Saturday, 25 April 2015

Party at St Andrews

High times at St Andrews Bridge Club in Glasgow last Friday at the annual club party. We missed the sandwiches but arrived in time for the bridge.

Here's one where I had a tricky decision, and steered my way out of it with 0% of the Matchpoints.


I have the massive North hand, 21 points. I'm ready to open 2♣ when Anna opens the bidding with a weak NT. I have a few options but decided to delicately start with Stayman. When Anna denied a Major I showed my Clubs. I thought this was probably forcing, but wasn't sure, so decided to find out, by bidding it. Anna passed. 3♣+4 was not a good score. I thought I kept a poker face as I thanked Anna for the dummy and claimed at trick one, but she informed me afterwards that I looked a bit upset.

1. So is 3♣ forcing?

Our opponents at the table thought not. They would transfer to Clubs (via 2♠) then bid Spades. But for the record Anna and I have now decided that Bidding Stayman then bidding at the three level is forcing. Also for the record, we decided two other points of system:

  • Bidding Stayman and getting a positive response you bid the other Major to set trumps (e.g. 1NT-2♣; 2♥-2♠), so a direct 4NT (e.g. 1NT-2♣; 2♥-4NT) is quantitative not Blackwood..
  • After 1NT-3♣ which is strong opener bids: 3NT - weak doubleton in Clubs, 3♥/3♠ - natural with 5 card major, anything else - cuebid agreeing Clubs (e.g. 1NT-3♣; 3♦)
After this I had a couple more 20 point hands. I've never opened a 20 point hand at the one level before, and now I did it twice:

2. What would you open these hands?

♠8 ♥AQJ3 ♦AQ98 ♣AK52

♠AJ8532 ♥AK ♦AQ3 ♣Q5

On the first I opened 1♣ (and ended in a doomed 3NT), on the second I opened 1♠ (and ended in 2♠=).

Apart from this excitement we mostly had very poor hands. Anna only got to play two all night. Here's one where we defended against Norman and John. I did two foolish things and one clever thing (not a bad ratio).


East opened a weak NT and West transferred. I decided to get active and doubled, for the lead. This was a bit risky, and I got worried when East passed really quickly. He would have bid 2♠ with three card support, but also could have redoubled to play. That could have been embarrassing, but hopefully Anna could have saved me by bidding Diamonds. As it was we defended 3NT, and following my double, Anna lead a Heart. Then I did my second foolish thing, and covered the ♥J with my ♥K, giving declarer an extra Heart trick. But now for my one clever thing - when declarer lead the ♠J I ducked with my doubleton King. Declarer finessed again and now I was able to win my ♠K, and now declarer can't get to dummy. As it is, he made 9 tricks anyway (three Spades, four Hearts, one Club and one Diamond) and so we only got 36%.

At the end of the night me and Anna crept to 50.9%. Standout winners were Trish & John Matheson (North-South) and Kerry McGee & John Gorton (East-West).

Sunday, 19 April 2015

New Melville Bridge Congress 2015

Despite living in Glasgow I've become something of a regular at this Edinburgh Congress. In 2013 me and Anna played together and thanks to a generous Novices handicap we finished 3rd overall (read my blog report here). Then in 2014 Anna was working a night shift so I paired up with John Faben and we handicapped ourselves by playing a ridiculous Culbertson system (report here).

This year I was back with Anna, and we were well prepared. For the first time that I can remember Anna agreed to look at a couple of practice hands in advance, so for any auction that required a 1NT response we were more ready than ever. We were also well prepared in arriving early, to enjoy a relaxing tea in the New Melville. The club has great facilities and was also totally full, with 58 pairs competing for the Pairs Trophy.

I started well with a series of Passes, which is a bid I often find difficult. When I finally got a good hand I showed admirable restraint:


I have the 17-point 3-loser East hand. Anna opened 1♥, and I replied 1♠. She rebid 2♥, and I was still dreaming big. I tried 3♦, which is game forcing. Anna showed her minimum with long Hearts by jumping to 4♥. At this point I still expect we have a slam, as all it needs is Anna to have a doubleton honour in one of my suits. However, I figure it will be too hard to find so ruefully pass out 4♥, and put down my monster dummy with a trump-void. What a waste. North leads a Spade and Anna soon collects 4♥+1 for 64%.

And on the other tables? You can see that 6♠ or even 6♦ make, via a lucky ruffing finesse in Hearts. However the one pair in 6♠ went down, and the several pairs in 6NT also obviously failed.

And how about John Faben & Martin Stephens? Their auction was the same as ours until East's final Pass, where John instead bid Blackwood and got a 5♠ reply. He thought about passing that but bid 6♥, which could make on a favourable lead but went down when the defence cashed their Aces.

1. Would you have bid on over 4♥?

After that excitement things settled down again. On one hand an opponent opened the bidding, and Anna started making faces to me. Finally I realised that she was gesturing towards my cup of tea. I passed it over, just as my right hand opponent invited game. Anna sipped the tea, decided she didn't like it and passed it back to me, while the opponent's bid on. We took them down two, then Anna informed me that the tea was stewed.

Then we fell away a bit. I had two big bodges. Once I forgot to cash a winner in defence, allowing it to disappear and give an overtrick. Then I played an easy 2♥ contract and was thinking to myself how we should have been in game. But I had a Diamond suit of ♦6542. I wasn't too worried about it but then found myself with no trumps left in dummy and the opponents cashing Diamonds.

So going into the last few boards we needed a bit of luck. On our last board of the day I had a 6-5 and came alive:


East opened a weak NT. Anna sitting South could have overcalled 2♦, which for us shows a six card Major, and 8-15.

2. Would you have bid as South?

Anna went for a quick pass, and West bid 3NT. I decided with it being the final hand I should push the boat out, and so I pulled out a 4♠ bid.

3. Would you have bid as North?

I figured worst case I would lose three Spades, one Heart one Diamond and one Club, and when Anna turned up with ♠Q I lost only five tricks for 4♠x-2. Even though they can comfortably make 3NT my sacrifice only got 36% of the Matchpoints. This is because lots of East-West pairs were in 5♦-1 (which supposedly can be made but nobody did). And what of John and Martin? They played 6♦-2.

At the end of the day me and Anna finished on 54.9%, good enough for 12th out of 58 pairs. Way out in front with 64% were Archie Leith and Diana Drysdale. Unfortunately, since we didn't win Anna didn't let me go to the zoo so we just drove back to Glasgow.