Me and Anna were North-South against Iain and Janus, who were playing an unusual system. As well as 5 card Majors and a Strong NT, their other notable opening bids are as follows (slightly simplified by me here):
|1♣||Any 23+ hand (like the normal 2♣ opening)|
|1♦||Either a 1♣ or 1♦ opener|
|2♣||Weak with both majors|
|2NT||Weak with both majors|
I'm not sure if the other tables were playing anything like this. Since you play all 24 boards against the same opponents you don't get much of an impression of what's going on at the other tables. I think this is a weakness of the format, it would be much better to swap opponents at half time, to get to meet some more people.
However, one advantage of playing the same opponents throughout is that it does gives you a bit more of a chance to know their system. Me and Anna quickly agreed that against their 1♣ opening we would play double shows majors, 1NT shows minors, we would treat the 1♦ opening as natural, and against all those unusual weak twos we would play that double shows a weak NT or a very strong hand. I say that's what we agreed to play, but actually it was more like I suggested it, and Anna looked confused, then after a pause reluctantly agreed. She forgot our defence the first time they opened 2♦, then I forgot it later on.
In the first half we didn't do much. Our opponents had some possible games, but maybe underbid a bit, and we certainly under-defended. They ended up with a few scores like 1NT+3 or 3♠+2, hard to tell if that was good for us or not. Me and Anna at least registered this success, with a very pleasing auction.
As dealer sitting South I decided not to hang around and got right in with a Weak Two in Diamonds. This hand is the minimum we would ever do that with. Anna's got a monster hand and now needs to find the right game, either 3NT or 5♦. Or maybe higher? If you give me just the ♦Q, ♠K and ♣A, then she can count 13 tricks and a grand slam is possible. Two out of three of those cards and it's an easy 6♦. But after some thought Anna plumped for an immediate 5♦, giving up on slam. It's a good job she did, as I've got a minimum, and 5♦ still needs a finesse. Luckily, the ♠K was onside and I made 11 tricks. And even better, 3NT goes down on a Club lead (which was found at some tables).
In the second half our opponents were more aggressive, and made a few games and went down in some too. Luckily, me and Anna got things the right way round for aggregate scoring, and did our best defending against games, where it really matters, and were a bit more lax against part scores, where I continued to blow tricks by ducking erratically.
I benefitted from a bold competitive style on this hand. It's an unusual deal, as there's four possible finesses, and they all worked.
I opened the South hand 1♠. West overcalled 2♥, and Anna sitting North was under pressure. She ought to have four Spades to support me (we play four card Majors), but stretched a bit and bid 2♠ anyway. I think this is quite normal, it's a good bid, but me and Anna don't normally do it. East then came in with a natural 3♦, showing a long suit. With my singleton Diamond I ignored the vulnerability and ploughed on. I do have a nice hand, but maybe bidding on is a bit foolish, as the opponents don't seem to have a fit.
Anna put down her dummy, apologising for only having three Spades. There goes my expected nine card fit. West lead a Diamond and another Diamond, which I ruffed. I knew the defence had a Heart ruff coming, so played off the ♠AK, then lead a Heart up. West won his ♥A and played a third Diamond. If I ruff this then I'm down to one last trump, and if I ever lose the lead (if for instance the Club finesse fails) I could get my last trump drawn by the remaining ♠Q and go lots off. So I shrewdly refused to ruff another Diamond, instead throwing away a small Club from my hand, which is going to be a loser anyway. Now if the defence continue Diamonds I can ruff in dummy.
With all the finesses working it went very nicely from here on. At some point East took his ♠Q, but along with a Heart and two Diamonds those were the only tricks for the defence. I made 3♠=, and I think in practice East-West are likely to make 3♦.
At the end of the first half there were just 10 points between the teams. Not much in aggregate scoring.
The second half was a fairly poor procession of low-level misfits and partscores. Someone commented on how dull the boards were, and as if in response things took off on the next deal. This was the biggest hand of the match:
Janus sitting West opened 2NT, showing both minors, or just Diamonds. Anna paused for a very long time over 2NT. Remember our makeshift defence was that double showed a weak NT or a big hand. Her pause was so long, in fact, that I decided that if she did choose to pass, when it came round to me I would ethically only bid 3♥ (and not 4♥ like I would otherwise) as her pause had suggested a decent hand. As it happened, she solved the problem of what to bid by inventing a 3♦ bid. This wasn't covered by our rapid system discussion at the start of the night, but after some thought I decided it couldn't be natural and alerted it. I was now all set to jump to 4♥ to show strength, but after Iain bid 4♦ I decided I needed to bid 5♥. We've no agreement on what this sort of bid means, but Anna topped me up to slam anyway.
It was now my time for a think. I've got three Aces, so Anna must be raising me to slam with only one Ace. If she's bidding this strongly with only one Ace she must have a monster. Surely I should bid on to 7♥? I nearly convinced myself. Of course I'd forgotten that with a 19+ hand Anna would have doubled first (that's our agreed defence), so I can work out she's not that strong. I thought about the glory of a grand slam, then let it go, and reluctantly passed 6♥.
When dummy came down I noticed the hands fit nicely, and actually 7♥ looks pretty good. All I need for 13 tricks is the Heart finesse, which is likely to work after West has pre-empted. As it happened the Heart finesse failed, and I was relieved to just be in 6♥=. I told Anna I was thinking of bidding seven, and she tutted at my foolishness.
In the end Team Rowan won the match 11-5. We're back!