Sunday, 27 April 2014

New Melville Bridge Congress 2014 - Part One (Pairs)

What a day! The New Melville Bridge Club is in Edinburgh, right next to the zoo. Me and John Faben got the early bus across from Glasgow and met the rhinos, gibbons, tapirs, and of course the pandas:


Yang Guang and Tian Tian

This was a very relaxing way to spend the morning and I will try and do the same before each bridge tournament.

At the club we were the last pair to arrive. We curtly acknowledged Martin Stephens and Jake Corry, who would be our team mates later in the day but for now were just another opposing pair. Altogether there were 55 pairs in the tournament. Two years ago I think John won the event playing with Phil Stevens. Last year, with a generous handicap boosting our score, me and Anna came 3rd and Jake and Martin second. Read my report of last year's congress here.

This year instead of Anna I was playing with John. We were playing a terrible system we'd devised called Puppet Culbertson. It consisted of normal Acol, with the addition of two conventions, Firstly, we would use Puppet Stayman wherever possible, even though neither of us really understood it (or maybe he did, but I didn't). Secondly, and more fundamentally, all slam auctions would be conducted using the Culbertson New Asking Bid. This means that once trumps are agreed any new suit bid asks partner if they have control in that suit. I'd just written an article about this convention in the Scottish Bridge News, and was delighted that John had agreed to play it with me.

Armed with our makeshift system, could me and John evoke the spirit of Culbertson and cut through the field and surge to triumph? No. Could we finish above 50%? No. Could we even beat Martin and Jake? Sadly not.

We had one early triumph, where I deliberately bid wildly and it paid off.

JohnDanny
WNES
-
-1♥4♦-
--

South and West passed and North opened 1♥. I had the East hand. Probably the right bid is 2♦, but with partner having already passed I decided to pre-empt. Also, I calculated that there was virtually no chance of making a Puppet Stayman or Asking Bid on this auction, so we might as well get the hand over quickly. I bid an immediate 4♦. This puts South under pressure. I would definitely have bid something, not sure what, but she passed.

South lead a Heart against 4♦. When I saw dummy I was pleased John had such a weak hand, so thought the opponents probably had a game somewhere which they've missed. Although they only have a seven card Heart fit they're almost certain to make 4♥, and also 5♣ is easy. Also, as the hand record above shows, if North is declarer he can make lots of tricks in No Trumps. I know on Jake's table North-South did bid 5♣ so East-West sacrificed in 5♦x-1. Luckily I was only in 4♦, and I've a good chance of actually making it. On my table the defence cashed their two top Hearts then North lead another Heart. I was able to ruff high and start on Clubs, in the end just losing two Hearts and a Club to make +130. This was a top score for East-West, but strangely only got us 98%. Looking at the results here, there are a few results where someone should have got 0% or 100% but instead got 2% or 98%. Don't suppose it matters much. Anyway, that was our best board. I followed this success by doubling 2NT on the next deal, which declarer made with a healthy three overtricks.

About half way through the event me and John were doing quite well. There was one Puppet Stayman 'success', where we accidentally missed our 4-4 Heart fit but ended up making 10 tricks in 3NT for a good score. But then came Culbertson Corner. For one round we were sat right in the corner of the room, and unfortunately for us, both boards gave me an opportunity to use our slam bidding convention, which I eagerly took. On the first one, John wasn't playing ball:

JohnDanny
WNES
-
1♦-4♥?-
--

John opened the West hand 1♦, and I got very excited sitting East. Straight away I'm thinking slam. I've got a Diamond fit and five losers. I know it's matchpoints, and we should look for a major fit, but if I bid 1♥ it might be hard to set Diamonds as trumps later. I decided to make an immediate Asking Bid in 4♥. The question mark in the auction above indicates that 4♥ is an Asking Bid, not that it's a dubious bid (it's textbook). The bid is supposed to set Diamonds as trumps and ask partner for second round control in Hearts. We'd discussed on the bus that Asking Bids are normally at the four level, so even though 3♥ would be basically the same, I decided to keep it simple and bid 4♥. John went into a think. Was he trying to recall the Culbertson Table of responses to Asking Bids? No, he was wondering if 4♥ was natural. In the end he passed. Disaster.

South lead the ♣A against 4♥. I decided that my goal for the hand was to not show any emotion and give away that we'd had a mix up. Secondary to that I would try and make the contract. I didn't think that mattered much as everyone else would be scoring better for being in a slam. But the ♣A revived my interest, and I now actually had a decent chance of making it. I crossed to the ♦A and finessed the ♥7. South won the ♥Q and returned a Spade. I went up with the ♠J, so now had only two top Spade winners. I cashed these, along with two Clubs, managed to sneak three Diamonds by the defence, and finally a Spade from table trapped North's ♥KT under my ♥AJ so I lost just two Hearts and a Diamond for 4♥=.

It was fun to make such a poor contract, and enjoyed playing it recklessly quickly - normal speed for everyone else I expect. But would we get any Matchpoints? Thank goodness for Jake and Martin. They bid to 6♠, and went off, as did a few other tables, so we got 34% for +420. John said afterwards that he was thinking about replying to my Asking Bid, but knew the proper response was 6♦, showing second round control in my asked suit (Hearts) and the outside Ace of Diamonds. He didn't want to leap to 6♦, but it would have been a great result. Got to trust the system John, don't argue with Culbertson.

Perhaps overly concerned by missing slam on that Board, on the next one I got rather carried away. In a competitive auction John invited me to game, and with a shapely 6 point hand I decided that actually game wasn't enough. I drove us to a terrible slam via not one but two Asking Bids. I'll not reprint it, as no one will benefit by seeing that auction again. When dummy came down I was delighted it actually had some play. How do you fancy 6♠ by East?

South lead the ♣A, and then switched to the ♦K. At the time I assumed that she had ♦KQ, but looking at it now that was a very bold switch to the ♦K. It didn't matter here. It was all about the Heart suit. I drew trumps, (carefully unblocking the ♠8 so I still had an entry to dummy) then played three rounds of Hearts. If they were 3-3 I was home. They weren't though.

There's a hand in The Bridge Memoirs of Robin Hood by David Bird where Robin and his partner make a slam, and the opponents exclaim in surprise. Just 21 points between you and no singleton or void, how did you do it? We had only 21 points there, and no singleton or void, that could have been our Robin Hood moment. Instead we were the only East-West pair to get a negative score on the board, and duly got 2%.

Overall we finished on 47.7%, just behind Martin and Jake. Not a victory for Puppet Culbertson, but also we didn't play or defend very well. Congratulations to the winner Dilys Gellatly and Marjorie Murray who scored an excellent 64.36%. Full results on the New Melville website.

6 comments:

  1. On the hand where John passed your 4H asking bid, you should have informed the opponents BEFORE the lead that 4H should have been alerted and call the Director, not least because the final opponent's Pass may be changed (although they'd be happy here). You cannot hide your misunderstanding by hiding your agreements.

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    1. Paul, what is the situation when, as here, I'm snot sire if we've had a mix up or not (as dummy). I guess I should explain that we play New Asking bids in lots of situations, nut I'm not sure on our agreement here?

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    2. Some would say that if you are not certain about your agreements then you are not obliged to say anything. In this particular case, where it's your partner's methods, then I would expect him to say something if necessary.

      Generally though I would say that I'm unsure about whether I should have alerted partner's call or not. If the opponents ask why, then I'd say I cannot remember our methods here.

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  3. You're right, I should have said something, as I knew it was an Asking Bid. Also, I'm aware that some people still don't play the Culbertson New Asking Bid so might not recognise it!

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