Friday, 28 December 2012

Cape Verde Crusader

We didn't play any bridge in Cape Verde. Instead I set a 13 point quiz to Anna, on card combinations. Did she get them right, or too many Sangrias? Assume always you are going for the maximum number of tricks, and have entries a plenty.

Try these first four, then I'll give the answers according to Suitplay.exe.

Here's the answers:


Q T x
A x x

A tough one to start! Suitplay says play low to the Ace, then lead up to either the Queen or Ten. But I think that when you lead up to the Queen-Ten if West has the King he might play it, but he'd never volunteer the Jack. Hence you do better in the long run leading up to the Ten.


A J x x
Q x x

It's a guess who might have Kx, but I think it's best to assume that West has it. That way you can win three tricks without losing any. Hence start with low to the Jack, then cash the Ace.


A J 9
x x

A classic. Low to the nine, then if an honour pops up from East you finesse West for the other honour. If West plays an honour on the first round, you have a guess what to do next (too tricky for me).


A T x
Q 9 x

Everything's about the same as long as you finesse twice. Suitplay says low to the ten, then run the Queen or Nine second round.

Here's five more. Try and ignore the crow, he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Answers to those five:


A Q x x x

Very saucy. The best play is low to the Ten on the first round. If the Ten was in the long hand though, you'd just play off the Ace-King-Queen. I got this one wrong. The finesse gains when there is Jx or Jxxx or Jxxxx or Jxxxxx onside, and only loses when there is Jxx offside.


K T 9
x x x

Finesse twice. This gives you an almost 80% chance of a trick.


K x x x
x x x

For one trick, duck twice then lead up to the King. If you need two tricks, then duck once and then lead up to the King (you make two tricks if there is Axx onside).


K J T 9 8 x x x

Low to the King. For one loser you hope to find a singleton Queen. A singleton Ace does you no good, as you then have to lose another trick to the person with Qxx.


Q T 9 8 x x x

This time you are weaker as you have only eight cards. For just one loser either cash the Ace then play the Queen (hoping opponents have Jx;Kxx), or cash the Ace then play the Ten (hoping opponents have Kx;Jxx).

Try these last four problems:


A T x x
K x x

Low to the King then finesse the Ten on the second round. I originally thought it was better to cash the Ace and King then lead up to the Ten, but this loses to QJxx onside. Actually, quite a lot of these I got wrong.


A x x x
Q J 9 x

For all four tricks, run the Queen. If the Queen is covered with the King, then win the Ace then cash the Jack. If it is not covered then run the Jack. In both cases you are hoping for opponents' having (Kxx;Tx) or (KT;xxx). If you only need three tricks then cash the Ace then lead up to your Queen-Jack.

However, the ultimate Matchpoint line (that gives the highest average number of tricks) is different again, and involves two finesses. You run the Queen, then finesse the Nine. That's the line I would normally take I think, as it has a high average number of tricks (finesses protect you against bad breaks), and also has the exciting possibility of giving you all the tricks.


Q x x
K J x x

An easy one. Play low to the hand with two honours in it twice. You have a 44% chance of winning three tricks that way, which admittedly isn't much better than the 36% chance of the suit splitting 3-3 (but playing it this way gives the defence a chance to go wrong too).


Q x x x
K x x x

Last one! First, decide who you think has doubleton Ace. suppose it's East. Lead up to the King, then play low from both hands on the next round, to bring down his Ace. Glorious if it works.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

SBU Peebles Congress - Part 2

Half way through we are in a marvellous 33rd equal, out of 140 pairs. There's now a three hour break, to allow the Hotel to serve dinner in two seatings. Many people in the Congress are staying the whole weekend, full board. Thus most of my banter between rounds is about whether the other couple are staying in the hotel or not, not great stuff. In fact at one point when everyone else is itching to start Anna starts to giggle as my chat's so poor.

We are sadly not booked into the Hydro Hotel, and so walk into Peebles for a pub dinner. John's gang are off to an Indian, but Anna wants somewhere quiet. For the first time we've ever played together, it's Anna who cracks and decides she wants to get out the hand records and have a look at them.

After a couple of hours it's time to go. I'm not allowed to finish my pint as Anna wants to make sure we're fresh for the evening session. This consists of another 24 boards, from 8pm-11pm. Really, there's no way we're ever going to be fresh, and a post-prandial late-night bridge-overload slump is inevitable. With our remaining hour before play starts Anna tries for a power nap on a big leather sofa and I walk up and down in the cold.

Round Five - 11/20 VPs

The event is now divided into three rooms. Me and Anna are flying high and are in the top room, albeit the second bottom table. Our opponents this round have come up from England, and straight away she is muttering about the cold draught from the window, and he is getting upset when the person sitting behind him (who, like him, is rather fat), bumps his chair when sitting down. They spend the next few minutes muttering to each other. Then I casually mention that we're not S.B.U. members, and she gets very uppity, saying that if this was the E.B.U. we'd never be allowed to compete without membership.

In the bridge we get a flying start with a textbook Crowhurst auction (Board 1) leading to Anna making 2♠+1. Then the opponents miss an easy slam (Board 6), despite their Modified Hackett convention ("Paul denies all knowledge of it").

Vul EW
E deal
♠ Q
♥ K Q J T 8 3
♦ A T 7 6 4
♣ T 4 2
♠ J 9 6 2
♥ 9 4 2
♦ 8 2
♣ 9 7 6 5
♠ A T 8 7 5 4
♥ -
♦ J 5 3
♣ Q T 8 4
♠ K 3
♥ A 7 6 5
♦ K Q 9
♣ A K J 3
3♠4♥ - -

Anna sitting East deals and opens a standard weak two. South's double shows 16+ and 4 Hearts (the other bids of 2NT, 3♣ and 3♦ show the other combinations of weak and strong hands with and without four Hearts). Sitting West I have a one count with four Spades, vulnerable. I go for a conservative 3♠, which perhaps does the trick as when North bids 4♥ South lets this go. Declarer makes all 13 tricks on a Club lead, but defending 4♥+3 is still a good one for us.

On John's table the opposition played 4♠x minus loads.

Things briefly go a bit haywire as we end up over-competing to a doomed 4♥ (Board 2), but overall it's a fairly good round. Beryl is getting so sullen I start to have a bit of fun, by being as polite as possible. At the end of the round I practically shout "Well played, thanks for the game." to each miserable opponent in turn. They don't reply. It's nice at least that they weren't rude to each other, just to us.

Round Six - 12/20 VPs

Our narrow win from the last round is just enough to keep us in the top room. Next we play a lovely couple, and there's no malice even though the Director is called to our table at lest three times. On one board I've got 11 cards, another board 15 cards, then there's an enquiry as to whether we've benefited from unauthorised information on the hand below (Board 10). Specifically, has Anna's pause before passing 3♠ helped me decide to double it?

Vul both
E deal
♠ A J T 7 4 3
♥ T 8
♦ Q 5 3
♣ Q 2
♠ 2
♥ K 7 4
♦ A 8 7
♣ A K J 6 5 4
♠ 9 5
♥ A Q J 6 3
♦ J 9 4 2
♣ T 3
♠ K Q 8 6
♥ 9 5 2
♦ K T 6
♣ 9 8 7
- -
1♣1♠x 2♠
3♣3♠- -
x - - -

Sitting West I open a club, North overcalls 1♠ and Anna doubles. The double shows 6+ points and at least four Hearts. When it comes back round to me I bid 3♣, and North overcalls 3♠. Anna apparently now hesitated for a bit before passing, though I don't think she hesitated for very long. When it's back to me, I realised that we have at least 21 points between us, and I can play in any suit except Spades, so make a final takeout double. Anna passes this (should have bid 4♥).

3♠x-1 goes one off, but the Director has been called and it might be ruled back to just 3♠-1. It doesn't really matter whether we get +100 or +200, as we can make 12 tricks in Hearts. Once they find this out, the opponents aren't too bothered any more (but the Director does rule in our favour, and the result stands at 3♠x-1).

Then it's bad to worse as I make a blunder in defence to 3NT, setting up declarer's ninth trick (Board 9). I seem to do that quite often, set up declarer's tricks. But it's difficult, as sometimes in matchpoints it's essential to cash your winners to prevent overtricks. We are partially reprieved next deal (Board 11) when opponents have a bad auction to 4♠+1, missing a slam (why do people transfer into a Major then bid game in it, when they've only got five cards and it could be a 5-2 fit?). Then comes my crowning glory, a dubious bid that paid off handsomely (Board 12).

Vul NS
W deal
♠ 6 3
♥ J 9 8 4 3
♦ A T 5 3
♣ 6 3
♠ Q J 9 8 5
♥ A 5 2
♦ -
♣ A K 8 5 2
♠ A K 7
♥ K 6
♦ 9 6 4 2
♣ Q J 9 7
♠ T 4 2
♥ Q T 7
♦ K Q J 8 7
♣ T 4
4♣- 4♠-
6♠ - - -

I have the juicy West hand and open 1♠. When I see Anna pulling out a card to reply I'm almost certain it's going to be 2♦, but then I see 2♣ and we're in business. I think of splintering in Diamonds, but want to keep the possiblity of a major game so bid 4♣. This is clearly forcing (3♣ is invitational), but I'm still a bit afraid Anna will pass. When she bids 4♠ I'm cheered by the double fit and start thinking about how to investigate slam. I think for a bit then decide to just bid 6♠.

When dummy comes down I've hit the jackpot, it couldn't be any more suitable. Anna's got all the missing honours in spades and clubs, nothing wasted in diamonds, and a handy King doubleton in hearts. It's such a good dummy in fact, that I easily make all 13 tricks. Of course, if Anna's Ace-King of spades were in diamonds instead I'd look rather foolish.

On John Faben's table he was also sitting West. After opening 1♠ like me, he rebid 4♦ over partner's 2&clubs. This was a splinter, which suits Easts hand very well with four small Diamonds. Something went wrong after that though as they finished in 6♣ (not 7♣ and not 6♠).

Anyway it was a glorious sight to see that perfect dummy, and we end up narrowly winning this match too.

Round Seven - 3/20 VPs

We've now played 6 rounds, and won 4 of them, lost 1 and drawn 1. We're up to Table 14 out of 70. As it turns out, this is a high-water mark, and we bomb dramatically in Round 7.

It's fairly poor from our opponents too, and the whole round is a bit shambolic. We play half of the first hand (Board 15) against Ed Jones and Alex, before the Director informs them that they are sitting on the wrong table. The Board is played again against the new opponents. The first time round on the board our opponents were heading for 5♦ (just making, good for us), the second time 3NT (making +2, bad for us). Since the auctions differ the hand is annulled.

It restarts well - we win the next one when they go off in 4♥ (Board 14). Declarer is poised to make it with two tricks to go, but plays the last two the wrong way round. I realised what was going on in defence and was tremendously relieved when declarer bodged it. Then I make a very saucy 2♦ on a 5-1 fit (Board 16, with a super endplay), and I wonder if we might do alright. What was I thinking?

We've done well to hold it off for so long, but now it's time to bomb. Nothing spectacularly bad happens, just a bit of vulnerable overbidding (Board 13, Anna) and sloppy defence (Board 18, me), but it's enough to see us losing the round 3 VPs to 17.

Round Eight - 12/20 VPs

After the big loss we're out of the top room and into the middle room, where we'll play the final round. It's the nicest room so far. The bridge from this point on is a bit crazy, and there's a constant risk of something stupid happening.

We started the round late as I'd nipped off to the toilet, then when I got back we had one of the slowest auctions ever. It's painful for me and I'm bidding it, not sure how the opponents coped (Board 23).

Both Vul
S deal
♠ 7 4
♥Q J 6 5 3
♦ 9 8 3
♣ K 6 2
♠ K Q J 3
♥ A K
♦ A J 6 5
♣ Q 8 3
♠ A 8 6 2
♥ T 9 8 7
♦ K 7 2
♣ A 5
♠ T 9 5
♥ 4 2
♦ Q T 4
♣ J T 9 7 4
2NT- 3♣ x
3♠-4NT -
5♦ - 6♠ -
- - -

Anna's sitting West. She counts her point five times then opens a 20-21 point 2NT. I'm straight away thinking that my hand falls into the danger zone of maybe-slam with 11 points. There's going to be a decision to make later, but for now I just bid Stayman. Anna shows 4 Spades and we've got a trump suit. One of the things we have discussed system-wise is that after Stayman 4NT is Blackwood, which I now bid. Slam might not be good, but if we've got enough aces I'm bidding it anyway. Anna thinks for an age and finally comes up with 5♦, showing 3 keycards. Then I think for two ages and in the end decide that since I've asked for keycards, and we've got all five, I can't really back down now. So I bid 6♠.

North leads a Club, which Anna runs round to her Queen. North is furious, and is banging her remaining cards on the table, rather unethically making it quite obvious to her partner she's just blown a trick by leading away from the King. The rest of the play goes smoothly, apart from Anna accidentally ruffing her winning 4th diamond, but we still make 6♠= for a good score. That's our third Spade slam of the day.

In the post mortem East-West are arguing and it occurs to me that I'd totally missed South's double of 3♣. That ought to have been a wake up call, but in fact the next hand (Board 19) I commit an even worse error, not noticing that my own partner had doubled. To be fair, and I said this afterwards, the double cards and the tables are both red.

EW Vul
S deal
♠ 4 3
♥ K 6
♦ J T 9 8 3
♣ J 8 7 2
♠ 8 2
♥ A Q J 3
♦ K Q 5 4
♣ K T 4
♠ A T 9
♥ T 9 5 3
♦ A 7 2
♣ A 9 6
♠ K Q J 7 6 5
♥ 8 7 4
♦ 6
♣ Q 5 3
-2♥ - 2♠
x-- -

South opens a Multi 2♦, North relays 2♥, now South shows her suit with 2♠. As far as I'm concerned, sitting East, this is now passed round to me. I really ought to double, as partner could have an opening hand, but I decide to pass and defend. When I see how weak dummy is I realise we're getting a bad score, and wish I'd doubled. It goes two off, but that's no consolation. When scoring up, it turns out that Anna had already doubled 2♠. North didn't realize this either and we have to call over the Director to fix the BridgeMate.

It doesn't help us much getting +300 instead of +100, as really we should be in 4♥. The one advantage of our +300 though is that it means we get a better score than John on the board, who also doubled 2♠ but his partner with three aces only bid 3♥ for +170 (note that even if NS find the Diamond ruff 4♥ makes).

Then it's the opponents turn to play and fail, as we benefit by passing out a big 4♣ overcall and taking it two off (Board 20). Both me and Anna nearly had another bid and could easily have gotten overboard ourselves. There's an air of madness about every board. On the penultimate hand we have the following bizarre auction (Board 21).

3♦3♠ 4♣ -
5♣-- -

Opponents open yet another Multi 2♦ and I again double to show Diamonds. Anna raises this, but when I later bid 4♣ to show my two suiter (it's a competitive auction) she decides that actually I don't really have Diamonds and must instead have a monster hand with Clubs. She raises me to 5♣ and I play there, going one off, though briefly I think I'm going to make it as I forget I can only afford to lose two tricks.

Anna had the honour of playing the final one (Board 22). Who wouldn't want to be in 4♠ here?

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

It went one off with the Ace and Queen of clubs both offide, for a poor finish.

It was now after 11pm, I was far too warm and me and Anna were both repeatedly complaining of being frazzled. Time to go. Anna manned up and drove the whole way back, to watch a recording of the evening's Strictly Come Dancing quarter-final.

What a day.

SBU Peebles Congress - Part 1

Me and Anna are in the big time! We've entered the S.B.U. Winter Congress in Peebles near Edinburgh (even though we're not S.B.U. members, more of that later). The event lasts all weekend, but we're just playing in the Saturday Swiss Pairs.

We share the driving there, an hour and a half each way. My bit is extremely stressful, as the roads are windy and when Anna tells me to "keep to the inside" I think she means hug the hedge, but actually she means stay closer to the middle of the road. It all feels incredibly dangerous. John Faben is in the back, and when we get there he compliments Anna on how calm she is when I'm driving, which I think might be a subtle way of saying he was terrified when I was at the wheel.

There are 140 pairs in the Peebles Hydro Hotel. It's quite a grand setting, and I'm glad that I've dressed for the occasion. I'm wearing my navy suit with a black tie and black shirt. Beige jumper too. I saunter into the Residents Only section of hotel and pick up some complimentary tea for the pair of us. At the time I attribute my success at fitting in to being smartly dressed and looking the part, but later when I look in the mirror I realise I actually look a bit ridiculous.

To make the day more attractive to Anna ("I feel as if I've been duped into going") I've prepared a bumper packed lunch. We find a quiet table and have some bagels, satsumas and Mint Matchsticks along with the illicit tea.

The event is Swiss Pairs. Each round you play six boards against one other pair. For each board your score is compared with every other table, and you get a matchpoint percentage. At the end of the six rounds your average matchpoint score determines how many Victory Points you get out of 20. So for an average round you get 10 VPs, a massive win gets you all 20 VPs. The excitement of a Swiss event is that after each round you move to a new table, based on your overall position in the tournament. If you've had a good round you move up towards the hallowed Table 1, a bad round and you disappear further down the Hotel Ballroom.

There's four rounds in the afternoon session, and four in the evening session.

Round One - 13/20 VPs

Our first round opponents are very friendly, and we get off to a good start. Anna is clearly not intimidated by the occasion. On the first hand (Board 3) she opens a weak two in Spades with ♠AKQ732 ♥T9 ♦82 ♣873. I raise this to 4♠, then when an opponent comes in with 5♦ Anna comes in over the top with 5♠. Although this goes two off the opponents diamond game was making, so it ought to be a good score, but for some reason isn't.

On the next one (Board 4)I play a 3NT with only 8 tricks, but make it on a squeeze. Much later, on the drive home, John points out that I can actually make it easily anyway without the squeeze. But at the time I didn't know that, and was feeling good.

But shortly after, comes the first bodge of the day (Board 2). We settle in 5♠ (fortunately, as one of my bids was mistaken for Exclusion Keycard Blackwood and Anna duly responded with one ace. I thought we were cuebidding). In the play my only possible losers are in this trump suit:

T 7 4
A 9 2 Q 5
K J 8 6 3

I stupidly lead the Ten (what would Victor Mollo say?), covered by the Queen, King and Ace. Then I lose a second trump trick to West's nine. I have a suspicion that if I'd bid it up to 6♠, which I nearly did, I might have just lead up to the Jack and made 12 tricks. As it is 5♠= is a bad one for us.

When the scores come in we've a narrow victory. We're heading up the room! Best of all, we weren't outrageously slow, and didn't have any directorial wranglings for dodgy slow pauses (that comes later).

Round Two - 10/20 VPs

Bad start - Anna got unlucky leading a low spade from ♠KQ92 ♥K92 ♦A63 ♣643 against a weak NT (Board 9). Declarer had ♠AJ in hand and gratefully took two spade tricks, and that was enough to give us a bad score on the board.

Me and Anna are having a poor round, playing in a dodgy 4-3 heart fit (Board 7, should have been in NT) and need a boost. Although it's matchpoints everyone loves bidding a slam. I think about it on the hand below, but luckily managed to stay low. I'm East and Anna is West (Board 10).

Both Vul
E deal
♠ -
♥ 7 6 4 3
♦ 8 6 4 2
♣ K Q 9 6 5
♠ A J
♥ 8 5
♦ Q J T 9 3
♣ A 7 4 2
♠ K Q T 9 8 5 4
♥ K Q T
♦ K 7
♣ 8
♠ 7 6 3 2
♥ A J 9 2
♦ A 5
♣ J T 3
2♦- 4♠ -

I open the East hand 1♠ then rebid 4♠, which shows a hand like this but probably a bit weaker. Since we play Reverse Benji I think I should actually open 2♦. In the play I got a club lead then immediately started on diamonds. South paused for ages, then took her Ace. She then wisely took her ace of hearts to hold me to 11 tricks. If she'd have won the ace of diamonds then returned a diamond not sure what I've done.

Another feature of the hand is that after drawing three rounds of trumps I thought they were all out. I was about to claim, then just to make sure I drew one more round. Was very surprised to see South following again. I had moment of panic as I wonder what horrible punishment we might have got if I did claim once there was still a trump out. As it was, 4♠+1 scored fairly well.

Now here's a massive slam we did bid (Board 11).

None Vul
S deal
♠ 6 3 2
♥ Q J T 8 7 5
♦ 6
♣ T 4 2
♠ A K T 9 8
♥ K 4 3
♦ A 8 3 2
♣ J
♠ Q J 7 4
♥ -
♦ J T 9 7
♣ A K 9 8 6
♠ 5
♥ A 9 6 2
♦ K Q 5 4
♣ Q 7 5 3
1♠3♥ 4♥ 5♥
5♠-6♠ -
- -

Anna opens 1♠ and North overcalls a very weak 3♥. I'm now getting very excited as East and bid 4♥, which I meant as showing Heart shortage but actually just means a good raise of Spades. South bids 5♥ completing the run of 3♥-4♥-5♥. I've decided already I'm going to bid 5♠ when it comes round to me, but when Anna bids 5♠ herself (based on working out I've got no Hearts), I decided to top it up to 6♠

Anna gets a nice Diamond lead. She ruffs a couple of Hearts, draws trumps then gives up a Diamond and claims. Bingo! This good result is enough to mean we draw the match, a good result against top opponents Paul Gipson and Sam Punch.

Note - two rounds in and I'm getting rather warm. Walking along the corridor to get more water I wished I'd brought two more shirts; one for the evening session and one for the drive home.

Round Three - 5/20 VPs

Not really sure what happened here. Don't think we were yet on the tilt, just a series of bad boards. Opposite my 2NT opening (Board 13), Anna had ♠97654 ♥QJT ♦642 ♣85. The winning action here is to transfer to Spades then pass, letting me make 3♠. We were not unreasonably in 4♠ though. To make it I need to pick up this Diamond suit for no losers:

A K T 9 3
6 4 2

I got it wrong - one off for another poor score.

All of our opponents seemed to play Multi 2♦ (or Tartan Twos). Luckily we have a cunning defence to the Multi - double shows diamonds. Unluckily, Anna doesn't like this defence and generally chooses to ignore it. On the next hand (Board 16) we are at favourable vulnerability and after opponents open 2♦ I double with nothing more than ♠5 ♥J943 ♦QT953 ♣973. Anna pays no attention to my double (no alert) and we end up defending 3NT. I'm ethically a bit confused what to do (should declarer be told I've got diamonds?). In the end we get a poor score anyway for only taking 3NT down by one trick.

A dud round, just 5/20 Victory points and we're back in the bottom half of the field.

Round Four - 20/20 VPs

Last session before the break. Finally, we are blessed with a few gifts from the opponents. On one hand they were bidding in Spades and investigating slam (Board 23). I was sitting with ♠KJT6 ♥T54 ♦875 ♣K75 over the main Spade bidder, and decided if they got to 6♠ I'd definitely double. They stopped in 5♠, which I passed. I got three trump tricks and my club King for two off, a bumper board for us.

This round was a stonking win - now it's time for Tea!

Part Two here.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Danny the Champion

Me and Anna came top at Buchanan matchpoints! Our final score was 60%, but it was a game of two halves. After much analysis I calculated that we averaged 74% in the first half, and 47% in the second half. Also there were a couple of hands that were accidentally rotated, that we benefited from, including a bad hand where both opponents and partner pointed out to me that I should have taken my Ace of Clubs.

Here's a hand from the second half, where I transformed a good board into a bottom. The opponents looked like resting in 4♥, but I kept the bidding open, forced them into 6♥, then found the lead to let them make it.

Love all
N deal
♠ J 8 3
♥ A Q T 6
♦ K Q 7 4
♣ K T
♠ K Q 9
♥ 8 7 5
♦ J T 5
♣ J 8 6 2
♠ T 6 5 2
♥ -
♦ 9 2
♣ A Q 9 7 5 4 3
♠ A 7 4
♥ K J 9 4 3 2
♦ A 8 6 3
♣ -
4♣4♥ - -
5♣5♥- 6♥
-- -

North opens the bidding 1♦. Then Anna sitting East weighs in with 3♣, which shows either a six or seven card suit. Ideally without a four card major, but I think she definitely has to bid here. South has an easy 3♥ bid, and I have my first quandary as East. I went for a pitiful 4♣. "Automatic 5♣" I can hear Ben Paske saying.

North bids 4♥, and South, with a monster hand including a diamond fit, thinks for ages, picks up a bid, puts it back down, then passes. She's obviously thinking about bidding on. This is Unauthorised Information for her partner North, but is authorised for me. So I decide to take advantage of it, and bid 5♣. This is because I now know that South will bid 5♥ over it, and I'd rather defend 5♥ than 4♥. But to my surprise, it's North who bids 5♥. This is not really allowed, as bidding on has been so strongly suggested by South's long think on the previous round. South duly tops up to 6♥, and I'm in trouble. Now I've helped them get to slam I really need to take it down. This needs a killer lead.

I find the disastrous lead of ♠K. My thinking is that we've hopefully got one ace (probably Clubs), and so the ♠Q will be the setting trick. But declarer just takes my King with her Ace, draws trumps, and finally leads up to the ♠J in dummy for the twelfth trick.

The score of -980 gets us a joint bottom (two other pairs conceded 6♥). In fact, the slam can be made by South on any lead. Declarer has to eliminate the other three suits then lead a Spade to West, who is then endplayed, so declarer can always get two Spade tricks.

See this deal (Board 17), and the full results from The Buchanan here.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Anna's League Match

This is from Anna's league match from Tuesday 20th November. I didn't play in the match, but got a report when Anna got home at 11pm and woke me up (apparently they got locked in the club at the end, hence the late finish).

This was the hand that apparently lost it for them. Basically after the opponents opened 1♦ Anna bid a 2♦ Michaels bid, but her partner didn't get it and kept bidding diamonds, culminating in Anna playing a catastrophic 4♦x-7, for -1700 points, a catastrophe at total points scoring. Coincidentally, at Anna's table the final points deficit was exactly 1700 points. Over the three tables, Buchanan Bridge Club narrowly lost the match.

Here's the disastrous auction in full, with the North and South hands as best Anna remembers. Favourable vulnerability.

♠ x
♥ x x x x
♦ Q x x
♣ K J x x x
♠ A x x x x
♥ K J x x x
♦ x x
♣ x

That auction needs an explanation. Since East opened 1♦, the 2♦ from South was a Michaels Cue Bid. It should have been alerted but wasn't. 3♦ from North was therefore a mistake. It looked like North-South might have got away with it when West bid 3NT, but still convinced of the diamond fit North now tried 4♦

I posted this hand on the Bridge Base Forums to ask what South should ethically do, read that here. Here's a summary of what the posters said:

  • South should basically "bid as if partner had properly alerted her bid", i.e. assume partner knows what he's doing.
  • So if you think an alert partner would bid 3♦ as "pick a major" you should pick a major, and if you think partner could be bidding 4♦ as natural you should pass that.
  • And if the only possible reason partner would bid 4♦ is because they've forgotten the system (and I'd say that is the case here), then you are ethically allowed to try 4♥, but this probably won't help anyway as he might then just bid 5♦ over you.

By way of contrast, here's a hand where Anna got a fantastic result, making a slam that should never even have been close to making.

♠ J x
♥ A J T 9 x x
♦ A J x x x
♣ -
♠ A K x x
♥ x
♦ x
♣ K Q T 9 8 x x

Looking at the North-South hands, what contract do you fancy? I'd say 4♥ is probably best. It's a massive misfit.

At the table North opened 1♥, and Anna sitting South replied 2♣. North had a tricky decision, and decided to rebid his Hearts (think I'd have bid Diamonds now). South made a forcing bid of 2♠ (a game forcing responder reverse), and North again decided to show his Hearts. South tried 4♣, which probably by the system is a cuebid agreeing Hearts. North cuebid 4♦ back, and Anna blasted 4NT. Presumably her plan was to play in Clubs, but I expect North thought the trump suit was Hearts.

How safe is Blackwood? Not very! Playing RKCB 1430 if partner has one keycard then he'll bid 5♣ which can be passed out. If he has two (or more) keycards, so bids at least 5♦ you have to play 6♣. There are two problems with this. Firstly, what if one of partner's keycards is the ♥K? That's no use to you as a control. Secondly, even if North has two Aces, as was the case here, that's not enough! This was starkly demonstrated when dummy came down with no trumps.

Have a look at the North-South hands in 6♣. Looks like two trump losers and two Spade losers, for 6♣-3.

Anna needed a miracle, and she got one. West led the ♥K. Declarer won the Ace, crossed to a top Spade and lead the ♣K. West took the ace, and fatally tried to cash the ♥Q. This was doomed to fail, as from the auction there was no way South could ever have two hearts. Anna eagerly ruffed this trick, and tried the ♣Q. When the ♣J dropped she had just one trump loser, and no Spade losers as hearts were all set up in dummy.

To make the slam you need a doubleton Jack of Clubs, and a very specific misdefence, where the defence set up hearts but don't take out dummy's diamond entry. There's no way declarer can make it on her own.

Addendum: since the match someone has claimed that in aggregate scoring that -1700 deficit for 4♦x=7 should have been capped. Not sure what's happening about that.

Friday, 9 November 2012

York dork

I played like a wild Viking tonight - very erratic. All four of the boards where we got 0% had me as declarer, but I think the 0% was mostly due to the bidding.

What do you make of this Unusual 2NT disaster? No one vulnerable.

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

East opens a club. I'm sitting South and come in with 2NT. We play that here as showing Diamonds and one of the majors, and either weak or strong. I've got 7 points so decide I've got the weak hand.

West asks what my bid shows, then doubles it. Anna now decides to pass, as she doesn't know my Major. I've got the weak hand type, and I'm worried if I bid again it'll look like I've got the strong hand type. But then they do say "6-5, come alive", so I stick my oar in with 3♠, West finds a 4♣ bid then I get some support from Anna with 4♠. I'm pretty happy with this contract, until East weighs in again with 5♣. Anna doubles this, and when it comes back round to me I get scared that she's just doubling because she thinks I've got the strong hand type. So I do something foolish and bid 5♠.

It's actually not a bad contract. There's a definite loser in Hearts and one in Clubs. To make it I need to find the ♦Q and ♦Q (you could call these the pointed suit Queens, but it still takes me some time to work out which the two pointed suits are). West leads a top Heart then another Heart, which I ruff. I play ♠K and another Spade, and the Queen pops up so that's Spades sorted.

Then I decide to ruff a Heart and play a Club trick myself, to find out more about the hand, but it doesn't help. On my third Heart East plays the Queen, so I wrongly deduce that East has more Diamonds (I've forgotten that East has loads of Clubs). So I wrongly finesse East for the Queen of Diamonds, and when that fails go down one.

Given her double of my 2NT, and the fact that she hadn't shown any points yet, I should probably have got it right and finessed West instead. Also I should have been a bit smarter and tried leading the ♦J first, worth a shot.

Here's the full deal:

No one vul
E deal
♠ A J 2
♥ T 6 4
♦ A 7 3
♣ K 7 4 2
♠ Q 6
♥ K J 9 5 3 2
♦ Q 9 6
♣ T 3
♠ 5 4
♥ A Q 8
♦ 4 2
♣ A Q J 9 8 6
♠ K T 9 8 7 3
♥ 7
♦ K J T 8 5
♣ 5

5♣x would have gone three down. Anna certainly had her double of 5♣, with four Clubs to the King and two Aces. She said afterwards that she knew I didn't have the strong version of 2NT as there would be too many points in the pack for that.

Most other tables played in 3♠ or 4♠ also making ten tricks.

Full deals from York Bridge Club here (where I am actually West not South as shown above).

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

St Andrews Slammer

Only five pairs at the Buchanan this Saturday, so we all went across to St. Andrews. Anna got upset we had to defend so much, and she never got an opening hand (except for the board we played upside down, when I got the good hand and opened 1NT). In the end she only played four hands, but (coincidentally?) we finished top.

Here's one big hand Anna played.

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

Anna sitting South has a routine 12-14 1NT opener. The rule (according to Norman) is that you don't open hands like this with one of a major unless the suit is strong enough to play opposite a doubleton, which means ♠AKxxx, ♠AQxxx or ♠AJTxx. This hand doesn't qualify.

Sitting North I didn't know what to do. I've a 19 count with all the aces, but it's balanced and I actually have seven losers. Possible contracts are 3NT, 4♠, 6♠ or 6NT, depending on whether or not Anna has a minimum or maximum point count and a Spade fit.

I tried Stayman, and Anna replied 2♠. It's matchpoints, and with my flat hand I couldn't see any ruffing potential, so why have I just bid Stayman? What would 4NT now be? Me and Anna have previously agreed Invitational, but Norman's notes say Blackwood. I've got four keycards myself anyway, so have a punt at 6♠. If we make it's less points than 6NT, but has more chance of an overtrick (or fewer undertricks).

Anna gets the ♥Q lead, which she runs round to her ♥K, leaving a finesse position against West. She then cashes the two top Spades, and when the queen doesn't fall is faced with a trump loser, so has to avoid a Diamond loser. She takes advantage of the Heart lead and finesses the ♥J to discard a Diamond. 6♠ making, for 10/12 matchpoints.

The full deal:

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

The Heart lead from West was unfortunate, and gave declarer a trick. In fact you can make all thirteen tricks on any lead, if you get trumps right (no reason you would though), then steal another trick with a squeeze. After you win all your Spades and Clubs West will have to unguard either Hearts or Diamonds - he can't keep QJx in both suits, and will have to come down to just QJ in one of the suits. You'll then be able to win three tricks in that suit with the Ace, King and Ten.

Since playing this hand we've had a class on Slam Bidding with Norman. I told him about this hand and he wasn't impressed with my bidding.

See the hand on St. Andrews Bridge Club here, Hand 21 (rotated).

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Buchanan - matchpoint mishap

Normally it's total points at The Buchanan, but tonight with 5.5 tables it's Matchpoint. Therefore, the change in mentality is:

  • Favour playing in NT and Majors
  • Be aggressive in part score bidding, but don't stretch for games or slam
  • In defence limit overtricks

What do you make of me and Anna's auction below, favourable vulnerability?

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

I opened the South hand 1♥, no problem there. Anna replied 1♠, She's not strong enough to bid 2♣ then introduce Spades later (that would be a game forcing responder's reverse), and replying 1NT denies four Spades.

After I rebid 2♥ Anna should probably pass, but with a Heart void chanced her arm with 2NT. This ought to show an invitational semi-balanced hand, something like 10-11 points with 1-2 bad Hearts, which she doesn't have.

The danger of her bidding 2NT is that I don't pass, and with my 14 point hand I planned to accept the invite, and was just trying to work out which of 3NT or 4♥ was better. At the time I wasn't sure I had definitely shown six Hearts (but actually the only hand I can have without six hearts is e.g. ♠Axx ♥AKQxx ♦xx ♣xx), so decided to confirm a sixth Heart with a creative bid, thereby giving Anna a choice of games.

I bid 3♦, showing a hand with six Hearts and four Diamonds. A bit cheeky with only three diamonds, but what's the danger? The danger was, Anna passed!

We were lucky to have landed in a semi-decent contract. The full deal was:

EW vul
S deal
♠ 7 6 5 4
♥ -
♦ A J 5 3
♣ K J T 5 4
♠ J T 9 8
♥ K J 2
♦ Q 8 2
♣ 8 6 3
♠ Q 3 2
♥ Q T 5 4
♦ T 9 4
♣ A Q 5
♠ A K
♥ A 9 8 7 6 3
♦ K 7 6
♣ 9 2

I got a Club lead, lost the first two tricks to the ♣AQ offside then won the third Club in dummy. Then over to the ♠AK and ♥A (throwing a Spade). That's four tricks so far. Wasn't sure whether to draw trumps with established Clubs or play a cross ruff, so to kill time tried a trump finesse. This won, and could now see my way home. Spade ruff, Heart ruff, and I have taken seven tricks and still have the ♦AK left.

I thought this was a pretty good result, but actually the analysis shows that ten tricks are available in Diamonds (if I don't draw any trumps can get one more ruff in), and even eleven in Clubs if South plays it (so can't get a trump lead). These contracts are a bit unlikely though, the real comparison is with 2♥. This ought to make I think, you lose only two Clubs and three Hearts. But results from other tables were mostly 2♥-1, so we got a good board for 3♦=.

In fact even 2NT makes if I decide to pass Anna's 2NT rebid. To hold it to eight tricks the defence needs to lead Hearts, to get their three Heart tricks and two Clubs. If they never touch Hearts declarer has plenty of tricks, and on e.g. a Spade lead the defence get only two Spades and two Clubs, so in fact 3NT probably makes.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

BBO Tourney

It's Tuesday evening. Anna's working, so we'll watch Great British Bake Off tomorrow and tonight for half an hour's free fun I've entered a BBO Tourney. Six hands, maximum 30 seconds per bid play, slow players get replaced by Robots. No chat allowed. Strictly business.

The Robots play BBO standard (which is now 2/1), see here.

On the first hand my partner timed out and a robot took over. The 'bot was bidding a lot, and since they're usually timid I should probably have guessed he had a great hand and doubled the final contract. No one vulnerable. You sit East with:

♠ Kxx ♥ Jxx ♦ xx ♣ JTxxx

x-2♣ 2♥

Partner opens 1♦, which North overcalls with 1♥. I pass this as I've only five points. Now partner doubles, so I make a cheap reply in clubs. Now South comes in with 2♥, partner doubles again so I trot out 3♣. North bids 3♥ over this. I think about doubling, but pass and hope that partner doubles. He passes though and it goes two off for +100.

This was only worth 33% of the Matchpoints (as we can make more than 100 making our contract). If I double and we instead get +300 it's worth about 80%. I should double for two reasons. Firstly, I've got a maximum (I've shown 0-5 and I've got 5). Secondly, both opponents have stretched, South was happy to pass out 1♥, North only bid again to protect.

The rest of the boards were above average and I finished on 61%, for tenth place out of 28. Originally 40 people joined, but it seems a few left, shows these rapid tournaments are not taken very seriously.

The hand below was my best result, 88%. I didn't do anything clever, but my partner did.

♠ A K
♥ A Q J
♦ Q J x x
♣ K Q x x
♠ x x
♥ K T x x x x
♦ x x x x
♣ x

I had the South cards. I dealt and passed, rather than opening a mad weak two. Partner opened 2NT, which by Bridge Base standard is still 20-22. I wanted to play 4♥, but rather than bidding it directly, which would mean the wrong hand plays it and might even be taken as a Texas Transfer, I just transferred at the three level with 3♦, with the intention of then raising partner's 3♥ to game. But partner ignored the transfer and just bid 3NT. I thought this meant he only had a singleton heart, and had opened an off-shape 2NT anyway (as sometimes happens). This sort of 3NT never works though. But in fact he'd bid 3NT with a good heart fit, knowing he had all the other suits stopped.

East helpfully led the ♦AK then later took the ♣A, so we had ten tricks for 3NT+1. On any defence we can get nine tricks though so 3NT is solid. As West has a doubleton Diamond he can get a Diamond ruff, so there are four defensive tricks in 4♥, and indeed at most other tables the result was 4♥-1.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Buchanan in Glasgow

Anna's not officially a member of Buchanan bridge club yet, despite attending Norman's class for two years running and playing League Matches with Tony. She's a bit bitter about this and takes it out on me by saying I'm not allowed to come to the club with her. But tonight we're both going. Of course I can't actually play in a pair with Anna, she's training with Tony for the next match, but I can enter the standby pool. I ended up playing with Horst, a middle aged German who turns out to be quite good (League 1 Player).

Me and Horst agreed to play standard Benji, weak NT, checkback, Michaels, 1430 and not much else. We also chivalrously agreed to sit East-West (which means we have to move tables, which the less mobile members of the club don't like doing), the same direction as Anna and Tony. This means we won't get to play against them directly which is a shame, but at least we can compare scores at the end.

A bit of excitement on the first table, against Norman.

-- -

Norman opens and Horst overcalls 2♣, which is followed by a takeout double which Norman passes out. Norman had ♠x ♥A ♦KJTxxx ♣KJT93 and wanted to defend. Unfortunately, his partner had nothing and Holst was able to skilfully endplay Norman to make his 2♣. On Anna's table the same North-South hands bid the misfit up to 5♦, which went off one.

Now a deal where me and Anna, both sitting West on different tables, took different views:

NS vul
S deal
♠ Q J x x x x
♥ Q x
♦ x x
♣ x x x
♠ x x
♥ A J x x
♦ K J
♣ A Q x x x
♠ A
♥ x x
♦ Q x x x x
♣ K J x x x
♠ K T x x
♥ K T x x x
♦ A T x x
♣ -
1NT1♥ 3NT 4♥

On my table South opened the bidding with a distributional 1♥. For me sitting West this was an easy 1NT overcall. Then North made the cheeky decision to raise hearts. Horst sitting East wasn't messing around and bid a direct 3NT, knowing I had 15-17 and a good heart stop. Then, after a considerable pause, South bid a speculative 4♥. Maybe he hadn't noticed the vulnerability, but I did and gleefully doubled.

I led a low Heart. In the end declarer won two high Hearts, two Club ruffs in hand, the ♦A and two spades. West I had to pto not ruff in until I knew declarer was leading his last spade, to prevent dummy's Spades being established, which required some slow (but accurate) counting. 4♥x-3 gave us +800.

How would our 3NT have done? We have seven top tricks, and can establish two more in Diamonds. But if the defence leads spades (unlikely on the auction) or switch to Spades (also I think unlikely) we go down. Otherwise you can get to nine tricks easily by knocking out the ♦A.

On Anna's table South also opened 1♥. But Anna sitting West she eschewed 1NT and went for a 2♣ overcall, raised to 4♣ by Tony and topped up to game. 5♣ is a much better game than 3NT, and made nicely.

Now here's a zinger of a hand that tested me and Horst's fragile agreements.

EW vul
E deal
♠ 7 2
♥ J 9 4 3
♦ A J 6 3
♣ T 4 2
♠ K J T 9 5 3
♥ -
♦ Q 9 4
♣ A Q 8 3
♠ A Q
♥ A K Q 6 5 2
♦ 8 2
♣ J 6 5
♠ 8 6 4
♥ T 8 7
♦ K T 7 5
♣ K 9 7
1♠-3♥ -
4♣-4♥ -
4♠-- -

East opened 1♥ and sitting West I was immediately uncomfortable with the heart void. I replied 1♠ and predictably Horst rebid 3♥. I thought about raising him to 4♥ just to end the auction, or maybe bidding 3♠ (and hoping he wouldn't pass), or chancing my arm with a unilateral 4♠. I also considered 3NT, but thought my diamonds were too weak. In the end I kept things open with 4♣. Horst thought this was a cuebid agreeing hearts (and maybe it should be), but bid only 4♥, then was nice enough to pass when I bid 4♠.

I was pleased when dummy came down. His spade support is certainly better than my heart support. I got a trump lead, so could throw away all my diamond losers on dummy's hearts and made 4♠+2.

On Anna's table the auction started the same, but over 3♥ she went for a direct 3NT bid to end the auction. The defence found the diamond lead but they split 4-4, so 3NT made too (but scored worse).

During the evening there were no disasters from my table, and the only memorable mistakes I made were not doubling the opponents once or twice. Once they got to 3NT and I had ♥AKQxxx in defence. The 3NT bidder had began with a takeout double of my 1♥ opener, so was probably short in hearts, but I was too meek to double.

At the end of the night it was announced that the top East-West pair were Anna-Tony. But wait! After a recount they were demoted to second, and actually me and Horst won.

Famous win.