Never mind the SQA exams the real test happens every lunch-time on the bridge table. This year the team of NC and JW have been attempting to overcome the incumbent champions AP, TB and ID. At one point NC-JW were losing the series by 13 weeks to 16, before a hot streak took them to 19-16 with five weeks to go. There was talk of a dormie, whatever that is. They were pegged back to 19-18 before clinching the series last week by 20-18.
As NC says, "you've got to have something to look forward to" and I've really enjoyed the bridge this year. I've no doubt they've also benefitted from my experience and accurate use of bridge phrases, such as "Tartan Twos", "Sputnik Doubles", "Swan distribution", "Texas transfers" and "SOS redouble".
Here are some collected highlights taken from throughout the year:
I've started a new job, and luckily there's a game of bridge at lunch time. It's rubber bridge, which I'm not so familiar with, and it's taking me a little time to learn the local bidding system ...
It's only Monday, but I've already got a hand of the week.
Before this deal NC complained of not having had a good hand since 2008, but he got one here and opened 1♦ as South. There was then a bit of confusion as North-South realised they already had 60 towards a game, and they nearly stopped in 2♦. But with me egging him on and the lunch break nearly over, NC was talked into 6♦.
AP found the best lead for the defence with a Spade, and with the trump finesse losing (and no way to set up Clubs) NC had to finish in 6♦-1. I hope he doesn't hold it against me.
After Monday to Thursday it was all square - this week's lunchtime bridge league all comes down to Friday. With five minutes left, TB and ID needed a game. It's a pressure cooker.
Before picking up his cards, TB sitting checked the score and declares he was going to bid whatever he has. Then he opened 1♦. But wait! It's not his deal. NC sitting West was having none of it and got in first by opening 1♥...
The Joke of the Week was about a Cheese Factory, but unfortunately none of the bridge this week caught my eye enough to feature in the Blog. The closest was a hand where I coffee-housed NC into bidding an excellent 3NT. I then had to leave the room suddenly, just as his opponents were cashing the first five Club tricks for 3NT-1. I maintain it was a fine contract.
Luckily there's some unresolved business to write about from Last Week. A deal so big it has stretched over the weekend to become this week's featured deal. With NC and JW hundreds of points behind on Friday lunch-time, they needed some magic. It didn't happen the first hand, or the second, but then came this golden opportunity.
JW immediately opened the South hand 4♠. No time for messing around. No one quite knew the score, but it looked like he needed at least a small slam. I advised North to bid "at least a small slam", and he wisely went for just 6♠.
ID sitting West considered his lead. He was tempted by the ♣A. This would have been the right lead against 7♠, where you only need one trick. But against 6♠, you need two tricks. So the best lead is a high Heart. This will probably lose to the ♥A, but then you'll be poised to get your two tricks. So ID lead the ♥K, which was won by declarer in hand. The lead has worked - declarer now looks like he is facing a loser in Hearts and Clubs. The only way to avoid this is if he can pull off some magic in the Diamond suit, and that's exactly what happened. NC drew trumps then was able to set up the Diamonds to discard his Heart loser, and make a tremendous 6♠=.
There followed some frantic calculations as to the final score. In fact, this continued on to Monday, and I'm still not sure who won the week.
I should have stayed out of it. I tried to, but I couldn't help myself.
In today's lunch time bridge North-South were on their way to a Spade slam when someone asked my advice. I suggested bidding Clubs, an "Italian style cue bid" which confused everyone. NC was then coffeehoused by the opposition into passing, and after playing the hand very nicely finished on an embarrassing 3♠+3.
This week TB and AP crushed the opposition to win the week and recover the lead in the series. But there were some missed opportunities - criminal misses. At least NC had some good jokes.
This Friday for the culmination of the week I sat in for NC. On the first hand I forgot that we already had 40 points towards game and needlessly powered us into 5♣, when 3♣ would have been enough. Luckily, 5♣ still made, so NC and JW were still in prime position to win the week. Then I was foolish again. When TB took a wild gamble on 6♥, knowing he needed a big score to overcome his deficit I played right into his hands and doubled. My partner JW was astonished, and informed me of this. Of course TB redoubled, and it would have been hugely embarrassing if 6♥xx made. To my relief the contract went down so the week belonged to NC-JW.
Later on Friday TB suggested we play another whole week's worth of bridge. "It's only a game" said JW, and agreed to the double or nothing. To add extra spice both BM and SG made their competitive debuts on the bridge table.
Having had a drink or two I can barely remember any of the hands that evening, including the ones I attempted to write down or even photograph. The only one I remember is this one - after some bold bidding JW and NC reach 4♥ with just 19 points between them:
The game proved unbeatable, and that was enough for JW and NC to clinch a second week in one day.
After some ambitious bidding NC and JW reached an unlikely 4♠ on a 4-3 fit (known as a Moysian). It was not to be and NC ultimately finished one off. This was actually not a bad result, especially seeing as he was playing today without any carrots.
Here's a bonus Deal of the Week, as requested by JW who bested me in 6♦x. I could have made it too.
I was sitting South and finished in an excellent 6♦. JW sitting East has all those Diamonds and doubled me, which should have given me a good clue how to play the contract. But I ignored the warning sign and let JW collect two trump tricks for 6♦x-1, which he celebrated enthusiastically. To make things worse, we could have made an easy 7NT.
"That's the kind of deal that can ruin your whole weekend" said JW.
This week NC and JW handsomely won the week, to draw the series back to 16-16. SG popped in too.
Twice I went two off doubled, in contracts I maybe could have made. But instead of looking at another bodge I'd rather write about one where I did well. Or rather my partner did well, because AP was in 3NT and I was dummy. 3NT is the most common contract at the bridge table, and often makes when it shouldn't. AP robbed 'em today to level the series. Everything to play for.