South opened with a fairly textbook Weak Three in Clubs. I was sitting West with 20 points, a Club stop, and solid Hearts. What should I bid? I could have bid a risky 3NT going for a matchpoint top, or doubled then bid Hearts. Jake taught me well last week at the New Melville Congress (see report here) that with a single suited hand it's best not to double, as partner might pass your double.
My hand isn't quite single suited here, but I think double is still dangerous. Whatever partner bids you're then in trouble for your next bid, and it might be hard to get your strength across. That's why I went for an immediate 4♥ bid, which I think describes my hand perfectly - a very strong hand with good Hearts, and certainly not a preempt after the opponents have preempted.
[Edit - from a discussion with Martin Stephens and the 'panel', which I would guess includes Phil Stephens, I've been informed that actually 4♥ here shows a slightly weaker and more distributional hand. With my actual hand I should in fact double, and trust that partner will take realise when I bid again I've got a monster. For example, after my double Anna could jump to 4♠, then I bid 5♥ to show a big hand with Hearts and Anna raises to 6♥]
Anna wasn't sure about the 4♥ bid, so took the cautious route and passed. She has a great hand to play in Hearts, and so I made an easy 12 tricks. One interesting point in the play - after drawing trumps I lead the ♠J, which North ducked, presumably in case partner had a singleton ♠K. I then fancied I had a chance of making all 13 tricks, as I discarded my ♠K from hand on the extra Diamond in dummy, then ruffed a Spade. If North had started with just ♠Ax the Ace would have come down and all of dummy's Spades would be winners.
Surprisingly, 4♥+2 scored an undeserved 52%, as a few tables only made 11 tricks, and the slam was bid only twice. This was a very conservative field. That's why we scored so poorly for overbidding this one:
This time it's Anna who has a big hand and gets preempted. When North opens 2♥ she opted to double; I would have gone for an immediate 3NT. In response to her double I bid 3♦, although I'm maybe nearly good enough for 4♦. Anna then leapt to 5♦, which is pretty ambitious as I could be sitting opposite her with a 0 count and 4 small Diamonds. Since I had so much more than that, and expected at least 4 card support, I topped up to 6♦.
North lead the ♣J. You can see the contract ought go down, with a Club and Spade loser, but the interesting thing is how to play it to maximize your chances to sneak home. I think that's something expert players do very well, play to get a mistake from the opponents rather than giving up when they know they can't make it. I reasoned that there was no way North could have the ♣K for the ♣J lead, so the finesse was bound to fail. I went up with the ♣A, fearing South would win the King and give a ruff. This is foolish, as since no one else is bidding slam I'm going to get exactly the same score for 6♦-1 and 6♦-2 and I shouldn't worry about the ruff. In fact if I finesse the ♣Q, and South wins she's then got a tough problem. If she returns a Club, quite reasonably expecting partner to have a singleton Club, I can then set up my Clubs, discard Spades, and make the contract. An opportunity missed.
On 25 tables, no one else bid 6♦. So our 6♦-1 was worth just 8% of the matchpoints, as we beat the pair in 6♣-1 and drew with those in 5♣-1.
As Anna said afterwards "5♦ was a good contract, why didn't you just leave it in that?"