Thursday, 21 May 2015

Scottish Cup Round One

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!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Buchanan Congress Pairs 2015

It's congress season and last Saturday Anna and I were at the Buchanan. This is our home club, even though we don't play there that often, and so it was a bit embarrassing when some other members asked us where we usually play.

Last year at the congress we bombed in the qualification, then bounced back to win the consolation final (report here). This year we did our best to repeat that, by again failing to qualify for the main final.

It was a hectic start. I had ambitiously entered a running race at Pollok in the morning, while Anna went to get a big picture framed. We met at the event in separate cars. She made it on time, but I didn't, so Horst demoted us to the sit out table on the top floor. Once we got going things went rather well, give or take the odd mishap. An early highlight came when I discovered that there was tea and coffee outside the playing area, for those who missed the pre-start tea.

I like to bid a slam on the final round (ideally the final board), and got my wish here:


I have the East hand and opened 1♥. South passed and Anna splintered with 4♦ showing Heart support and short Diamonds. We recently agreed that you only splinter with weak hands, or strong hands, or any hands. I couldn't remember which, and thought Anna probably couldn't either. So even though I have an awful holding in Diamonds opposite a shortage (♦KJxx) I decided to press on anyway. I bid RKCB and Anna bid 5NT, showing a void and two keycards. This bit of the system we did remember. For Anna's benefit, it's documented here (apparently we play Exclusion Blackwood too).

Against 6♥ South cashed the ♠A and I was able to draw trumps and quickly claim.

At the end of the qualification event I figured that we had finished on at least 60%, but I must have had too many teas, got too excited and wildly over-estimated, as we only got 53%. This wasn't quite good enough, so we only qualified for the consolation final.

In the break we had an excellent lunch. Anna wrestled with the problem of how many sandwiches she could fit on her plate, both physically and following etiquette. We went for a short walk into Kelvingrove Park and then came back raring to go (but rather rather tired and not concentrating as much) for the consolation final.

The relaxed attitude paid off, and we had five 100% Boards in the session. This one was the most pleasing:


1. What would you open the North hand?

We play a weak NT and are allowed to open on 5422 shape if the doubletons are strong, as they are here. However, I've got the majors and opened 1♥, ready to rebid an awful 2♥ if I had to. This was passed round to West, who overcalled 1NT. East raised to 2NT as she wasn't sure if this showed a normal 1NT overcall or a slightly lighter one in the pass out seat (we play 12-15 here, right Anna?). West liked her Hearts and bid 3NT.

2. What would you lead as North?

I picked out the ♥9, as we play second highest from only small cards. Declarer won this in dummy, and lead a Club to her ♣K and my ♣A. Now I had a bit of a think. I really want to play Spades but it won't work if lead them from the North hand. I've got to get partner in. To make things tough for declarer, I lead my ♦7. Declarer made the very reasonable guess of putting in dummy's ♦J, which Anna sitting South was able to win.

Anna then had a think before emerging with exactly the card I wanted to see, the ♠9. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton were in perfect harmony. She had managed to avoid leading a Heart (the suit I opened) and a Diamond (the suit I switched too) and found a Spade, and by leading the ♠9 declarer is pickled.

We ended up with three Spade tricks plus a few more, for 3NT-3, and a top. Surprisingly, despite having 25 points and all suits stopped only three tables in our event were in 3NT (and none at all in the main event final). Most played in Clubs.

On the very next board we also got 100%, as Anna loves a double fit:


East opened 1♦ and Anna sitting South passed. At favourable vulnerability she could have made a 3♣ weak jump overcall but didn't fancy it (or forgot about it). West introduced Spades and I overcalled 2♥. When it got round to me again I decided to show my Club suit, which hit the jackpot for Anna and she competed to 5♥, doubled.

East lead the ♦A then switched to a Spade. I drew trumps and played a Club. East won and had a dilemma. Should she try and cash a Diamond or a Spade? She wrongly chose to play a Diamond, which I could ruff and win all the Clubs to make 5♥x=. As 4♠ was making on every table it was played we would have got a good score even for one down.

Those were two great results. Would I get carried away? Yes indeed. A couple of boards later I had this marginal hand. Vulnerable against not, with three passes to me:

3. Would you open this? ♠A ♥J75 ♦T82 ♣KQJ632

The Rule of Fifteen says you should only open fourth in hand when your points plus number of Spades is 15 or more. This hand has 11 points and one Spade, so is a definite pass. The thinking is that the points are evenly split and since you don't have Spades the opposition do, so opening the bidding just helps them to a Spade part score. And so it proved. I recklessly opened 1♣, and after a competitive auction our opponents bid and made 3♠ for -140 and 30%. Passing the hand out would have got 60%.

Later Anna had this one, with both sides vulnerable and also fourth in hand:

4. Would you open this? ♠KQ32 ♥52 ♦8742 ♣AJ9

This one's got only 10 points, but four spades. Anna followed the rule and passed it out. This got us 55%, beating the one pair who did open and ended up overboard in 3♠-1, which shows another danger of opening light.

As the afternoon turned into evening we fell into a nice groove. It was nice and warm upstairs and a packet of Fruit Pastilles melted in my pocket. The only hiccup came when twice we were undone by the Multi 2♦. That's one to work on. In the end we finished on a decent 57.9%, which was good enough for 5th.

The consolation final winners were Iain Taylor & Andrew Symons with 61%.

In the main final the top three were:

1 Iain MacIntyre & Bobby Moore 61.67%
2 Ronald Gaffin & John Di Mambro 60.32%
3 Norman McGeagh & John Faben 59.04%

Full results from the consolation final here and main final here.