Saturday, 10 June 2017

Matchpoint Wednesday (unfortunately)

I played with Norman in the Matchpoint Wednesday tournament at the Buchanan this week. It's not part of the Winter Pairs, as we're about as far from winter as you can get, but it's still a club-wide matchpoints competition. 

 We finished third, with a score of about 62%, beaten comfortably by John Di Mambro and Douglas Mitchell, on 65%. Our card would have been much better at aggregate, as we had an 1100 penalty on a board where most pairs failed to bid game, and bid two making vulnerable slams, but that's not how you win at matchpoints... 

 I had a chance to make up most of the difference on this board: 

NS played in 3♠, as you might expect, and Norman led the ♥8. Declarer won in hand immediately set about drawing trumps, with a ♠ to the J, and I returned the ♦Q. I actually thought about my return for a few seconds, knowing that I wanted to somehow let Norman know that I could ruff a ♣, but eventually concluding it was too dangerous to return a low ♦, in case declarer had KTx (which was the case). However, what didn't occur to me until too late is that I can return the ♦J. If this is allowed to hold, I play the ♦2 next, and hopefully Norman can figure out something strange is going on in ♦s, and find the ♣ ruff now. It's maybe not quite so clear if declarer does cover the jack, but I think it gives the best chance. 

 Here's the board where we bid a slam that only three other pairs managed to get to: 

Norman opened 1♣ and rebid 2NT over my 1♠ response. At this point, I pretty much just bid 6♣ - I know we have a 9 card fit (we only open 1♣ with 2 if we're exactly 4432, so he would have supported spades if he didn't have 3♣s), and it's hard to imagine a 19 point hand that doesn't have pretty good play (or how I'm going to find out when Norman has such a hand). In practice, I messed around bidding checkback, and then realised that we play 4♣ over 3♥ as a cue agreeing ♥s, so blasted 6♣. I think I could have bid 4♣ over 2NT as some sort of slam try, but I don't think I was going to stop, so I should probably have just jumped to the small slam immediately.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Counting Bridge Auctions

I wrote a bridge-related thing which I posted on my main website, as it's mostly maths-related, but it might be of interest to people who read this blog and don't know about that one (ie, Danny), so I'm linking to it here.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Bridge in Canada

I'm in Prince Edward Island (or "the island", as the folks around here refer to it) to visit Jessica's mum for Christmas. We had the extended family for the couple of days either side - a total of 14 people, with the requisite amount of seafood chowder, quiche and roast turkey. All quite an undertaking. 

On the day we arrived, I had a quick check to see if there were any nearby bridge clubs, and discovered that there was a game with a guaranteed partner at the extremely nearby Haviland club - just a few minutes walk through the snow, and right next to the sea. 

Everyone was very welcoming, and inquired what I was doing on the island. I had a nice game with Ray Malone, who sometimes does some teaching at the club as well, and we tried out a fairly basic 2/1 system. 

Looking at the website, we appear to have finished third, with 58%. As far as I can tell, that is comparing East/West percentages with North/South percentages and I don't remember there being an arrow switch, but as Paul pointed out when I visited Chennai, third is probably an appropriate place to finish as a first-time visitor. The results are here: 

We would have finished in a comfortable first place had I not forgotten to duck the second spade on the board below. For some reason I became convinced the suit was 4-4 when North returned the 2, but failed to take into account that if they were 4-4, I could afford to duck a second round.... 
The next board where I failed to make a game was a little more interesting, although looking at it again, I think I just overthought things, and it should be fairly simple. 

How do you play 4 spades as East after the defence take the first two tricks with a heart to the Ace and a ruff, and play a club?

The correct line, I think, is to simply cross to the ace of diamonds and take a spade finesse. I was concerned that by doing this I would cut myself off from the heart winner in dummy, so I played a low spade immediately, successfully managing to find the only way to fail on the actual layout, which was Kx with North. If the spade finesse loses, you're still ok as long as South doesn't have another spade to return, as now you can unblock the hearts and draw the last trump by crossing to dummy. If the spade finesse wins, of course, you don't need the second heart winner. 

Anyway, it was a fun afternoon, and a very picturesque setting: 

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year from Canada!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Winter Pairs 1

It's September again, and that means the club's premier pairs competition, the Winter Pairs, has started. Norman and I got off to an enormous start, with a score of 68.3%. John Di Mambro and Douglas Mitchell got an almost-as-enormous 66.23% to finish in second place, so the race is well and truly on. The format is that your top 4 scores out of 7 evenings count, so another couple of really big scores will be necessary if we want to win, but we've certainly given ourselves the best chance. 

We only got a below average score on 4 boards out of 24. Here's one of them: 

I played in 3NT. I won the first heart trick, hoping the suit might be blocked (it is), and ran the club queen. When this won, I could see 10 tricks for the taking. I cashed everything before taking a diamond finesse - confident that South would not have bared the diamond K, and was held to 10 when it lost. I'm not quite sure how three people managed to make 11 tricks even after getting a heart lead - maybe winning the lead and taking a diamond finesse immediately? Perhaps it's tough for South to cash two hearts on that line when they can see that that sets up a heart trick for declarer. 

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Buchanan Congress Pairs, plus more

This month was the Buchanan Congress. I've had some success in the Congress over the past few years, winning the Pairs with Norman in 2014, and finishing second in both the pairs and (I think) the men's teams last year. This year was not so good. 

I played in the pairs with Danny. He has a good account of it here. He charitably missed out the hand below: 

I played in 3NT as West (I don't quite recall the auction, but I suspect I responded 1NT to Danny's 1♥ opening, and then accepted his invite). 

North led the ♠6, and I won this on the table, and counted 11 tricks, 4♦s, 5♣s and 2♠s. For some reason, I had completely neglected the existence of the ♦K... 

I cashed the ♠K and the ♣A, and then claimed, stating that I would make 4♦s and 5♣s. South correctly pointed out that, erm, no, I didn't actually have 4♦s, and we immediately called the director. Given that I'd set up the defences' ♠ suit for them, and that they had the top three ♥s to cash, we put the score in as down 3, and got on with the next board as the director went away to make a ruling. 

I'm not quite sure what happened in the end, but the director spoke to us after the session, and told us she was planning to rule the contract to 3NT making! Looking at all 4 hands, I think this is (astoundingly) probably correct. There's just no way for the defence to get more than 4 tricks, both the major suits are blocked, and the ♦T is dropping on the first round, so there's no way to get that suit wrong.

I absolutely agree that when a declarer has made a claim as ridiculous as this, you should be as harsh as possible in determining what a "reasonable" line of play is. but as long as I pitch a ♥ and not a minor suit winner when South cashes his (only) ♠ trick, the contract is there for the taking. 

I haven't actually checked what happened with the ruling - according to the results it's still down 3, so maybe the opposition objected to this ruling - given that it would take us from joint 5th up to 4th place in the consolation final, I wasn't inclined to argue. 


This Wednesday it was a standard aggregate night at the Buchanan, and I played with Norman as usual. We finished third East/West, with John Donaldson and Jimmy Jordan winning. This was probably the most interesting hand of the night:

Norman opened the West hand 2♣, and after I showed a double negative, we were able to settle in 4♥, for an excellent score. I think both the play and the bidding are interesting. First, do you open the West hand 2♣? I'm generally convinced by the argument that with a 2 suiter you just open one of the suits, but I think this hand is just too strong. Here's a hand where you're a big favourite to make game:

♠xxxx ♥xx ♦xxx ♣xxxx

And here's another where slam is nearly laydown:

♠xx ♥QJxxx ♦xxx ♣xxx

Is partner supposed to bid with either of these hands? Given that in both cases you have a fairly big major suit fit, can you rely on the opponents to come back in on either of these hands? I think the answer to both is no, and I'm happy with Norman's decision here.

Now, assuming you've navigated the bidding and are playing in 4♥, what's your plan? You can be pretty confident of 5 tricks outside of ♥s, which leaves you needing 5 tricks in ♥s. How do you go about getting them? On the lead of the ♦2, I was optimistic of cashing 4♦ tricks, but when N ruffed the fourth with the ♥9, that was also good enough for me - as the trumps are now 2-2 I can now basically just draw trumps while ruffing two spades in dummy. I suspect after three rounds of ♦s stood up I should have started cross ruffing things immediately, but it all worked out.

Next weekend is the YCBA congress in Harrogate. I'm playing with Martin Stephens, Frazer Morgan and Peter Stephens (over the course of the three days). Phi Morrison is also there, and has helpfully organised all our accommodation, but isn't actually playing in any of our teams. On that note - congratulations to Phil, Frazer, Phil and Alex for winning the right to represent Scotland in the Chairman's Cup in Sweden.

Friday, 6 May 2016

The second best hand I've ever held

Haven't posted anything in a while. 

In the meantime, I won a silver prize at the National Men's teams (playing with Jun, Adam and Paul - slightly awkward winning a silver prize with two recent Camrose players in our team, but these things happen). I won a silver prize playing with Jun at the Melville Congress. Finished second in the club's pairs championship (congratulations to Christine and Ian, who led it from the start), and Hillhead have managed, for the first time (I'm told) to retain our place in the first division of the West District League. Unfortunately, Merchiston didn't quite manage to do the same, and we were relegated in the East District League. 

Despite all that bridge, the hand I'm going to post is one I was dealt playing casual bridge at Martin Stephen's house last week. I was dealt the South hand below, and Becky opened 1 heart on my right... what's your plan? 

Monday, 23 November 2015

National League weekend 2

The second weekend of the National League was this weekend. Full results are available here. Congratulations to the team of Mike Ash, Alex Adamson, Finlay Marshall, Arend Bayer and Patrick Home, who won the division. They went in as favourites (and in fact would only narrowly have missed out on automatically being in the first division), and won out in the end. Congratulations also to the Burn team, who will get to play in the First Division next season. Also well done to Brian Short, Alan Goodman, Sam Punch and Stephen Peterkin, who won the first division with over a match to spare (Derek Saunders also played in that team, but I think he only played the Saturday of the second weekend, so hadn't played enough boards to qualify for the Camrose). Phil S and Frazer will be the third pair in the Camrose team for the first weekend, with Alex and Phil M as their reserves.

We did a lot better in the second weekend than we did in the first, but had left ourselves with just too much to do to catch the teams in front. Even beating the Burn team 15-5 on Saturday didn't do enough to close the gap when we narrowly lost a couple of matches in the afternoon. We had the best score in the second weekend, narrowly ahead of Ferguson and Adamson. Here's a full table with scores from both weekends (since the version on the national league website requires you to do some arithmetic). 

CaptainFirst Weekend ScoreSecond Weekend ScoreTotal Score


The most exciting hand of the weekend was the very first board of the very first set (although we didn't play it first):

Adam opened the North hand 1S. By agreement we open most 7 loser 8 counts, and he has a 5 loser 7 count, so this isn't horribly off system (he does have ways of showing a longer minor in most auctions). East decided not to bid, and after a bit of thought, I bid 3NT. I wasn't sure whether we had any explicit agreement about 3NT, but it pretty much has to show this sort of hand. Adam asked me what my minor was with 4C, and when he jumped to 6, I figured that AKQJ9754 was almost certainly a better trump suit than whatever he had in mind, and corrected. East wasn't kind enough ot make a Lightner double, so I rolled in an easy 940. Note that you can make 7 of either minor, but only if you arrange to play it from the short hand to avoid the ruff. 

The auction went slightly differently at the other table: 

Having right-sided the contract, there was no lead that could avoid a couple of overtricks in this contract, and we chalked up 18 IMPs for 940+850... Note that 13 tricks in hearts are cold if played by East, but West can only make 12. 

We spent a few minutes in the pub wondering if you could construct a hand where each player can make exactly one grand slam, before realising that we pretty much had a template for one here - swap a few of North's spades with a few of East's diamonds, and West is cold for 13 tricks in spades, whereas East can only make 12. Each player can make exactly one grand slam. 


I've enjoyed playing the National League this year, and will definitely be looking to enter again next season. Whether Adam and I will stick with the strong diamond, or find anyone who's willing to play in a team with us if we do is yet to be seen...

The organisers currently have a consultation going on to come up with suggestions for the format. While obviously I have a selfish interest in keeping the second/third divisions as they were at the end of this season, I'm not convinced I'd bother entering if I knew I had to play in the third division for both weekends, so I think there's probably a good argument for keeping the format the same as it was this year. It also seems fairer to people who didn't enter this year for whatever reason, or want to rearrange their teams. Given that the league is essentially an international trial, I think that for it to take a full 2 years before you can even get into a position to be eligible for international selection is probably a bit much.

It did feel slightly unfair that the shorter matches in the first weekend counted the same as the longer matches in the second weekend, but at least in the second division they weren't that much shorter (and we still wouldn't have made it into second place even if you scaled up the second weekend scores by a factor of 16/11), so overall I think the format worked, I just wish we'd managed to play a bit better in the first weekend, so we could at least have kept it interesting.