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:
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:
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