Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Matchpoint warm up

In preparation for attempting to qualify in the National Pairs next week, Phil and I played the match point evening at the Buchanan.

Things started very well, when I doubled a Blackwood response of 5♦ leading Phil to find a winning Diamond lead against 6♣ which let us take the first two tricks and defeat a slam that would normally make. A pleasing instance of partnership co-operation in defence. Then two boards later we were the only table to bid and make 7♥ after a very unconvincing auction. But these few highs were wiped out by all the little boards that make the difference in match points. It was a high standard, much higher than us, and after those initial highs we plummeted to finish bottom with 38.5%.

As bridge players like to do, I have rationalised our bad score into boards where the opponents were particularly successful against us, and boards where I had to admit we brought it on ourselves. In the first category were a couple where they bid a game (e.g. 3♣-5♣), we sat there and defended accurately (taking the maximum possible of two tricks), but got a bottom as other tables were not in the same making game. Nothing you can do about that.

Another example is the deal below, where our opponents were the only ones to bid 4♠, after Phil opened the South hand with a Weak Two.


It's probably an overbid by East with his Hearts sitting badly, but worked well here with the Club fit and ten tricks were easy.

That one I expected to be a bad score, ,ore frustrating was the board below. I took a bit of a risk and thought it had paid of handsomely with a good result, until I looked at the Bridgemate and saw we'd got another bottom score.


After Phil opened the South hand 1♦, I responded 1♠, reasoning that with my Diamond fit we'd always end up somewhere good. This turned out to be the case as Phil rebid 2♦, and made it for +90. But every other table had East-West going down one in 4♥, for +100 to East-West. It's a cruel game.

Last time Phil and I played together (see here) it was aggregate, and we thought afterwards that we should have bid a few more thin games. Six months later playing match points, we adopted that strategy, and played some very dicey contracts, that all went down. The deal below was the height of our folly:


The auction is fine up to 2♠, but then I should really pass. We might have a game, but it's very unlikely, and 2♠ could well be high enough, if partner has only a doubleton Spade and weak hand (as here). But I chose to invite anyway. And Phil, perhaps overestimating my playing ability, chose to accept with his 5 point hand and tried 3NT based on his long Clubs. But we couldn't play 3NT with 20 points between us so settled in 4♠. The one advantage of bad bidding is that it's hard to defend, and we managed nine tricks, but would much rather have had them in 2♠+1 than 4♠-1.

We were playing a simple Acol system with three Weak Twos, and I think it worked well. The only confusion was in defence, when we weren't sure what counted as enough to encourage, and I ended up eagerly continuing a suit that Phil didn't really want. Of course we'll fix all that up though and come storming back for the National Pairs.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Aggregate at St Andrew

Having not played for a while I've a few games coming up. Tonight was a practice match with John Faben at St Andrew, practice for him as he has a match in the National League tonight. We were therefore playing the system that he'll be using, which was unfamiliar to both of us. 5 card majors, 14-16 NT and 2/1 game forcing, and plenty of other things I highlighted on the Convention Card (Ghestem, Drury, Bergen Raises, DONT).

As tends to always happen, not much of it came up, but I was ready when it did. On the third board I had a two-suited hand, and was determined to get the right bid. Playing Ghestem you can bid all the different two suiters. Here's the options when the opponents have opened 1♣:

2NTThe lower two remaining suits (Diamonds and Hearts)
A cuebid (2♣) The lowest and highest remaining suits (Diamonds and Spades)
A jump in s minor (2♦) The other two suits (Hearts and Spades)

I was dealt Diamonds and Spades. South had just asked me a friendly question, but I had to say "hold on" and think for a bit about my bid first, before correctly choosing 2♣. I was delighted when John alerted this as Diamonds and Spades. This was the full deal:


John then raised me to 3♦, but we were outbid and the opponents stopped in a good spot of 4♣, making with an overtrick. I might have tried 3NT as North, which fails when the Clubs don't split.

There were only three tables at the event, mostly made up of Raymond's and students from his class. It was a friendly atmosphere and no one was too worried about the scores. But one pair afterwards were delighted when they bid and made a slam no one else did. This was our auction to 6♠:


John opened 1♠ and a replied 2NT with a game forcing raise in Spades. After that the bidding was mostly natural, as we trundled towards 6♠ (I tried to stop in 4♠ but John kept going). It was a good contract, but doomed when the defence accurately found the Diamond singleton lead and return. In aggregate scoring this was expensive, 6♠-1 when the other tables were making 6♠ or 4♠.

But never mind the points, my personal highlight was when I did something clever when against a 1NT contract. As a defender I was cashing my long Clubs and had enough to get the defence up to six tricks, leaving one card left for everybody. I was fairly sure that my partner had winners in both the Majors, but was worried that when he got down to the final card he wouldn't know which winner to keep. So rather than cashing my last Club winner (and giving John a long pause and awkward discard) I played a Heart across to partner at Trick 12, and John was able to cash the last two tricks. I've thought of doing this before but not been bold enough to do it.

Overall it was a fun night at the Club, and I hope John is now ready for the National League tonight!