Monday, 15 July 2013

Peebles Summer 2013

It's Monday morning now. I'll write as much of this as I can, but might not finish as I'm off to the Iron Islands this afternoon. We're just back from the SBU Summer Congress in Peebles. This year we only entered the Teams, along with John and Martin. What a team!

Saturday Teams Qualifying

We met up for lunch on the grass in front of the hotel and discussed strategy. The format for the Teams was a series of three board matches within our section of 12. The top two or three teams would go through to Sunday's final, and the next two or three to the consolation final.

Although no one said it, the team strategy was obvious. I would overbid, Anna would underbid, and John and Martin would play well with the occasional disaster in their makeshift system.

To kick things off, I overcooked this one. Anna is sitting South, and I'm North.


Anna has a clear 2♠ opening. I then have a dilemma as North. It's an all-or nothing decision. I'm an optimist, and tried 3NT. Worth a shot I told myself, and tried to bid it confidently, after a two minute think. We play Ogust, so I could have gone through a forcing 2NT. When I bid a direct 3NT like that it's probably based on a long running suit. So Anna wisely decided with her Club void she should make it 4♠ instead. This was passed out.

The contract is clearly hopeless. The defence began with two Diamonds and a Diamond ruff. They then played Ace and another Heart, so Anna was allowed to ruff a Heart, and lose just five tricks for 4♠-2.

3NT have been more of a disaster. Afterwards we asked the oracle (Phil Stephens) what to do with the North hand, and he said pass is best. There's some argument for bidding 3♣ though, as the opponents might have a Heart game on (suppose South doesn't have the King of Hearts, and the East-West Clubs are split 4-2). On John's table they also got to 4♠, but John and Martin defended well to take it three off, so we gained 100 points and 3 IMPs on the board. Jake Corry's team was also in the event, making up the numbers, and on this board they managed to play and make 2♠.

With the round-robin format you only score at the end. So on the one possible slam board, we had no idea whether we'd done well or not.


East opened 1♠, and Anna has the big South hand. Since we play Unusual 2NT as either weak or strong, I think this counts. John suggested that he'd bid an immediate 4NT. Anna started with a double though. West supported with 2♠, and I had the North cards. I expected that Anna's double was a simple takeout double, having Hearts, so decided to stick my neck out and bid 3♥, as I've got five of them, and don't want to auction to be passed out in 2♠. Anna surprised me by bidding 4♣, then West weighed in with 4♠, I doubled, which I hoped showed a flat hand and that I wanted to defend. Anna again showed good judgement and pulled the double to 5♣. This was passed out.

After a Spade lead Anna took the first 11 tricks, via a Diamond finesse, then guessed the Hearts wrong at the end for 5♣=. This could be a good result compared to defending 4♠x, or a bad one if the opponent's bid and make the slam. John's table actually made 5♣+1, so we just lost 1 IMP.

I was having a fairly torrid time as declarer. On Board 6 Anna opened a weak NT, and I showed a good hand with six Spades. Anna amazingly had five card support, so we played 4♠ with an 11 card fit. When dummy came down I think everyone thought I was going to make it easily, but there really was no way and I finished off one. Then I hit a low on Board 10, again playing 4♠. I was only missing 14 high card points, so assumed that opener must have the ♠K. I therefore refused the obvious trump finesse, and played for a singleton King offside. This could have been a moment of brilliance, but actually made me look foolish, as the King was onside, and if I'd just have played the hand normally I'd have made it easily. It was classic overthinking. Just for kicks, I went two down too.

In fact I only made one contract all day.


I opened the big North hand 2NT, and everyone passed. I've read somewhere that when 2NT gets passed out, meaning dummy has virtually nothing, the contract nearly always fails, for lack of entries. But that's not going to stop me. I got a friendly Spade lead, and immediately went for a Diamond mega-finesse of the ♦8. When this produced the ♦K, and they split 3-3, I was home. I'd made a contract. Anna was very pleased with me.

On the other table declarer also made 2NT (ask Martin for the full defence), so there was no gain here. On Jake's table he sat East in defence, and stumbled across the excellent ♥K lead, to take the contract two off.

After all 24 boards we went to the Bridge Inn to score up. I often find it quite hard to follow the scoring when people are just shouting out things like "plus 110!", "lose 5!", "13-7!", and once I sat down slightly late I never really caught up. In the end we apparently got 79 VPS out of 8 matches, which was slightly below average. In fact it turned out we actually had 83 VPS, which crucially is now above average, but does not qualify us for either the final or the consolation final. Jake's team had been very fortunate to finish on 92 VPs, topping their group and making the main final.

Saturday Bonus Pairs

We were only officially entered into the teams. But in the evening Anna seemed keen for more, and since we were staying overnight in Peebles we asked about playing in the repechage for the Congreess Pairs. We really were just making up the numbers here, as even if we won we wouldn't be able to play in the final the next day. We stood in for Mr. and Mrs. Goldacre, and did not do them proud.

We finished on 43%. There were many takes of woe. On the very first board the opponents opened a game forcing 2♣, then had a misunderstanding and stopped in 3♣. They got lucky as this made exactly, with no game on.

I only played two contracts, and they were both six card fits going off plenty. Once I brought it on myself, by overcalling a vulnerable 2♦ on Board 9 with ♠AJ ♥ Q53 ♦ AJT82 ♣ 984 . Then we were put in a tight spot by an opponent opening 3♦. Me and Anna both showed four Hearts when we had only three, thinking we would risk a Moysian fit. But when both of us do that it ends up being a 3-3 fit.

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

North has a stonking 3♦ opener. Anna doubled as East. I had the West hand. No bids are tempting. Partner probably doesn't have a five card Major, and I don't like pass as there's a decent chance 3♦ is making. I went for 3♥. I can't remember why I bid it, but that's what I came up with. Anna raised me to 4♥, and when dummy came down it didn't look good.

The defence began with two top Diamonds and a third Diamond. I popped in the ♥6 from dummy and South over-ruffed with the ♥8. I think actually she might do better not to over-ruff here, as she ends up costing herself a trump trick later on. South then played a Club, and I was a bit surprised when North ruffed this. Again, ruffing costs him a natural trump trick. They probably didn't expect me to be in a 3-3 fit though. North now returned a Spade. I've already lost four tricks, and I think it's pretty obvious the Spade finesse will fail (North has already shown ♦AKJ) and cost me another Club ruff, so I went up with the ♠A. Since the opponents had both ruffed once I could draw trumps and finally give up a Spade to East, for. So for a 3-3 trump fit it actually played quite nicely, but 4♥-2 was unlikely to be a good score.

On Jake's table I think West also replied to the Double with 3♥. This time North passed, but went three or four off. Afterwards John said it's clearcut to pass the double. But looking at the hand now, there's a decent chance 3♦x will make. Declarer has nine tricks if he can set up the fourth Heart in dummy, before losing his Spade entry.

My low point of a low evening was when the opponents went down in 4♥, and started arguing about whose fault it was for overbidding. Then they saw the score on the Bridgemate - they'd got 100% as we could have made 10 tricks in Spades. They stopped arguing at that point.

Here's a rare triumph, for my crafty defence. Defending 1NT on Board 3 I sat West with the Heart suit as below:

♥ Q T 7
♥ A K 6 2 ♥ J 4 3
♥ 9 8 5

In the past I've been guilty of cashing the Ace, getting a discouraging signal from partner, then cashing the King anyway, letting declarer make the Queen. Here though I coolly led the ♥2. Declarer automatically played the ♥T, which is the right thing to do, and Anna bagged her Jack. She gave me a Heart back and I cashed three more Hearts. Declarer banging down the losing ♥Q in irritation.

Finally, we also got a good result here.


Anna opened the East hand a chunky 3♥. I think the hand is too good, even vulnerable, but it worked well here. South overcalled 3♠, and I bid an easy 4♥. I was braced for the opponents to bid 4♠ (would I have doubled?), but 4♥ was passed out. If South underleads the ♦A the defence probably get three tricks, but on the normal Club lead Anna made 11 tricks for 4♥+1. In the context of the evening this was a good result for us, even though every other table was in 4♥+1 too.

My main reason for mentioning the hand though is because Jake got a bad board:


On his table East opened 4♥, and when partner doubled Jake passed with the North hand, giving away 4♥x +1.

Despite this setback Jack and partner had a run of improbable successes to finish top of their section and qualify for the pairs final.

Sunday Teams

We'd failed to qualify for the final, and there was no consolation of the consolation final either. So the Dragon Claws assembled once more for the Swiss Teams. The format was four six board matches.

Me and Anna played a bit slowly, and got lightly harangued by the Tournament Directors a few times. There wasn't much time to score up between rounds, but it was clear we were definitely losing after the first match. Me and Anna were against Scottish Seniors with Iain Sime. On the first board we let them make a bad 3NT, but John and Martin made it too. In general John and Martin bid and made almost every game, got a few nice penalties too. The rest of the boards were quite tight, until John and Martin found a surprising sacrifice in 2♣x-2 on Board 4 where we made 4♠. But then on Board 5 our opponent's managed a very controlled stop in 2♦-1. John and Martin were less controlled, and finished in 4♥x-3.

We moved down the hall, and recovered with a win in the second round. It felt fairly quiet on our table, until we all exploded into life on Board 10:


Often when I'm in the supermarket it occurs to me that, despite the fact that millions of people have been to Morrison's thousands of times, it's almost certain no one has ever bought the exact same shopping basket as me. It's the same with bridge auctions. I've certainly never seen this one before.

East opened 2♠, and Anna found a marginal double. West got greedy and went for a redouble, described as "natural". I don't really see the point of this, the only possibly place you want to play is 4♠ so you should just bid it. Before I saw West's redouble I was spooling up to bid 4♥ as North, but now I decided to be a little cleverer, and pass, to see what kind of hand partner has. East passed, missing a chance to bid 3♦, and Anna bid 3♣. Well, I was very excited, and refused to let it go until West had forced me all the way to 6♣, and doubled me. I felt a bit unsure bidding 6♣ over 5♠, but figured I've got a void so it's OK.

West went for a surprising Club lead, and I was a little disappointed to see East follow, meaning we can take a Club trick in defence. To now make the contract Anna requires the ♥KJ onside, which is rather unlikely. 6♣x finished one off.

The question is, would 5♠ have made? As long as we take our two aces, the answer is sadly no, as with South's ♦K987 we eventually get one Diamond trick too.

When we scored up, John and Martin were a bit surprised we were in 6♣, as on their table the auction had just gone 2♠-4♠, making John the declarer as East. Surely this made? Sadly not.

After taking the ♣A, and ♥A South decided for no particular reason to switch to the ♦7 (afterwards she claimed her partner signalled for a Diamond, but her partner denied it). John has only lost two tricks, so can afford one Diamond loser. He was worried about North winning the ♦K and giving South a ruff, so played it safe by going up with the ♦A. Unfortunately, North ruffed this, and John still had to lose the ♦K for one off.

Later, via text message, Phil said that it was best to finesse Diamonds in this situation, withholding the Ace, as if South had started with a singleton Diamond she might have lead it, and also the ♦7 is the card you would play from ♦K987 so suggests that holding more than a singleton.

Despite this bad Board we won the match, and played a friendly Irish team in Round 3. I bid another bad 6♣, this time with no opposition bidding. Anna did not look impressed when dummy went down, and shook her head all the way to two off.

We narrowly lost this match, then bounced back by winning the last match. On the very last board I felt obliged to double, just because it was the last board. Then I realised that actually that was a bit mad.


East opened 1♦. Some would open 1♥, but 1♦ worked well here. Anna sitting South has a mammoth hand, and bid an immediate 4♠. This makes sense, as I've already passed so there's little chance of a slam. West has a tremendous hand now and bid 5♦. I figured West could have all sorts of different hands for the 5♦, and some of them might not be very good, so I doubled. Plus I had an Ace.

When the opening lead came down it was very good news, Anna had lead a Heart, rather than trying to cash her ♠A. It was the ♥4, and when I won the Ace declarer followed with the ♥3, so I knew Anna's Heart was a singleton, as with a doubleton she would have lead high-low. I gave Anna a ruff, and to my great relief she cashed the ♣A for one off.

This was pretty lucky, as even with the ruff Anna might not have had that ♣A for her non-vulnerable pre-empt. West actually has a massive dummy in support of Diamonds, so I'd got away with a very bad bid doubling 5♦, all for the gain of 50 points.

The West hand was actually enough to tempt Martin to open. Their auction was:


John did well to pass out 4♠x, and they took it one off.

Overall we finished with 35 out of 80 VPs, so slightly below average, playing in the bottom section. Still, every contract I doubled went down, so that's good news.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Barristan the Bold

On Saturday night me and Anna went down to St. Andrew Bridge Club. The hands were all hand dealt, which means no hand records, but with Anna's help I've reconstructed this board. Anna was sitting West, and me East.

No vul
S deal
♠ J 6 5
♥ T 7 6 4
♦ K J
♣ K J 9 8
♠ A Q 9 7 4 3
♥ J 9 5
♦ 9 4
♣ T 2
♠ T 8
♥ K 6 3
♦ A Q 6 5 2
♣ Q 5 3
♠ K 2
♥ A Q 8
♦ T 8 7 3
♣ A 7 6 4

South opened a 12-14 1NT, passed out. Anna could have stretched a bit to bid 2♦, showing a 6 card major, but didn't fancy it. North passed, and so did I. Anna lead the fourth highest ♠7. When North put down her 9 point dummy she said that she could have bid, but didn't have enough points. She added that if she wanted to bid, she'd have to take here shoes off. I didn't know what this meant, but declarer seemed to understand, and called for the ♠6 from dummy. I covered this and she won the ♠K in hand.

Clearly, Anna has found the killer lead. From my perspective, sitting East, if the ♠7 is indeed fourth highest then I know that Anna has all the remaining high Spades, and probably five or six of them. I can also see my ♦AQ sitting nicely over dummy's ♦KJ.

After winning her ♠K declarer started on Clubs. She cashed the ♣A then finessed the ♣J. I eagerly took my Queen and returned a Spade, to Anna's delight. At this point I should paraphrase Mike Lawrence's Bols Bridge Tip:

You are now in charge. Each one a little firmer than the one before, you pound out your remaining Spades. You're feeling a little ecstasy mixed with a little power as you turn the final Spade. Feels good, doesn't it? Now what? Cutting through a euphoric glow, you reconstruct the last four tricks. Partner discarded the - what did he discard?

With my Club and Anna's five Spades we had six tricks. If Anna switched to a Diamond we had at least two more tricks. If she played something else, declarer could get all the last tricks and make the contract. I knew I wanted a Diamond switch, and on my first discard on Spades played the ♥6 - we play McKenny so this high card asks for a high suit. On my second discard I wanted to make it really clear that the ♥6 was a high Heart, asking for Diamonds, so now threw away the ♥3. This meant baring the singleton ♥K, but I figured it was worth it to make a clear signal, as I knew a Diamond switch would take the contract down.

On the next Spade I threw a Club. Then with West on lead to cash the last Spade this was the situation:

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

Anna led her last Spade. Dummy threw a Heart, and I had another discard to make. Inspired by Barristan the Bold I decided that I might as well keep all my Diamonds, so threw away my ♥K. Declarer threw away a Diamond from hand. This was also bold, as she was keeping winners at the risk of throwing away a Diamond stop.

In her excitement at cashing all the Spades Anna had indeed missed my discards, so now had a guess. Although I didn't intend it this way, me throwing ♥K was a big clue that I didn't want Hearts, and she correctly switched to a Diamond. I then took five Diamond tricks, meaning declarer had only won the first two tricks. The result of 1NT-5 gave us +250. This was aggregate scoring, so didn't help too much, but nice anyway.

Later, there was some bold bidding.

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

1: Bold

I opened the East hand 1♠, and Anna replied 1NT. Since Anna has 6-9 points, and I only have 15, I was going to pass, especially as I think to rebid 2♥ I ought to have 5431 shape. I decided to bid, and it worked out well as Anna was able to raise, and I bid a good game. I got a trump lead, so was able to discard a Club, and made the hand on a cross-ruff.

Finally, here's some boldness that didn't pay off.

No vul
E deal
♠ Q J 9 4
♥ A K
♦ 7 3
♣ A K J 8 5
♠ A 8 6 3 2
♥ T 7 6 5 4 2
♦ -
♣ 7 3
♠ -
♥ Q J 9 8
♦ A K Q T 9 4
♣ Q T 4
♠ K T 7 5
♥ 3
♦ J 8 6 5 2
♣ 9 6 2

I had the big fat East hand, and opened 1♦. Anna had only four points, but is well worth a bid. She bid 1♥, and North had an easy double. I was undeterred, and decided to go to at least game. I bid 3♠, as a splinter. Anna actually has quite a good hand opposite my splinter, with extra trumps and a seven loser hand, but wisely decided to sign off in game. It was still enough for North to double. I thought about redoubling, which I've never done before, but passed.

If Anna has any one of the four cards of ♣AK and ♥AK game would be easy, or even if we got a nice Spade lead. Unfortunately though North cashed the ♣AK, and it had to go one off. 4♥x-1 was worth -100.

Afterwards South said that she thought of bidding 4♠ - not sure what would happen then (would Anna double, would I pass?), but if everyone passes it might go one down.

In the end we finished the night third overall, with -170 points.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Bols Bridge Tips

I've just read The 2nd Bols Book of Bridge Tips, by Andre Boekhorst. Each chapter is a short tip about some aspect of the game, by a leading expert. Here are my favourites:

The Five Level Belongs to the Opponents

By Ed Manfield.

Suppose you've bid something like 4♥, then the opponents bid 5♦. Rather than ploughing on with 5♥, prefer to pass or double. You only go on with a five over five bid with an exceptional hand, such as one with a void.

Picture the Original Shape

By Matthew Granovetter.

During the bidding and play, try and work out declarer's hand shape. It's easier to match declarer (and partner) to a particular hand pattern, 4-4-3-2, 5-4-3-1 etc., than counting up all the cards in each suit.

Don't Think, always duck a repeatable finesse

By Alfred Sheinwold.

Suppose that you are defending, and are about to win a finesse. Don't win it! If it's not going anywhere it's better to duck. This makes life harder for declarer, who might waste entries taking the finesse again.

5 4 K 3 2
9 8 7 6

For example, if you're sitting East you should duck the King without a second thought.

This works best in trumps, because you know you'll get the trick later. There are dangers - such as ducking the setting trick or ducking with Kx.

If they don't cover, they don't have it

By Zia Mahmood.

J 5
A K T 7 6 3

Suppose you lead the Jack from dummy, planning to finesse. East will play the Queen whenever he has it. So if East doesn't play the Queen, you can conclude he doesn't have it, and you play off the Ace-King instead. Occasionally, you'll drop a doubleton Queen with West.

Lead towards the closed hand if possible

By Tony Forrester.

K Q x x x x

It's much harder for the defence if you lead from dummy, towards your hand. If you have the suit above in dummy, and a void in hand, then it's best to lead a low one from dummy. East might well play the Ace, thinking perhaps you have a singleton Jack.

Second hand high, to cut off entries to long suit

By Eric Rodwell.

A J T 9 x
K x x Q x x
x x

Suppose declarer has that big suit in dummy, and no other entries. When declarer first leads low from hand West should pop up with the King.

No talking at the table

By Kitty Bethe.

Don't discuss a hand afterwards, especially if it goes badly. It's better just to move on. Also, don't say anything when you put dummy down, such as "Could I have bid 2♠ instead?", as that will disrupt declarer's concentration. It's better to save the discussion until the end of the session.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Rubbery Bridge

In preparation for the Peebles Congress (which Martin thinks is in Harrogate), the four of us met up this Sunday in John's flat. Me and Anna are honing our simple system, Martin and John were for some reason trying to play a system written by Jake, which neither of them had read. There was a lot of talk of Bergen Raises, but in the end I don't think they ever came up.

Martin brought a bridge table and bidding boxes, John made a stew. What a day! We played rubber bridge. Twice in the first few hands John and Martin made games and claimed extra points for honours, and Anna said Rubber Bridge was stupid. Once you already have a part score, like 1NT= for 40, there's no point bidding anything that scores more than 60 points unless you're interested in slam. So, bids like 3♥ become slam invites. That's the theory anyway, often the team with a part score forgot they had a part score, which John scrupulously alerted each time.

Me and Anna lost the first two rubbers heavily, despite the occasional victory in making 2♦x= and 2♥x=. Then we had the following strange auction:


I opened 1♦ and West overcalled 1NT. East bid 2♣ as Stayman, and I boldly weighed in again with 2♦, with a good six card suit. Then West doubled. At the time it wasn't clear what that double meant, and East-West went on to play 3♥. Afterwards though we all thought that the double should be penalties, as West has already shown a good Diamond stop with 1NT.

A similar auction happened later:

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

I dealt myself the tasty South cards. We do now play three Weak Twos so I could have opened 2♦. Given I have such short Majors, I also considered 3♦, but with partner being an unpassed hand decided not to risk her wrath. I went for a modest pass, planning to weigh in again later to show both my minors.

West opened 1NT showing 15-17 (it's the only option in Rubber Bridge apparently), and East bid 2♣ Stayman. I want to get involved now, and can see three ways to do it. The tamest is just to double, showing Clubs. I could also overcall 2♦. Lastly, I could bid 2NT, which would show minors. At unfavourable vulnerability I chose the middle road, and bid 2♦. West doubled, and East left it in.

West led the ♠K, and Anna rather bashfully put dummy down. It's rather poor, with just one trump. The upside is that the opponents having eight Spades and 25 points (and the Diamond finesse is sure to work) so you know they have a game on. I can't remember the hand diagram exactly, but the North and South hands are right.

There's only four obvious losers - two trumps, a Club and a Heart. And with the strong Club suit I've got enough winners too. The problem is, I'm going to lose trump control. I've got two more trumps than West, but I'm going to have to lose the lead four times. Once on opening lead, twice on drawing trumps, and once on losing the ♣A. Even if the opponents run out of Hearts after making me ruff three times (and then have to play Spades), ruffing three times is still too many, as I have only two more trumps than West. I should always come away with at least six tricks though - four trumps, a Club and the Spade Ace.

If I concentrate on Clubs, without drawing trumps, it doesn't help me keep control. Each time West ruffs a Club he can just play a major suit to make me ruff once more. And it might even be that East ruffs the Club. The final option is to try not to establish Clubs, and just ruff lots of times in my hand, but I think that fails from lack of entries to dummy.

I got a Spade lead. This is a slight reprieve, as I don't have to ruff straight away, but doesn't really help. I still have to lose the lead three more times. My only hope is that one of the trumps is onside, so I began with a trump to the ♦9. West could duck this, but it's dangerous to duck too many trumps, as then I might be able to start on Clubs and force her to ruff with top trumps.

West won the ♦Q and returned a Heart, which I ruffed. I played a Club to East's Ace, and John went into a think. The defence have taken four tricks so far:

♠ x x x
♥ J x
♦ -
♣ T x
♠ Q J
♥ x
♦ A 7 2
♣ x x
♠ x x x
♥ A x x
♦ 8
♣ x
♠ -
♥ -
♦ K J T 5
♣ Q J 9 x

He made his first blunder of the day (since revoking earlier) and played a trump to West's Ace. I'm now home. Whatever West plays I can ruff, draw trumps, and take all the Clubs. The final result was 2♦x+1.

Despite one good result we lost this rubber too. As a Gentleman I settled up on behalf of me and Anna. Then we played an exciting variant of bridge, where at your turn you produce two cards out the box, and flip a coin to see which one is your actual bid. I think it might need some work, as on the only hand we tried it the result was 4♣x-7.

We're ready for Peebles.