Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Historic Hand

This deal is historic (for me at least) as it's the first one ever to feature my wife, mother and daughter. A Hamilton family special.

The cards did not live up to the occasion and were not very exciting:

No one vul
N deal
♠ Q J x x
♥ x x x
♦ K x x
♣ A x x
♠ A 5 x
♥ K Q x x
♦ J x x x
♣ J x
♠ T x x
♥ x x x
♦ Q T x x
♣ x x x
♠ K 9 x
♥ A J T
♦ A x
♣ K Q T x x

South opened 1♣ and when North responded 1♠ made a rebid of 1NT, showing 15-17. With 10 points North raised straight to 3NT.

West was on lead, and found the bold choice of the ♠5. This could have worked well, playing through dummy's suit, but actually here it gives declarer an immediate ninth trick in Spades. Nothing else works any better though, and declarer always makes 3NT.

It should be noted at this point that West just had just had her 1st birthday, and was sitting on her Daddy's knee. Many of her cards were held upside down, or on the floor, and after the game she could be found under the table tossing cards around randomly and playing with Hippo.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

National Pairs (not)-Qualifying

Last Wednesday at the Buchanan Phil and I attempted to build on our 38.5% of the previous week and qualify for the National Pairs Final. The good news is that we did 10% better, the bad news that we didn't quite make the 50% required to get to the next round.

We were within a board of qualifying, and it could have been any of many. There were some wild hands, wild bidding and wild defence.

Looking for a nice calm start I picked up the hand below.

♠ AQJT842 ♥ AK9542 ♦ - ♣ -

I couldn't believe it when I started sorting my cards and realised they were all Spades and Hearts. I went for a cautious 1♠ opening, reasoning that surely it won't get passed out, and this way I've a better chance of getting doubled at the end.


When Phil gave false preference to Spades at the four level I thought about jumping to 6♠, figuring I'm probably going to lose one Spade and can ruff out the Hearts. Looking back, I wish I had bid the slam. When am I even going to get a hand like that again?

As it is, I underplayed the hand as well as underbidding it. After a Club lead I decided to ruff a Heart, but for no good reason played the ♥A and ♥K before taking a ruff. This got over-ruffed, as did the next Heart, so even though I dropped the singleton ♠K I lost two Heart tricks for 4♠+1. This turned out to be slightly above average when only one pair bid and made the slam, and a couple had a horrible time in 6NT.

The standard was high, and I didn't mind when our borderline contracts got beaten by good defence. But it did mean we got a succession of rather poor scores. Our defence was not so tight, and one declarer embarrassed us by collecting four tricks from this suit:

♣ A Q 7 4
♣ K 6 5 3 ♣ T 8 2
♣ J 9

So I was slightly on the tilt when I made a very poor two-level overcall on the hand below:


The opponents landed in 3NT, a decent contract with South's seven running Clubs. But Phil doubled it, right in theory as we beat 3NT so long as he leads a Diamond. In practice though, they removed to 4♥, which is very hard to beat (and we couldn't do it). Conceding 4♥= was worth 19%.

I persisted with dodgy overcalls, and it paid off on this one:


After North opens 1♥ it's the perfect time to pre-empt, with favourable vulnerability and partner having passed. I bid a bold 3♣. Phil thought about removing this to 3♦ but I think rightly passed, and I was left to play it. It did not go well, and after a brief discussion about whether the defence had made eight or nine tricks we agreed 3♣-4. However, while playing the hand it become clear to me the opponents could make a lot of tricks in Spades, and so we scored 85% for the board.

In another wild hand I opened 2NT and Phil leapt to 6♣, which made all 13 tricks. There were higher scoring slams, so we got a slightly above average 56%. Our best slam was one we bid and made off two cashing Aces. This sounds like poor bidding, but I think actually we knew what we were doing. Judge for yourself:


I decided not to open the East hand, reasoning I could always get in to the auction later. When Phil doubled 1♣ for takeout I jumped to 4♠. Phil saw the potential of his Diamond suit, and well placed ♣K, and bid Blackwood. This is a bit risky with a void, as I could well have the useless ♥A (and indeed I did), but he reasoned that on the expected Heart lead he could ruff it then throw away Hearts on the long Diamonds, as indeed turned out to be the case. An interesting strategy from South might have been to Cash the trump Ace to see dummy, then on seeing there was no Club void cashing the ♣A.

Going in to the final round against John Di Mambro and Ronald Gaffin we needed something special to qualify. The first board was a good one, as I made 4♥+2 for another 100% board. A little feature of interest came at the end of that hand. With no outside entries to dummy I played on the Spade suit, with the lead in my hand as South.

♠ A J T 5
♠ Q 8 7 ♠ K 9 2
♠ 6 4 3

I lead low and finessed the ♠T. When this lost to East I won the return and finessed the ♠J, making three Spade tricks when this finesse won and the suit split 3-3, and I thought "that's lucky". Then it was pointed out that actually West can thwart me by going up with the ♠Q on the first round. If I win this East holds up the ♠K and I get cut off from dummy and only get two Spade tricks. And if I let the ♠Q win I also end up losing two Spade tricks.

In the end it didn't matter as they qualified anyway and we didn't, finishing on 48% and just outside the top five. Maybe next year.