Monday, 15 September 2014

Commonwealth Nations Bridge Championship - Day Seven

To close the week of bridge the final event was the Open Pairs. I signed up to play with John Faben. In advance we'd agreed to play whichever system the winners of the main event used. When the Chairman's team prevailed this meant playing Hackett-Hackett, downloadable here. You might notice that the link there is for their 2005 system. We noticed this too but only after it was too late, so that's what we ended up playing.

The main features are:

Strong NT
Four card majors, open them even with longer minor if weak
Three weak twos, could be five cards and 3-10 points
2/1 game forcing
Standard count and attitude

There was also lots of other stuff that we quickly gleaned from the convention card, and agreed to play even though we didn't really know what we were doing. This included: four suit transfers, mini-splinters, South African Texas openings, Puppet Stayman, Kokish after 2♣, a funny defence to a 1♣ opening, various ways of showing two suited hands. It was foolish to try and play this unfamiliar system, of course it was, but we figured we might as well have a go, even if this was the highest standard I've played in for a long time and was costing us £40 each for the days play.

Besides, it couldn't go worse than last time me and John played together. That was at the New Melville Congess (report here) where we'd agreed to play a ridiculous mish-mash called Puppet Culbertson. I actually felt pretty confident with the Hackett's convention card. If it was good enough for the Hacketts (nine years ago), surely it was good enough for us?

The format was eight rounds of fix boards, matchpoint scored then converted to VPs. I'm not sure how they did the conversion, but you could to pretty terribly and still get 1 or 2 VPs, as we found out.

Round One - 14/20 VPs

I thought we played really well here, beating Norman Levitt and David Shenkin. I was sharp as a tack. On the first board defending 3NT declarer ducked the first Spade trick to me, and rather than just banging on with the Spades I shrewdly switched suits and we ended up with three tricks in defence and a very good score. Then John robbed them blind in 4♠, stealing a vital overtrick for a top board. Can you work out how he got 11 tricks here, declaring 4♠ as East?


South lead the ♦K, and his partner gave count. John cleverly ducked this, and when South continued with a low Diamond he was able to win in hand, draw two rounds of trumps, then finesse Diamonds and get his Heart away. Ducking the first trick is vital; if he wins then later tries to set up a Diamond winner it will be too obvious and the defence will switch to Hearts. I have to say if I was declarer I wouldn't have thought of ducking, I would just be thinking "Brilliant, 10 tricks".

That hand is also notable as it was my first ever 2/1 auction. After East opened 1♠ I had to reply 1NT, then when East rebid 2♣ I showed Spades and we were away.

For comparison, the Hacketts only made 4♠ there, and Jun Nakamura-Pinder and Phil Morrison got a gift when they sat North-South and their opponents only bid up to 3♠

Our only small losses in this set were when the opponents bid up to the normal contract and made the normal number of tricks, which always seems to get the declaring side about 60%. At the end of the round we scored 14/20 VPs, and moved up to Table 10. That proved to be our high water mark.

Round Two- 2/20 VPs

I didn't enjoy this match much. Our opponents, Tracy Capal and David Sherman, had their game faces on and beat us soundly. It was one way traffic, and I was standing in the middle of the road getting run over by it. I got hammered off three doubled in 3NT, then came the low point of the day:


When 2♣ got passed back to me I thought about coming back in with 2♠. I knew that South had denied four Spades and North wasn't bidding Spades, but I was too scared so I passed. Of course me and John had a massive Spade fit, and even if we play in 4♠-1 that's better than letting them make lots of tricks in Clubs. Declarer somehow made ten tricks, possibly due to me throwing the ♦9 in an over-enthusiastic signal, but it didn't really matter.

For comparison, the Hackett's were North-South and defended 3♠ making, and Jun & Phil were also North-South and defended 4♥-1 (I expect it was put in wrongly into the Bridgemate and it was actually 4♠-1. Some people can't cope with being North)

Despite averaging only 30% of the matchpoints we still bagged 2 VPs for our pitiful efforts.

Round Three - 8/20 VPs

I thought we'd won this match against John Large and Tadgh O'Mahony, but the scorecard disagrees. The opponents missed an easy slam by playing in 3NT, which is worth mentioning as in the bidding an opponent said "Never knowingly underbid" before making four overtricks. Then we missed a bad 6♠, because after John opened one of our very dodgy Weak Twos I didn't think slam was likely - I blame the system.

The crushing low point was this doozy. Our first absolute zero of the event. It's an interesting hand, as John blames me but I think it was entirely his fault:


My bidding was exemplary. John opened the South hand 1♦, and I replied 1♥. East then came in with 2NT, alerted as strong with the other two suits. West bid 3♠, and now I felt I was obliged to show Diamond support. East bid the obvious 4♠, then John with his flat 4333 hand with 12 points decided to press on to 5♦. This was doubled and to be fair to John he took all the tricks he could, scoring 5♦x-4 for minus 1100.

For comparison, the Hacketts played in 4♠+1, and Jun & Phil also defended 4♠+1. Out of 45 tables we were the only North-South pair declaring the contract.

We scored 8 VPs here to fall below average, and get catapulted into the second room, where we would remain for the rest of the day. Thanks John. My dream of getting to play against the top players was in tatters, and I now only dreamed of lunch.

Round Four - 18/20 VPs

Despite my crushing hunger we came roaring back, against Sam Malkani and Ian McClure. There was one hand where I held five Spades and was secretly pleased when the opponents got up to 4♠, and even happier when they got up to 5♠ and went one off. This was the most interesting deal of the set:


I've got an easy 3♥ bid, then North looked at his running Clubs and bid 3NT. I might have bid 4♥ as East, but John was worried about losers in the minors so doubled instead. Against 3NTx he lead a top Spade, and I discouraged. He then lead the ♦J, which was ducked (I should have overtaken it). He then played a Club, which declarer won in dummy and decided to take full advantage of being in dummy to lead up to his ♥K, fully expecting me to have the ♥A. He was a bit surprised when John won this trick, and if John had somehow realised exactly what had happened we could have taken another six Heart tricks. Instead John cashed two Spades then exited with a Diamond and the end result was a normal 3NTx-2.

This turned out to be a good score for us. The Hacketts did even better by playing 4♥+2, and Jun & Phil defended 3NT very poorly to take it only one off. I believe that after cashing a Spade East continued weakly with the ♥6.

We scored a splendid 18 VPs in this match, to take us fractionally above half way at the break. There was a meagre 30 minutes allotted for lunch, barely enough time for a bean wrap.

Round Five - 1/20 VPs

After lunch we had a post-prandial slump that Jake Corry would be proud of.

Our opponents were Harry Smith and Bob McCall. They judged well to get to two games most people missed, then I went on the tilt and decided to bid one more and suffered 3♥x-3. The part of the Hacketts' system we were struggling the most with was not opening a weak 1NT; as it meant we ended up later overbidding all these weak balanced hands.

I tried to level my tilt and bid this next hand sensibly, but somehow things got worse as we missed the slam. Who should have done more?


Such was the high standard that we were one of only five pairs to miss the slam. The Hacketts bid to 6NT+1, Jun & Phil to 6♥=.

Round Six - 10/20 VPs

Like Alan Partridge we bounced back, slightly. To begin with I played 2NT-1 with a nine card Spade fit then we doubled them in 4♥ and misdefended, but got it all back with a tremendous slam auction. At least one third of John our system discussion had been about Kokish auctions (see here), so I was delighted to be able to open 2♣ on a monster hand. Unfortunately it all went haywire after that.


I opened 2♣ and North immediately got in with a 2♦ overcall. John doubled this, which maybe to him showed Diamonds but I didn't know what he meant. I bid 3♣. I could have bid 4♣ to set them as trumps but thought we might still play in a major. John bid a useless 3♦, then when I bid 4♣ a useless 4♦. By this point I was a bit worried he might actually want to play in Diamonds, so I was a bit nervous about bidding 5♦ myself. My thinking was that I wanted John to be able to cuebid in Hearts or Spades, so by bidding Diamonds that lets him cuebid. He thought that since I couldn't cuebid myself he'd sign off in 6♣. I thought he probably had ♦A and guessed I might have an entry into his hand so had a punt at 7♣.

After seeing dummy I claimed immediately. For my fragile ego this was a massive boost.

For comparison the Hacketts got a great score when their opponents (Alan Mould and John Matheson) overbid to 7NT, and Jun & Phil made 6♣ against the eventual winners Andrew McIntoch and David Bakhshi. Jun & Phil were obviously doing well by this point, but not well enough that Jun still took the unnecessary Heart finesse and only made 12 tricks!

Round Seven - 14/20 VPs

A more relaxed match against Steve Bailey and Frances McKeon. The best board was where I felt pretty pleased to make 3NT+1, then afterwards realised I had been dealt ten top tricks.


For comparison, at both the other tables Declarer made 11 tricks.

We won this match to take us up to 67 VPs, from seven matches. That means we needed to get 13/20 VPs from our last match to finish average.

Round Eight - 0/20 VPs

Unfortunately though, we got a drubbing and got zero. Many low points to choose from. I could mention the hand where John forgot what the contract was and tried to get a ruff against 3NT. "What an odd lead" said declarer as John rattled off his Ace doubleton.

But instead my featured hand is the final deal of the event, where I went for a mad punt and that backfired too.


John opened his hand 1NT and I've got the nice West hand. I could have bid a 2♥ transfer, 3♠ slam invite or 4♦ Texas transfer to Spades. But it was the last hand of the day and I was tired so went for an immediate 6♠. I like to bid this way with a void because if the opponents don't know your hand you might get a favourable lead and make a bad contract when you shouldn't. Also, my 6♠ bid cleverly shut North out of the auction. North lead the ♣K and when Hearts split I had 13 tricks without needing the Diamond finesse.

Although it was good that 6♠ made it was actually such a good contract that everyone was in it, and lots were bidding and making 7♠. I blame John for failing to find the obvious raise, especially as we had previously discussed that any slam auction where we weren't missing a keycard we would raise Six to Seven. We decided this during the afternoon as on this set of boards it seemed that the grand was always making, and it would have worked well here too.

On the other tables the Hacketts bid to only 6♥ and Jun & Phil did something horrible and only got to 4♥ defended 4♥ [Edit - I missed they were North-South for this set]

And the overall positions? Me and John finished 66th= out of 90 pairs. Not a great effort. Jun & Phil were up to Table 2 at one point but fell away, still finishing in a decent 29th=. And the Hacketts? They were playing the same system as us, so (barring minor differences in quality of play and defence) ought to have about the same score. However, they finished in 4th and were close to an overall victory. But of course they were playing their 2014 system, me and John were lumbered with the defunct 2005 version so no wonder we did so poorly.

Commonwealth Nations Bridge Championship - Day Six

I was at home on Saturday as Jake Corry took over my Vugraph duties. The final of the main tournament was won by the Chairman's Team (Paul Hackett, David Bakhshi, Jason Hackett, David Mossop, Justin Hackett and Andrew McIntosh), beating Wales. England took the Silver over India. Having a team in the knock-out stages that wasn't eligible to win any medals slightly messes up the draw, and I think the England team can feel a bit hard done by to have drawn the Chairman's team in the semi-final, which for my money was actually the highest quality match. However, as Cameron Small (I think) of the England team told me, England actually only very narrowly won their Quarter Final against the strong Scottish President's team, so really in the knock-out tournament stages it's all a bit random.

In the TransNational Teams, where after an extensive round robin only the top four went into semi-finals. In the final the Scottish President's Team (Sandy Duncan, Irving Gordon, Derek Sanders, Stephen Peterkin, Liz McGowan, Sam Punch) prevailed over Canada.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Commonwealth Nations Bridge Championship - Day Five

Just back from commentating on the two afternoon session of the semi-final. In a very close and high quality match The Chairman's Team (captained by the Commonwealth Bridge president Paul Hackett) narrowly defeated the England team. In the other semi-final Wales defeated India. That means that Wales have already won the Gold medal, as the Chairman's Team are not a Commonwealth nation so can't get Gold.

I watched Justin and Jason Hackett of the Chairman's Team against Ben Green and John Holland of England. It was good doing both sessions of the same match, as I got to know the players' systems, in particular their carding methods. This helps you work out what low card they have played when it's all going a bit fast.

As there were just two tables we were in a smaller side room and the atmosphere was very different. It was so quiet players were whispering, and often the only sound was me frantically typing away.

It took a while for the match to settle. There was some sort melee in the Closed Room, and then complaints about the low light. At one point Jason said he couldn't go on, so the players picked up the table and all carried it to where they thought it would be a bit lighter. I had to pick up my table and follow. Then a guy from the hotel turned up with a lamp, and crawled under a side table to plug it in. It was a massive disco light, aimed at the ceiling, and nearly blinded me when he turned it on. I missed some of the play as I could barely see.

Then came my commentary low point. With 900 people watching a mobile phone went off. "Someone's phone is ringing." I reported. "Players look at each other accusingly. South denies it was him. Whose phone is that?". Then I realised it was mine. I had it on vibrate but in the silent room the vibrating sound was very audible. I tried to brazen it out and do nothing, but it kept vibrating, and jostling a bag of Mini Cheddars in my rucksack. Eventually I got up to turn it off, and apologised to the players.

For this match my expert commentator was Michael Rosenberg, who is a world expert on the analysis. That meant I could leave the bridge up to him, so I could focus solely on reporting the play, player's reactions, cardigans, drinks and general discussion. It was like being a radio commentator, but instead of speaking you have to type as fast as you can.

My table finished early and with the match poised at 35-35 I went through to the physical Vugraph Theatre, to watch the final few hands along with the crowd. Although the audience here was only a handful of people, it felt like a lot of pressure on the players as their every card was scrutinised by the live crowd.

Apologies for the low resolution photos:

Vugraph coodinator Sandie Millership and two of the victorious Welsh team

Nervous moments watching the end of the match

Commonwealth Nations Bridge Championship - Day Four

I had a day off yesterday and missed not being there. A bridge tournament is a funny place. It's not often you get to see the door to the gents swing open and someone shout out "You bid Three Spades - logical!".

Yesterday was the last day of the Round Robin. The main story was in Group 2, where England 2 suffered a shock loss to Northern Ireland, and the Scottish President's team took full advantage to claim the final qualifying spot. These are the final standings, with the top four in each group going through to today's quarter finals:

Group 1
1 England 188.96 VPs
2 Canada 183.18 VPs
3 Scotland Chairman's 178.03 VPs
4 Scotland 174.55 VPs
5 Wales 2 158.60 VPs
6 Australia Women 134.25 VPs
7 South Africa
8 Malaysia
9 Harris
10 Pakistan
11 Singapore
12 Malta
13 Guernsey 2
14 Barbados
Group 2
1 India 193.50 VPs
2 Australia 193.01 VPs
3 Wales 165.35 VPs
4 Scottish President's 155.85 VPs
5 England 2 151.67 VPs
6 Pakistan 2 136.90 VPs
7 Nortner Ireland
8 South Africa 2
10 Isle of Man
11 Guernsey
12 Jersey
13 Black Swan
14 Kenya

I watched a bit at home. I'm always rooting for the underdog, but when it's a big team against a small team it just seems inevitable that IMPs are going to flow towards the better team. And it doesn't take much. Even if the difference is only 1 overtrick per board, that would still lead to a 14-6 win in VPs.

In one match Barbados were losing heavily to the Scottish Charirman's Team, and finally got a break when in the other room North-South missed a slam. Could the Barbados North-South take advantage? It was agonising watching, as they got themselves into position then threw it away:

I'm not quite what happened, but 6♠-5 was not a good score.

Today is the Quarter Finals and Semi Finals. The teams that are already out play in the Transnational Teams along with 21 other local teams, so it's going to be a busy day at the Radisson.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Commonwealth Nations Bridge Championship - Day Three (2)

Today I missed the first session, but am on the Vugraph for the other three matches today. So far we've had two and there's one to go. It's quite hard work, especially as I broke my glasses last night so am straining in contact lenses. In the break between matches I collapse with the Tournament Directors in our little common room. Unlike actually playing bridge, you're never dummy.

My first match today was SBU against South Africa 2, and I watched Gerald Haase and Victor Silverstone (in a rejigged Scottish partnership) against Peta Balderson and Jenny Gautschi. The South African ladies were very charming, and even acknowledged me at the end of the match. The Scottish veterans however got a little heated (but only with each other), which made for some good viewing. It was fascinating to see close up how someone could make a (very forgivable) mistake in defence and still be thinking about it on the next hand when he was declarer. "I couldn't have played that worse" and "I'd agree with that" was the conversation I reported. But on the next board I could visibly see the Scots pulling themselves together and Haase made a great 3NT to level the tie. The high scoring match went down to the final deal and with good defence the SBU prevailed 39-29.

In every match each team has two pairs, which play against the two pairs of the opposition in different rooms. The 'Open Room' is designed for spectators, both physical and online, and the 'Closed Room' is mostly there to compare scores between the rooms. You don't get so many people watching the broadcasts in the Closed Room. There were only 30 people today, but they enjoyed it I think and a couple of spectators thanked me for the commentary. Since there was no expert commentator I stretched myself a bit and reported on the bridge too, mostly by relaying what other kibitzers were saying to me. This needed a lot of fast typing.

I also had been given a copy of all the deals in advance with computer analysis ("Guard this with your life!") which helped me appear more knowledgeable than I was.

For the next round I watched the England pair of Phil King and Cameron Small against the other South African team with Diana Balkin and Maureen Holroyd. We are playing in the rather plush Radisson Blu hotel,and all the chairs have seat covers. The English South Cameron Small very deliberately pulled his off before sitting down. Would he replace it at the end I wondered? He didn't. At one point the lights went out, and I was able to talk about that, to give it a live feel. The expert commentator paulg (Paul Gipson) mentioned another time they'd had to finish a match by the lights of mobile phones.

I made a real effort this match to try and pick up the spot cards of the players. This is hard when declarer is running a suit, and the player furthest from you is discarding fairly randomly. Sometimes though, it really matters and you need to report it correctly.

Here's an example of where it matters:

North has got to 4♥, and East leads the ♣A. The card West follows with is crucial here to tell East to stop playing Clubs (and switch to a Spade). Initially I missed the card West followed with and just clicked the ♣4. Actually she'd played the ♣T, which I believe was encouraging for that pair. I quickly undid my play and corrected it to the ♣T. East then continued with three rounds of Clubs. Declarer ruffed the third round, drew trumps and claimed the rest for 4♥+1.

On the other table game was defeated. East and West had bid and raised Clubs, and East amazingly underlead his ♣AKQ by leading the ♣7. Declarer played low from dummy letting West rather surprisingly win with his ♣T, and return a Diamond for East to ruff. The end result was 4♥-2. This and a few other game swings meant England won the match comfortably 50-1. At my table the English didn't realise they were doing well, and when Cameron Small peeked over my shoulder at the laptop at the end of the match he was rather surprised.

Here's me in my volunteer's T-shirt and lanyard:

Commonwealth Nations Bridge Championship - Day Three

Play is yet to start on Day Three, but we're nearly half way through and the top teams are emerging. After 6/13 rounds, here's the leaders. Only the top four in each group will qualify:

Group 1
1 Canada 96.20 VPs
2 England 1 95.17 VPs
3 Scotland Chairman's 80.74 VPs
4 Scotland 80.31 VPs
5 South Africa 72.36 VPs
6 Wales 2 65.66 VPs
Group 2
1 Pakistan 2 92.29 VPs
2 India 89.01 VPs
3 Australia 80.22 VPs
4 Wales 71.58 VPs
5 England 2 70.30 VPs
6 Isle of Man 69.49 VPs

I've gone down to sixth place as I wanted to include the Isle of Man, who had a good day yesterday beating England 2 and beating Australia. I sat with them in the lobby and they were surprised and delighted at their good showing so far, and their captain joked that they had just become favourites to win the event.

Outside of the top positions Group 2 also features a close battle between two Channel Island teams, with Guernsey currently just ahead of Jersey.

Personally, I'm rooting for Singapore. This is for no particular reason apart from I'm going there next month, and they seem to be a nice team. They are currently 9th in Group 1, with some work to do. I'll be looking out for them today.

Finally, I've decided I don't like the new VP scale (my previous article on that is here). Since there are already arbitrary thresholds for when points become IMPs it doesn't makes sense to be overly precise in converting IMPs to VPs. And those decimal points look ugly.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Commonwealth Nations Bridge Championship - Day Two

Yesterday was a shorter day because of the Opening Ceremony; today the tournament is in full swing and there are four matches.

I missed the first round of matches and have just been the Vugraph Operator for the second, watching SBU against Australia. This was an interesting match as on my table we had the hugely experienced Willie Coyle and Victor Silverstone representing Scotland, against the youthful Australian pair of Pete Hollands and Ishmael Del'Monte. I met the Australian team walking home last night and they are all under 40. One of them was even wearing shorts.

It was a victory of youth over experience. At one point (Board 21) the Australians bid up to a very bold 7♦, which one commentator described as something like "exuberant", and said no other pair would bid it. Dee Harley of Australia said "Ish' will make this" and he duly did, for a massive score.

Then when it came to Scotland's turn for a grand slam they were muscled out by an Australian barrage:

East opened 1♠, South fired in with 3♥ and West bid 4♣, described as natural. North kept up the pressure with 5♥ and East bid 6♠, passed out. After the opening lead East claimed all the tricks without even showing his cards saying "I could make Nine Spades." The other Australians bid to 7NT - well done! The finals scores aren't quite in but looks like a big win for Australia.

From an operator's perspective it was a tough match as they bid and played so fast. At one point the connection went down and I had to restart the table and try and frantically enter the players' names and nationalities while keeping up with the play. They also had the annoying habit of not always following suit with the lowest possible card when not trying to win the trick. I know players like to signal but it would be a lot easier for me if everyone always played the ♦2 from ♦432.

Here's a photo of my high table and the view I get after most of the players have left. The table just beneath me is the one I would follow.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Commonwealth Nations Bridge Championship - Day One

This exciting international event is in Glasgow, and I've volunteered to be a Vugraph Operator to help people watch the match at home. Watching bridge doesn't mean watching an actual video; it would be hard to follow. Instead people watch a diagram of the complete deal (something the players don't have of course) and the diagram is updated as each person makes a bid or plays a card. That's the job of the operator. His other job is to give a sense of the atmosphere, by reporting on who's muttering to partner that he could have made that contract, who'd nipped out for a cigarette while dummy, who's called the tournament director, who's banging their head against the table and so on. Each table also has a couple of expert commentators watching who actually analyse the bridge.

This is the first time I've been a Vugraph Operator. It's actually a lot like playing on Bridge Base, but you have access to some more menus, for example allowing you to input the names and national flag of each player, and to modify the final contract if you've input it incorrectly. It was fun.

There are two featured matches in each session of bridge. The one I was working on in the morning was Scotland against South Africa. Here's a deal that produced a swing:

Board 5
Dealer North
NS Vul
♠ 8 6 5
♥ 8 4 3 2
♦ A J 2
♣ 8 7 6
♠ A T 4
♥ A 5
♦ Q T 8 7 6 3
♣ A 9
♠ K J 7 3
♥ K Q T 9
♦ 9 5
♣ T 3 2
♠ Q 9 2
♥ J 7 6
♦ K 4
♣ K Q J 5 4

The South African South opened 1♣, which Iain Sime of Scotland overcalled 1♦. His partner John Murdoch responded 1♥, and when Sime rebid 1NT that ended the auction. Fairly standard stuff. Of course the real fireworks were happening in the Vugraph commentary, where before the opening lead I reported "East-West put bidding away too soon; North asks for recap" and after declarer won the second round of Clubs "West puts cards down for a think. East settles back and takes off jumper". Meanwhile the match commentators (whose aliases were jacksond and mrdct, don't know their real names - but see comments below) suggested West was worth a 1NT overcall, and debated how poor a contract 3NT was.

In the other room the South African East-West did get to 3NT, with this auction:


Declarer guessed both majors correctly for nine tricks, making 3NT without any Diamond tricks at all. This was worth 7 IMPs to South Africa, the biggest swing in a very low scoring match that they finally won 14-8, leading to a narrow VP victory.

At lunch time the players all milled around the Radisson Blu Hotel and we retreated into a volunteers room. The hotel looked to be doing a good job hosting the event (as far as I could tell) apart from the odd internet glitch, which is really something that should never happen.

In this event there are 28 teams in total, representing 17 nations. See a list of participants here and photos of some of them here. The teams are divided into two groups. In each group they play a complete round robin, with the top eight going on to the quarter-finals. That means 13 rounds of round robin during the week.

In the second match of the day the featured match was Scottish Bridge Union (a second Scotland team) against the Scottish President's Team (another Scotland team).

From the President's team were Gerald Haase and Derek Diamond, who along with Iain Sime and John Murdoch from this morning, were members of the Scottish Senior Team that did so well in the World Championship I've been reading about in this book: Scotland's Senior Moments. The book is reviewed by Paul Gipson on his blog here. Paul Gipson was also one of the expert commentators at the table.

From the SBU team were Stephen Peterkin and Derek Sanders, who runs the Edinburgh No Fears bridge club (link here). It seems it's quite a small bridge community in Scotland, and going to this event and having to manually enter the names of players at the table has really helped me recognise a few people.

The match was very good natured. I learnt that Derek and Derek, in opposition here, used to play together, and I think they were part of the Scotland team that won the last Commonwealth Nations championship in 2010 in Delhi. At one point Derek Sanders was declarer in 5♠x and said he was going to surprise people here, and he passed out the double. Derek Diamond then waved the redouble card at him; apparently Derek S has a reputation for redoubling.

From a Vugraph Operator's perspective the major turning point in the match was the introduction of the air conditioning. I reported that all four players were now covered up; West in a jumper; North-South in jackets and East in a suit.

There were about 600 people watching the match online. I hope they enjoyed it. It was really interesting to me to see the little asides players made after the hands, quickly working out what might have been, and also how professional Derek and Gerald were in moving on from a misunderstanding and also from a misplayed contract.

In the end the SBU team won the match narrowly, and both teams are about average overall.

At the end of the day the top teams in each group are Canada and India.

The official Goody Bag

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Start of a new Season

Team Rowan from Buchanan Bridge Club were promoted to Glasgow Division One last year. Last night we met some of the other teams in a special start-of-season curtain raiser, scored as a big Teams Match. Based on the results, we'll be back in Division Two next year.

It was the first time me and Anna had played in a few months, and before we started Anna trotted out all the usual pre-excuses about being rusty. Actually though I think we played alright, despite our team of four coming last (results here, curiously scored as 'Lunchtime Pairs').

There were a lot of flat boards, with the losses coming from not being aggressive enough in the bidding. If this is a hint of what's to come in Division One, there's going to be more bold bidding, and more doubling.

Here's one where we lost a game swing:

Board 5
Dealer North
NS Vul
♠ Q T 3 2
♥ K
♦ Q 9 4
♣ A T 7 6 4
♠ A 9 8 7 6
♥ J 7
♦ 8 7 2
♣ Q 9 5
♠ K J 5 4
♥ Q 3
♦ A K T 6 5
♣ 8 3
♠ -
♥ A T 9 8 6 5 4 2
♦ J 3
♣ K J 2

On both East deals and opens 1♦. South overcalls 4♥.

What do you bid now as West?

On my table I was West, and had that dilemma. I went for a pass. As you can see 4♥ is unbeatable, and in fact when I lead the ♠A declarer made 4♥+3 for -710. David and Heather Merriman were our team-mates. At their table the auction started as above, but this time the opposition West came in with 4♠, which is a bit wild but has the safety net of some Diamond support too. North can't really double this, and it was passed out. Despite the good Spade support in dummy it went three off, but still a good score of 4♠-3 and +150, which combined with our score meant an 11 IMP loss. Was I too meek?

By contrast, here's a hand where boldness gave us a rare gain:

Board 24
Dealer West
None Vul
♠ K J 5
♥ 8 5 3
♦ K J 8 7 3
♣ 9 8
♠ 4
♥ 2
♦ T 9 6 5 4 2
♣ K Q 7 6 5
♠ Q 9 8
♥ A Q 6
♦ A Q
♣ A T 4 3 2
♠ A T 7 6 3 2
♥ K J T 9 7 4
♦ -
♣ J

1♣ promises at least four, and 3♣ was alerted as "both majors and strong".

What do you bid now as West?

With a singleton in both major, and excellent Club support, I decided to go for it, with 5♣. Then on the way to the bidding box I decided to upgrade, and pulled out 6♣. Maximum Pressure. North was having none of it and bid 6♠. This was doubled by Anna and passed out.

6♠x-2 gave us +300, a good score. How would we have done in 6♣? I bid it as an advanced sacrifice, but with Anna's balanced 18 count it's actually pretty close. South claimed he would have underlead his Spades to get a Diamond ruff which would put it one down; but we'll never know. Without that unlikely lead you can make it, and around the room people playing in Clubs were making 12 tricks.

After that temporary high we had a bit of a slump, which I attribute to my overheating and Anna denying herself any biscuits.