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.

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