Monday, 19 April 2021

SOL3: Faben vs Freimanis

I was really focused for the first half of this match, and have never concentrated so hard. A lot of effort went into trying not to mess up Board 1. Why do I always get dealt big hands when I'm still trying to find the charger and make a cup of tea?

After John opens a strong NT I know that we're probably heading for 6♥. With my void it's going to be hard to investigate a grand slam, but I have a try by transferring then splintering. After John signs off I jump to 6♥.

South makes a sneaky Diamond lead and that holds John to 12 tricks. Later I remember his fondness for underleading and use this to eke out an overtrick in an excruciating 3♠+1. At the end of the 12 boards I apologise to the opponent's for my slow play, but as I said, I was really concentrating hard.

The board above was 6♥+1 on the other table, for a 1 IMP loss. After that we lost a couple of game swings from Alex and Derek making games, a bit more when I pushed to 2NT-1, then got a game swing back when I made 3NT. I'd like to say it was my careful play, but actually I think it was mostly our team-mate Paul's good lead on the other table:

In my 3NT I got a friendly Diamond lead and am up to seven tricks. I decided it was safe to try Spades first, then fell back on the Club suit to make 3NT=. The other declarer got a tricky ♣7 lead from North, which convinced him to get that suit wrong.

Despite that gain at the break we were 19 IMPs down.

In the second half we were against familiar opponents John Di Mambro and Gints, from Team Wanderers. There was a flurry of accidents and misjudgments from me, culminating in a 66 IMP loss. I expect that's 0 VPs overall.

These were two more boards where I jumped to slam, with considerably less success than Board 1 above:

John's 1♦ opening is almost always 5+, which is a great surprise looking at my hand. When the opponent's got to 5♠ I decided that since they are bothquite sound bidders they must have 11 trumps between them. Hence John has a void. I didn't want to miss out on the grand slam, so popped down 7♦.

The bad news was that we both have a losing Spade. The good news was, East led a Club. He respected our bidding enough to think I must have a Spade void (but not respected it enough to sacrifice in 7♠). The contract was alive, and just needed the Heart finesse to make it.

The Heart finesse failed, and it was two off. If it was going to be our day, that would have made.

I'm expecting a 10 IMP loss aginst 6♠ doubled but it's even worse, as the other table conceded 6♦= for a 17 IMP loss on the board.

Luckily, I soon get dealt a great hand to generate a swing back for Team Faben!

I opened 1♣, and it felt a bit funny to be alerting it as 2+. When John bid 2♣ I figured he must have some support, as I've only shown a few Clubs myself (afterwards we thought he could have bid 1NT on the second turn). I didn't consider that he's just given false preference, and was now pushing for slam. I messed around with a splinter then bid the 6♣ I'd been itching to since I got dealt the hand.

The trumps in dummy were something of a disappointment. Gints led the ♣A and any hope of making it disappeared. With Spades 3-3 it was only one off, and with any other lead apart from trumps I could have made it.

To add to the disappointment the other table played in 2♠+3, so just bidding 5♣ would have won the board.

Not our night.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

SOL3: Faben vs Goodman

I've been enjoying playing in the Scottish National League, against players who I normally just read about or watch on Vugraph. I think it's made me slightly nervous and prone to underbidding, which I'm trying not to do anymore. What I've found is that even good players make mistakes, not least in the claims of which I've seen several incorrect ones.

Another thing I've noticed is that results are more often duplicated. So if the cards lie badly, the game will go down on both tables and it's a flat board. This is different to playing in a fairly weak matchpoint event, where any sort of good score will beat most people.

I'm awaiting John's feedback (where he usually reveals at least one game I gave away), and so far am only aware of the two mistakes below. In both of these we got a good score, but it was duplicated at the other table. I should have pushed for a really good score.

I've got almost the perfect hand for a six-card Weak Two, with a solid suit third in hand and some shape. Plus a few surprise high cards which declarer will get wrong in the play. After the double John raised to 4♠ and West bid 5♦. With my ♦AJT9 I'm almost certain of we're beating this, but was afraid to double. It's just about possible the ♦KQ lie over me or I could be endplayed into only two trump tricks. Also, I thought, they could run to 5♥, but actually with my singleton Heart it's likely partner has a stack and 5♥ would get doubled too.

I quietly passed 5♦. Declarer of course got trumps wrong and with a Spade and Club trick too that was 5♦-4. Even if I double the best declarer can do is 5♦x-3, and 5♥ is at least as bad. On the other table North opened 1♠ and after West showed Diamonds East tried 3NT, which was also not a success. This was only three off though, for a 3 IMP gain for Team Faben. Could have been more though.

[Update: John reminded me that after making a Weak Two my double would not be penalties, rather a suggestion of bidding on but giving partner the option of passing. Here he would have bid 5S, which fails. I think I knew a Weak Two couldn't make a penalty double, but often when you are looking at a hand that wants to make a penalty double you can convince yourself double is penalties]

Defending 3NT I found the winning Heart lead (having got two opening leads wrong before). On the first trick Declarer played the King and Queen and John the Jack, so it should be pretty clear to me what's going on. When declarer lost a Club to my Ace I cleared the Hearts, and it's now clear this is going down a lot. But when I was allowed to win a Diamond I could have cashed my now high ♣J, then crossed to partner's winning Hearts. But even though I knew the Heart position with 99% confidence I still couldn't bear the thought of setting up declarer's Clubs, so just played a Heart straight away. John claimed three off.

3NT-3 felt like a good score, but of course the other table found the Heart lead and the result was duplicated. If I'd have cashed that extra trick it would have been a 3 IMP gain.

Apart from that things went quite well. Following my creed of being bold, I opened 4♠ rather light.

I guessed Spades right and went two off. This felt like a good result. On the other table West made what I think is the correct 5♥ overcall, but unfortunately despite 28 high card points the same distribution that inspired me to open 4♠ meant with best defence it went one down, so that was a 5 IMP loss.

If the match was 2x8 boards we would have won comfortably, but losing 20 IMPs at the end of each half meant we lost the match overall by 5 IMPs.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

SOL3: Faben vs BShenkin

I was a bit worried about this match, as it was an 8pm start and I don't like playing too late. I also had an icepack on my knee. In the end, neither of those things affected me, and I think John and I had quite a good game. At least, until we went through the hands afterwards and I realised I'd made a few more mistakes than I thought.

The first half was mostly decided by this big board:

I overcalled 1NT with 2♦, showing a six card major. With a seven card suit I could have made a direct 3♥ bid, but decided the hand was too flat. After that things took off. I passed when John bid 5♣, though I was anxious with my extra Heart that 5♥ might play better, and even that John might expect me to correct without support. When it came back to me in 5♦x I was happy to pass, as I have two good defensive cards.

John lead the A♣, and dummy came down. It's a great dummy for declarer, but that is not too unexpected on the auction. Even though declarer got the Diamonds wrong and finessed into my doubleton that was still 5♦x= for -550.

Doubling their making game is never a great score, but we hand't necessarily done too badly. If we bid on with 5♥ say, that goes two off doubled vulnerable for about the same score. And East-West could in theory make 12 tricks in Diamonds or Spades.

On the other table they did get to 6♠, played by West. On discovering all of South's hearts our declarer also finessed Diamonds, so went one off, for a 12 IMP loss.

After 12 boards then we were 10-26 down.

In the second half things started well, as John made a tricky 3NT (repeated at the other table) and we twice caught the opponents overbidding and doubled them. Even better, I made 3♦x. A small hiccup when I played 6♠-1 (but went off two at the other table) then we went down in 1♣ with 20 points, but overall we were well up.

This was the final board:

I thought about overcalling 1♥, thought about doubling the artificial 2♥, but passed twice. This was maybe correct, as with a Heart lead declarer can't fail in 3NT. By keeping quiet there was a chance we could find the killing defence of a Spade across to my Ace then the Queen of Hearts back. It would have been a thing of beauty.

John did his bit, beginning with the ♠Q. Kt was after 11 pm by now and I confess I didn't even consider winning and switching to Hearts. I thought that John couldn't have the ♥AK so there was no chance of setting the suit up. Instead I dreamed up some layouts where we could still beat it with Spade tricks (John leading ♠Q from KQxxx for attitude, declarer having a singleton Club), and ducked the first Spade. After that it was all over, and declarer made 3NT+3.

On the other table after Heart interference they stopped in 4♣+2, so that was 11 IMPs away.

Overall we won the second half 41-28 for an overall loss by just 3 IMPs. That translates to 9.25 Victory Points. A missed opportunity.

A final thing to note, and I mentioned this at the time but no one was interested, I played five contracts where the trumps split 3-0 or 4-0.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Got the timing wrong

After concentrating hard in the SOL match last night I thought I'd relax in tonight's 12 board matchpoints with Anna. It turns out playing relaxed isn't a very good idea, and without proper concentration I made a lot of mistakes.

Things didn't go well for either of us and after bad scores on the first five boards we were both on the tilt. This lead to some aggressive actions, which all surprisingly seemed to work.

This was our best score, a 4♥ I misplayed but got away with:

After Anna's double I am worth a raise to 3♥, and with all her points working I like Anna's raise to game.

After a Diamond lead my plan is to lead up to take my ♥AK, lead up to the ♠K, and ruff some Diamonds. Hopefully losing just one Heart, one Spade and one Club. But what order to do it in?

I went for taking out the Hearts first, then lead up to the ♠K. To my surprise this held. I lead a Diamond back, ruffed a Diamond, and lead a Spade from dummy. I'm now stuffed - as whichever defender has the last trump can win this Spade and draw dummy's last trump. Luckily for me, after East played the ♠Q West overtook with the Ace, and had no trump to return. So I made 4♥=.

As Anna pointed out to me afterwards, I should play two rounds of Spades immediately. I win my King, then play another round. Now if the defence play trumps I'm still in control.

Depsite 94% on the board we finished as badly as we started and ended up on 46%.

SOL3: Faben vs Chow

After a rather disappointing first half we were 12 IMPs down. It could have been worse, but Paul and Jun produced a good card at the other table to limit our losses.

In the second half I came out all guns blazing. On the first hand the opposition crept to 4♠, which I doubled. This might have made but went down two. The other table was also 4♠-2 but not doubled so that gained us 5 IMPs.

Then when I got a good hand I bid it to the max.

I opened 1♣, and it came back round to me at 4♠. I had been considering 3NT, and now thought about 4NT, natural. However, 4NT definitely would not have been natural, it would have been two places to play, which I suppose I sort of have with some Heart support for John. I also have plenty of strenght to double, but in the end went for a simple 5♣.

East doubled this immediately, and why not with the ♦AK. She lead the ♦A, and we all had a look at dummy.

It looks like the only chance is Clubs 2-2 (unlikely after the double) and dropping the singleton King of Hearts. At this point I realised how many tricks down 4♠ would be and wished I'd doubled instead.

After cashing the ♦A East understandably paused, not wanting to play another round and set up my Queen in dummy. She probably thought I had a singleton Diamond too, to justify my bidding. So, she safely switched to a Spade. This was fatal to the defence.

I drew trumps, realised I was about to make it, played an extra trump for no reason, then lead a Diamond. East won, but whatever she plays gives me access to dummy and all the remaining tricks. 5♣x= for +750.

On the other table after the same start South responsed 2♥, and North pushed to 6♥-2. That was a 14 IMP gain.

On the last board of the match I picked up another good hand, and bid it to the max:

I opened 1♠ and despite my partner's silence went up to 4♥. This was promptly doubled, and I corrected to 4♠, doubled again. John had a think but then thankfully passed. And fortunately the defence lead a Diamond, so I could ruff, draw trumps and make 4♠x=.

On the other table Jun and Paul bid diamonds aggressively and North-South again pushed to 6♥-2. That was another 14 IMPs.

In between those good scores our opponents punted a couple of good games too, so there were scores flying in both directions. In the end we won the second half by 17 IMPs, for a 5 IMP win overall.

Friday, 26 March 2021

Glasgow League: Team Ruffians vs Team Rowan

Last night Anna and I got the kids to be early and settled down for a 24 board match. Things started calmly with a series of one level contracts. I think we defended these well, but this was total points so they didn't matter too much.

Later on things picked up and we bid aggressively. This caused the opponents to miss a couple of games, but also pushed them in to games that they might not have got to otherwise.

This was a frustrating one:

At favourable vulnerability I thought I was worth a 2♣ overcall, showing at least 5-4 in the majors. West bid his Clubs naturally and East did the right thing bidding 3NT.

The contract makes or goes down depending on my lead. A heart gives declarer a free Heart trick, which turns out to be his ninth, alongside six Clubs and two Diamonds. Anything else, and declarer is stuck on eight tricks. As soon as he touches Spades Anna can win and fire through the Jack of Hearts. Best of all is if I lead Spades, in which case we get the first six tricks.

I lead a Heart, conceding 3NT=. My heart lead failed here, but could be the right thing to do if declarer has something like ♥KJx and we need to play the suit twice to set it up.

What about the other tables? 3NT was played twice more and also made, once with a similar Heart lead from South, once when North lead Diamonds then kept leading them. Sheena and Colin were on defence against 5♣, which needs excellent defence and got it, the defence getting their Spade ruff for one off. So overall the board was a win for Team Rowan.

Board 21 I'm not sure if we made life difficult for the opponents or helped them:

After Anna opened 1♠ and the next hand overcalled I went straight to 4♠. I think this is the right bid, though Anna says she would only have bid 3&spadees;. Here, where West has lots of Clubs, he has an easy 5♣ bid, but if he had for example a big Diamond suit with only two or three Clubs they're probably going to miss their game.

Anna was restrained in not bidding 5♠, which could go three off doubled for -800.

My trump lead was ineffective and declarer wrapped up 12 tricks.

In the other half of our match our team-mates missed out (playing 4♣+1), after East bid an unusual 2NT and South passed. In the other match Jill and Barbara had no trouble making 5♣+1 (again after an unusual 2NT and South passing). On the last table South found a 3♠ raise then North bid 4♠ then 5♠. That sounds suicidal to me but it was undoubled and in fact lost only two tricks for -200.

There may also have been a hand where I leapt to 6♣ missing two Aces, and both Anna and I apologised to each other afterwards.

But the good news is, overall we won the match by 2150 points, for a flying start to the season!

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

SOL3: Faben vs Smith

Last night I was up for the game, and determined not to underbid this time. It didn't work out too well though, and on the first board I made five overtricks. It doesn't really matter what the contract was, +5 is never a good result.

I had a maximum overcall, John had a maximum pass, and everything lay nicely. On the other table Harry Smith overcalled 1NT and played in 3NT. It's not a great contract but made here. So on another day our cautious bidding would have won a game swing.

This was the most exciting board in the first half:

John opened 4♥ passed to West who felt obliged to double. East chose the least-worst option of passing. I had the nice South hand, and would have doubled any contract they bid. But since we have two ways of opening 4♥, and this is the weaker way, I didn't feel confident redoubling 4♥, and when I saw John's hand expected it to go down. But trumps were 2-2 so we made 4♥x= for +590.

That was an 11 IMP swing ... to them! On the other table after the same start East bid 4♠, which was duly doubled. They escaped to the equally bad 5♣, also doubled, and off four. At the end of the first half we were down 13-32 IMPs.

In the second half we did better. The only big swing out was when the opposition bid a poor 3NT with ♣854 opposite ♣T92. This turned out to be an adequate stopper when the suit split 4-3.

Near the end I remembered my plan to bid boldly, and picked it up for this one:

I have a fairly average 5-5 hand, but we play specific-suit Michaels, and that emboldened me to make the 2NT overcall. John has a great hand for me, with four Hearts and some good Clubs, and with the Club finesse working he made nine tricks.

In theory North-South can make ten tricks in Spades, and in fact did so at the other table (although they were only playing in 3♠). After a Diamond lead the threat of a ruff forced declarer to play trumps from the top. Their 3♠+1 combined with out 3♥= was a 7 IMP gain.

We won the second half 37-18, to bring the final scores to 50-50. A draw? Not quite. A corrected claim gave one IMP back to them. Paul had claimed 3♦+1, when actually only 9 tricks were there. Personally I think if both defenders accept the claim it should stand, but the rest of the team were more generous and so we ended up with a narrow 1 IMP loss.

A post-script - one hand I messed up I didn't notice at the time. I didn't even notice when I went throught the boards afterwards. It was only when John emailed me with some comments, I saw he'd written for Board 8 "Why didn't you return a Spade?". It's a good question:

John lead a Spade to the Ten and King. Declarer immediately took a losing Heart finesse to my Queen. Now it's time to return a Spade to partner's probable 5-card suit and beat the contract. However, I doubted the Spades and liked my Clubs, so made a useless Club switch. The simple defence would have worked here.