Sunday, 18 May 2014

Buchanan Congress Pairs

Last Sunday me and Anna played together in the Buchanan Congress Pairs. The afternoon session was a qualification event, to find the top 14 out of 30 pairs who would go on to compete in the final in the evening. This was the first event me and Anna have played in an event with qualification, and we buckled under this small extra pressure. After the first two boards were poor I told Anna not to worry as we'd just started. The next two were poor too. I kept telling Anna not to worry until it got to about Board 10, when I realised we probably weren't going to qualify.

We didn't do too much wrong, most of the time. But here's a definite blunder that cost us:


Anna was sitting South and opened 1♠. I was North and replied 2♣. Anna then rebid 2♦, and I bid a natural 2NT. All fairly normal up to now I expect. My 2NT is invitational to game, and of course Anna wants to accept. But she wasn't sure if 3NT or 4♠ was the best contract, so bid 3♠, expecting me to either bid 3NT or raise her to 4♠ with a doubleton. But I surprised her with a Pass. We've not discussed this situation and I assumed the 3♠ was a weak bid. I did consider bidding 4♠ anyway, but I've got weak doubletons in both Anna's suits, and I'd just gone three off on a previous hand and was a bit scared.

Anna started shaking her head as soon as dummy came down, and was still silently tutting as she took her eleven tricks for 3♠+2. For further embarrassment, at the half time break John Faben asked if we'd considered bidding a slam on Board 13, and I had to confess we weren't even in game. Following John's on-the-spot advice we've agreed for future reference that in these situations a bid like 3♠ is indeed weak.

After this disaster we rallied slightly, before finishing with two zeroes against Joan Lees & Michele Gladstone. Overall we scored 44.13%, good enough only for the Consolation Final. On the upside I was sitting North throughout, and operated the Bridge Mate perfectly with no incorrect scores.

The top pairs in qualification were Christine Howe & Trish Matheson (NS) and Grace & James Walker (EW).

In the break I wasted far too much time talking about the hands. "You were very boring" said Anna. I also largely missed out on the sandwiches, and had to make up for that with a plate of cake. The cake was a bit sweet for my liking, and I should know, as I had four slices.

For the consolation final I bought myself a gin and tonic and some iced water for Anna, but unfortunately they got mixed up and Anna had my gin. On the first deal I commented that all my cards were already sorted in suits and Anna chuckled at my stupidity. Apparently everyone knows that since the cards are computer dealt they're always arranged into suits on the first hand.

With the pressure off we did much better now, and everything seemed to go our way. For example, I doubled 6NT, which went off 3. Twice I stumbled into an aggressive 4-3 fit which got a good score. I made some dodgy bids, but they paid off. For example, this was a lucky one:


I was sitting West and opened 1♠. It was the best hand I'd had in ages, and I was excited. Anna replied 1NT and I pushed the boat out with a 3♦ reply, which is game forcing and shows 18-19. I don't have that, and my singleton ♥K is a bit rubbish, but I felt I was too good to just bid 2♦. Anna has no choice but to bid 3NT. South lead a Heart and I went off to get a whisky and another piece of cake.

When I came back, Anna had got her nine tricks and was just losing the last four. "You're lucky I had the Ten of Spades", she said. With five Spades, three Hearts and a Club there's a routine nine tricks. You need the ♠T as an entry to the Hearts. Without it I guess you'd have to overtake the ♥K and hope for three Heart tricks anyway, if the ♥J falls. Bidding and making 3NT got us an excellent score, as only one other pair in the Consolation Final bid it (Mandy and Ronnie Simpson), and no pairs at all in the Main Final.

On the final board of the event me and Anna both got good hands, and reached an excellent slam:

Helen KAnnaCliff GDanny

West opened with 3♥ and Anna had a think then doubled. The other option is maybe 3NT. Doubling looks better, but not sure what she would have done if I replied in Diamonds. As it is Anna hit the jackpot with her double as I jumped to 4♠, then showed two Aces and no Queen of trumps with 5♥. Without the Queen of Trumps Anna conservatively stopped in 6♠. I think 7♠ has a decent chance: I could have five Spades (with six I would have lied and said I had the Queen); the trumps could be 2-2; or you could find the Queen. As it is they were 2-2 (and in fact East dropped the Queen on the first round), so I duly made 6♠+1.

After the deal Anna asked if she should have bid the Grand Slam. I said that it would probably have made virtually no difference to our matchpoint score, but would have been glorious. I was proved right; 6♠+1 was worth a massive 93% as only one other pair in the Consolation Final bid the slam (Ricky Finlayson and Horst Kopleck). In the main final three out of eight pairs bid it.

We finished on a comfortable 63%, enough to win the Consolation Final. According to Anna, who took the envelope, the prize was only £1 each, but she did take me out to dinner afterwards.

In the main event the runaway winners were John Faben and Norman McGeagh. Second equal were Grace & James Walker and Jim McLaughin & Peter Cairns. There were supposed to be some tankards for the winners, I'll have to ask John about that.

Full results on the Buchanan website here here.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

IMPs to VPs

This is a summary of the 2014 update to the World Bridge Federation suggested scoring for Teams matches.

In a Teams Tournament each match is scored in IMPs, then based on the IMPs each team is awarded some Victory Points (VPs). This is done to level off the effect of a big IMPs win, and make every match in the tournament worth roughly the same. Although no one thinks of it this way, this is also what happens in football matches when the margin in goals is converted to a number of points. In football this is done in a very extreme way, and the margin of victory is basically ignored and you get 100% of the possible points if you have any positive margin of goals. In Bridge it's done more smoothly, and big IMP wins do translate into bigger VP wins.

The reason I'm mentioning this is because recently the WBF have adopted a new IMPs to VPs conversion table, which differs in two ways. Firstly, every different IMP win now scores a different number of VPs, which leads to some decimal VP scores. Secondly. there is a bigger reward for small wins, as noticed by Paul Gipson noticed this in his blog post:Changing Tactics.

The graph below shows how IMPs are converted to VPs, on the old and new scales. The vertical axis measures the winning margin as a percentage of the maximum win.

Sources: New Scale and Old scale

You can see the new scoring system is much smoother, and is 'higher' on the left hand side, meaning small IMP wins now have a bigger effect than before. The new scale also flattens off a bit sooner, meaning (for a 16 board match), you get a 100% win at 60 IMPs.

Note (October 2015): Following some interest from a Swedish bridge forum (in Swedish) I've had another look at this. My graph is correct, although the situation is slightly blurred by the fact that the old scale was out of between 25 and 30 (a whitewash was 25-0, a draw 15-15) and the new scale is always out of 20. Because of this I've had to use 'VPs gained over loser as % of max' as my measure. This slightly exaggerates the effect of the new scale, where a narrow win like 11-9 on the new scale is counted as more significant than a narrow win like 16-14 on the old scale.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Stealing 3NT - Deal of the Week #20

This week NC and JW handsomely won the week, to draw the series back to 16-16. Twice I went two off doubled, in contracts I maybe could have made. But instead of looking at another bodge I'd rather write about one where I did well. Or rather my partner did well, because I was dummy. This deal from Friday features AP stealing a 3NT which never should have made:

Dealer North
No one vul
♠ Q x x x
♥ x x
♦ K T x x
♣ x x x
♠ A x x x
♥ T 9 x
♦ x x
♣ Q J x x
♠ x x
♥ K Q 6 x x
♦ Q x x
♣ A T x
♠ K J x
♥ A J 8 7
♦ A J x x
♣ K x

I dealt and passed. Then we realised I shouldn't have dealt. I didn't think anyone would mind too much but NC and JW reacted furiously, claiming any future result was invalid and moving the box of carrots away. I didn't dare ask for one now anyway. Andrew was North and opened 1♦ (ignoring the more obvious 1NT) and I replied with 1♠. I used to pass hands like this because I didn't have 6 points, but actually with a Diamond fit it's quite safe to bid. North bid 2♥ and I corrected back to 3♦. AP had a go for game with 3NT. I passed this even though we had a good Diamond fit. "It's easier to make a bad 3NT than a bad 5♦".

Against 3NT West lead the expected Club. East won his Ace and returned a Club, declarer winning the ♣K. Now it's time to count tricks. Assuming you can bring all the Diamonds in, you've got one Club already, four Diamonds, one Heart and two Spades. The best chance for a ninth trick is in Spades, so declarer played the ♠K and ♠J, both ducked. West could have bagged his ♠A and taken two more Clubs for four defensive tricks, but held off. Declarer then successfully finessed the ♦Q and took his four Diamonds, giving the defence some tough discards. This was then the position in the Heart suit, with the lead in hand, and declarer needing to get two tricks in this suit:

♥ x
♥ T 9 ♥ K Q 6 5
♥ A J 8 7

It needs to be just right, and AP rose to the challenge. He lead the ♥J from hand, which East won. He had only Hearts to return, so returned a low one. Declarer won the ♥A and played the ♥8, finally forcing a second Heart trick with the ♥7, and make a very bad 3NT.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Glasgow Summer cup: Team Rowan vs Maccabi

After finishing second in Glasgow Division Two (see here), we fancied our chances in the Summer Cup, which is only open to teams from Division Two to Division Four. From our original Team Rowan me and Anna joined David and Heather Merriman to form Team Merriman.

In the first round we drew a team whose name I sadly can't quite remember [someone help me out?]. Me and Anna arrived at the Maccabi centre early, and snuck into the empty hall and turned the lights on. I covertly had my dinner and Anna helped herself to a honeycomb Club.

In the first half the Boards were pretty flat. Maybe we didn't shuffle enough. But the quality of the bridge was good and the match was tight. After 12 boards the score was just 15-20, meaning we trailed by 5 IMPs. In the hand before the mid-session interval I was dummy and pre ordered two teas, like I was at the theatre. This was the deal, a small gain for Team Merriman. East-West are vulnerable, and West is the dealer.


I was sitting North and opened 1♠. East overcalled 2♣. Since they were vulnerable, I guess he didn't fancy 3♣. West could have passed this (in which case I would have reopened with a double), but instead he bid 2♥. I passed and it was up to Anna as South. She decided to come back in with 3♦. I probably wouldn't have bid this, scared the whole hand was a misfit and defending was best. But Anna went for it, and it is a nice bold bid.

Against 3♦ West lead a club. Anna ducked this, won the next Club then played one more Club, West throwing a Spade and allowing her to ruff in dummy. She then played the ♠A and ♠Q, covered by the ♠K and ruffed in hand. When she played trumps West won and returned a Heart. Anna won and lead her winning Spade from the dummy, throwing a losing Heart and letting West ruff. So in the end the defence came to three Diamonds and a Club, for 3♦= and +110.

The hand diagram above is generated by a program called Bridgify, which is free to download (see The numbers under the West cards show how many tricks the defence gets, depending on his lead. You can see that on the actual Club lead, the defence get only 3 tricks, meaning declarer could have made 3♦+1. This is from playing the Spades early on to establish a long Spade, but 3♦= was still a good result and we gained 4 IMPs on the hand.

I enjoyed my half time tea tremendously. For the second half we swapped opponents, and sat down with [?name] and his Mum. As they bid a series of games against us, I had a few tricky decisions. Once partner opened Spades, the next hand doubled, and I had a weak hand with five Spades. I think now it's all about tactics, and choosing the most cunning bid. My current maxim is always to pre-empt to the max so I went for a not very cunning immediate 4♠, prompting the next hand to bid and make 5♥. I wonder if I could have kept them out their game by shrewdly only bidding 2♠, or even passing.

There was one big swing hand, when our opponents accidentally got to 6NT after failing to stop in 4NT or 5NT. They played it very nicely and made it. This all confused me and when we bid to 6♣ on the next hand I was seriously on the tilt, playing a very straight-forward contract needlessly slowly. My chat plummeted at this point, and I commented that I was wearing a jumper and Anna wasn't.

After a tight first half we also narrowly lost the second half, 15-30. That lead to a final loss of 30-50, probably the right result against opponents' who made very few mistakes. Congratulations to them, and I hope they now go on to win the cup!