Tuesday, 31 January 2017


Do you call the director when someone revokes? I do. Following David Stevenson's advice every week in Mr. Bridge magazine a friendly club is one where there is no hesitation in calling the director and accepting her ruling. Much better than the players trying to sort it out themselves.

My policy was tested last night. I was at the Buchanan Club in Glasgow, and the contract was 5♦x. The auction was as below:


I had the North hand, with fine Diamond support for partner, which I only showed at the five level. Anna asked me when I showed her the hand why I didn't support earlier, and I wasn't really sure, but I think it was because I thought the 3♥ bid was a mix-up so my strategy is to stay out of it.. Anyway, it worked well and 5♦x has excellent play, with just a Club loser and eventually a Diamond.

Partner was well on the way with a cross-ruff, when I noticed that after a Spade lead West discarded a Club. Then on the next trick she followed with a Spade. I was dummy - but thought it within my rights to point this out.

After a bit of turning cards over we realised West had indeed revoked, someone said it didn't matter as she didn't win the trick, then someone asked if I wanted to call the director. I said yes. The rules for a revoke are pretty simple - the defence forfeits one trick if they win the revoke trick, and one further trick assuming they win a trick subsequent to the revoke. In this case that meant a one trick transfer, so we made an impossible 5♦x+1. The revoke had not been crucial, only causing an overtrick.

There was no hard feeling, and we moved on swiftly. The opponents were not too aggrieved as they had previously made a great 6NT (at aggregate scoring), which always helps.

This was my first night at the Club in a while, and it was a very enjoyable evening playing with standby June, after my partner was late. Except he wasn't really late, arriving at 7:13 pm for a 7:15 pm start. But bridge clubs tend to be pretty punctual, and in fact at 7 pm we were all set to go and at ten past we went ahead without him.

I like playing in new partnerships, and happily agree to everything the other person suggests. So I readily accepted the suggestion for Reverse Benji, which seems to be the club standard, even though I'm a bit shaky on it. As the first round started June tried to rapidly communicate a few other things, then someone knocked over a glass of Coke so we had to change the table cloth, and it was rather a chaotic start. But I felt happy enough, the merits of a new partnership is everyone keeps it simple, and I'm protected from my usual flaw of over-thinking it.

Our agreement for discards - low means like - was tested on the very first round, when I lead a Diamond and dummy won with a singleton Ace. When I got in later I remembered my had partner played an encouraging 2♦, but did this still apply now that dummy was out of Diamonds? I decided it did, and didn't want to lead anything else anyway, so continued with a Diamond, giving declarer not one but two extra tricks. Afterwards, everyone said I should have switched to a Club.

On the one where Reverse Benji came up I surprised partner by responding to her 2♦ opening with 2NT (should have just relayed with 2♥), but we got to the right contract anyway.

We had a few bad contracts that were off two, but also made a couple of good games that not everybody was in. At the end of the night I said "that was quite a steady night" at exactly the same time my partner said "that was a bit up and down". Overall we finished about average, but with the scores very close we were only 500 points from winning - certainly close enough for me to put it down to the opponents bidding that 6NT against us.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Pairs at St Andrew

My parents have been learning to play bridge, and have so far had three months of lessons. These have focused almost exclusively on bidding, and have got as far as one level openings and responses. So it was a big step up when last night I took my Dad to the St Andrew's Saturday evening tournament, a No Fear event. On the upside, this is an event advertised for beginners and looked after by Raymond, a very patient mentor to many new bridge players.

I tried to remember my first experiences playing competitively. My hands shook and I was glad to get a bad hand and have nothing to do. I noticed the same thing in my partner. Of all the new things (Bridgemates, Stop and Alert cards, contracts above 4♠, competitive bidding, changing seats, "any questions?"), the one that surprised him most at the start was the fast pace. Despite being a beginners tournament a rather ambitious 28 boards were scheduled, with rounds of four boards every 25 minutes. I think for the first few deals Dad was just focusing on finding the right card and following suit.

There was no messing about from our opponents - and they quickly bid to games and slams. Dad made his first ever overcall, and was rewarded for his bravery when I was able to lead a Diamond to his ♦AK and beat 6♥.

To begin with he was blessed with bad hands, but then came the moment that certainly relaxes me - when you get to be declarer for the first time:

♠ 9 5 3
♥ A J 7 4 3
♦ 6
♣ 7 6 3 2
♠ A J T
♥ Q 8
♦ J T 8 5
♣ A K Q 4

South has a balanced 17 points so opened 1♣. I was North and have a nice hand in support of Clubs, and thought about passing out 1♣ just to make things easy. But then I remembered my rule; to bid with beginners as normal. So I replied 1♥, and Dad replied 1NT showing a balanced 15-17. Textbook bidding! Then I bid 2♣, passed out.

This is a nice hand for your first ever hand, with a good chance to ruff some Diamonds in dummy. It was duly wrapped up, 2♣+1.

There was no let up to the fast pace. I kept up my policy of bidding as I normally would, and landed Dad in his first ever slam. He was South, I was North:

♠ A K 6 5
♥ K 2
♦ Q 8 6
♣ K Q 6 2
♠ Q 9 3
♥ A Q 6 5
♦ A 7 5 3
♣ A 5

I've starred the 2NT rebid as it was accompanied by an apology "I'm not really sure what I'm doing here". I took a look at my 17 points and decided it was time for some decisive action. "I bet you weren't expecting this!" I said as I bid 6NT. "You can have a biscuit if you make it" I added.

He didn't make it, but still took a biscuit (or two). But from this failure came the highlight. After playing three rounds of Spades, Dad cashed the long Spade from dummy. Afterwards he admitted "I was 99% certain it was a winner".

After another biscuit, things picked up and we finished well. Or at least I'm guessing we did, as the scores weren't posted online.

Overall it was a very enjoyable experience. It's always great to get to the bridge club, and play a few hands. I didn't mind it when we got a bad result. And we did get a few bad results, but some good ones too.

Honey the bear