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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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!
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: