Thursday, 27 March 2014

Glasgow Division Two: Team Rowan vs Bridge of Weir

This was the last league match of the season for Team Rowan. We had an away tie against a very pleasant Bridge of Weir team in a Post Office. If we could win the match, or even lose narrowly, we would finish second in Division Two and win promotion for next year. The instructions from the team Captain were to keep it steady, and hopefully have lots of flat boards. However, on just the third hand of the day me and Anna found a double fit, and just couldn't control ourselves:

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

I sat South and passed, and it came round to Anna. We play that with two four card suits you always open the lower suit, even if that means opening a minor instead of a major (as here). This can occasionally mean you lose a major fit in competition, but it's good for describing your shape fully, and of course good for finding minor games and slams. So Anna opened 1♣. I responded 1♠, which Anna raised to 3♠. I now know that we've got a double fit in Clubs and Spades. So although I've only got eight points I like my hand, and made a cuebid of 4♦, as I thought that might be what partner needed to hear. Anna boldly overlooked that I was a passed hand and launched into Blackwood. With one keycard missing we landed in 6♠.

West lead a Club. When dummy came down I was pretty pleased. I have seven top tricks outside trumps, three high card winners in Spades, so I need two ruffs to get me up to twelve. The only danger is the defence getting a Club ruff, or if trumps are 4-1. I was lucky though. I won the Club lead, and played ♦A and ruffed a Diamond. I then played a trump (ducked) and ruffed another Diamond. I've now got my two ruffs so drew trumps and claimed for 6♠=. It was only when I showed my hand that everyone else saw I had all those Clubs, until then it was only me that knew about the double fit. [Edit - of course the slam goes down on a Heart lead!].

Not sure if this slam was bid at other tables - I know that David and Heather finished in 5♣ after starting 1♣-2♣, where 2♣ was strong (they play inverted minors).

Apart from that hand, the first half was exceptionally low scoring, which was good news. On our table our opponents played six contracts, all of them at the two level, and we played six, mostly partscores too. It was thus fairly even at half time. In the break we had a tremendous cup of tea, and Anna had a Kit Kat too.

In the second half we swiftly bid another slam. This one I'm sure everyone would be in, as opener had a balanced 18 count opposite responder with a balanced 16 count. We finished in 6NT. It all hinges on the play of this Club suit for one loser:


The instinctive way to play it is Ace then lead up to the Queen-Ten, but you then have a guess which one to play, and will go down whenever your 50/50 fails. At Buchanan Bridge Club Norman has taught us that when you have AQT9 between both hands you should finesse twice, for example leading the Queen then the Ten. This only fails if both finesses lose. This is exactly how Anna played it, but unfortunately she was not rewarded for her accurate play and went one down here. [Edit - there is a small advantage to leading the Ten or the Seven on the first round, see comments].

Put yourself in my shoes for the next board, with just our side vulnerable. These were my cards:

♠ Q J 9 x x x ♥ A x x ♦ x ♣ K Q x


Anna passed and my right hand opponent opened 1♦. I overcalled 1♠, but considered bidding a pre-emptive 2♠ as partner has already passed. Left hand opponent then bid 1NT, Anna passed again, and opened rebid 2♦. Now's my moment to rebid 2♠. I nearly did it, but I figured there was very little benefit to doing so, at best it would be a modest part score swing, and with my left hand opponent showing a Spade stop to bid 1NT I might get doubled. I wisely passed - and this Pass was my best bid of the day. Anna had a Spade void and I would have had a terrible time in 2♠, probably doubled, and off at least two vulnerable. As it was, we defended 2♦ and slowly beat it by one one trick.

There were several more partscores in the second half, until we finished with this big hand.

All Vul Love all
E deal
♠ x x
♥ A Q J T x x x
♦ Q
♣ x x x
♥ K 8 x x
♦ A K J T 9 x x
♣ A K

I was sitting South with the monster hand trying to decide whether or not to open 2♣, when East opened ahead of me with 3♠. I'm certainly good enough for a 4♦ overcall, in fact even a 5♦ overcall. But I also have Heart support, so I chose to double, reasoning that if Anna bid Clubs, I could then bid Diamonds. This might get confusing and take the bidding pretty high as we tried to sort it out, but I thought I had a good enough hand that if I end up just punting 6♦ to end the auction that would be OK. West bid 4♠, and Anna bid over the top of him with 5♥. Since she could have easily passed, this is showing a good hand, and a good Heart suit. I have so few losers in my hand and a big source of tricks, so the only question is how high to go. All I really need from Anna for 7♥ is long and strong Hearts, and that's pretty much what's she promised with her 5♥ bid. I thought about some sort of 5♠ or 5NT bid, but that's pretty pointless and might just mess things up. I decided not to be a hero, and just bid 6♥, missing out on the Grand Slam.

On a Spade lead Anna drew trumps in one round and claimed, for 6♥+1. On reflection, I think I should have bid 7♥ instead of just 6♥. I don't think many tables will bid it, but this was aggregate scoring, so it doesn't matter what happens elsewhere in the room. If I can get an extra 750 points for my side by bidding the Grand Slam then I should take it. As for the other tables - I know that on one other table my hand directly overcalled 5♦ and played there.

Overall then we bid three slams, which is the same as the number of games we bid. The 25 point slam made, the 27 point slam made an overtrick and we went down in the 34 point slam.

And as for the all important final result? In the end it was a narrow win for Team Rowan, coming through 9-7. It was enough for promotion, and next year we'll be in Division One!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Bodged - Deal of the Week #18

Here's a hand from last week, where I should have done a lot better. It's a tail of woe.

Board 2
Dealer East
Love All
♠ x x x
♥ A J T x x
♦ K T 9 x
♣ x
♠ K Q x x
♥ K x x
♦ x
♣ K Q J x x
♠ T x x
♥ x x
♦ 8 x x x
♣ A x x
♠ A J x
♥ Q x x
♦ A Q J x
♣ x x x

I sat South as dealer. Playing a Strong NT I opened 1♦. West overcalled 2♣ and North bid 2♥. In the local system this only promises 4 Hearts, so I couldn't raise this straight away. I rebid 2NT, which seems the only sensible option. North maybe thought this showed more strength, or decided that we needed to bid a game, so went straight for 5♦.

West lead a trump. The contract actually looks pretty good. If the Heart finesse works I've got 10 top tricks, and can ruff a Club for my 11th. Or if the Heart finesse fails I need to ruff two Clubs. Having avoided a Spade lead, 5♦ is actually a better contract than 4♥, as 4♥ will only make if the Heart finesse works.

I won the first Diamond in Hand (big mistake, as we'll see), and lead a Club. West played the ♣J, and East skilfully overtook with the ♣A. This is almost certainly safe, as it's very unlikely I've got the ♣K - I wouldn't be playing the Clubs this way if I did. East then returned the ♠T, which is the switch I'd been dreading. I took the ♠A, and now I can't afford to lose the lead as I'll have two Spade losers on top of my Club loser. So I need the Heart finesse to work. I ruffed a Club first, then came back to hand with a trump. At this point the trump suit looked like this, with the lead in my hand.

- 8x

What I want to do know is draw the last two round of trumps, and pin everything on the Heart finesse - which given West's overcall and the cards played so far is almost certain to work. But I've bodged it. I can't draw trumps, despite being dealt all of the ♦AKQJT9. If I cross to the ♦T there's no way back to hand, and I need to be in hand to finesse the Hearts. What I should have done is one the very first trump trick in dummy, then I would have just high trumps left in hand.

I gloomily lead the ♥Q, and finessed again when West ducked. East ruffed the third Heart, and the defence cashed two more Spades.

Looking at the deal East has only three important cards, but he played them all with guile for an excellent defence. Of course I still should have made it, but he gave me a chance to fail and I grabbed it eagerly.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Farquaharson Magazine Pairs

As SBU Magazine subscribers (and contributors) we were invited to play in this special event in the new St. Andrew Bridge Club. It was a high quality field of 14 1/2 tables. Me and Anna were one of only three Bronze Pairs, meaning we had a decent chance of finishing with a prize.

We started with three boards against John Di Mambro and partner Douglas. Sitting East-West they navigated this one to a tricky 3NT:


Anna sitting South lead the ♣2, the unbid suit. As we play fourth highest leads this showed a four card suit. I found this quite surprising sitting North as it meant East has six Clubs, though he'd never got to bid them. I took my ♣Q and ♣K, declarer ducking, and it was crunch time. The defence are due five tricks - three Clubs a Heart and a Diamond, but we've got to get them before setting up declarer's Clubs. I really thought about a bold Heart switch, but couldn't bear to lead into such a strong suit in dummy. So I chickened out and played a Diamond. Anna won her ♦A and had her chance to switch to Hearts, but she bottled it too and cashed the ♣A. Declarer now has all the tricks.

Our defence was helpful for declarer in setting up his Club suit. If he's left on his own he can still get nine tricks - six Spades, two Diamonds and a Heart, but it could be awkward. No one else managed to defeat 3NT, so it would have been a good defence from me and Anna if we'd have managed it. The tables playing in 4♠ or 4♥ all went down.

We bounced back and were doing fairly well at the break, above 50%.

After two cups of tea came our only 100% Board, where we bid and made a splendid 7♠. It's the first time I can remember that me and Anna have bid and made a Grand Slam. Unfortunately the hand doesn't appear on the St. Andrew's website, but since we did so well on this Board I've taken the trouble to copy it in here:

Board 45
Dealer North
Game All
♠ 6 4 2
♥ A 8 4 2
♦ -
♣ K 7 6 5 3 2
♠ 3
♥ K J T 9
♦ Q J 6 5 4 3 2
♣ T
♠ 9 7 5
♥ 7 5
♦ K 9 8 7
♣ J 9 8 4
♠ A K Q J T 8
♥ Q 6 3
♦ A T
♣ A Q

I had the North hand and passed, so did East. Anna's got a monster hand sitting South, and opened it 2♣. West now made a fine vulnerable overcall of 3♦, further raised to 4♦ by East. This is good bidding, and they actually would only go one trick down in 4♦. Anna has an easy 4♠ bid, and now it's over to me. All the Diamond bidding has made my hand, with it's Diamond void, very powerful. I've only got three small Spades but I know Anna's going to have a very good suit. The only question is, how high to go? I decided that if Anna had the ♣A then we'd have all the controls, and plenty of tricks for the Grand Slam. Cue-bidding to find the ♣A is awkward as the bidding is already so high, so instead I bid Blackwood. Anna bid 5♣ to show four keycards, so we've got them all. I then bid 5♦ to ask about the trump Queen, as I was worried about a bad split in trumps, and Anna's 6♠ response shows the ♠Q and no other Kings. I could now bid 7♠.

When dummy comes down 7♠ is a bit tricker than you'd hope for, but has excellent chances. Declarer needs dummy's Clubs to get rid of the Heart losers. If Clubs are 3-2 it's fine, or if trumps are 2-2 you've got time to set up the Clubs. You can still make if neither Spades nor Clubs split, but you'll need to leave a trump out as an entry to set up the Clubs, and hope the person with long trumps isn't able to ruff a Club (as is the situation here).

West lead the ♦Q and Anna has an immediate decision where to win the trick. She wisely won it in hand with the ♦A, saving a key entry to dummy. She played two round of trumps, and when they didn't split followed the plan above and ruffed out the Clubs. It was a bold play, as it's a bit nerve-wracking to leave the last trump out. There were only two pairs who bid to 7♠, and the other declarer went one down (probably drew all the trumps and played for Clubs splitting), so 7♠= and +2210 was a top.

After this triumph I got a bit hot sitting next to the radiator and went seriously on the tilt. I could feel it slipping through my fingers and was perhaps guilty of trying too hard to get a good score. Here's my low point, on the final Board, where I collected just 4% for my effort:

I'm sitting West and was dealt a great hand. That's the last thing you want when you're on the tilt.


I opened 1♠ then eagerly bid 4♠ on my next turn. All I need is a couple of good cards from my partner and there's an easy ten tricks. Anna's got nothing useful in dummy though, except maybe the chance of a Diamond ruff. North lead the ♣K, then paused. He wisely switched to a trump, specifically the ♠J. I won this and desperately tried Ace and another Diamond, on the wild chance that a defender had ♦KQJ and no more trumps to lead. It was not to be. South won the second Diamond and returned a trump. I had a decision to make here, whether to take the finesse in trumps or go up the ♠K. The Principle of Restricted Choice says to finesse, but I was suspicious of the crafty way North selected to play the ♠J the first time, so played him for ♠QJ. I got this right, so duly made the nine tricks I was dealt in my own hand. 4♠-1 scored poorly as nearly every other pair stayed low.

Me and Anna finished on 48%, not a great score but good enough to be the top Bronze Pair.