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


  1. Hi Danny,

    Excellent job on the vugraph yesterday.

    My surname is actually Gipson (though people always get it wrong even when I spell it out!).

    _jacksond_ is David Jackson from Ireland who is a good player but better known as the NPC of the Irish Green Machine over the last decade (perhaps longer).

    _mrdct_ is David Thompson, an top-class player from Australia and frequent contributor to the BBO Forums.

  2. Ah sorry I'll correct your name, and thanks for clearing up those commentator names