Sunday, 16 April 2017

Don't alert any doubles in Scotland

In Scotland, no doubles or redoubles are alertable. This, I suppose, is the SBU solution to how to cope with the myriad meanings of doubles that people play. It seems reasonable enough, but caused us to come unstuck last week. It was Matchpoint Monday at the Buchanan Bridge Club, playing with Phil Moon.


I was not too surprised to be doubled in 3♠, as we had clearly been pushed up a level in a competitive auction. But then North revealed that South's original double (of 1♠) had in fact been penalties. If we'd have known this we certainly wouldn't have bid up to 3♠, but, as they pointed out, in Scotland no doubles or redoubles are alertable. I suggested that perhaps they could have let us know about this before the start of the round, and North apologised and offered to call the Director. I said no, and grimly played the hand. At least I knew where the trumps were, and was delighted to finesse the spades;7 on the first round. It was still off for -500 and 16%.

The reason I think that North-South should let us know about this unusual double before the start of the round as otherwise it means you have to ask about every single double, just in case it's something odd, which gets a bit silly. Indeed, North-South said themselves that they play all doubles as penalties "except in obvious situations", though clearly they have a different for obvious than me!

After this mishap, things went rather well for us. For example, consider the hand below.


I had the East cards and was poised to bid a reckless 2♠ if 2♥ was passed out to me. Then when it came round to me in 4♥ I considered a bold 4♠ sacrifice. If partner had a few good cards, surely I could scrape together seven tricks for three off doubled and a good score at the vulnerability? I bottled it though and passed. As it is, we were lucky and declarer misplayed the hand for 4♥-1 to give us 72% (just losing out to those who got to defend 3NT).

In fact, with a very suitable dummy I might make eight tricks in 4♠x, but going two off or three off would have both resulted in a score of 56%, so perhaps I should have done it.

Our roll of good fortune kept up until the last round. Then in the last three boards we threw it away as I misdefended, we went off an extra trick in game, then I arranged a score of 0% on this deal:


I was North and opened 1♣ (rather than 1♦ giving a 2♣ rebid) and when Phil replied 1♥ I settled for 2♣. Phil now jumped to 3♥, which some might play as forcing, but we were on the same wavelength as I took it as invitational. But rather than make a disciplined pass I made a very poor bid of 3NT. Phil trusted me far too much and passed this - with his long Hearts he should maybe bid 4♥ as he knows I won't have many entries to his hand in 3NT.

In 3NT I got the expected Spade lead. I was hoping for a dream dummy, with a few clubs (maybe even the Queen) and a couple of quick tricks. I didn't get it though. With the very favourable Club layout I could in fact have taken seven or eight tricks, but I didn't play for it, and my bidding matched my play and I went off four. Holding it to two off would have still only got us 26%, whereas 3♥ might make or go off one for a good score on a misfit deal.

We finished on 55%, coming 12th out of 52 pairs. Without the last three boards we would have won the event, but then if you take away your worst three boards you're always going to do a lot better.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Expert Error

I subscribe to Mr Bridge magazine. It comes in the post once a month and is a fun mix of bridge quizzes, stories, and adverts for cruises. One new column is Sally's Slam Clinic, where English expert Sally Brock diagnoses what went wrong with slam bidding. This month, I decided to send her one:

The question I asked Sally was, could North-South have got to slam? Or rather, in the style of most of the letters that are written to Mr Bridge, I asked could my partner have done more?.

As for the bidding, Sally said that South must have slam ambitions to be bidding both minors like that, else he would have signed off in 3NT. So North should recognise that, and having 18 points compared to a minimum of 15, should bid on. She suggested North bid 4♣ over 3♦ (or perhaps 3♠, which I didn't understand). Then the partnership can get to 6♣.

As for the play, Sally said that actually 6♣ isn't a great contract. After the losing Diamond finesse you have three options:

  • A Heart finesse (which works, and is what Anna did when playing 3NT+3)
  • Drawing two rounds of trumps only then playing Diamonds, hoping the hand with the last trump can't ruff or they are 3-3 (which fails)
  • A Heart-Diamond squeeze, hoping that one defender has both four Diamonds and the ♥K (which fails)

Since only one of the three options works, Sally said that actually we were lucky to avoid 6♣!

Beginner Blunder

I haven't played any competitive bridge for the last few months, so instead here's a hand where I could have done better.

The deal is taken from a hand taken from a beginner's class in Norwich, which was reproduced and given to me as declarer. It was setup so that if declarer gets it right they always make it. It ought to have been easy - but I bodged it.

No one vul
S deal
♠ Q J 3 2
♥ x
♦ K J x x
♣ Q x x x
♠ x x x
♥ Q T x x x
♦ x
♣ K x x x
♠ x
♥ K J x x
♦ Q T x x x x
♣ A J
♠ A K T 9 8
♥ A x x
♦ A x
♣ x x x

I was South. We quickly got to 4♠ and after some thought, West lead a Diamond. There are clearly ten tricks (five trumps, three Hearts, two Diamonds), it's just a case of taking them all.

The whole point of the hand, I realised afterwards, is to be wary of the singleton Diamond and draw trumps before playing Diamonds. To do this, while also getting the two Heart ruffs, you have to return to hand after each ruff with a trump. So, after winning the initial Heart in hand, the sequence might be: ♥A, Heart ruff, trump back to hand, Heart ruff, trump back to hand, draw trumps and claim.

I didn't do that though. After the first Heart ruff I drew two rounds of trumps, ending in hand, and lead up to the ♦K. So I have been a bit careful, and was hoping the person with a singleton Diamond was out of trumps. He wasn't, but because I was leading up to the ♦K (rather than cashing it) I still had ten winners available if they couldn't take three Clubs, which indeed they couldn't.

So I made 4♠=, but missed the point of the hand. The notes said "remember, trumps can be used as transport between the hands too." It's a tough game.