Friday, 10 June 2016

Scottish Schools Bridge Championship

Last year I took two teams of four to this event (see here); this year I was delighted to add a Primary 7 team who had previously done well at the Glasgow Minibridge Championship (see here).

Following their recent domination of the event it made sense for it to be hosted by Hutcheson's Grammar school, and John Di Mambro did a great job converting a lecture theatre into a ten table room. He even threw in a hot lunch, and we had Horst Kopleck directing the event. Around the room the atmosphere was great, as the kids were competitive while also being friendly.

My teams have now been playing for nearly two years, and I noticed a definite improvement since last year, both in cardplay and in the bidding where we were much more focused on the game bonus. I was particularly impressed that after each board the pupils were able to reflect on what might have been. For example, after making 1NT+5 someone asked me "Should we have bid 6NT"? (No, but you should have bid 3NT). Someone else said to me afterwards they thought that "Shape was more important than points" and next time they had a void they were going to bid game.

The main error was the same as with all beginners; a temptation to win all your Aces and Kings without trying to bid extra tricks, especially when you are feeling the pressure. Kids hate the idea of deliberately losing a trick.

My Senior team of 16 year olds have a lot of potential, but unfortunately for the last few months haven't played much bridge due to the distraction of their National 5 (GCSE) exams getting in the way. I was a bit worried when I asked someone on the train how many points you need for a game, and he replied "All of them, at least 9000", then when pressed admitted he didn't know what a game was. I was therefore extremely surprised when I went to watch at their table. One of them opened 1♣ and when the other replied 1♦ this was alerted as showing Hearts! "Do you play transfers?" asked the bewildered opposition. The advanced bidding systerm was not a success, as they finished in 4♣-4 and was quietly dropped after lunch.

I've only taught very limited bidding, with12-14 1NT and the rest natural, but it normally got to the right contract. We only struggled with strong hands, where my advice is simply to bid game in one go. At one point today one player overcalled 1♦ with 20 points (we've no other way to bid it), which was passed out and resulted in four overtricks. "I had 20 points!" said the overcaller, "next time you should bid more!". "Next time you'll have a different partner" was the reply.

Slam biding is also still to come. As far as I could see no one in the room got there on this board, although they all played it for 13 tricks.

I like to think Anna and I would have bid at least 6♥, and 7♥ is possible with some special bidding agreements.

When they read out the top three I was surprised our S1/S2 team of girls had finished third (our of ten), and even more surprised the P7 team second. All of the kids did well, coping with playing 24 boards and learning a lot.