro Hotel. It's quite a grand setting, and I'm glad that I've dressed for the occasion. I'm wearing my navy suit with a black tie and black shirt. Beige jumper too. I saunter into the Residents Only section of hotel and pick up some complimentary tea for the pair of us. At the time I attribute my success at fitting in to being smartly dressed and looking the part, but later when I look in the mirror I realise I actually look a bit ridiculous.
To make the day more attractive to Anna ("I feel as if I've been duped into going") I've prepared a bumper packed lunch. We find a quiet table and have some bagels, satsumas and Mint Matchsticks along with the illicit tea.
The event is Swiss Pairs. Each round you play six boards against one other pair. For each board your score is compared with every other table, and you get a matchpoint percentage. At the end of the six rounds your average matchpoint score determines how many Victory Points you get out of 20. So for an average round you get 10 VPs, a massive win gets you all 20 VPs. The excitement of a Swiss event is that after each round you move to a new table, based on your overall position in the tournament. If you've had a good round you move up towards the hallowed
There's four rounds in the afternoon session, and four in the evening session.
Round One - 13/20 VPs
Our first round opponents are very friendly, and we get off to a good start. Anna is clearly not intimidated by the occasion. On the first hand (Board 3) she opens a weak two in Spades with
On the next one (Board 4)I play a 3NT with only 8 tricks, but make it on a squeeze. Much later, on the drive home, John points out that I can actually make it easily anyway without the squeeze. But at the time I didn't know that, and was feeling good.
But shortly after, comes the first bodge of the day (Board 2). We settle in 5♠ (fortunately, as one of my bids was mistaken for Exclusion Keycard Blackwood and Anna duly responded with one ace. I thought we were cuebidding). In the play my only possible losers are in this trump suit:
|T 7 4|
|A 9 2||Q 5|
|K J 8 6 3|
I stupidly lead the Ten (what would Victor Mollo say?), covered by the Queen, King and Ace. Then I lose a second trump trick to West's nine. I have a suspicion that if I'd bid it up to 6♠, which I nearly did, I might have just lead up to the Jack and made 12 tricks. As it is 5♠= is a bad one for us.
When the scores come in we've a narrow victory. We're heading up the room! Best of all, we weren't outrageously slow, and didn't have any directorial wranglings for dodgy slow pauses (that comes later).
Round Two - 10/20 VPs
Bad start - Anna got unlucky leading a low spade from
Me and Anna are having a poor round, playing in a dodgy 4-3 heart fit (Board 7, should have been in NT) and need a boost. Although it's matchpoints everyone loves bidding a slam. I think about it on the hand below, but luckily managed to stay low. I'm East and Anna is West (Board 10).
I open the East hand 1♠ then rebid 4♠, which shows a hand like this but probably a bit weaker. Since we play Reverse Benji I think I should actually open 2♦. In the play I got a club lead then immediately started on diamonds. South paused for ages, then took her Ace. She then wisely took her ace of hearts to hold me to 11 tricks. If she'd have won the ace of diamonds then returned a diamond not sure what I've done.
Another feature of the hand is that after drawing three rounds of trumps I thought they were all out. I was about to claim, then just to make sure I drew one more round. Was very surprised to see South following again. I had moment of panic as I wonder what horrible punishment we might have got if I did claim once there was still a trump out. As it was, 4♠+1 scored fairly well.
Now here's a massive slam we did bid (Board 11).
Anna opens 1♠ and North overcalls a very weak 3♥. I'm now getting very excited as East and bid 4♥, which I meant as showing Heart shortage but actually just means a good raise of Spades. South bids 5♥ completing the run of 3♥-4♥-5♥. I've decided already I'm going to bid 5♠ when it comes round to me, but when Anna bids 5♠ herself (based on working out I've got no Hearts), I decided to top it up to 6♠
Anna gets a nice Diamond lead. She ruffs a couple of Hearts, draws trumps then gives up a Diamond and claims. Bingo! This good result is enough to mean we draw the match, a good result against top opponents Paul Gipson and Sam Punch.
Note - two rounds in and I'm getting rather warm. Walking along the corridor to get more water I wished I'd brought two more shirts; one for the evening session and one for the drive home.
Round Three - 5/20 VPs
Not really sure what happened here. Don't think we were yet on the tilt, just a series of bad boards. Opposite my 2NT opening (Board 13), Anna had
|A K T 9 3|
|6 4 2|
I got it wrong - one off for another poor score.
All of our opponents seemed to play Multi 2♦ (or Tartan Twos). Luckily we have a cunning defence to the Multi - double shows diamonds. Unluckily, Anna doesn't like this defence and generally chooses to ignore it. On the next hand (Board 16) we are at favourable vulnerability and after opponents open 2♦ I double with nothing more than
A dud round, just 5/20 Victory points and we're back in the bottom half of the field.
Round Four - 20/20 VPs
Last session before the break. Finally, we are blessed with a few gifts from the opponents. On one hand they were bidding in Spades and investigating slam (Board 23). I was sitting with
This round was a stonking win - now it's time for Tea!
Part Two here.