Last week Anna and I were on holiday for a week in Suffolk. We'd previously visited the Sole Bay Bridge Club in Southwold, but that meets in the evenings so isn't possible any more; with a baby we need more careful planning. So while the grandparents looked after the little one we went to the afternoon game at Southwold Bridge Club. We were a bit apprehensive as it was to be Rubber Bridge which we'd never played before, but when we turned up it was in fact a Bridge Drive with random deals and Chicago scoring (which we'd also not played before).
We arrived five minutes late, but thankfully there was a half-table already so we were welcome to make up the numbers. As I was informed, "when it says 2pm most people get here by quarter two". Within four hands we found ourselves 1700 points down, as our opponents quickly bid three games then we went off in a hopeless vulnerable game.
It took a little while to get used to all of the shuffling and cutting that comes with not playing duplicate, and it was strange to think that each deal would be played only once. Our bridge instincts were fairly good though, and I'm not sure there was much we could have done to avoid that bad start. Then we moved round the room changing partners each round, and things picked up. In fact the worst round for both Anna and I was when we were partnered each other.
Here's a nice little deal from when we were opponents.
Playing a Weak NT and four-card majors, I opened the South hand 1♥. North made a modest raise of 2♥, which I passed. Although we have 24 points between us and an eight card fit we have two flat hands, so we've done well to stop at the two level.
West lead th ♦J, which gave me an extra trick. Surely the contract is in the bag now? I crossed to dummy with a Spade, and lead the ♥Q, covered by the King and Ace. In order to lose no Heart tricks I now have a choice of either playing the ♥J to drop the ♥T or crossing to dummy again for a finesse. I played the ♥J, which didn't work out well. I can still make the contract easily by continuing with trumps, but I was foolishly thinking about trying to make maximum tricks so decided to 'eliminate Diamonds' and cashed the ♦A. This got ruffed, and the defence still had a 2nd Heart trick to come, along with another Diamond and three Clubs. Somehow, I had gone down.
Playing in an individual tournament like this was a novelty for me, and a slightly different challenge. Whereas some people sat down with a flood of questions about agreements, I decided to say nothing and play it cool, as did most of my partners. This actually worked fine, and we didn't have any misunderstandings. It's actually quite nice having virtually no agreements. I was also able to bid fairly quickly, as I resigned myself to making awkward decisions quickly, as this deal shows:
South opened a traditional Strong Two. I had the freakish North hand, and needed to come up with a reply. I'm not too familiar with the proper responses to Strong Twos, but thought that bidding Diamonds couldn't be far off. North rebid 3♥, and I had a choice of games to bid. I was worried about too many trump losers in Diamonds so just bid 4♥, passed out. South made eleven tricks by drawing trumps (losing two tricks), then setting up the Diamonds.
The club was very friendly, and they were fully supportive of us leaving the kid behind (especially the men). By the end of the evening I had recovered to above zero points, but was a long way off the 4,000 points required for winning. There were also some random 'spot prizes' from the Compere Doug for happening to be opposite the piano, but we didn't win those either. However, we did have a lovely afternoon away from our baby.