I was part of the team at the Glasgow Bridge Centre that hosted the Scottish Cup Final this Sunday. The format was two teams of four competing over four segments each of 16 boards. The match was played behind screens, which I've not experienced before.
The favourites and eventual winners were team SHORT consisting of Brian Short, Dave Walker Les Steel and John Matheson. The runners up were team KANE with Danny Kane, Helen Kane, Cliff Gillis and Alistair MacDonald.
The first section was very low scoring, then after the break SHORT started amassing IMPs and never looked back.They seemed to profit from better defence on a lot of part score boards plus a few game swings due to superior play. Their losses were mostly limited to when team KANE hit the jackpot with an ambitious bid.
This was an interesting board from the 3rd segment:
In the Closed Room East opened 1♠ and West made the disciplined reply of 1NT. East has the points for game so bid 3NT. I thought that might end the auction, as it wouldn't be the first or second time that Kane-MacDonald had played 3NT with a big major fit, but West pulled to 4♥. Les Steel as North lead the ♣4, which in their system is either his 3rd or 5th highest Club (or shortage). Declarer thought for a while, couldn't face going down on trick one, and played the ♣A. When both Spade honours were offside he had to lose three more tricks and go down one.
In the Open Room after the same opening bid West replied 2♣, which for them I think shows one of three things, one of which is weak Hearts, and when East found out it was Hearts he raised to game. This time, playing 4th highest leads, North lead the ♣3. At this point the Closed Room had all finished their match, and along with me, were gathered around a monitor waiting to see what declarer Dave Walker would do. "He ought to get it right" said his team-mate Les Steel "He really ought to get this right.". After a long pause he did get it right, and finessed the ♣Q. He then took a slightly risky line playing for an overtrick which drew disapproving comments from Matheson and Steel, but it worked out fine and making 4♥ was worth 13 IMPs. This gave Team SHORT a 50 IMP lead going into the last segment and virtually sealed the match.
1. Would you finesse the Clubs at trick one?
In the final section there was one soaring highlight for Team KANE, a doubled grand slam!
In the Closed Room when the hands were dealt commentator Liz McGowan said on Vugraph "Back with the slams. Kane needs these to produce some action." Iain Sime described the bidding: "3♥ forcing, 4♣ mild slam try". As the cuebidding continued Liz said: "One great Scottish Bridge tradition is to ensure in a slam auction that partner has to make the last guess. That way it's never your fault.". Finally Matheson took the plunge and bid 6♥. East lead the obvious ♦Q and declarer wrapped up 13 tricks. Afterwards, John Matheson said that he had that Board marked as a likely gain for his team, as they'd bid and made a slam which if off two tricks if East finds a Spade lead.
2. Against 6♥, if East leads a low Spade is it clear for West to play the ♠J?
On the other table the auction was shorter. Commentator Paul Gipson immediately picked up on the significance of the 1♠ bid: "Nice try by Danny Kane, more difficult for Short to lead a Spade now." Danny Kane then took a gamble at 6♥, and I was delighted to see MacDonald top him up to seven. I think that whenever partner makes a surprise jump to slam you should always top him up if possible, and although I'd never met Alistair MacDonald before he'd clearly heard of Hamilton's Rule, as I'd like it to be known, and bid an excellent 7♥. At least, excellent as far as the neutral is concerned. It's a precarious contract.
Before the bid Gipson said: "if MacDonald bids 7♥, will Walker double?". When Walker did double, he queried: "Does double ask for a Spade, or show a void?". Short presumably wasn't sure either, so lead a Diamond (same as closed room), and MacDonald nocholantly wrapped up all 13 tricks, for 7♥x= and 13 IMPs. Afterwards, Short and Walker stayed relatively calm.
3. What would you lead after the double?
In the end Team SHORT ran out comfortable winners by 163 IMPs to 93. Congratulations to them, and thanks to the Glasgow Bridge Center for hosting the event.