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
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.
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.