Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Who's a star?

Here's a good one from me and Anna on Bridge Base last night. Jake was watching, and afterwards said to me "What a star!" I thought he was talking to me, but actually he meant my partner Anna.

I was East, and passed. It went round to Anna, sitting West. She opened 1♦. North could have overcalled 1♥, or 4♥, but went for a double. I've got big Diamond support as East, and with a weak hand short in Majors I decided to preempt to the max. I bid a big 5♦. This is obviously a weak bid, so I was very surprised when Anna topped me up to six. North doubled again, and I was getting a bit worried.

North lead the ♣A, which declarer ruffed. Anna drew trumps in one round, and then claimed, as she can ruff the Hearts in dummy. It's a slam with 22 points, and we don't even need the ♥A.

We're both stars.

Wee Sleekit Cowran Beastie - Deal of the Week #8

I should have stayed out of it. I tried to, but I couldn't help myself.

This is from today's lunch time Bridge, and it's my Deal of the Week. North-South had a chance of a slam, but chickened out, after I came in with some not very helpful advice.

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

NC has the big South hand, with 20 points. You could open it 2♣, but I don't think it's quite good enough. 1♠ is the right bid, and NC found it. TB sitting West came right in with 3♥, an excellent bid with a weak hand with good Hearts. JW sitting North supported Spades. Normally, this hand would only bid 2♠, but with the preempt that's not possible so he has to bid at the 3 level. After the preempt you lose a bit of accuracy, and the 3♠ bid shows either a 2♠ or 3♠ bid, so is quite wide ranging, from 5 to about 11 points.

When it gets back to South, it's crunch time. He decided to pass. This looks mad, but remember this is rubber bridge, and actually 3♠ was enough for North-South to get their game bonus, as they already had a part score. So there was no need to bid on past 3♠. No need that is, unless you are interested in slam.

South could have bid 4♠. If it wasn't rubber bridge this would be a natural bid, but since 3♠ here is already game any bid past it is looking for slam. At this point I butted in to suggest to South that actually 4♣ is a better bid, as it shows an interest in slam and shows Club strength. Opposite a 4♠ bid North would normally pass, but opposite 4♣ North's hand is looking much better, and you might get to slam.

As it is, in all the mayhem, South was coffeehoused into passing. He'd been convinced that even bidding 4♠ might be too high. Against 3♠, West lead the Ace of Hearts.

There's an easy 10 tricks - 5 spades, 3 Diamonds, and at least 2 Clubs. In fact, you can always get an extra trick in Clubs to get you up to 11 - but how do you get 12? You need to get Clubs right. After winning the ♥A West switched to the ♣Q and it was decision time for declarer. Either you assume the Club is a singleton (like it is), in which case you win with the ♣K, then finesse East for the ♣J. Or, you assume that West has ♣QJ and if you think that's the case, you have to instead win the first one with the ♣A, and finesse West for the ♣J.

Given that he was only playing 3♠, NC wasn't that bothered about making 12 tricks, but just for style he won the ♣K in dummy, drew trumps, then correctly finessed the ♣J for 3♠+3.

I was blamed for North-South failing to bid this makeable slam, and if they lose the week's bridge it's apparently my fault.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Jackie Josephson Cup: Hamilton vs Team Rowan

On Wednesday night me and Anna drove to Hamilton for the first round of the Jackie Josephson Cup. This was a usual teams of eight match, with aggregate scoring. The extra twist, which I didn't realise until half way through, was that we needed to win the match by 3000 points, because we're a Division 2 team, and our opponents Division 4.

Our opponents were two ladies who defended well throughout. They had to defend well, as Anna played all of the first four hands, and then I played lots of the rest. We missed one slam, but made a lot of games. Anna wasn't holding back. On one hand she opened a weak 2♥ then later came right back in with 5♥. I was silently shocked by the gross indiscipline, but actually it was the winning choice.

At the half way mark, Team Rowan were about 2500 points up. It could have been more, but me and Anna had one massive disaster. It's a good story, but Anna's banned me from writing about it. Just to give a flavour, but no more, here's how the auction started:


My 3♣ confused everyone, and was not a success. When the dust settled I was in 6♦x-5, costing us 1100 points. The good news is that there was no argument from us afterwards, and we recovered well enough.

Here's a couple of hands from the second half:

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

I've just shown the North and South hand. West dealt. She paused for a while then started with a pass, as did everyone else, until it came round to me sitting South. I have a rather poor 12 points, but of course opened 1NT anyway. Anna has a textbook weak hand with 5-4 in the majors, perfect for bidding Stayman then correcting a 2♦ reply to her five card major, and this is what happened. West still looked like she was anxious to bid, and now came back in with 3♦, which I was glad to pass. We took it down two tricks. The hand is interesting as I could sense West was keen to bid (and this is authorised information), and that nearly tempted me to raise Anna's 2♠ bid to 3♠, just to keep West out. As it is I'm glad I let West bid, as she bid my suit. I think what West should have done is double my 2♦.

Finally, here's the strongest hand of the day, where we did well to stay out of slam.

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

I've only 18 points as South, but I decided to open it 2♣. My thinking was that if I open 1♠ then Anna might easily pass with a hand that makes game easy, though looking at the hand now I think 1♠ is right. Over my 2♣ opening, Anna bid 2♦. For us this shows a non-minimum, i.e. 5+ points or any hand with an Ace. I then showed my suit with 2♠. I could have jumped to 3♠, to show a single suited hand, but thought there was just a chance that we might want to play in Hearts or Diamonds (where my void is useful for ruffing in the short hand).

Anna raised my 2♠ straight to 4♠, showing a minimum, given her previous 2♦ bid. I reckon she's actually too good for this, and should just bid 3♠. As it happens, her Ace is opposite my void so 11 tricks was the limit - but move her ♣A to the ♦A or the ♥A and it would be an easy slam. So I guess we were a bit lucky there.

In the end Team Rowan won by just over 4000 points, so we're through to the second round! On the way out we bought some Apple and Bramble Jam too.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Surprisingly, there's three Bridge Clubs in Malta, all in the upmarket district of Sliema. On Sunday afternoon we went along to the one called Malta Bridge Club.

At the address there was a buzzer outside, but no one answered it. We sat there until four elderly gentlemen came past us and opened the door. "You'll lower the average age by twenty years." one of them said.

Sunday is a quiet day, and there were only 2 1/2 tables. As our hosts all lived locally, they graciously let us sit out last, so we could get away sooner. All of our opponents played Strong NT and Five Card Majors, and referred to our Weak NT and Four Card Majors as Acol, even though I think in the UK if you said Acol that would mean a Strong NT and Strong Twos. On the first table our opponents agreed that they were playing Michaels. I think this jogged something in Anna's memory, as on the very first board she got dealt the hand below, and an opponent in front of her opened 1♣.

♠ AQJxx ♥QJTxxx ♦x ♣K

Anna eagerly overcalled 2♣, which I alerted as Michaels. We play Michaels as either Weak (8-) or Strong (15+) so really a hand like this should instead overcall twice, but maybe it is best to just treat it as Strong and show the two suits straight away. After 2♣ Anna drove the bidding to 4♠, much to my dismay as I had a three count with only two cards in the Majors.

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

I briefly considered passing Anna's 2♣ bid, but of course that's ridiculous, especially as West has bid Clubs. I bid 2♠, as I much prefer Spades. Anna then showed her big 6-5 hand by bidding 3♥, which I corrected back to 3♠. Anna then raised this to game, maybe thinking because I'd bid Spades twice I actually had some good Spades.

4♠ has four immediate losers, and I'm very likely to lose control in trumps. West cashed the ♣A and ♦A, then cunningly switched to a low trump. I thought there was no way I could draw trumps and enjoy my long Hearts, so should just take my tricks where I could get them, and went up with the ♠A to ruff a Heart. In the end I scrambled to seven tricks, for 4♠-3, the same result as the other table. Actually, Spades were 3-3 with the ♠K onside, so maybe I could have set up the Hearts.

Since this was a Matchpoint night with only five pairs, each board was only compared with one other table, so it was effectively BAM scoring. However, on the next Board, my highlight of the evening, I think we would have got a very good score against a field of any size.

I have a terrible hand but am inspired by the double fit to bid boldly:

S deal, Love all
♠ 9 8 x x
♥ x x x x
♦ Q x x
♣ x x
♠ A x x
♥ A x x x
♦ A J
♣ J x x x
♠ Q T
♥ Q x x
♦ x x x
♣ A x x x x
♠ K J x x
♥ K J
♦ K T x x x
♣ K Q

Anna sitting South has a poor 16 count. It would be a good candidate for a Strong NT, but since we play weak NT she opened it 1♦. West had an easy double, I was sitting North and with only two points made a swift pass. East came in with 2♣, and Anna then stuck her neck very far out with 2♠. She does have the points for a reverse, but it's an awful looking hand. Plus since I've passed already, the 2♠ bid isn't really a reverse, it shows a much stronger hand. A reverse is bidding something like 2♠ opposite a partner who has 6+, here she's bidding 2♠ opposite a partner who's promised nothing.

But Anna wasn't the only one feeling bold. West competed with 3♣, and I quickly came in with 3♠. I think this is fairly safe, as I've no defence against 3♣ and have a bit of a double fit for Anna, in Diamonds and Spades. The danger is that it looks like I've got a better hand than I do, but luckily everyone passed 3♠. West lead a Club, and I put down my miserable dummy, to some amusement.

In 3♠ Anna has four Aces to lose, so there's certainly not going to be any overtricks. The opening Club lead went to East's Ace, and she continued Clubs. Anna now needs to draw trumps, and so wanted to get to dummy. She crossed to the ♦Q, which held, and lead a Spade up from dummy. This went to the ♠T, ♠J and ♠A. West tried the Ace of Diamonds, then played another trump. With the very lucky Spade position declarer only loses one Spade, and she later guessed Hearts (based on West's double), so there was only one loser in each suit.

3♠ made exactly, so rather than being a sacrifice, it was +140.

This won us the Board, but we lost a lot too, and finished on 47.5%. Although given that there were so few pairs playing, another way of looking at it is that we were one Board away from coming last, and two Boards away from winning.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Double Fit - Deal of the Week #7

Here's a good hand from this lunch time. Even during the auction, we decided this was Deal of The Week. It's also the first one I've featured with TB as declarer.

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

TB has the very distributional South hand and chose to open 1♦. This modest contract was enough to give North-South the rubber, but it wasn't likely to end there. JW was certain 1♦ wasn't going to end the auction, and came in straight away with 2♣. North supported with 2♦, and East introduced his Heart suit. South only has ten points, but it's a very powerful hand, and on the second round he introduced his Spade suit with 2♠. This is perfectly safe as he will be happy to play 3♦ if there's no Spade fit. But, actually, his bid has uncovered a huge double fit. North-South have Spades and Diamonds, East-West have Hearts and Clubs. That means everyone can make a lot of tricks, and you gotta bid 'em up.

Over 2♠ West supported partner with 3♥, and now the double fit is well known, and the auction took off. North bid 3♠, East came in with 4♥, then South went with 4♠. I thought this would end the auction, but JW backed in again with 5♥. This was excellent judgement, as North-South would have made 4♠. I thought maybe AP should have doubled 5♥, but he wisely resisted, as actually 5♥ might well have made. TB then showed good judgement of his own, and bid 5♠, which ended the auction.

To make 5♠ declarer needs to get Spades right. He played for the 2-2 split and played the Ace-King, which unfortunately meant he had to lose a trump trick to West. The defence then took their other two tricks, so the result was 5♠-1.

In a Heart contract with East as declarer it would have been easy for the defence to take their Aces, in Spades and Diamonds, as they would have seen the two singletons in dummy. If West is declarer there's a chance 6♥ might make, as the defence might try and take two tricks in Spades, then declarer can get in and discard his Diamond loser on the long Clubs.

Double fit.