Tuesday, 23 February 2016

School Pairs Tournament

A couple of weeks ago we had our first Pairs Tournament to determine the top pair in the school (of those that were present). Because we only meet during lunchtime I stretched it over two days and was flexible with who played which boards. I used deals which had already been played at the Buchanan Club and compared each result with the average for pairs sitting in that direction, which meant it didn't matter if only one pair in my tournament played a board.

Of course it was better when several pairs played the same board, and I was pleased to see the kids informally comparing outcomes on the same board. For example:

On both tables North-South went overboard. First Amelie played 2NT-3, then Jack played 3NT-3. Jack felt he had done better than the other declarer, by making more tricks, but I had to explain that he got the same score. When Anna and I played this hand at the Buchanan we sat East-West and got a good score for defeating 3♦x by two tricks.

On the first table Sophia sitting East bid and made an excellent 4♠. When Anna and I played it we sat East-West and also made 4♠. It's actually unbeatable as long as the defence don't find an unlikely Club ruff. How Sophia and Amelie got to 4♠ I don't know, but I imagine there was some competitive bidding. It was certainly competitive at the other table, as South got to 5♥, doubled and redoubled. This went four off, for a massive score of 2200 to Amy and Ewan in defence.

However, I'm pleased to say that enough hands were played that this giant penalty didn't determine the overall score, and it was the pair that made four game contracts (two of them doubled) that came out on top:

After half-term I'll have another go at organising a more formal pairs tournament when everyone is able to play. I think the pupils enjoy the extra pressure, and it forces them to speed up too.

Best hand ever

At my school bridge club last week somebody dealt themselves this hand. My first thought was that she'd rigged the deck, but I don't think that's possible because I shuffled and gave her the pack of cards to deal, which she did while I stood beside her writing something on the board.

What I was writing on the board was point ranges for opening bids. I didn't cover opening 36 point hands. In the end she settled for a 6NT opening bid and played there. This was the full deal and auction:

♠ A K Q
♥ A K Q
♦ A K Q
♣ A K Q 2
♠ 6 4
♥ J 5 4
♦ 7 5 3 2
♣ T 5 4

I was the dummy and did not have the vital ♣J (and my ♥J is useless) and Clubs only produced three tricks, so declarer claimed her twelve top tricks for 6NT=. I like it when they claim early, as it shows they are aware of what is required for the contract and know how many winners they have.

I hope that the pupils will not be expecting another hand like this, as it could take many lifetimes. It's very rare to have above 20 points, as the table below shows (adapted from RP Bridge).

230.1% (1 in 1000)
290.00066% (1 in 150,000)
350.00000009827% (1 in 1 billion)
360.00000000945% (1 in 10 billion)
370.00000000063% (1 in 1600 million)

Since the probabilities fall off so quickly you're in fact more likely to get a hand of 21 points than any hand with more than 21 points. Or to put it another way, more than half of 21+ point hands have exactly 21 points.

And what about that massive 36 point hand? The probability of getting one of those is a staggering 1 in 10 billion. That's more than the number of people on Earth. So the probability of getting a 36 point hand is less than the likelihood of lining up everybody in the World randomly and you happening to be at the front. Or, alternatively, if you deal yourself one hand a second night and day it would take on average about 300 years before you saw one this good. If you deal yourself a more modest thirty hands a day it will take about a million years.

My best ever hand was a balanced 29 count. The bidding went like this:


1: 23+
2: Weak or waiting
3: Showing 29-30 (on the logic that 2NT rebid is 23-24, 3NT rebid 25-26, 4NT rebid 27-28, 5NT rebid 29-30)
4: Actually had about 10 points and six good clubs

7NT made with about 18 top tricks. What's your best ever hand?