Monday, 29 April 2013

Melville Congress

Jake invited me and Anna to the Melville Bridge Club in Edinburgh, for their Annual Congress. Together with John, we made up the Edinburgh University reunion team. The teams event was only half the congress though, first of all we had the Pairs. Me and Anna didn't realise we were signed up for the pairs, but willingly took our places, and complimentary pens (Anna took both). It was a Handicap Pairs, meaning that as novices our Matchpoint percentage would get a nice boost at the end of the scoring.

Congress Pairs

The format was twelve rounds of two boards. In the very first round me and Anna were drawn against Jake and Martin Stephens - an exciting start! Jake had an origami badger in front of him, it looked quite good.

The first deal was a good one. I was just settling in and counting my massive hand, when Jake rudely interrupted my thoughts with a Weak Two. The full deal and auction are below (rotated so declarer is South):

Board 13
Both vul
S deal
♠ 7 6 3
♥ 9 8 6 5
♦ K Q J 3
♣ A 6
♠ K Q J
♥ A Q
♦ A 9 4 2
♣ K 9 7 5
♠ A T 9 8 2
♥ T
♦ 8 6 5
♣ T 8 4 3
♠ 5 4
♥ K J 7 4 3 2
♦ T 7
♣ Q J 2

Jake sitting South opens 2♥. I've got a balanced 19 count and ♥AQ so went for 2NT, which we play as 15-19 with a good stop. I prefer this to doubling, as if you double partner will expect you to have an opening hand with short Hearts, and if the opponents preempt further it'll be hard to show your actual hand. Over my 2NT Martin pushed the boat out with 4♥, which is dangerous after the 2NT overcall. I had an easy double of 4♥, expecting two Spade tricks, two Hearts and a Diamond. Anna wasn't interested in bidding 4♠ and passed out 4♥x.

In the play I lead the ♠K, and continued Spades. I got a bit worried when it held and I realised we had a massive Spade fit and could maybe make 4♠. I have a horrible affliction in defence of excessively ducking Aces for no reason, and this nearly cost me here. Jake lead the ♦T from his hand, and I needlessly played low. Luckily Jake had two Diamonds, so I did get to win my Ace. Two off.

4♠ does make, as long as you duck the ♣Q lead to avoid a Club ruff, and finesse Hearts to throw away a Diamond. But actually +500 was a good score for me and Anna, taking 74% off Mr. Corry. On the second of our two boards (Board 14) Jake made 3NT exactly. He had the possibility of an overtrick, but me and Anna had defended well enough such that to go for the overtrick he would have to risk going down. Me and Anna got 74% again - how crucial could that be in the final reckoning?

Anna complained she didn't get to play many hands. The ones she did though tended to be very good, and later she confessed that when she was declarer she was embarrassed not to make at least one overtrick. Below is my highlight. It's not because I did something clever, actually I think I was quite foolish, but it worked out very well.

Board again rotated so declarer is South:

Board 11
None vul
W deal
♠ T 5
♥ K Q 4
♦ 9
♣ A K Q J 9 4 2
♠ 7 2
♥ 8 6 3
♦ A K Q 4 3
♣ T 6 3
♠ K Q J 8 4
♥ J T 9 5
♦ J 7 2
♣ 8
♠ A 9 6 3
♥ A 7 2
♦ T 8 6 5
♣ 7 5

I've got the fat North hand. I'm not sure if this qualifies for a Benji 2♦, but since I'm very keen to play 3NT anyway I decide to open 1♣. East overcalls 1♠, and Anna comes in with 1NT. Fortunately, on the drive over from Glasgow, John described exactly what a 1NT bid in this position shows; 8-11 with at least a partial stop. Even if Anna doesn't remember this conversation John will, so I can blame Anna if it turns out we've no Spade stop. With this in mind, I bid 3NT.

West, who was clearly itching to bid over 1NT, decides to back his judgement and doubles 3NT. This is clearly based on a big cashing suit, and since I have both Spades and Diamonds wide open I should probably escape to 4♣. But I decide to tough it out with a nocholant pass.

West leads his ♦A and I nervously lay down my dummy. Anna looks very relaxed though, which might mean we're OK. In fact, Anna just realises there's nothing much she can do. West continues with the ♦K and East drops the ♦J, which is a reasonable effort but by now the defence have blown it. West cashes his ♦Q and switches to a Spade, and Anna claims the last 10 tricks. The winning defence is of course for West to underlead his Diamonds, possibly after cashing the Ace. Maybe that's possible if East encourages on the first trick, which is easier to do if West leads the ♦Q for attitude?

3NTx+1 gave us 100% of the Matchpoints, our only outright top of the day. We didn't have any 0% boards, but a few where we came close. I remember when one of our opponents made 7♠= (Board 4). I'm not sure who this guy is, but I recognise him from Glasgow and he and Anna always seem to have the same banter about him mistakenly thinking Anna has a new haircut. After he made 7♠ the guy said "that'll probably be a bad one for us", as there are 15 top tricks, meaning 7NT makes, but in fact very few people bid a Grand Slam on the hand (Jake and Martin did).

Out of the 24 Boards Anna only got to play three, and I played seven. Four of mine were 1 level contracts though, which were apparently all agonisingly slow. Sorry about that.

Overall, me and Anna played pretty well. We had lots of good results and just a few bad ones where either the opponents bid or played very well, or just occasionally we failed to take all our tricks in defence. Our final score was 57.88%, putting us 8th overall. Jake and Martin finished with 64.49%, putting them 3rd overall. After the scores were duked to account for the handicaps, we were promoted to 3rd and Jake 2nd. And what of the two hands that we played against Jake? If we had thrown them then Jake's pair could have won easily.

Swiss Teams

What a team! What a disaster!

Anna's asked me not to write about the Teams at all, but here we go. In the first match, consisting of just six Boards, we lost by 53 IMPs. This converted to absolutely 0 Victory Points, as the scale in fact only goes up to losing by 25 IMPs. Scoring up was fun, as we'd bodged nearly every board. My lowlight was Board 5, where I defended in an extremely co-operative way to let an impossible 5♣ make. To begin with we had three cashing Aces, but even after failing to take them I knew I had a Spade trick, with ♠T9752 and declarer known to have five of them. I realised I had to hang on to all my Spades, but a second later I looked down at my hand and saw I had thrown one away. Where did it go? Declarer duly cashed his ♠AKQJ5 and I felt pretty small.

In round Two we bucked up our ideas, and only lost by 5 IMPs to lose the match with 7/20 VPs. The match was low scoring, with the only eventful board when I ducked declarer's singleton ♣K to let him make an impossible 3♦ (Board 8).

In round Three me and Anna were pretty tired and defended horrendously to let them make 5♥ (Board 18), but luckily John and Jake rescued us by also making the wildly optimistic contract on the other table. Anna then made a couple of good games to win the match and take us up to 25/40 VPs.

We now had a slim chance to come back up to average, by scoring 15/20 on the final match. Could the Indomitable Destructors achieve the impossible? No, we couldn't. Things briefly looked good when Anna made a highly dubious 3NT with 21 points opposite 1 (Board 21). But it all came down to the one big slam hand. Here's the deal and auction at our table (rotated again):

Board 20
Both vul
N deal
♠ A K Q 8
♥ A 8
♦ A 9 8 3
♣ Q T 5
♠ T 9 3 2
♥ K 9 7 6
♦ Q 4
♣ 9 8 4
♠ 4
♥ J T 4 2
♦ J 6 5 2
♣ J 7 6 3
♠ J 7 6 5
♥ Q 5 3
♦ K T 7
♣ A K 2

Anna opens a weak NT and I start with Stayman. Me and Anna have agreed that 4NT after Stayman is quantitative, so I'm quite disappointed when Anna actually bids my suit, 2♠. What am I supposed to do now? In principle we've agreed that 3♥ (the other Major) agrees Spades, but I'm not sure we've ever actually agreed it, and that may just be something I think is a good idea and have never discussed with anyone. I could bid Blackwood, but I've already got 4 keycards and knowing whether we've got the fifth isn't going to help me. I really want a natural slam invite, but I think if I bid 5♠ that might be asking about trump quality. I go for a simple 6♠.

West leads the ♦Q. Anna's got 10 top tricks. There's an easy 11th by ruffing a Heart, but where does the 12th trick come from? Anna assumed the lead was from something like ♦QJx, and won the first trick in hand. She then drew trumps and finessed Diamonds. This lost, and when we also lost a Heart it was one off. After the ♦Q lead you can actually make it if you read the lead as a doubleton, but that's a bit of a mad lead. Talking of mad leads on the other table, also defending 6♠, John carefully selected a low Heart away from the ♥K for his opening lead, letting the slam make. I think that's quite reasonable, but afterwards Jake (and John) were calculating how many IMPs and Victory Points John's disastrous lead had cost the Destructors.

Overall we bombed in the Teams. Me and Anna picked up a prize for our fantastic podium finish in the pairs, then we drove back to Glasgow to ice a caterpillar cake.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Fun night at Buchanan

Not our best result last Saturday, but a good evening. When they read out the top three me and Anna didn't feature, but immediately afterwards me and the guy next to me both claimed we were "definitely fourth". It was top quality banter.

On Board 5 the opponents opened a weak NT and it was passed round to me. I bid a textbook Crowhurst 2♣, showing at least 5-4 in the Majors. Anna had the hand below:

♠ T3 ♥ KQ9 ♦ Q853 ♣ A953

The normal thing to do is just show your better Major, with 2♥. But Anna had drunk a gin by this point, and was feeling a little creative. She came up with the ingenious bid of 2♦, which asks me to bid my better Major. She knows that with equal length I'll bid Hearts, so in that case we'll play in our best fit. If I have longer Spades then we'll play in our 5-2 fit rather than our 4-3 fit. As it happened I had 5-4-1-3 fit so bid and played in 2♠ anyway. This made exactly for a good score when they had 1NT their way.

Normally, at the end of each night, me and Anna go over the hands quickly, looking through the hand records. Anna only likes to look at the ones where she did something clever, or I did something stupid. I therefore suggested we look at Board 11, where she made an excellent 4♥, but actually, looking at it now, the auction was rather ridiculous. Here's the hand in full.

None vul
E deal
♠ 5
♥ Q 9 2
♦ A Q J 9 4
♣ Q T 9 3
♠ Q 4 2
♥ J 8
♦ T 6 5 3
♣ K 7 6 5
♠ K T 8 7 3
♥ K T 6
♦ 8 3
♣ A 4 2
♠ A J 9 6
♥ A 7 5 4 3
♦ K 7
♣ J 8

Anna had the South cards. Playing weak NT this is a tricky hand, as after you open 1♥ you don't really have any rebid (it would have to be 2♥). That's why when Bob Hamman and Zia Mahmood play together they play a Flannery 2♦, where a 2♦ opener shows a 12-15 point hand with 5 Hearts and 4 Spades.

After Anna opened 1♥, I replied 2♦ and East weighed in with 2♠. This solved Anna's rebid problem, and she passed. I was pretty sure by know that Anna had a weak hand with 5 Hearts, as she didn't open 1NT, and she didn't double 2♠. I could have bid 4♥ now, but I bid 3♣ anyway, which I think is game forcing. Anna has a clear 3NT bid with her chunky Spade stop, but bid a mad 3♦. I was confused at this point, didn't know what was forcing, so just bid 4♥.

There's two Club losers so to make it you need to play Hearts for no losers. Can you spot the winning play?

Q 9 2
J 8 K T 6
A 7 5 4 3

The winning option here is low to the ♥9,then lead the ♥Q to smother the ♥J. Anna got a Spade lead and immediately attacked trumps, playing for the King being onside, by leading up to the ♥Q, losing to East's King (according to Suitplay, this line is equally good). The defence have another trump trick to come, so if they cash their two Clubs it's one off. But East lead a cheeky low Club away from his Ace. North won the ♣K but had no way of reading the position and she quite reasonably switched to a Diamond. Anna now played a blinder. She cashed the ♥A, leaving East with the ♥T master trump. She then ran Diamonds, throwing a Club when East ruffed, then returned to dummy by ruffing a Spade to win the remaining Diamonds.

I played 3♣ on Board 16. The contract was in the bag, but could I find a (vital, or actually irrelevant) overtrick out of this Heart suit?

Q 9 3
T 7 6

I played low to the Queen, hoping that the AK were onside. This obviously lost and I got no overtricks. According to Suitplay, the best thing to do is low to the Nine, then play to the Queen. This wins every time the AJ or KJ are before the Queen. It would have worked here too.

Next, what do you make of this auction?


The 1NT overcall means that Anna has 15-17 balanced, with a Club stop. My 2♥ is a transfer to Spades, but Anna's forgotten and raised me to 3♥. We've had this exact auction before, with the same mix up. Last time I tried to correct to Spades with 3♠, and Anna mercifully remembered what was going on at this point and passed. This time I had three card Heart support so passed 3♥. Before the opening lead I informed the defence of the mix up - there's no risk of me giving unauthorised information as I'm declarer. 3♥ scraped home.

Although it was Matchpoints me and Anna kept on bidding 5♣, and not making it. I also doubled 4♠, after the opponents were happy to pass out 2♠. I didn't trust their auction, so I doubled, and they made an overtrick.

Then me and Anna had the following ridiculous auction:

EW vul
N deal
♠ Q 7
♥ T 9 2
♦ Q 8 6
♣ Q T 9 8 3
♠ 8 5
♥ J 7 3
♦ J T 7 4 2
♣ J 5 2
♠ K J 9 6 3 2
♥ Q 4
♦ A K 9 5
♣ K
♠ A T 4
♥ A K 8 6 5
♦ 3
♣ A 7 6 4

Amazingly I could have made 5♣, and thought I was going to when I got trumps right. I lost a Diamond and a Spade, but when I tried to discard a Heart on my now high ♠T West surprised me by ruffing (he had raised to 2♠ with only two of them).

Overall we finished on 47%, and did actually come fourth. Full results here.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Slam bidding with Sabine and Roy

This is a snapshot of Sabine and Roy playing in a Teams Tournament in 2013 and bidding a good slam.

There's a big Teams tournament in Japan at the moment. In one semi-final a Mixed Nationality Team, including Sabine Auken and Roy Welland, raced ahead with a series of great results. They'll play Russia in the final tomorrow. Here's a hand where Sabine and Roy gained IMPs for getting to slam.

I think it's quite a hard one to bid. The auction from Sabine and Roy is interesting, as it features a couple of useful conventions.

EW vul
N deal
♠ A Q T
♥ 8 2
♦ A K 8 7
♣ A K 6 2
♠ 9 8 2
♥ K Q 9 7 3
♦ Q 9 4
♣ 5 3
♠ J 7
♥ J T 4
♦ T 5 3
♣ T 9 8 7 4
♠ K 6 5 4 3
♥ A 6 5
♦ J 6 2
♣ Q J

North has a balanced 20 count. Depending on your system, this will normally be opened 2NT. For me and Anna, we would open 2♦, then rebid 2NT. For Sabine and Roy, they open 2♣, which shows either 23+ or a balanced 20-21. South's automatic reply is 2♦, then North makes the special bid of 2♥. This shows either 23+ with Hearts, or a balanced 20-21. It's called Kokish. How does partner know which of these two possible hand types you have? He bids a totally aritificial 2♠, then your rebid shows your hand type. The 2NT bid shows the 20-21 balanced hand, and any other bid shows the strong hand with Hearts (and describes the hand further).

After North shows 20-21 South has an average looking 11 point hand, so slam is borderline. One way to bid investigate is to transfer into Spades then bid 3NT. With no Spade fit partner will pass 3NT, and you end up playing there, which is fine. When partner has three Spades they'll correct 3NT to 4♠, and now you can bid on. Partner will know you only have a mild slam invite, as you were prepared to let the bidding die in 3NT if there was no Spade fit.

Sabine instead prioritised finding out if partner was maximum or minimum, and bid an invitational 4NT. Perhaps she knew with their system she'd be able to introduce a suit later. Roy has only 20 points, so could have passed 4NT, but liked his hand. One of the commentators said "Roy never thinks he has a minimum". He responded 5NT. This looks natural, passing the buck back to partner to see if they wanted to bid 6NT, but I don't think it was. Despite having a balanced 20 count Roy has a weakness in Hearts and his hand looks like it will play much better in a suit contract. 5NT invited partner to bid a 5 card suit, which Sabine did.

I think me and Anna have a similar agreement, or at least I think we should have. After an invitational, quantitative 4NT, partner can simply accept with 6NT, or can show a four card suit at the 5 level, or a five card suit at the 6 level. Then the 4NT bidder has a chance of finding a 4-4 or 5-3 fit, and can always play 6NT if they don't like it. And the general rule if you get very confused is just bid 6NT.

In the play of 6♠ there were no problems, and since the other table only bid 3NT+3 Team Sabine won another 10 IMPs.

Well-judged mix-up

Me and Anna played together on Bridge Base last night. I'd just got back from BSL, and Anna was perched on a windowsill as that's the only place she can get wi-fi. It wasn't ideal conditions, but still useful as new stuff comes up every time we play.

Bob Hamman recommends that the best way for a partnership to improve is "after each session, review what happened, dispassionately and without emotion". Therefore, at the end of our game I called up Anna to debrief. "I've got to go!" said Anna after a minute. She wasn't interested in Bob Hamman's advice. Maybe I wasn't dispassionate enough. This was the hand I'm interested in, and since Anna ignored me on the phone I'm going to write it up in full here!

It's a good one. We bodged it but came out well.

EW vul
S deal
♠ Q 6 5
♥ K Q 9 8 5 4
♦ 4
♣ T 5 2
♠ T
♥ T 6 3
♦ A K J 8 6 3
♣ A 9 6
♠ A 3 2
♥ A
♦ 9 5 2
♣ K Q J 7 4 3
♠ K J 9 8 7 4
♥ J 7 2
♦ Q T 7
♣ 8

Anna with the South cards had an easy 2♠ opener. No multi for us. West overcalled 3♦. Overcalling here in the direct seat should be a better than minimum opening hand with a good suit. Overcalling in the passout seat could be a much weaker hand. West certainly has his 3♦ bid here. I had the North cards. With pretty much any hand with three Spades I'd raise to 3♠, but with this weak distributional hand with a singleton Diamond I'd be happy in 4♠ too. But rather than immediately raising Spades I decided to show my suit along the way. Me and Anna play that a new suit after partner has pre-empted is forcing, and with a minimum opener just rebids their suit. So I thought it was quite safe to bid 3♥, as I can always correct to Spades later. This shows either a very strong hand with Hearts, or a raise in Spades with a Heart suit too.

East has a great hand to play in Diamonds. He could have made some sort of confusing bid to investigate slam here, perhaps 4♣, but instead bid a direct 5♦. Anna doubled this, believing I had a strong hand and thinking she had 9 points. In fact she's got a minimum, distributional, Weak Two, with a Heart fit, so I reckon at this vulnerability her bid is a cheery 5♥. The only type of hand where she could be doubling 5♥ is with short Hearts and two Aces (you need Aces to double high level contracts).

When 5♦x came round to me I knew that something had gone wrong - I've got a rubbish hand and Anna does too as she opened 2♠. I was almost certain we were going to end up in 5♠, but to try and give myself two chances to play undoubled I bid 5♥ first, then when that got doubled 5♠, which was also doubled.

So Anna had to play 5♠x. West led the ♦A, ♣A, then another Club, which Anna ruffed. Declarer is now in control, and has a choice. Either you can ruff your Diamond losers in dummy, or try and establish Hearts. In situations like this where you have precarious trump control it's normally best to set up your second suit early on. It might not seem like your trump control is precarious, as you have a 6-3 fit, but Spades are likely to split 3-1, and you're going to be forced to ruff Clubs in your own hand a lot.

If you play Hearts early you might suffer a ruff, but not if they are 2-2 and not if someone has Ace singleton (like here). I think it's best to play one round of trumps, then start on Hearts (then whoever might ruff Hearts could be doing so with the ♠A). Anna did play one round of trumps, ducked, then had to decide what to do. Sabine's second husband Jens would have called this the Kill Point. She ruffed one Diamond, then changed her mind and drew trumps, finally losing a second Diamond along with three other Aces for 5♠x-3.

At favourable vulnerability, three off was still a good result, giving up -500 instead of at least -600 for 5♦. In fact, there are always twelve tricks in Diamonds or Clubs, and thirteen if you finesse the ♦Q.

This ought to have been a great result then, only losing -500 against an opposing slam. Unfortunately we actually lost 0.1 IMPs on the deal, cross IMP'd against several other tables. I'm not sure why we lost out, just the vagaries of Bridge Base. I suppose lots of East-Wests stopped short of game.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Lady Milne 2013

The Lady Milne is a tournament of Home Internationals for top Women players. I wasn't eligible, and Anna's invite never arrived, so we settled for watching it on BridgeBase.

The 2013 event was hosted in Edinburgh, so Scotland were allowed two teams. We've met several of them: Sheila MacDonald and Maida Grant play at St. Andrews in Glasgow; Sam Punch played against us at the SBU Congress; Liz McGowan taught at Edinburgh University (and has a bridge column in the Scotsman); Cathy Ferguson and Michele Gladstone were our opponents at a tournament last weekend.

And for extra excitement the Vugraph operators were Scottish Juniors, including Jake Corry.

Here's a hand between England and the SBU (the Scottish second team). I remember once reading an analysis of the results of lots of expert Team Matches, trying to work out where IMPs were won and lost. Apparently 50% are won and lost in the auction (one table reaching a better contract), and 50% in the play (one table declaring or defending better). This hand was definitely won by England in the auction. Dealer has a weak two in Hearts - on one table they opened a Multi 2♦ (showing a Weak Two in either Major), and on the other hand a direct 2♥, and from there things diverged.

First, here's what happened when the Scottish West opened 2♦ and the English North-South reached a good 3NT.

All vul
W deal
♠ Q 9
♥ J T 7 5
♦ Q 9 8
♣ K 8 3 2
♠ 8 7
♥ A 9 8 6 4 3
♦ A 2
♣ J 6 4
♠ K J T 6 4 3 2
♥ 2
♦ T
♣ J T 4 3
♠ A 5
♥ K Q
♦ K 7 6 5
♣ A Q 9 7 5

I've starred the conventional bids. West opens a Multi 2♦. If East has a very strong hand she can reply with 2NT, but the normal responses are 2♥ meant as pass-or-correct. Unless responder has both Majors she can't immediately make a pre-emptive raise, as she doesn't know what partner's Major is. However, if responder has several Spades she can bid 2♥, and if partner does correct to 2♠ (showing a Weak Two in Spades), responder can then raise Spades. Similarly, if responder has a few Hearts they can start with 2♠, and if partner has Hearts they'll bid 3♥. Taken together, this means that responder bids 2♥ if she has Spades, and 2♠ if she has Hearts! These are known as paradox responses.

On this deal East must respond 2♥, virtually certain that partner will pass this. South still doesn't know which Major West has, but has stops in both and a solid 18 points so bid 2NT anyway. North has 8 points, and knows partner has between 15-19. There's no room to invite so North just decided to go for game, starting with Stayman to see if there's a 4-4 Heart fit (North also doesn't know which six card Major West has). 3♦ denies a four card Major, so North just bids 3NT.

As for the play, there's 6 top tricks, and three more in the Heart suit once you knock out the ♥A. On a Spade lead you have to duck the first round, but then you're fine as there's no entries to the East hand. West actually led a fourth highest Heart, and nine tricks were easy. +600 to England.

Here's the auction on the other table:

All vul
W deal
♠ Q 9
♥ J T 7 5
♦ Q 9 8
♣ K 8 3 2
♠ 8 7
♥ A 9 8 6 4 3
♦ A 2
♣ J 6 4
♠ K J T 6 4 3 2
♥ 2
♦ J T 4 3
♣ T
♠ A 5
♥ K Q
♦ K 7 6 5
♣ A Q 9 7 5

West opened a straight up 2♥. The advantage of playing specific Weak Twos is that it makes it much easier for partner to pre-empt, as they know your suit. It ought to make life easier for the opponents too, but here North-South had a tough time as there was some further bold bidding from East. She replied to the 2♥ opening with 2♠. Me and Anna play a new suit after a Weak Two as forcing, some pairs play it as invitational only, looking for a better contract. Not sure what this East-West do. South at this table, perhaps believing the opponent's were stronger, went for a cautious double rather than a more aggressive 2NT. West then found an excellent raise to 3♠, as with two Aces her hand is pretty good in a Spade contract (assuming partner has good trumps). By now I think East-West have already won the board, and would probably have been left to play in 3♠, as I'm not sure North or South can bid again over 3♠. But East pushed her luck, and went on with 4♠.

Against 4♠ by East, South lead a top Club. Declarer has an easy eight tricks - six trumps (assuming you finesse the Jack), and two Aces. There's a possibility of two more if you can ruff a couple of Diamonds. Declarer therefore tried Ace and another Diamond, but South won the ♦K and shrewdly played Ace and another Spade. Declarer did still get one extra trick though, when the ♦Q dropped on the third round declarer's ♦T was high. 4♠-1 was only +100 to Scotland. From making 3NT on one table and going one off in 4♠ on the other England gained 11 IMPs, and went on to win the match.

Paul Gipson, in his BeerCard Blog, said afterwards that the standard of the tournament was very variable. Some very good play followed by some bizarre mistakes.

In the end the strong England team won, followed by Scotland and then SBU.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Clever Bidding

Here's a hand I saw on Bridge Base with some good slam bidding. Me and Anna have been working on slam bidding, wonder if we'd have found 6♥?

This deal has a special vividness for me, as I had a tooth removed yesterday and during the lengthy extraction (took three dentists in the end, all taking turns) I tried to recall every detail of the hand, to distract myself. Here it is:

EW vul
S deal
♠ A K J 9 5
♥ Q J 5 4
♦ 4 3
♣ 8 7
♠ Q T 8
♥ 8 7
♦ K J T 6
♣ K J 9 3
♠ 4
♥ T 6
♦ 8 7 2
♣ A Q T 6 5 4 2
♠ 7 6 3 2
♥ A K 9 3 2
♦ A Q 9 5
♣ -

I've starred the conventional bids in the auction. South had an easy 1♥ opener, playing five card Majors. North replied with Jacoby 2NT, agreeing Hearts as trumps and game forcing. East (Sabine Auken) then came in with 3♣, natural. Over this South was able to make his usual bid of 4♣, a splinter showing a singleton or void Club. West (Roy Welland) found a nice bid over 4♣, bidding 4♦. As a passed hand this must promise Club support (enough to play at the 5 level), but also shows some cards in Diamonds. North knew partner had an opening hand, with nothing in Clubs, so could presume a Diamond control and bid 4NT as Blackwood. South has a void and and 3 keycards. For me and Anna, that would mean bidding the void suit at the 6 level (here 6♣), or 6 of the trump suit if the void is above trumps. This North-South had a different agreement though, or forgot their agreement, as South bid 5NT. I wonder if they did get muddled, as North then signed off in 6♥, whereas if you know you've got all the keycards you could look for a Grand Slam, presumably by bidding 6♦ and hoping partner realises you're worried about Diamonds and should bid 7♥ with the King of Diamonds.

6♥ was an excellent contract, making if either the Diamond finesse is on or you find the Spade Queen. Because East has shown long Clubs in the auction, I think finessing Spades is better than playing for the drop, but there is in fact an even better line.

Here's what you do. First ruff out the two Clubs, draw trumps, and cash the ♠A. Then, you play a Spade to the King. If Spades are 2-2 and the Queen drops, you're home. If it turns out East has the Queen, you have to rely on the Diamond finesse. But if it turns out West has the Queen, you're in business. You now give up a Spade to West. West only has Clubs and Diamonds left, so must either lead a Club and give you a ruff and discard (that's why you had to ruff out the Clubs earlier), or lead a Diamond round to your Ace-Queen. Playing it this way is better than just a straight Spade finesse, as you make it when the Spade finesse is on and also when the Queen drops.

At the table declarer mistimed it. She followed the line above, but forgot to ruff out the Clubs early on. When she decided to ruff out the Clubs she had no easy entries back to dummy, so had to use up an extra round of trumps getting back and forth. That meant by the time she lost a Spade trick to West she no longer had a trump in each hand, so West could play a Club without giving a ruff and discard.

Final result then was 6♥-1. On the other table after a 1♥ opener North replied 1♠, instead of a Jacoby 2NT. This made the North-South auction much harder, as South didn't know partner had a trump fit or an opening hand. North-South ended up playing 4♥+2, the wrong contract but it gained them IMPs here.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Glasgow Club Championship

Earlier in the week Mandy called me and asked if we could make play in a bridge even on Sunday at 1pm. I agreed without knowing what it was. Anna's away in Dumfries during the week, so our only chance to play bridge is at the weekend. When we arrived we found out it was a tournament between teams representing the four clubs in Glasgow: Buchanan, St. Andrews, Glasgow Bridge Centre and Maccabi. We would be proudly representing Buchanan, in the B team with Heather and David.

The format was BAM (Board-a-Match, which should really be called Point-A-Board). In each round you play one of the other Bridge Clubs for ten boards.

Round One

In the first round Buchanan was playing St. Andrews. Anna played three hands in a row, all of which went one off, which I think made her slightly worried we were doing terribly. The hands we defended went well though. On Board 3 I opened 1NT, which was doubled. Anna had to escape with this 7 point hand:

♠ 7 ♥ J 9 8 5 ♦ K 8 6 5 ♣ K T 7 2

We play Helvic, so an immediate bit by Anna after 1NT is doubled shows that suit and the suit above. She chose to bid 2♣, showing Clubs and Diamonds. I had the hand below, and corrected to 2♦, passed out.

♠ A 8 6 3 2 ♥ K 7 6 ♦ A 4 2 ♣ Q 5

There's not enough points or Diamonds to draw trumps, so I just tried to get up to eight tricks. I knew that West, who had doubled, had all the points, so kept trying to put him on lead to play away from his ♥A. He never did though, so all I got was ♠A, ♣K, ♦AK, two Spade ruffs and a Club ruff, for one off. Since we were vulnerable the score for one off was -100 to Buchanan. On the other table they played a different system so it ended up with West playing 1NT, and making it for +90 for Buchanan. With BAM scoring the crucial 10 point deficit meant that we lost the board.

At the end of the round we lost 4-2, with four tied boards.

Round Two

In Round Two we played the Glasgow Bridge Centre. On our table were two women who we were later told are representing Scotland in the Lady Milne next weekend. I think they must have been Cathy Ferguson and Michele Gladstone, as I've looked up the Convention Cards of all the Scottish pairs and they are the only ones playing four card Majors, but with a 5 card Spade suit (incidentally, me and Anna almost do that, the only time we open 1♠ with four of them is a 4-3-3-3 hand too strong to open 1NT).

There was some excitement on the first board, where I had a crazy hand, didn't know what to open so passed, then came in strongly later. This duped the opponent's into doubling me. Here's the full auction and deal:

Board 19
NS vul
E deal
♠ T 6
♥ A T 5
♦ K Q 6
♣ K Q T 6 3
♠ -
♥ K Q J 9 3 2
♦ A J 9
♣ 9 8 7 5
♠ Q 7 4 3
♥ 8 6 4
♦ 7 3
♣ A J 4 2
♠ A K J 9 8 5 2
♥ 7
♦ T 8 5 4 2
♣ -

East deals and passes, and I have the monster hand sitting South. I am second seat, vulnerable, the worst time to preempt. I should probably open 4♠ (that's what Norman did, holding the same cards on another table), but I go for a conservative pass, confident I can come in with Spades at whatever level I have to. West opens 1♥, and partner makes a 2♣ overcall, which must be a good suit and 11+ points. Then East makes a takeout double, and I start bidding Spades. West rebids her good Hearts with 3♥, and East raises this to 4♥. Of course I keep bidding Spades, and I'm delighted when 4♠ gets doubled. I think about redoubling, but I don't want to defend 5♥ (which probably only goes two off).

In 4♠x I get the ♥K lead. Dummy is great, I'm obviously going to make it just a question of overtricks. East's takeout double, showing four Spades, help me to finesse Spades immediately, running the Ten. This holds, and while I'm in dummy I lead the ♣K, covered by East and ruffed by me. This is really a bit pointless, as it just sets up the ♣Q for a discard on one of my long Diamonds which will be a winner anyway. I then draw trumps and lead a Diamond up to the King, which holds (West playing the ♦9). I'm sure West has the ♦A, to have enough points for her opening bid, so it's tempting to ruff back to my hand, and play another Diamond up. But I'm foolishly worried about running out of trumps if Diamonds are 4-1, so just accept the loss of two Diamonds and 11 tricks.

At the end of the hand, East suggested to her partner that she shouldn't have made the voluntary bid of 3♥. West replied that she was just showing good Hearts. This is actually the first contract of the day that either me or Anna have made, 4♠x+1 for +990. Afterwards I get paranoid and wonder if actually missing the second overtrick is going to cost me. I got a gift knowing to finesse Spades, but should have fully exploited it to get 4♠x+2. The other table played 4♠+1 so we win that board.

The very next hand (Board 20) I sacrifice in 5♣, and East thinks for a while, maybe remembering what happened on the hand before, then decides to double me. This time it is down one, but still a good result for us, duplicated on the other table, as their 4♥ was making.

Our defence was good throughout, and this was my highlight (Board 11). I had the West hand against 3NT, and led a fourth highest Heart. Here's my hand and the dummy I saw:

♠ A 9
♥ 9 6
♦ A Q J T 6 3 2
♣ K Q
♠ J 8 2
♥ A T 8 4 2
♦ 9 4
♣ 8 7 3

On my ♥4 lead Anna contributed the ♥Q (denying the ♥J) and declarer went into a think. This was good news, as it meant she almost certainly didn't have the ♦K, else she'd be rattling off tricks already. Declarer finally ducked with the ♥3. Anna returned the ♥7, and declarer covered with the ♥K. I had to fight an initial kneejerk reaction to bag my ♥A and clear the suit, but if I play a third round of Hearts declarer will win and I'll have no entry. So I cunningly played the ♥2, letting the ♥K win. When the Diamond finesse lost Anna pinged through her last Heart for me to take three more Heart tricks. Finally I gave partner the ♣A for two off. The full layout in the Heart suit was:

AT842 Q75

So on the obvious Heart lead there's actually nothing declarer can do. Me ducking the second round of Hearts is fairly obvious looking at all four hands, but nice to actually get it right ay the table. Note that when Anna won the ♥Q she returned the ♥7, the higher of her remaining two. It was a good defence, for 3NT-2, and a flat board as the same thing happened at the other table.

We're on a bit of a roll this round and defend sharply against a tricky 4♥ to take it down three vulnerable. I'm a little tempted to double, with a few extra points and ♥QT43, but I'm glad I don't as it would help declarer a lot and she'd maybe only go one down, or even make it.

I said before Anna's been reading Sabine Auken, but I've also been reading. I've been reading Larry Cohen. Larry says "Never let the opponents play in a fit at the two level". Larry really insists on this, and says he'd much rather have a few -300s and -500s on his scorecard than lots of -110s. I agree with Larry, especially at BAM scoring. If the opponents have got to a nice 2♥ contract, they're probably going to win the board if you let them play there. So you've got to shake it up with another bid - there's not much to lose. I'm not sure if there's any times Larry says you shouldn't balance. I certainly took the principle to extremes with the hand below:

Board 18
NS vul
E deal
♠ T 5 2
♥ Q T
♦ A Q J T 6
♣ 5 4 3
♠ 7 6 4 3
♥ 7 6 2
♦ 4
♣ K T 9 7 2
♠ A K Q
♥ 9 8 5
♦ K 9 7 2
♣ A J 6
♠ J 9 8
♥ A K J 4 3
♦ 8 5 3
♣ Q 8

Anna sitting East has a balanced 17 count, so by our system opens 1♦. South has a solid 1♥ overcall. If I had a stronger hand I would double with the West cards, but here I have to pass. North found an unusual raise to 2♥. With only two Hearts that would never occur to me, but I wonder if maybe it's actually quite a good bid. Anna could double to show her strong NT hand, but instead it's passed round to me. "Never let them play in a fit at the two level." I double for takeout. Since I could have doubled for takeout on the previous round it's not clear to Anna what I'm doubling for, and she decided with a balanced hand it's best to pass (the other option is 2♠).

I actually quite like the sound of defending with my hand, as I've a singleton Diamond which is partner's suit. I lead the ♦4, which declarer shrewdly takes with the ♦A and draws trumps. In the end though we get six tricks: three Spades, one Diamond, and two Clubs. The last trick is my vital ♣K, for an excellent 2♥x-1 and +200 to Buchanan. It was another dodgy double from me, but it's paid off. At the other table East played 2♠+1 for -140 for Buchanan, so without my double, which increased our score from +100 to +200, we would have lost the board.

According to Zia Mahmood's book, Bridge My Way, we were in Heat 1 - meaning every gamble was coming off. Overall we won this match 4-2. Some points on the board for Buchanan Bridge Club!

Round Three

After some soup and sandwiches we played Maccabi Bridge Club in the final round, to determine who finished 3rd overall and who finished 4th. It was a nice friendly table, and I congratulated the opponents after they made 5♦x+1 (Board 30). It was my double, naturally, but I stand by it as once the opponents find the good 5♦ game (over Anna's big 4♠ opening) we're stuffed whatever I do. Perhaps I could have taken my two Aces though.

Anna steered home 3NT+1, and things were looking up. I looked into slam then backed down, leaving me in a precarious 5♠ contract (Board 24). I've six top trumps, and a Diamond suit of ♦AK4 opposite ♦JT9732, with no other entries to dummy. Luckily the ♦Q falls, so I get six more Diamond tricks for a total of 12 tricks, where it could easily have been only 8 tricks if Diamonds didn't split. So, with the only likely outcomes being 8 or 12 tricks, maybe 6♠ was the right contract?

In the end we squeeze through and win the match 4-3. All of our matches have been very close, and in fact in 30 boards we won 10, drew 11, and lost 9. The overall results mean St. Andrews win the cup:

1st St. Andrews
2nd GBC
3rd Buchanan
4th Maccabi

Lightner Double

On Saturday me and Anna had some red wine and a binge of online bridge. I made one famous blunder, which is coming up, but first some introductory hands. On the very first hand - an opponent opened a weak 3♣, passed round to Anna. No one vulnerable. She was bold enough to make an excellent balancing double with this fairly poor hand:

♠ J763 ♥ KJ5 ♦ QT97 ♣ QT

I think it's an excellent bid. I had:

♠ QT9 ♥ Q97 ♦ AKJ85 ♣ 94

I bid 3♦, which is the only option really. This was passed out. There's five top losers and it went one off. This was a good result though, as the opponents are easily making 3♣, from their seven Clubs tricks, ♠AK and the ♥A for an overtrick. Anna's boldness gained us 2.3 IMPs, off to a good start!

Then, at favourable vulnerability, we dealt out some massive punishment to the opponents. What does South's double here show?


It's presumably some sort of takeout double, showing Spades. But not sure what partners supposed to do if they don't have Spades. Also, North-South were vulnerable, and the opponents had unlimited hands with no known fit. It was a mad double, but I think most of the time you would get away with it. Not today though.

NS vul
E deal
♠ 8 3
♥ J T 5 4
♦ T 8 7 2
♣ 9 6 4
♠ K J 5
♥ 8 2
♦ K 9 6
♣ A Q T 8 3
♠ A T 7 2
♥ A 7 6 3
♦ A J 5 4
♣ K
♠ Q 9 6 4
♥ K Q 9
♦ Q 3
♣ J 7 5 4

After South's double I redoubled, showing a good hand with interest in penalties. No one understood my bid, and North clearly didn't know what was going on and bid 2♥. Anna was confused and passed. South wasn't done and bid 2♠, which I doubled. Anna was happy to pass this, and declarer was in massive trouble.

There's lots of silly results on BBO, this time the silly result was from our table. We only need to take 2♠x off two at this vulnerability for a good score, but actually declarer only got one high Heart and a Club ruff in hand, for 2♠x-6 and -1700.

Those were two good Boards, now for a very bad one. Anna has been reading Sabine Auken's book I Love This Game, and there's a bit in it about Lightner Doubles. Although we'd never discussed it (and definitely don't play them), I thought I had the perfect hand here so pulled out my first Lightner Double. Needless to say, Anna was not impressed, and my adventure backfired badly. Here was the opposing auction, and my hand:


♠ K9752 ♥ KJT7 ♦ K7 ♣ Q62

Don't worry, I found the killer double. Since it's so rarely profitable to double 3NT for penalties, a double instead asks for an unusual lead, specifically dummy's first suit, which here is Hearts. It's a Lightner double! I thought declarer would be ready for a Spade lead, but probably have nothing in Hearts, so thought I wanted a Heart lead.

However, South escaped to 4♣. I hadn't considered that the opponents had a big Club fit, and so an easy escape. I felt a bit cheated here, and was tempted to make a follow up double of 4♣, but rightly I think passed. South was left to play in 4♣. Now I had to hope that 3NT was making, and my double had forced them out of their making game. In fact the opposite was true, 3NT was going at least three off and I'd forced them into the best partscore. This was the sorrowful full deal and auction:

NS vul
E deal
♠ 4 3
♥ Q 9 8 6 2
♦ 9
♣ A J T 8 4
♠ Q T 8 6
♥ A 4 3
♦ A 8 7 3 2
♣ 7
♠ K 9 7 5 2
♥ K J T 7
♦ K 6
♣ Q 2
♠ A J
♥ 5
♦ Q J T 5 4
♣ K 9 6 5 3

You can see that North-South have both overstretched to bid 3NT, on a combined 18 count. What of my Lightner double? Well, a Heart lead is indeed effective, but then so is the obvious Spade.

Afterwards, I wondered how East-West were supposed to reach their easy Spade game. Unfortunately, Jake was kibitzing and made a private comment to Anna, suggesting perhaps I could have overcalled 1♠. Maybe next time.