Monday, 26 August 2013

Slam Down Smackdown - Deal of the Week #3

It's only Monday, but I've already got a hand of the week.

NS vul
W deal
♠ x x x
♥ K Q x
♦ T x
♣ A K 8 7 x
♠ x x x
♥ x x x
♦ Q x x
♣ Q T 9 x
♠ K Q x
♥ J x x x x
♦ x x
♣ x x x
♠ A J T x
♥ A x
♦ A K J 9 8 x
♣ J

North opened 1♣. After complaining of not having a good hand since 2008, South has a great hand, and slam looks likely when partner opens. South considered replying 2♦, then went for 1♦. North rebid 2♣ and South made a forcing 2♠ bid. There was then a bit of confusion as North-South realised they already had sixty towards a part score (this was rubber bridge), but North was convinced to bid on with the chance of a slam, so went for 2NT. With the lunch break nearly over, South agreed to bid 6♦.

Looking at the South hand there's not many losers. What you're looking for in dummy is cards to take care of your losers. So the ♣A is great, and so is the ♥K. Those are the only useful high cards though, and unfortunately dummy has nothing in Diamonds, but has two of them at least.

West lead a Spade, won by declarer's Ace. The defence are now threatening to take a Spade trick. You have two extra winners in dummy (the ♣K and ♥Q), which you can use to throw away two of your Spades, but unfortunately not three. If you could set up one of dummy's Clubs in time to throw away another Spade that would be good, but unfortunately there's not enough entries to dummy. So you're going to have to lose a Spade. That means that to make the contract you need no trump losers.

The normal play in that Diamond suit, with eight of them missing the Queen, is to finesse (Eight ever, Nine never). It's worth starting with one high Diamond first though, just in case there's a singleton Queen. So declarer played the ♦A, crossed to dummy in Hearts, and finessed. When West won the ♦Q the contract was one off.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

On the money - Deal of the Week #2

This is the my Deal of the Week from lunch time bridge. Apparently there was a tremendous blunder on Wednesday, but unfortunately I missed that, so instead here's a well defended and well played 3♠. The bidding was a bit shaky though.

I've remembered the cards that matter, and to make it more readable I've randomly placed the other cards too.

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

Playing a Strong NT, West opened 1♣. North has the perfect hand for a takeout double. Although East would normally bid with 7 points it's hard to find a bid here, so he passed. South then replied 1♠. Except in the very rare case he wants to defend 1♣x, South has to bid in response to the double. So his 1♠ reply does not promise any strength, and in fact could be based on 0 points. With nine or more points South should jump to 2♠. This hand is close to a jump, but having so much strength in Clubs before opener means it's only worth 1♠. North should have passed this, having no interest in game opposite a 0-8 point hand. But he wasn't quite sure what partner had, so bid 2♠ to be on the safe side. I then persuaded South that partner must be showing a very good hand to be bidding 2♠ opposite a potential 0 count, so he raised to 3♠. This was passed out, at least one level too high.

3♠ was going to be a stretch then, but it's got some chances. The defence got off to the right start with a trump, which makes things tough for declarer as he's got few high cards, and could need trumps to deal with all those Club losers. The trump lead went to East's ♠K, and he shrewdly returned another trump. Declarer won in hand, and immediately went for Diamonds. In these sketchy hands you need to get your second suit going quickly. I was hoping that West would win and have no trumps left, but instead East won and played a third round of trumps. Declarer played another Diamond up, won by West, who played the ♥K. Declarer gave up a Heart, his fourth loser, but is now home.

There are three losing Clubs in hand. One gets ruffed in dummy. One goes on the top Heart in dummy, and one on the long Diamond in dummy. 3♠ bid and made.

Here's a hand from Friday. Mostly, it doesn't matter what bidding conventions you play. The best system is the one that partner plays. But, just occasionally, there's a hand where you need a little bit of science to find the best contract.

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

West opens a Strong NT. East has a good 9 point hand, so has to go to game. With no Stayman or transfers the only bid I think is 3♠, giving partner the choice of 4♠ or 3NT. Here, with a small Spade doubleton, opener went for 3NT.

Unfortunately, there is a Club weakness and the defence found it. Declarer ducked the first Club, won the second, then set up the Diamonds. When Clubs split 5-5 declarer lost four Clubs and one Diamond, for 3NT-1. I suggested that it's slightly better to boldly win the first Club with the ♣A, and maybe even continue Clubs, as ducking here can never work.

Here's how the auction would go with transfers:

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

After the 1NT opening, East bids 2♥ as a transfer to Spades. West completes the transfer. East now bids 3♥, natural and game forcing, showing a hand with 5 spades and 4 hearts (at least). West now has a choice of three games (3NT, 4♥ or 4♠), and bids 4♥. This is an excellent game. The only disadvantage of bidding like this is that you might give more information away to the defence, especially if you end up playing the same 3NT anyway.

Finally, here's how me and Anna would bid it (I hope):

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

Playing a Weak NT, West has to open 1♦. East replies 1♠. West doesn't quite have enough to reverse into 2♥, so rebids 1NT. East now bids 2♣, Checkback Stayman, asking if opener has any extra length in the Majors. here, this is specifically asking if opener has either three card Spade support, or four Hearts. West shows his four card Heart suit, and East raises to game.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Confusion and Luck

After work on Friday me and Anna went to St Andrew Bridge Club for the pairs evening.

Sometimes we played quite well, but I made some terrible blunders. Here's a shocker:

♣JT52 ♣A98643

South is declarer in 3NT. Anna sitting West lead the ♣J, hitting the jackpot as I've got six of them. Declarer had no choice but to play the ♣Q, and if I just play my Ace then continue Clubs, later we're going to take loads of tricks. But I overthought it badly, and ducked, as I had no other entries. Declarer ended up taking 12 tricks, when we could have beaten the contract easily. I have to say I was quite tired by this point, and I'm trying not to drink any tea after 6pm, and in my addled mind I thought the layout might have been like this, in which case I do need to duck the ♣Q.

♣KJT ♣A98643

Also, in my defence, I don't think Anna's ever learnt what the standard leads are. The ♣J is not the standard lead from ♣JT52.

After that Club mishap we had a stroke of massive luck in the Club suit, when we found a fine 2♣ contract, even though neither me or Anna was trying to bid Clubs.

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

Our opponents here were Charles and Vi Outred, an excellent pair, who play a very unusual system. East's 1♣ bid is entirely artificial, and shows either 11-13 balanced or any very strong hand. The important thing is that it shows nothing about Clubs. Anna has a nice 18 point hand but didn't know what to do. She went for 2♣, hoping that it showed majors I think, or was somehow forcing, I don't really know what she was thinking actually. Over a normal 1♣ opening we play 2♣ as Michaels showing Majors, but after the totally artificial 1♣ I thought that 2♣ must be natural. I had a pretty strong feeling that something had gone wrong, but ethically I think I should pass, which I did.

As it happens, I have good Clubs, and so does Anna, and she made 2♣ on the nose.

On the next one we were also active in the Club suit, with a Stayman disaster culminating in 4♣x-3. But we finally got a good one in the Club suit below. I was asked this week what the fewest points I've had to make a slam is, and I said about 15. Here's one with 21 points, that me and Anna successfully bid.

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

East opened with 2♠, a weak bid. The normal bid with seven Spades would be 3♠, but maybe he kept to 2♠ because of the four card Heart suit. Anna has the big South hand, and went for a double, planning to bid Clubs next time. Another possibility is an immediate 4♣, I'm not really sure how that's different from doubling and bidding Clubs. West passed 2♠x, perhaps hoping it would be the final contract (no chance of that). I was sitting North and bid 3♥ in response to Anna's double. East now came back in with 3♠, Anna showed her hand with 4♣, and West supported with 4♠. I have a good hand considering I only bid 3♥ before, and good Clubs, so stretched a bit and bid 5♣. Anna hesitated for a long while, then pulled out a 6♣ bid.

East probably expects to beat the contract, with his good Hearts and Diamonds. He hopefully lead the ♠A, which unsurprisingly was ruffed by declarer. To make the contract Anna needs to lose only one Diamond, and set up the Diamonds to discard the Heart in her hand. So she drew trumps, and played a Diamond towards dummy. East paused for a second, and took his ♦K. Later Anna cashed the ♦A, and lead up to dummy again. She correctly guessed to finesse the ♦T, and made the contract.

I thought this would be a good score for us, but in fact nearly every North-South pair bid and made 6♣, and quite a few of them were doubled, so in fact just getting +920 for 6♣= was a fairly poor score.

The low/high point of the evening came when I was declarer in 5NT. This is the least played contract, and certainly shouldn't have been played here. Me and Anna both had big hands, but a misfit, and after bidding up to 3NT and beyond I intended my 5NT to be pick a slam. To my surprise though, rather than picking a slam, Anna picked a pass. When dummy came down it looked like a surefire 12 tricks, but, miraculously, one of the suits split 5-1 so 11 tricks was the limit of the hand. So we got a top board for making 5NT=. Anna claims this was precision bidding.

With luck like that we went on to top our section. Full results here.

Lunch Bridge - Deal of the Week #1

I've started a new job, and luckily there's a game of bridge at lunch time. It's rubber bridge, which I'm not so familiar with, and it's taking me a little time to learn the local bidding system, so for now I'm going to focus on the play.

Here's a hand from Monday - I'm not sure which way North is in the room we play in, so I'm making this one West-East.

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

West opened 1♥, and East replied 2NT, a natural raise, showing 10-12 points I think. Opener, with seven good Hearts and 18 points, made a fine rebid of 4♥. This was passed out.

North lead a small Club, and declarer played the ♣9 from dummy. After a bit of a pause, and some heckling from dummy, South played the ♣Q and declarer won the ♣K. Declarer then lead a Heart from hand. The ♥Q in dummy won, as both defenders followed low.

The contract is rock solid. You're going to lose the ♥A for sure, but if you do well you might be able to avoid any other losers. At rubber bridge overtricks don't matter at all, but even so I was wondering what the best ruse is, to try and steal that extra trick. You can either: (a) draw trumps and hope the defence don't play a Spade, meaning you can discard it on dummy's Diamonds, (b) lead a low Spade to your ♠Q now, hoping South has the ♠A and ducks, (c) play four rounds of Diamonds now, hoping that when someone ruffs with the ♥A you can throw away your losing Spade. Declarer went for (a), but the defence was sharp and took their ♠A, holding declarer to 4♥+1.

Here's one from Friday. The North-South pair had already declared the week a write off, and were pushing their luck here (but I back it). I might have got the East-West cards slightly wrong, but the important features are all right below:

Both vul
S deal
♠ A x x x
♥ A x x x
♦ 8 6 5
♣ x x
♠ Q x
♥ K x x x
♦ A T x
♣ J x x x
♠ J x x x
♥ Q J x x x
♦ K x
♣ x x
♠ K x x
♥ -
♦ Q J 9 x x
♣ A K Q T x

South dealt and opened 1♦, which is the right bid with two five card suits. North replied 1♥, and South rebid 2♣. North then gave preference to 2♦. Textbook auction so far. South now wanted to bid 5♦ (which worked well for him the hand before), but paused and asked for advice. West pointed out that partner's 2♦ bid isn't really a Diamond bid, just preference, which could be only two cards. I suggested there's no need to go straight to 5♦, and you can involve partner by making an invitational bid. Together we talked South down, and he only bid 3♦. North has a good hand, with three card support, but the Aces are in the wrong suits so bid a modest 4♦. South topped himself up with 5♦, getting there anyway.

West lead a Spade, and when dummy comes down it looks like a pretty terrible contract. The only advantage of being in 5♦ is it keeps things simple, as you can only afford two losers, and you already know you have to lose the Ace-King of trumps. So you have to lose no other tricks. Looking at declarer's South hand, there's no losers in Spades, once you use dummy's ♥A to throw one away. There's probably no losers in Diamonds too, but you'll need to lead up from dummy at least once. So it's all about losing no Clubs. The normal way to play this Club suit for no losers is just to play off the AKQ, and hope the Jack falls.

So I think the best line of play is to start drawing trumps, planning to play Clubs from the top. If you need to lead trumps from dummy again then you can switch to ruffing a Club in dummy, hoping the hand with short Clubs has to overruff with a card which is a winner anyway (as here). On this particular layout though the Clubs don't split, and if you ruff a Club then I think when East overruffs with the ♦K West ends up winning a third trick for the defence with the &diamonds;. So I'm now claiming the contract can't be made, and indeed at the table it went off too, and East-West won the week.

OK, after one week, here's what I know about the bidding system.

  • Strong NT, four card majors
  • Each time you rebid a suit, that shows one extra card in the suit
  • Don't bid No Trumps unless you have stoppers in every suit
  • 4♣ is always Gerber
  • If you're short of time, double and redouble!

Next week I'm bringing bidding boxes.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Buchanan re-opening party

Last night the Buchanan Bridge Club reopened after being closed for the summer. The main work was the electrics, but there was also a fresh lick of paint. I enjoyed the complimentary glass of wine, then knocked over a new bidding box. But it was a left-handed bidding box, so no one minded.

I played with John Faben. We don't really have a system, apart from bidding Puppet Stayman whenever possible. I thought I understood this, but actually I didn't. Our first Puppet Stayman misunderstanding lead to me propelling John into a bad 3NT, then things went even worse when we had a ridiculous auction which finished with me desperately bidding 6NT, doubled and off two.

Against Horst and Ricky we had three very bad boards. With no method to escape we suffered 1NTx-4, then went overboard with 3♠-3, then I played 1NT with a juicy 23 points but only made 4 tricks, for 1NT-3. Since I'm the author here I'm not going to publish the details, but I played it terribly.

Here's a hand where we both made a minor mistake in defence, which combined to give a very poor score.

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

I'm sitting West, dealer and non vulnerable. I'm tempted to open 3♣, but I can't justify it and have to pass. North and East pass too, and South opens 1♥. I now come in with 3♣. This probably looks like I've got seven Clubs and a four card Major on the side, which stopped me opening 3♣ to begin with. Anyway, I couldn't bid 2♣, and I wanted to bid, so it had to be 3♣.

North doubled this, for takeout, but I was a bit worried it would be passed out. South came in with 3♠ (must have been close to bidding 4♠), and North raised to game. I think John was tempted to bid 5♣, but let it go.

I lead my Diamond singleton. Declarer won in dummy and lead the ♠Q, round to my ♠K. I'm eager for a Diamond ruff now, and want to put my partner in, so I lead a Club. Unfortunately, I chose to lead a low Club. John won his ♣A, and returned a Club. Declarer now won his ♣K, drew trumps, lead a Heart up to the ♥Q then gave up a Heart at the end for 4♠=.

John's mistake was not returning a Diamond for me to ruff. As he pointed out afterwards, when I initially lead the ♦6 it's obviously a singleton (and not a doubleton) because he can see all the other low Diamonds. My mistake was to lead a low Club to John's Ace, rather than the ♣Q. If I lead the ♣Q it's obvious I don't have the King, so John won't try for a second Club trick and will instead give me a Diamond ruff.

After that, John found a good 4♦x sacrifice, and we doubled the opponents twice for good results. It wasn't enough though, and we finished on just below 45%. Anna claims this poor result proves that she must be the strong link.

To finish, here's a hand where we got an OK result, but missed a slam. But how do you bid it? In the pub after, even knowing the contract we want to get to, we couldn't find a reasonable auction to slam.

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

I've got the West cards, which is an easy 1♣ opener. John's got the East hand and replies 1♥. I'm close to a reverse, but don't have enough, so rebid 2♣. John needs a forcing bid, so came up with 2♦. My hand looks even better now, and I'd like to do more but all I can come up with is 3♦. John knows I don't have Heart support now so bids 3NT. We're both maximum for our bids, don't know how we can do more to get us to 6♣.

We got a Spade lead in 3NT, which John won with the Ace. There's not point ducking this, as you might have 13 tricks if Hearts and Clubs both split. When the Hearts didn't split John just got his 11 top tricks, for 3NT+2. With any other lead, you can make 12 tricks in no trumps, as some tables did. One pair got a bottom for 5♣+1, and one a top for bidding and making 6♥.

6♣ is excellent, as it only needs Clubs 3-2 or Hearts 3-3.

Monday, 5 August 2013

When to Lead a Trump

Andrew Robson says
I do not particularly like the saying "If in doubt, lead a trump". However, that is not to say I disklike trump leads.
I like trump leads too. Here are five times it's good to lead a trump.

1. Against a doubled partscore

This is the most obvious situation to lead a trump, some people even say that trump leads are mandatory here. The reason is that your side has the majority of points and want to stop declarer making the contract on ruffs. Indeed, often in a doubled partscore declarer won't have trump control so will be trying to ruff in dummy and his own hand.

Here's an example from the Peebles Congress, where me and Anna were on defence against 2♠x. We both squandered chances to lead trumps, and embarrassingly let declarer make an impossible contract.

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

I had the West hand and opened 1NT, showing 12-14. Anna sitting East has a 10 count, so passes for now. South comes in with 2♣, showing at least 5-4 in the Majors. North picks 2♠ as his better major, and Anna now doubles this. We have a nice agreement that after one partner opens or bids 1NT or 2NT the other partner can double for penalties. Hence Anna has an easy double of 2♠. She's not doubling based on trump strength (she only has three, I have maybe only two), but based on our combined points and two balanced hands.

Anna's trump holding of ♠QT4 isn't very appealing to lead from, but as Sally Brock (I think) says, when a trump lead is right you should do it anyway. If Anna does lead trumps, and we keep leading trumps, declarer is restricted to two top Spades and a long Spade, the ♥A and a Heart ruff and the ♦K, for 2♠x-2. However, Anna went for the ♣Q. Declarer played the ♣K and I won my Ace in dummy. Criminally, I now continued Clubs. In the end declarer won two top Spades and two Spade ruffs in hand, ♥A and two heart ruffs, and the ♦K for 2♠x=.

The only good news is that on the other table our team mates made an excellent 3NT on the East-West cards (after North leads a Diamond declarer knocks out the ♥A and is home).

Leading a trump to cut down on ruffing is also a good idea when the opponents are in a sacrifice, such as a doubled 5♣.

2. Against a pass-or-correct auction

If responder is offered two suits and picks one of them, he must be short in the other suit, so have ruffing value. This is a made up example that makes the point really clearly.

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

West opens 1♥, and East replies 1♠. West then rebids 2♦ and East corrects to 2♥. With equal length East would also bid 2♥, but here with longer Hearts than Diamonds it's clear to bid 2♥. On a non trump lead declarer can ruff two Diamonds in dummy.

For a real life example from the Glasgow Bridge Club see the deal at the end here.

3. Whenever dummy's strength is ruffing value

Andrew Robson says that you should think about how dummy is going to get extra tricks. It might be because they have a long powerful suit (in which case be aggressive and try and take your tricks in the other suits), or it might be because they have ruffing value. If you think dummy has ruffing value, lead trumps.

Here's the example deal from Andrew Robson's book, Bridge Lessons: Defence available here.

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

South opens 1♠ then rebids 2♠. Then North raises to 4♠. West is on opening lead, and with his Clubs knows that declarer is not getting discards on dummy's Clubs. Instead, the main threat from dummy must be ruffing value. So West had to lead a trump. This works well. As long as the defence continue trumps declarer now can't ruff a Heart and must go one down.

4. Against a grand slam

If the opponents bid up to a grand slam in a suit, it almost certainly means that they have all the top trumps, either because they've been through RKCB or one of them has a massive hand with the AKQ of trumps in it. Hence a trump lead is safe, and gives nothing away.

This time you are leading trumps not because you think it'll be good, but just because it won't cost anything.

5. Against a 4-4 fit

When the opponents have a 4-4 fit they are certainly going to gain tricks by ruffing in one hand or the other. A trump lead can thwart that.


Here 4♥ is almost certainly on a 4-4 fit. You can tell this as both West and East have bid another, longer, suit first. And since both West and East have a long minor and four Hearts, it's likely they have shortage somewhere. So a trump lead is often good.

For more on leading against 4-4 fits see this article by Brent Manley.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Dumfries Bridge Club

With Anna's four months of Dumfries coming to an end, we thought we should try and find the local Bridge Club. Searching on Google gives you the website for Loreburn Bridge Club, which is handy but doesn't tell you where it is or what nights they play or at what time. We chanced our arm just before 7pm and were rewarded with a friendly aggregate game. For future reference it turns out there's actually three Bridge Clubs in Dumfries. We got head hunted for the one opposite M & S, but it's no use as Anna's about to leave Dumfries.

Apparently, Wednesday is the most laid back night, and it certainly was. At one point the opponents had a misunderstanding and got into a very poor 5♣ contract, missing three Aces. I boldly underlead my ♥A at one point in order to give declarer a guess. Instead, I gave him the contract. Anna was a bit confused at why I'd done this, but I was very laid back and didn't mind at all. Later, defending 4♥, I cashed my ♣A and Anna played the ♣8, which I took as discouraging as we play reverse attitude. However, Anna actually had ♣KQ8 and was desperate for a Club continuation.

We recovered by bidding a massive 6NT, then later a large 6♣. The 6♣ was only large, and not massive, as actually we should have been in 7♣. Here's the hands and auction:

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

I had the monster North hand and opened 1♥. It's a bumper hand. Anna replied 2♣, and I had an easy 4♣ bid. We've agreed that this is forcing, with slam interest in Clubs (3♣ would be invitational, 5♣ a sign off). Anna has a very saucy hand and cuebid 4♠. She can't cuebid 4♥, as Hearts is my suit and she wouldn't cuebid a singleton in my suit. I now bid RKCB, and Anna showed two Keycards and no Queen of Trumps. I now know that we have all five keycards. With my extra power in Hearts, should I try 7♣? I was tempted. Instead I went for 5NT, which is a King ask. Neither me or Anna know whether or not we show specific Kings or number of Kings, but I thought I'd ask anyway. Luckily Anna has no Kings here so can unambiguously bid 6♣. I meekly passed.

There's an easy 13 tricks, and Anna bagged them all for 6♣+1. One of the other tables played 5♥+2. Afterwards, I said I should have maybe just bid 7♣ with my good Hearts. But Anna had a better idea, and suggested she should have replied to my Blackwood 4NT with 5♠, showing two keycards and the Queen of trumps. Even though Anna doesn't have the ♣Q, she has six Clubs so knows we have ten of them with the Ace and King, which is enough. I would have been a bit confused, as I had the ♣Q, but once I worked out that it meant Anna had six Clubs I could count 13 tricks - 6 Clubs, 3 top Hearts, 1 top Diamond, 1 top Spade and a couple of Spade ruffs.

At the end of the night there was an embarrassing interlude when every other table had scored up, and they were waiting for me and Anna. Anna added them up with someone talking to her, and then when I checked I got a different total. I started to add it up again on my calculator, which got some derision as people knew I was a Maths teacher. Anyway, I gave us +4,000, which was enough to win. All the North-South pairs got some good cards, and we made our games, and also fluked a few good results like this one:

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

East opened 1♠, and Anna made a bold double. It's bold as she doesn't quite have the right shape for a double, but has four Hearts. West made a pre-emptive raise to 3♠, which I think I like but I don't know if they play five card Majors or not. I had the North hand, with points and short Spades but only three Hearts. I doubled, which shows this sort of hand, and says to partner that I can play in the minors. Anna ploughed on with 4♥ regardless, maybe not realising I didn't have a Heart fit or maybe just fancying playing in a 4♥ game rather than a 4♣ partscore. I was happy to be in 4♥, but then East came back in with 4♠ ruining it.

When it got back round to me as North I decided that since I had a singleton Spade, and partner has short Spades too, I better bid on. Although I was tempted by 5♣, I thought my hand had ruffing value so bid 5♥. East thought about bidding 5♠ and West thought about doubling. Thankfully, 5♥ was passed out.

5♥ by South obviously didn't make, but wasn't as bad as it could have been. To begin with East cashed the ♠A, ♥A, then played another Spade. Anna ruffed this (wisely saving the ♠K), and lead the ♥Q. West won and returned a Spade, which Anna won. She drew one more round of trumps, leaving West with the last trump. Then Anna started on her winning Clubs and West ruffed in. Luckily West had no more Spades so Anna had the rest. So in the end the defence took ♠A, ♥AK, and a long Heart for 5♥-2 and -200.

Would 4♠ have made? Declarer has 5 Spade tricks, ♥AK, and might get three Club ruffs and make the contract. But on the likely defence of ♦A, ♦K then a trump switch from North though I think it has to go down.

To finish, a photo of me in the sunshine in Dumfries.