Thursday, 30 January 2014

Glasgow Division Two: Team Rowan vs Fort Matilda

Team Rowan have suffered a couple of losses lately ("scudded") so it was high time to bounce back. Our team of eight met up in Greenock for an away match against a good Fort Matilda team.

Me and Anna were North-South against Iain and Janus, who were playing an unusual system. As well as 5 card Majors and a Strong NT, their other notable opening bids are as follows (slightly simplified by me here):

1♣ Any 23+ hand (like the normal 2♣ opening)
1♦ Either a 1♣ or 1♦ opener
2♣ Weak with both majors
2♦ Multi 2♦
2NT Weak with both majors

I'm not sure if the other tables were playing anything like this. Since you play all 24 boards against the same opponents you don't get much of an impression of what's going on at the other tables. I think this is a weakness of the format, it would be much better to swap opponents at half time, to get to meet some more people.

However, one advantage of playing the same opponents throughout is that it does gives you a bit more of a chance to know their system. Me and Anna quickly agreed that against their 1♣ opening we would play double shows majors, 1NT shows minors, we would treat the 1♦ opening as natural, and against all those unusual weak twos we would play that double shows a weak NT or a very strong hand. I say that's what we agreed to play, but actually it was more like I suggested it, and Anna looked confused, then after a pause reluctantly agreed. She forgot our defence the first time they opened 2♦, then I forgot it later on.

In the first half we didn't do much. Our opponents had some possible games, but maybe underbid a bit, and we certainly under-defended. They ended up with a few scores like 1NT+3 or 3♠+2, hard to tell if that was good for us or not. Me and Anna at least registered this success, with a very pleasing auction.

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

As dealer sitting South I decided not to hang around and got right in with a Weak Two in Diamonds. This hand is the minimum we would ever do that with. Anna's got a monster hand and now needs to find the right game, either 3NT or 5♦. Or maybe higher? If you give me just the ♦Q, ♠K and ♣A, then she can count 13 tricks and a grand slam is possible. Two out of three of those cards and it's an easy 6♦. But after some thought Anna plumped for an immediate 5♦, giving up on slam. It's a good job she did, as I've got a minimum, and 5♦ still needs a finesse. Luckily, the ♠K was onside and I made 11 tricks. And even better, 3NT goes down on a Club lead (which was found at some tables).

In the second half our opponents were more aggressive, and made a few games and went down in some too. Luckily, me and Anna got things the right way round for aggregate scoring, and did our best defending against games, where it really matters, and were a bit more lax against part scores, where I continued to blow tricks by ducking erratically.

I benefitted from a bold competitive style on this hand. It's an unusual deal, as there's four possible finesses, and they all worked.

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

I opened the South hand 1♠. West overcalled 2♥, and Anna sitting North was under pressure. She ought to have four Spades to support me (we play four card Majors), but stretched a bit and bid 2♠ anyway. I think this is quite normal, it's a good bid, but me and Anna don't normally do it. East then came in with a natural 3♦, showing a long suit. With my singleton Diamond I ignored the vulnerability and ploughed on. I do have a nice hand, but maybe bidding on is a bit foolish, as the opponents don't seem to have a fit.

Anna put down her dummy, apologising for only having three Spades. There goes my expected nine card fit. West lead a Diamond and another Diamond, which I ruffed. I knew the defence had a Heart ruff coming, so played off the ♠AK, then lead a Heart up. West won his ♥A and played a third Diamond. If I ruff this then I'm down to one last trump, and if I ever lose the lead (if for instance the Club finesse fails) I could get my last trump drawn by the remaining ♠Q and go lots off. So I shrewdly refused to ruff another Diamond, instead throwing away a small Club from my hand, which is going to be a loser anyway. Now if the defence continue Diamonds I can ruff in dummy.

With all the finesses working it went very nicely from here on. At some point East took his ♠Q, but along with a Heart and two Diamonds those were the only tricks for the defence. I made 3♠=, and I think in practice East-West are likely to make 3♦.

At the end of the first half there were just 10 points between the teams. Not much in aggregate scoring.

The second half was a fairly poor procession of low-level misfits and partscores. Someone commented on how dull the boards were, and as if in response things took off on the next deal. This was the biggest hand of the match:

NS game
W deal
♠ A K Q x
♥ Q J T x
♦ x x
♣ K Q x
♠ x x x
♥ A x x x x x
♦ A
♣ A x x

Janus sitting West opened 2NT, showing both minors, or just Diamonds. Anna paused for a very long time over 2NT. Remember our makeshift defence was that double showed a weak NT or a big hand. Her pause was so long, in fact, that I decided that if she did choose to pass, when it came round to me I would ethically only bid 3♥ (and not 4♥ like I would otherwise) as her pause had suggested a decent hand. As it happened, she solved the problem of what to bid by inventing a 3♦ bid. This wasn't covered by our rapid system discussion at the start of the night, but after some thought I decided it couldn't be natural and alerted it. I was now all set to jump to 4♥ to show strength, but after Iain bid 4♦ I decided I needed to bid 5♥. We've no agreement on what this sort of bid means, but Anna topped me up to slam anyway.

It was now my time for a think. I've got three Aces, so Anna must be raising me to slam with only one Ace. If she's bidding this strongly with only one Ace she must have a monster. Surely I should bid on to 7♥? I nearly convinced myself. Of course I'd forgotten that with a 19+ hand Anna would have doubled first (that's our agreed defence), so I can work out she's not that strong. I thought about the glory of a grand slam, then let it go, and reluctantly passed 6♥.

When dummy came down I noticed the hands fit nicely, and actually 7♥ looks pretty good. All I need for 13 tricks is the Heart finesse, which is likely to work after West has pre-empted. As it happened the Heart finesse failed, and I was relieved to just be in 6♥=. I told Anna I was thinking of bidding seven, and she tutted at my foolishness.

In the end Team Rowan won the match 11-5. We're back!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

No good advice - Deal of the Week #14

Here's a Deal of the Week where I really messed up.

I have a good memory for bridge hands. Even though I didn't write anything down, and wasn't even playing, I can remember all of the contracts from yesterday lunch time, and the layout of all the cards on each deal (at least the distribution of each hand and the honour cards). So remembering this one is pretty painful.

The result was 3NT-5, after declarer followed my advice. With better advice, it could have gone a lot better, and is actually a really nice hand. Here's the full deal and auction.

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

South opened 1NT, showing 15-17 and a balanced hand. Textbook. West had a think, but decided to pass, even though he could have made a natural 2♣ overcall. The auction after that looks a bit strange, but bear in mind there's no conventions here like Stayman or transfers. North bid a natural 2♦, South a natural 2♠, then North a natural 3♥. NC sitting South then had a choice, 3NT or 5♦. With my encouragement he went for 3NT (I stand by that decision, the blunders come later).

Against 3NT AP sitting West lead an obvious ♣K. Declarer ducked this and won the second round, East showing out. It's now pretty clear that West has a lot of Clubs. To make his nine tricks declarer is going to need one Spade, two Hearts, five Diamonds and one Club. That means that East has to have both the ♠A and ♥K, which is quite likely seeing as West didn't overcall despite having that big Club suit. You can see that on this layout declarer is doomed to fail, as West has the ♥K, but there's failing with honour and going five off vulnerable. I directed NC to the -500.

After winning the ♣A, you have a dilemma tackling Diamonds. The safe way to play, to keep West off lead, is to finesse West. But since East is so much more likely to have the Queen (and you need five Diamond tricks), you should probably finesse East. We didn't do that though, and lost a Diamond to East. When he returned a Heart we played low, and it was game over. West won the ♥K, ran his Clubs, and the defence had a riot.

The smart way to play is to get the Diamonds right, then run the suit. West will be forced to throw away his Spades and some Clubs to keep his ♥K guarded. So in fact the defence will only get four Clubs and one Heart, for 3NT-1. A lot better. Even if you get the Diamonds wrong (like we did) you should go up with the Heart Ace and run the Diamond suit, to force West to throw away some winners.

Don't underestimate the power of running a long suit

Monday, 13 January 2014

Deal of the Week #13

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

Here's this week's Deal of the Week. North-South already had 40 points below the line, so were looking for another 60 here.

NC sitting South opened 1♠ with his monster hand. West has an even better hand. My choice of bid would be a double, then bid Hearts later (showing a very strong hand). However, the modern style is to show your suit early, and that's what TB did with a simple overcall of 2♥. JW passed in the North hand and AP passed with the East hand (good Hearts, but too weak).

South then rebid his Spades with 2♠, West rebid his Hearts with 3♥, and now North showed some support with 3♠, enough for game for North-South. The spotlight was then on East. He's still got a very weak hand, but I think with that amount of support I would have risked 4♥. As it happens West bid 4♥ himself, and North looked at his two Aces and doubled.

South then had a tough decision, to leave in the double, or bid on himself and risk going down? He went for 4♠, which was an excellent decision with nothing much in defence (he's going to win one Spade trick at most in defence) but lots of offence.

4♠ was passed out, and West lead a Heart. NC ruffed, drew trumps and finessed Diamonds. Even though the finesse lost he came away with eleven tricks. If West instead leads a Club the defence get three tricks, but there's still no beating 4♠.

How would East-West have done in 4♥x? They certainly lose three Aces, and should also lose another Club too, for 4♥x-1. If the defence is too keen to take the ♣A then 4♥ could even make. So looks like NC made a profitable decision to bid on with 4♠.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Back in the game

Anna and I went to St Andrew Bridge Club for the Friday night game, our first bridge of 2014. We've not played in about a month. I don't think that's very long, but Anna was getting ready with all the excuses before we started about how rusty she was going to be. As it happens, we did get a very poor start, against Maida Grant and Sheila MacDonald.

On the very first board I timidly let the opponents play in 3♥ (we can make 4♠ our way), and we both misdefended to let declarer make it. Then our opponents had a Blackwood mix up. They had agreed Diamonds as trumps, and in their system East then used 4♥ to ask for Aces. But West gave the responses as if partner had asked with 4NT, and ended up showing an Ace more than she had. I was thinking this is great, they're going to end up in a slam missing two Aces, but actually they ended in 6♦ and made it exactly.

Then came my lowlight of the night. My right hand opponent dealt and opened 2♥, which was a Lucas Two, showing at least five Hearts and four cards in a minor and less than opening strength. Me and Anna keep it simple and just defend against these sorts of bids just as if it was a Weak Two. This was my hand:

♠ KQ964 ♥ AK3 ♦ A84 ♣ 62

I've got three options. I can overcall 2♠, showing a good hand with 5+ Spades. I can overcall 2NT, showing 15-19 points and a Heart stop, or I can double. I went for the 2NT overcall. This was passed out, and West predictably lead a Heart. When dummy came down I was extremely disheartened to be playing 2NT:

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

Dummy has a beautiful fit in Spades, and 4♠ would have been easy (making 11 tricks in fact). Playing in No Trumps is going to be no fun, and in fact to add insult to injury I'm not even likely to make 2NT. I counted two Heart tricks, four Spade tricks once I knock out the Ace, and one Diamond. There's only seven tricks, and assuming the defence find the Diamond switch I've no time to set up the Clubs. That's the way it went, I finished one off.

Things got better and the highlight of the night was a pair of defences to 3NT. The first one was bad for us - I found a promising Heart lead then as declarer cashed his tricks me and Anna both desperately clung onto our Hearts until the very end. This meant throwing everything else away, and so declarer (John DiMambro) made 3NT+3 for a top. But in the second one we'd learnt our lesson, and after I found a promising Club lead and declarer was cashing his tricks me and Anna both abandonned all of our Clubs, and kept the other suits to restrict declarer to 3NT+1, a good score for us.

Finally here's a hand where Anna made what I consider to be an absolutely outrageous overcall:

Board 15
E deal, EW vul
♠ A K 9
♥ 8 7 6 3 2
♦ A Q T
♣ A 2
♠ 6
♥ K Q T
♦ K 9 8 4 3
♣ K J 8 3
♠ Q J T 5 3 2
♥ A J 9 5
♦ 6
♣ Q 7
♠ 8 7 4
♥ 4
♦ J 7 5 2
♣ T 9 6 5 4

East has an excellent 10 point hand and opened 1♠. West replied with a natural 2♦. Anna sitting North has 17 points, but no sensible bid. This didn't stop her though, and she weighed in with 2♥. Unbelievable. East, who was probably going to bid 2♥ himself, settled for 2♠, and West has a hearty Heart stop so bid a natural and invitational 2NT. East, who still only has 10 points, passed.

Against West's contract of 2NT Anna lead the ♥7 (second highest from a suit without an honour), and when dummy came down I wondered what sort of Hearts Anna had, given that West had also shown a Heart stopper. Declarer was able to set up Clubs and Spades and also took an embarrassing four Heart tricks, to make 2NT+2.

As lots of pairs were actually in game, we got a relatively good score for only conceding 2NT+2. Anna made the spectacular claim that it was her fine 2♥ bid that stopped them getting to game.

The best result for North-South is if Anna passes throughout, then makes a Lightner Double of 3NT for a Diamond lead.