In the first half of the match me and Anna declared six contracts, and went down in all six of them. The worst was when I stretched with a nice 5 count opposite my partner’s strong NT, and ended up in 4♥ doubled with 20 points and a 4-3 fit. Of course we were vulnerable, and as I started to lose trump control I realised this was going to be a very bad one for us. I played it carefully for two off and -500, a moral victory in avoiding -1100.
In the second half things were more even. On one hand Anna had a Diamond suit of AKQxxx and shrewdly let the opponents play in 3NT. She cashed the first six tricks, and we got two more after that for 3NT-4. Then Anna actually made a contract, which is more than managed all night. My highlight was on the very last board, when I decided that rather that going for a game bonus I’d double them and go for penalties instead. This is because I’ve been reading an old book by Ely Culbertson, who says that doubling the opponents is the most profitable bid in bridge. This is aggregate scoring:
I opened the West hand 1♦ and North overcalled 1♠. Anna had the East hand, and decided that rather than showing Diamond support she’d show her Spade stop, so bid a natural 2NT. South came in with a bold 3♥, and I had a decision to make. I’ve got 15 points and I know that partner has 10-12, so we’ve got enough for 3NT, and I’ve got a Heart stop too. But I thought that since we’ve got so many points, and the opponents don’t have a Heart fit (as far as I know) I should go for the big score and try for penalties. So I hit them with what I hoped would be a killer penalty double.
I went for a K♠ lead, as partner should have some Spades for the 2NT bid. When dummy came down I was a bit worried about the good Hearts, was hoping partner had them. Anna played the ♠9 on the first trick (giving count), and seeing the good Spades in dummy I had to switch. I switched to Clubs, which gives declarer an easy second Club trick. When I was back in with the ♥A I had another chance, and this time I did find the Diamond switch, else declarer can actually make the contract by setting up dummy's Spades. After taking the second Diamond Anna greedily cashed her spades;A. This was the setting trick, but set up the Spades in dummy so we never got any Clubs at all. So in the end we just got our five top tricks for 3♥x-1 and +200, but with better defence we get a Club trick too, for 3♥x-2 and +500.
At the time I was worried those three good Hearts in dummy meant declarer might make 3♥, but actually those Hearts are good news for us. It means that North-South have good enough Hearts that 3NT for East-West is failing on a normal Heart lead. So getting +200 meant that was probably a good board for us, even if we could have taken more tricks (and can actually make 5♦).
The most exciting hand of the day was this zinger. It generated some discussion after the match, meaning I can report what happened on some other tables too. First here's me and Anna in defence:
South opened 1♠. I think they were playing Strong Twos on our table, but it's maybe not enough for 2♠. Anna sitting West found a nice bid of 2NT, which is a bid she’s famously forgotten a few times. We play it here as showing both minors at least 5-5, and either a weak or strong hand. North came straight in over this with 3♥, and it came to me as East. We’ve a big Club fit, so I’m definitely worth at least 4♣. But I’m a big fan of pre-sacrificing and went for 5♣. Over this South instantly bid 5♠, which was passed round to me. I have five trumps, and did consider a double, as it’s not often you get five trumps in defence. There’s also a good argument for bidding 6♣, as with all my Spades partner probably has none.
Against 5♣ Anna wisely lead her A♣, then another Club. South ruffed this, and drew all five of my trumps. He then played a Heart to the Ace, and lead a Heart back towards his King. He conceded a Heart along with the one Club for 5♠=.
If I did bid 6♣, and played there doubled it’s two or three off. There’s two Diamonds and a Heart to lose, and maybe another Diamond too depending on what happens. But a &6clubs; bid might also push them to 6♥ or 6♠, and they might well make it. You can take the Heart finesse, and in 6♠ declarer should play West for long Hearts when she shows up with no Spades. Also, if you’re prepared to run all of your trumps then you also make it without needing the Heart finesse, as West will be forced to throw away too many Diamonds or too many Hearts, and you get your twelfth trick with a squeeze. 6♥ is harder, and needs an immediate guess for who to finesse Hearts.
Each hand in the league matches is played by four tables. What happened on the other tables?
On Trish’s table she opened 4♠ and played there:
On a Diamond lead she threw away her losing Club, then guessed Hearts for 4♠+3
On Jill and Aileen’s table they sat East-West like us. East opened a Lucas 2♠, showing 5 Spades and a minor. Apparently it ended with them sacrificing in 7♣x:
|[not sure what happened here]|
After the event Trish contacted John Matheson and asked for his recommended auction from North-South, assuming no interference. Here's what he suggested:
South chooses to play in Spades, so that when you run them you have a chance to find out about the Heart suit.
Overall then, another good win, 11-5.