Sunday, 23 August 2015

Scottish Cup (Plate) - Round One

We were knocked out of the Scottish Cup in the first round by just two IMPs (report here). As consolation we entered the plate.

Anna and I met met with John & Adam at the Glasgow Bridge Centre. Our team-mates had a veritable sheaf of paper with them - their new system. It looked pretty intimidating. Could they remember it all? Could we play a bit better than last time?

Anna had just finished four night shifts in a row and I was also worried she might be a bit slow. But quite the opposite, she got stuck in straight away. At favourable vulnerability Anna overcalled 1NT with:

♠ A T 9 5 3 2 ♥ A 9 7 6 ♦ 7 6 ♣ 8

This ended up going for 300 in 2♠x-2. This was unlucky, as 3NT didn't quite make their way.

Then it was my turn to go a bit overboard.

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

I overcalled 1♠, and when Anna gave minimal support I bid 4♠. The opponents were not slow in doubling, and I was rather anxious when dummy came down and I could see this was going to be bad. The play of the hand was strange, as I was hoping that the trumps didn't split, as although that would mean I went down an extra trick it would mean that they had one less loser in their hypothetical Heart contract.

I finished on 4♠x-2 for -500. It could have been worse, as if East had of underlead the Club Ace I'm not sure what I would have done. I could maybe work out she has the ♣A for her opening bid but my instinct is always to play low and it probably would have been -800.

John & Adam rescued us on the deal, by making 4♥ for +620. 4♥ looks like it can be beaten with a loser in each suit, but in fact it needs perfect defence to do that. "I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have done that" said Anna.

There were two more big swings in the first half, both caused by our opponents (Lucy & Lorna) having a strong preference for playing in 3NT. In the first they eschewed their 6-2 Heart fit and 5-3 Spade fit and played in 3NT. It had nine tricks on top and declarer played very carefully for a tenth. On the other table Adam played in Spades and when Hearts broke 5-0 he suffered a defensive cross ruff and down two. But in very similar circumstances the 3NT preference backfired here:

Game NS
N deal
♠ K 4 3
♥ K Q T 7 5 3
♦ K 7 6 5
♠ 8 5
♥ 9 8 4
♦ T 9 3 2
♣ A K 9 2
♠ Q 6 2
♥ A 2
♦ Q 8 4
♣ J T 8 7 6
♠ A J T 9 7
♥ J 6
♦ A J
♣ Q 5 4 3

South found herself in 3NT. Me and Anna play standard leads, though I'm not totally sure she knows what they are. But she found the textbook ♣A here. We play reverse attitude so I encouraged with the ♣6, while wishing we played standard attitude. I could see that if Anna continued Clubs there would be four Clubs tricks for the defence plus the ♥A. Instead she quite reasonably switched, to a Diamond. Declarer won the ♦J, played a Spade to the King and finessed Spades. At this point she led a Heart. I was East and took my ♥A. A brilliant play, which might not seem significant but was for me, given that I duck almost constantly, often well beyond there's any value in it. It was quite an achievement to take my Ace on the first round. There was logic to it. I figured that if I let declarer win the trick she might have nine tricks already - one Heart, five Spades and three Diamonds (I didn't know the Diamonds were blocked). That non-duck was the highlight of the day. We did then take three more Club tricks for one off.

At the other table Adam and John made a comfortable 4♠+2. At the half-time break we were up 13 IMPs. Sandwiches were provided, but I was full so just had some chocolate from a M & S mini-bucket.

In the second half we played opponents with a strong NT, five card majors and Ekrens 2♦. The one time they opened it we handled it well when Anna doubled and we got to 6♣-2 (duplicated at the other table). My defence got a bit sloppy, and at one point I managed to duck my Ace when declarer clearly had a singleton, then somehow help her to establish that suit anyway, to give a farcical 2♠+2 when we could have beaten the contract.

Another time I had a feeling that 3NT was going to be bad, but felt we had the points so bid it anyway. It went four off, two off on the other table on another lead. But this was the low point, as both me and Anna stretched to bid a thin game and the cards were merciless:

Game NS
E deal
♠ K T
♥ 7 5 2
♦ K Q 4
♣ Q J T 6 2
♠ 4
♥ T 4
♦ J 8 7 6 5 3 2
♣ A 9 5
♠ A Q 9 8 7 2
♥ A 8 6
♦ T 9
♣ K 8
♠ J 6 5 3
♥ K Q J 9 3
♦ A
♣ 7 4 3

After a 1♠ opening I decided to get in the auction with 2♥. Anna counted seven losers and raised me to 4♥. I think with her Spade doubleton she can almost see how the first three tricks are going to go: a Spade lead to the ♠Q, ♠A then a ruff, so should be wary of bidding 4♥. But then I suppose I started it with an awful overcall so take the blame.

Dummy is a very poor fit, with an annoying ♦KQ4 opposite my singleton Ace. I finished down three, but at one point did manage to get to dummy and had dreams of discarding some Clubs for two off, but the 7-2 Diamond break foiled that. On the other table Adam & John pushed to 4♠ with the South hand so it was vulnerable undertricks all round and a heavy loss on the board.

The good news from the second half was that Anna made 5♣x and John a very poor 6NT. I belatedly took some sandwiches and we went to score up. Had we done enough to hang on? Sadly not, and we lost 75-82. Just 7 IMPs, which could have been saved on any of a number of hands. Our Scottish Cup is over. As Anna said to me on the way home "I think you actually made more bodges than me tonight."

Monday, 3 August 2015

European Youth Bridge Championship - Tromsø 2015

This is a spectator's report from kibitzing at the European Youth Bridge Championship in Norway this summer.

Two weeks ago I was watching this tournament on BBO, then one week ago I was on holiday travelling from Oslo to the Northern Cape. On the way I stopped off in Tromsø and watched some of the final round of the U26 and U21 teams.

In the morning I sat with England coaches Bryony Youngs and Alan Shillitoe, who lamented their teams problems in coping with extremely aggressive opposition.


Then I caught up with Scotland coach Liz McGowan. The U16 Scottish team had already finished their games, but the U21 team were in action. They recorded a good result in the first match of the day with a narrow loss to Denmark. I met Ronan Valentine & Liam O'Brien, who were not playing that match, then in came the rest of the team: Jun Nakamaru-Pinder & Stewart Pinkerton along with Suzanna Nesom & Olivia Bailey. We tried to work out how Olivia had managed to make a very tricky 3NT. Then we watched a video with Ronan and Liz being interviewed by the organisers (available here and surprisingly non-embarrassing, they are both pros in front of a camera).

Despite not doing too well in the event the team were in good spirits and seemed to be enjoying the trip. Jun told me the cheapest place for a pint in Tromsø, a steal at just 65 Kroner (£5)!


In the afternoon I watched a live match of Scotland against Italy. I sat behind Ronan Valentine, and it was tense. For all of the first three boards he had big hands, and big pressure.

This was the biggest board of the match:

Love All
W deal
♠ A T 7 2
♥ Q 5
♦ A K 8 7 3
♣ A 4
♠ J 6 3
♥ T 7 6 3
♦ 9 2
♣ T 6 5 2
♠ Q 9 8 5 4
♥ J
♦ Q 6 5
♣ J 9 8 7
♠ K
♥ A K 9 8 4 2
♦ J T 4
♣ K Q 3
- 1♥
- 2♦* - 2♥
- 3♥ - 3NT*
- 4♠* - 5♦*
- 5♠* - 6♦*
- 7♥* - -

The 2♦ response was 2/1, game forcing. Then 2♥ apparently showed six, as North was able to raise with a doubleton. 3NT was a slam try, and 4♠ was asking for keycards in Hearts (they play kickback, where the suit one above trumps is Blackwood). 5♦ showed two keycards without the ♥Q. 5♠ was a follow up ask for Kings, and the 6♦ reply showed either the ♦K or the other two Kings. Here, North knew that South was showing the other two Kings, ♠K and ♣K, so he confidently bid 7♥.

The auction was swiftly done and they were right in sync. The Italian West was a very quick player and as soon as he sensed they were getting to a grand slam he shuffled a Heart to the front of his hand, then instantly lead it. As you can see, with Hearts 4-1 there is an inevitable trump loser and the contract had to go one off. It was a tough break on the Scots, when the other table was only in a small slam.

Overall about one third of the tables were in a grand slam, which I think is good bidding. 7NT is the best contract, but still goes down as the Diamond finesse also fails.

The Scots went on to lose the match, and did not do well in the overall rankings. In fact it's fair to say it was not a classic tournament for Scotland.

In the U21 category this was the final table, with the top six qualifying for the next World Championship (in Italy).

1 Netherlands 218.22
2 Sweden 205.23
3 Israel 189.18
4 Italy 171.98
5 Germany 169.71
6 Latvia 169.32
13 England 118.40
16 Scotland 49.22

The U16s featured a very young Scotland team:

1 Poland 153.05
2 France 148.92
3 Sweden 148.48
4 England 144.41
5 Netherlands 142.75
6 Israel 134.78
11 Scotland 31.09

In the U26 these was no Scottish team, but note that England qualify in 4th:

1 Poland 241.80
2 Sweden 241.54
3 Norway 229.41
4 England 210.64
5 Netherlands 209.15
6 France 204.31

If you want to pick over the full results, they are here.