Thursday, 19 February 2015

Glasgow League Division One: Team Rowan vs St Andrews

Without actually winning a game, things have been looking up for Team Rowan. We are still bottom of the league, with eight losses out of eight, but we scored a (moral) victory last Tuesday with a narrow loss to a very good St. Andrews Team.

Me and Anna were on Table 4 as usual, and as usual it also seemed we were playing against the pair with the most exotic methods. They were Gints from Latvia and Billy. Despite not being a regular partnership, they were playing a few gadgets. A couple of times they had a misunderstanding and we were misinformed, but it didn't really make any difference.

In the first half they narrowly had the better of us, thanks mostly to two slam hands. On the first I was third-in-hand but vulnerable with a six card Spade suit to the Ten. I decided to open a Weak Two, and when Anna raised me to 3♠ I got a bit worried that I might get doubled. But the opponents soon weighed in and got to 6♦, which Gints made comfortably. He actually had the ♠AKQ! Luckily Tom & Raymond bid the slam for our team at another table (without any opposition bidding). On the other slam hand I put Anna in a speculative 6♥ which requires precise play to keep all the entries; she worked it all out except for the one extra entry needed to get back to hand to draw trumps and went two down in a contract we probably shouldn't have been in.

However, at the break we were only 40 points down. Could this be another famous draw, or even a debut victory for Team Rowan?

In the second half me and Anna did a lot better, and most of the boards were good boards for us. The best was this vulnerable Grand Slam:

♠ K Q x x x
♥ J x x
♦ 9 x
♣ A x x

♠ A x
♥ A K x
♦ A K Q J 8
♣ K Q J

I had the monster South hand and drove us up to 7♦. This came home when Diamonds were 4-2, but we should really have been in 7NT, which has chances even if you are unlucky and the Diamonds are 5-1. We have 37 points between us but surprisingly were the only one of four tables to bid and make a Grand Slam on the hand.

Another good board for us was this curiosity, where oddly East's decision to open light actually stopped his side getting to game:

All vul
W deal
♠ J x x
♥ x x
♦ T x x
♣ Q x x x x
♠ K Q x x x
♥ K T x x x x
♦ J x
♣ -
♠ x x
♥ A Q J x
♦ K x x x
♣ x x x
♠ A x x
♥ x
♦ A Q x x
♣ A K J x x

West has a big hand but decided to begin with a Pass. This came round to East who opened light with 1♣, playing five card Majors. I was South with 18 points and a fine Club stop, so doubled planning to bid 1NT later. West bid 1♠ over the double, and when it came back round I duly bid 1NT. West now bid 3♥ to try and convey his shape. East has got excellent Heart support, but has also opened with a flat 10 count, so passed. 3♥ made 11 tricks when declarer was able to establish the Spades. I suspect that if East passes then after South opens West will overcall (perhaps with Michaels) and East-West will get to 4♥, possibly even doubled by South.

Although me and Anna had a roaring second half it wasn't enough, and Team Rowan lost by 500 points overall for a respectable 7-9 loss.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Glasgow League Division One: Team Rowan vs Kenmure

Team Rowan had another tough match this Tuesday at the Glasgow Bridge Centre against Kenmure. I'd been watching the experts at the weekend in the Scottish Cup Final (see report here) so felt confident I'd be on excellent form.

However, at the half way stage we were 2000 points down, as has been the story all season. Tonight I'd been bidding boldly to put Anna in a few thin games, which I think is the right thing to do at aggregate, except for the fact that none of them made and we kept going one off for -100. Here's one where Anna had no chance:

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

The opponents opened and raised Spades, playing four card Majors. Anna weighed in with 3♥, which shows a good suit and good hand just like she has. I have a good dummy for Hearts and couldn't resist topping her up to 4♥. But my dummy wasn't as suitable as I thought and the game had no chance. Anna managed to steal a trick with the ♠K but still went one off.

At the break Team Captain Jill reassured us that we could easily recoup our 2000 point deficit - it was only 500 points per table. We didn't have to wait long before me and Anna generated a 2000 point swing on our table alone. Unfortunately, the swing was in the wrong direction:

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

West dealt and opened 3♥, which I passed (in the same position on another table Trish Matheson from our team doubled as North). East bid 4♥, which was either extremely conservative or extremely shrewd. Anna paused for a long time over this, and with my singleton Heart I was willing her to bid. In retrospect it would have been so much better if we had of just let the opponents play in 4♥, like they wanted. Anna came up with 5♦, which I passed. Another option from Anna would have been 4NT showing minors, but it wouldn't make much difference here. I passed 5♦ and East, with his monster Heart support, came back in with 5♥. Anna looked at her three Aces and doubled. I removed the double from 5♥ to 6♦, and was delighted when East bid again with 6♥, doubled and passed out.

We'd pushed them up two levels and doubled, this should be profitable I thought. I led my trump, and declarer was able to cross-ruff, set up the Spades and make a vulnerable 6♥x+1 for 1860. If I lead (and continue) Diamonds that stops the overtrick, and actually means declarer has to play quite carefully to make it, not drawing trumps but playing a complete cross-ruff.

This was a freak deal, so I didn't feel too bad. I remember a hand at the Scottish Cup Final where his opponents bid up to 6♥ and Les Steel paused before passing it out. I asked if he was considering a sacrifice, but he said no, he was thinking about double, and if the opponents then made it that would mean it was a wild deal and would just be one of those things.

However, our result was not replicated at any other tables. Where our team-mates also had the North-South cards Trish and Christine were allowed to play 5♦, and where Team Rowan sat East-West they either defended 6♣ (off one on a Spade lead and ruff) or played 6♥ down one, presumably on a trump lead. So overall the board was a big loss for our team, thanks to us.

After this hand I was possibly on the tilt, and bid up to a very bad slam. I had the big South hand below, and overbid to 6♦. Here's the hands, I'm withholding the auction. As you can see, dummy was not very helpful:

♠ Q 9 7
♥ J 8 7 6 2
♦ 4
♣ A K T 7

♠ K 8 3 2
♥ K 4 3
♦ A K Q J T 7
♣ -

6♦, had no chance, and went two off. At one point in the auction Anna (North) bid 3NT to play, and delighted afterwards in telling me that it was the only making game contract. She'd bid it, and I'd ignored her and bid on. "Trust your partner" she said.

However, after this, things picked up. We stayed alert in defence and took down a couple of games, then I played an awkward 4♠. I made it via a clever Morton's Fork:

♣ Q 8 6 5
♣ A T 7 4 &dclubs; J 2
♣ K 9 3

I lead a low Club up towards dummy. If West took their ♣A I would have just one Club loser, but if they ducked it (as they did) I could then discard both my losing Clubs in hand on some spare winners in dummy. After the game made Anna instinctively scored it up as off one, because we'd gone down in every other contract, and had to be reminded that I'd actually made this one.

Then for the final hand I again had a go at slam, and this time found a much more suitable dummy:

♠ K 2
♥ K 4 2
♦ J 8 2
♣ A T 9 6 5

♠ A Q 9 7 4 3
♥ A 3
♦ A Q 5
♣ K 4

West lead a Diamond around to my ♦Q, and when Spades split I had 12 top tricks. I now think correct technique is to test Clubs before drawing trumps, so you have enough entries to set up Clubs if they are 4-2 and Spades are 4-1 so you have a trump loser. I didn't do that though, just eagerly drew trumps. However, to finish with a flourish I did still make an overtrick with a mostly deliberate Heart-Club squeeze against West. This was satisfying, even if it did make Anna slightly nervous as dummy wondering why I hadn't claimed yet.

As far as I know the other tables played this hand in 4♠, so that was a gain for Team Rowan.

At the end of the match the news from the other tables was all good, and we had clawed back nearly all of our deficit for a famous 40 point loss. That means the points from the match are split 8-8, a famous draw for Team Rowan!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Scottish Cup Final

I was part of the team at the Glasgow Bridge Centre that hosted the Scottish Cup Final this Sunday. The format was two teams of four competing over four segments each of 16 boards. The match was played behind screens, which I've not experienced before.

The favourites and eventual winners were team SHORT consisting of Brian Short, Dave Walker Les Steel and John Matheson. The runners up were team KANE with Danny Kane, Helen Kane, Cliff Gillis and Alistair MacDonald.

The first section was very low scoring, then after the break SHORT started amassing IMPs and never looked back.They seemed to profit from better defence on a lot of part score boards plus a few game swings due to superior play. Their losses were mostly limited to when team KANE hit the jackpot with an ambitious bid.

This was an interesting board from the 3rd segment:

Closed Room
Kane DSteelMacDonaldMatheson
-1♠ -
1NT-3NT -
4♥-- -
Open Room
WalkerGillisShortKane H
-1♠ -
2♣*-2♦* -
2♥-4♥ -
- -

In the Closed Room East opened 1♠ and West made the disciplined reply of 1NT. East has the points for game so bid 3NT. I thought that might end the auction, as it wouldn't be the first or second time that Kane-MacDonald had played 3NT with a big major fit, but West pulled to 4♥. Les Steel as North lead the ♣4, which in their system is either his 3rd or 5th highest Club (or shortage). Declarer thought for a while, couldn't face going down on trick one, and played the ♣A. When both Spade honours were offside he had to lose three more tricks and go down one.

In the Open Room after the same opening bid West replied 2♣, which for them I think shows one of three things, one of which is weak Hearts, and when East found out it was Hearts he raised to game. This time, playing 4th highest leads, North lead the ♣3. At this point the Closed Room had all finished their match, and along with me, were gathered around a monitor waiting to see what declarer Dave Walker would do. "He ought to get it right" said his team-mate Les Steel "He really ought to get this right.". After a long pause he did get it right, and finessed the ♣Q. He then took a slightly risky line playing for an overtrick which drew disapproving comments from Matheson and Steel, but it worked out fine and making 4♥ was worth 13 IMPs. This gave Team SHORT a 50 IMP lead going into the last segment and virtually sealed the match.

1. Would you finesse the Clubs at trick one?

In the final section there was one soaring highlight for Team KANE, a doubled grand slam!

Closed Room
Kane HSteelGillisMatheson
-2♥- 3♥
-5♣*- 6♥
- - -
Open Room
WalkerMacDonaldShortKane D
x - --

In the Closed Room when the hands were dealt commentator Liz McGowan said on Vugraph "Back with the slams. Kane needs these to produce some action." Iain Sime described the bidding: "3♥ forcing, 4♣ mild slam try". As the cuebidding continued Liz said: "One great Scottish Bridge tradition is to ensure in a slam auction that partner has to make the last guess. That way it's never your fault.". Finally Matheson took the plunge and bid 6♥. East lead the obvious ♦Q and declarer wrapped up 13 tricks. Afterwards, John Matheson said that he had that Board marked as a likely gain for his team, as they'd bid and made a slam which if off two tricks if East finds a Spade lead.

2. Against 6♥, if East leads a low Spade is it clear for West to play the ♠J?

On the other table the auction was shorter. Commentator Paul Gipson immediately picked up on the significance of the 1♠ bid: "Nice try by Danny Kane, more difficult for Short to lead a Spade now." Danny Kane then took a gamble at 6♥, and I was delighted to see MacDonald top him up to seven. I think that whenever partner makes a surprise jump to slam you should always top him up if possible, and although I'd never met Alistair MacDonald before he'd clearly heard of Hamilton's Rule, as I'd like it to be known, and bid an excellent 7♥. At least, excellent as far as the neutral is concerned. It's a precarious contract.

Before the bid Gipson said: "if MacDonald bids 7♥, will Walker double?". When Walker did double, he queried: "Does double ask for a Spade, or show a void?". Short presumably wasn't sure either, so lead a Diamond (same as closed room), and MacDonald nocholantly wrapped up all 13 tricks, for 7♥x= and 13 IMPs. Afterwards, Short and Walker stayed relatively calm.

3. What would you lead after the double?

In the end Team SHORT ran out comfortable winners by 163 IMPs to 93. Congratulations to them, and thanks to the Glasgow Bridge Center for hosting the event.