Last year I watched the final of the Scottish Cup (read my report here). As I watched it I thought to myself: this looks easy, Anna and I could win this. So this year for the first time we were part of a four man team, along with John Faben and Adam Dickinson.
In the first round we drew the very tough team of Yvonne Wiseman & Alan Goodman with Anne Symons & Miro Dragic. I thought we were well out of depth but John and Adam were on good form. Here's an example of where they helped us out:
I opened the North hand 3♣. Me and Anna sometimes open a weak three in Clubs with only six cards (because we can't open it 2♣), and I especially like doing it when you have Diamonds too. It's very pre-emptive. This time it was so effective that everyone else passed. "You pre-empted me" said Anna as she put down dummy. In my eyes she has a clear 3♠ bid. Even though we play this as forcing there's really no risk as she has such good Club support that the worst that can happen is we play 4♣.
East lead a Diamond. Oh well I thought, let's try and make 3♣. West won the ♦A and returned a Spade to get a ruff, then West cashed the ♥K and went into a think. At this point I should mention that this was a 32 Board match in Edinburgh, and Anna and I had driven through from Glasgow and were anxious not to finish too late. I decided not to mess around and claimed the remaining tricks. "Unless there's a ruff", I added. Turns out there was a ruff. West showed me the ♦J that he was planning on leading and I had to concede -1. That's the first time I've ever made a bad claim. The one good news about the ruff is that it means 4♠ is beatable.
And what of the other table? They took a very different view. North passed, and John sitting East opened a weak 2♥. South overcalled 2♠ and Adam sitting West bid an immediate 6♥, apparently following the logic that he was prepared to bid 6♥ over 5♠ so he might as well bid it now. It's a perfect fit and a 17 point slam for 6♥=. Well played guys and that was 14 IMPs in.
Here's an example where both Anna and I were shy in the bidding. You can assign the blame for this disaster:
West opened 1♠ and I had a chance to overcall. We play weak jump overcalls but I decided to be prudent and pass with my rubbish Heart suit. East bid an excellent 3♠ showing a weak hand, and now Anna has a chance to make a takeout double. West bid 4♠ and we both passed again so that was that. They made 4♠= whereas on the other table East-West were pushed in to 5♠x-1. Anna and I should have found 5♥ (and actually 6♥ makes too).
Towards the end of the first half Anna got very tired. Luckily she didn't have too many decisions to make in this time. Once when she was dummy she paused before putting her dummy down, because she couldn't remember what the trump suit was. "Four Hearts" I announced to the table, and Anna was able to put her suits down in the right order.
At half time we were still in it, and just 12 IMPs down. For refreshments Miro had some sandwiches and more importantly two packets of Jaffa cakes. Anna and I had two cups of tea each, but I had insufficient change so didn't pay for them all.
For the second half we swapped tables and Anna and I played against Anne Symmons and Miro Dragic.
Our opponents sat North-South. In this hand they avoided the doomed 3NT and bid to the good spot of 5♣. The reason I'm including this hand is because it features my feeble attempt at a false card. Anne drew trumps by leading a Club from the South hand towards dummy, and I smoothly dropped the ♣Q hoping this would convince her to win the ♣K in dummy then finesse back into my ♣T. This didn't work and declarer drew trumps and even got a discard on the Spades for 5♣+1. If I had of done the normal thing and played the ♣T that might have worked better, but I expect she would still have made it. On the other table John & Adam did well to find 4♠ which also made with an overtrick.
My final featured hand is the most embarrassing of the night, but I'm going to include it anyway.
I opened an 11 point 1NT (was I on the tilt already?) and Anna raised to 3NT with a big 16 point hand. There was a 10 second pause before South passed. What is there to think about after 1NT-3NT? The only thing I could think of was that she might have been considering a double, as some people play that double of 3NT asks for a Spade lead. North did indeed lead the ♠J, and the defence were able to set up Spades, so when I took the doomed Club finesse the contract went down. I had a niggling feeling that North had made the Spade lead because of his partner's pause before passing out 3NT. I couldn't let it go and asked if they play that double asked for a Spade lead. It was a bit awkward until it was pointed out that the reason that South had paused 10 seconds before passing out 1NT-3NT was because the Stop card was on the table. After that I felt a bit foolish. Apologies again to our opponents (and Anna who thought I was an idiot).
The other reason to mention the hand is that it featured one of John & Adam's only blunders, when their defence let through 3NT (despite North also leading a Spade).
As it rolled past 11pm Anna and I kept it together well and bid a few good part scores. But was it enough? Unfortunately not. In the end we fell agonisingly short, winning the second half but losing the 32 Board match by 89 - 87 IMPs. Looking at the scorecard now there is a general pattern. We gained game swings when Adam & John made a good game that was beaten at our table, and lost game swings when Anna & I made a bodge or were too meek.
Congratulations to Yvonne, Alan, Anne and Miro. In the next round they will crush Iain Sime's team and go on to win the Scottish Cup!