Sunday, 26 January 2014

EBU Sim Pairs

About a week and a half ago, we took part in the EBU Sim Pairs at the GBC. We had a very good score locally, and it slipped only slightly in the national comparison, to leave us with 66%, and 13th overall nationally. 

As is usually the way, a lot of our good scores were gifts from the opponents, and we had the opportunity to score much better, with two almost total zeros which were entirely our own fault... here's one where we did very well in defence.

Brian Senior's commentary for the event points out that 3NT will outscore 4S almost always, and so those pairs in 4S are likely to be headed for a bad score. The pair in 4S against us was in for a truly terrible score. I led a diamond. Norman won the Q and A, and switched to a club. I played a third diamond, and the uppercut was enough for 1 off, and 96% of the match points.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Bidding Problem

Played a match against GUU on Wednesday, we won narrowly, which gave us 8.5/16 - at this rate we'll just manage to keep ourselves in the top division, but it's looking very close. 

Here's a bidding problem I had. West District League match, so it's total points - you're essentially just trying to choose the best game.

Now, I've been told that this is not a decision for opener to make - partner is saying, "I want to play in game, and if you have three trumps, I want to play in spades.". However, this looks like a very good hand to make a unilateral decision that NT is better. I'm maximum in terms of points, I have a holding in spades that suggests I'll be able to run the suit in NT. I have holdings in the other suits that suggest (but don't guarantee) that the opponents aren't going to be able to run them against me, and the fact that my spades are so strong means partner must have some values outside, meaning he's likely to have an entry to the spades, should I need it. Plus it's nearly impossible for partner to have 4 hearts, since you have methods to show that, and you'd expect him to use them - which makes it even less likely that a minor is running against you.

I don't see any reason to think spades is going to produce one extra trick, never mind the two extra tricks it has to produce for playing in a suit to be worthwhile. 

In the spirit of partnership cohesion (Norman really doesn't like to play in NT when you have a known 8 card major fit), I bid 4S, and struggled to 10 tricks, so on this particular board it turned out to be irrelevant, but I'm interested to see how clear-cut others think the decision is.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Winter Fours 2014 (Part 1, probably)

I took part in the Winter Fours for the first time this weekend. As Paul Gipson points out, this is comfortably the strongest weekend event in Scotland, and it's pretty much the only chance you get to turn up and play mostly good quality opposition for a lot of boards (except maybe the National League, which we failed to notice was happening this year until after it had started). As I think others have also pointed out, it's something of a shame that the existence of the event is still completely invisible on the SBU website. 

I was playing with Norman McGeagh, and we had Martin Stephens and Jake Corry at the other table, with Yvonne Wiseman also in our team for if/when anyone needed a rest.

The event was good fun, and I gather with Paul's help, the format was much improved from previous years - all the matches until the Sunday Swiss were "long" matches (at worst, in a triad playing 2 8 board matches, but most of them 16 or more). We didn't manage to keep both our lives intact on the Friday night, despite beating Ian Sime's seeded team by 5 IMPs when John Murdoch misdefended to let through 4HX, to let us claw back our 11 IMP deficit at half time. We lost to the other team in our group (Bob McKinnon's team), and actually ended up in third place, as Sime roundly thrashed them.

We won two matches in the morning when Yvonne Wiseman sat in in place of Martin (actually, we won 2/3, but did well enough in the triad to keep one of our lives intact). This meant that winning at least one of our last two matches in the afternoon/evening would put us into the consolation final on the Saturday. Unfortunately, we didn't quite manage it, and played the Swiss on Sunday. Norman decided to opt out of that, and Martin's wife Sally sat in.

I have a few biding/play hands that I'll write about in the next week or so, but for now, here's the most-talked-about hand that we played all weekend, when Norman attempted to claim his 9 top tricks in 3NT (on a combined 20 count...), and things didn't go quite to plan... 

After a spade lead, Norman won the first trick, put the Jack of Diamonds on the table, and said "I'll take 7 of those and the Ace of Clubs".

Our opponents were Laura Middleton and William Hawkins. Laura was about to put her cards back in the board, when Will decided to question the validity of the claim "I'm afraid you've claimed in the wrong order" he said, almost apologetically, and we called for the director. Norman didn't react well to this (which is understandable, but probably didn't help the situation). The director eventually ruled that the claim was invalid (if you cash the diamonds first, you can't get back to the club ace, for those who haven't spotted it), and we had to complete the match (Norman was almost unwilling to continue after this) in a somewhat uncomfortable atmosphere. To Laura's credit, she seemed almost as embarrassed by the situation as I was. 

We lost by 12 IMPs, including an 11 IMP swing on this board, so we never actually got round to appealing the decision. However, I've asked everyone I can think of who might possibly have found their way onto an appeals panel, and the general agreement so far is that even to call the director on this hand is lawyering of the worst kind. No-one in the right mind actually thinks Norman was going to forget to cash the Ace of Clubs, and it's just unhelpful to the game if the rules are going to be quite so pedantic - it's not even clear the claim statement actually implies an order in which the tricks are going to be taken, and I'm not convinced Norman was ever asked state a line of play.

I'm not sure if we should do anything else officially, but since this hand was certainly being discussed by various other people over the weekend, I thought I might as well get it written down.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Peebles Part VI: Swiss Teams final session

I didn't manage to get any hand records from the final session of the Swiss teams, as had to run off at the end to get my lift (which also meant I didn't get to stay for the prize-giving, but I'm sure those M&S vouchers will eventually find their way to me..). I only remember one hand, which I'll post below. However, I'll start off with a play problem from the second session.

I'm not actually sure what the lead was, or in fact who was declarer. Let's say you play 4♥ from the East hand, and South leads the ♦9, covered by his partner's ♦T (I know it was played in 4♥ at Paul G's table, but I don't actually know what seat he was sitting in).

Here's the only hand I remember. It was from the match we played against Ian Sime's team (we were playing Mike Ash and partner, Sime and Mathieson at the other table). I misbid it horribly, to end up in a ridiculously bad contract, which needed two finesses right... and was in a position to claim at trick one!

I just didn't know how to bid a 27 point hand, and decided that I really didn't need much from Jun's hand for there to be 13 tricks, but wasn't convinced he had 5♥s. I think this was a classic case of SJ Simon's overbidding good hands (although I wouldn't accuse Jun of underbidding his bad one - his bidding was impeccable on this one. At the other table, Mathieson opened 2♣, Sime bid 2♥ showing exactly 2 controls, (King counting as one), and Mathieson rebid 2N - he then jumped to 7♥ over his partner's transfer. I didn't bid 2N because I know it shows 23-24 points. This was crazy. After Jun failed to give a double negative, he can't pass a 2N rebid, and I can always decide to set the level of the final contract higher than intended. With a 27 point hand, I think I can afford to take charge in the auction. Anyway, as I said, I could claim at trick 1... Mike Ash led the ♦7. Assuming he hadn't gone insane, he was hardly likely to be leading from the either the K or the J into my hand on this auction, so I could have put my hand down then and there. I didn't, because if he had led away from the J, there was a legitimate chance he'd be squeezed on the run of the hearts (he did have the 4th club), so I played out all the cards before taking the marked finesse at trick 12.

Flattening that board saved a total of 1 VP, as we lost that match 19-1, and with an 18-2 and a 10-10 (I think) in our other two matches in that session, we finished the competition in a creditable 8th place. So overall, that left me 2nd, 5th and 8th not a bad record for the winter Peebles Congress. Certainly the best I've ever managed. Aim for this year has to be to actually win something... 

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Peebles Part V: Swiss Teams Session 2

The second session of the Swiss Teams was Sunday morning. I was much more rested than I had been on Friday evening, and looking forward to another couple of sessions playing with Jun, who is very nice to play with, as well as definitely being a better player than me. Our most eventful match was definitely the middle one. There was a fire alarm halfway through the match, and it came after we'd finished the auction on the board below, but before we'd played the hand. Everyone sort of milled around near the doorway, and then we came back inside, while everyone who had actually gone outside in the rain complained that those who'd stayed inside were acting irresponsibly.

Jun's double is understandable, but I'm not sure about the tactics - it's pretty clear the opponents aren't going to play in 1NX, whereas you might be able to set them a lot in 1N, for 100 points a time. After the transfer sequence, his second double is definitely takeout, and I'm not really sure why I didn't bid 4S... facing a partner who's shown a 15 count, and takeout of hearts, I think I should expect to be a favourite to make it. I don't know what I was thinking about at the time, and I'm slightly worried now that I may have taken some illegal UI into account (maybe Jun was showing some discomfort?), however, I don't think our opponents were damaged...

The defence was, suboptimal, to say the least, and we managed to let 2 hearts through. We both managed to to fail to give each other a ruff when it would have promoted the setting trick in trumps - I could have given Jun a spade ruff for the uppercut, and he could have given me a diamond ruff for a straightforward trump promotion. I'd like to blame the interruption from the fire alarm, but I think we both just made silly mistakes. 

Luckily, as it turned out, that board was fairly irrelevant, as the opponents managed to lose the match entirely on the next board, where they had a huge bidding mix-up. 

4C was alerted, I asked what it meant, and LHO explained it as meaning a good heart pre-empt. With this UI, RHO is now pretty clearly banned from pulling the double - from their point of view, their partner has bid hearts, and they have KJx in partner's suit. They could hardly have a better hand (it's somewhat tempting to redouble...). Note that while E is allowed to forget the system, she's not allowed to remember it because her partner told her what her bid meant. (ie, if I hadn't asked for the explanation, or if there'd been no alert, 6C might have been allowed).

We didn't call the director at the time, but after a quick discussion afterward, we realised that we should have, and Jun went off to get a ruling. It was decided that we'd asked for the ruling in time, and the result was rolled back to 5HX -7 (the directors had some fun trying to work out how many tricks EW would make playing in 5H...  it's hard to see them getting anything other than 2 trumps and two aces, and that's what they went for in the end). 

Now, this was obviously a difficult situation. The opponents thought they'd won their match, and this ruling was enough for a swing of 9 VPs (we went from a 14-6 defeat to a 15-5 win. The other team decided to appeal the ruling - this was the first appeal I've ever been involved in, and it's all very official. We had to fill in forms and then the room was cleared while the appeal was held, and we were sent out for the panel to make their verdict. As it happens in this case, the appeal had no merit - the director's ruling was pretty clearly correct, and there weren't really any grounds for the appeal - I think the majority of the discussion in the panel was about whether they could find a reason to give the appellants their deposit back. 

As an aside - the directors went to our opponents from that match while they were playing the next match to tell them about the ruling. This is understandable, as they were no doubt caught up in the excitement of actually having to make a ruling. However, I think it might have been better to wait until the end of the match, and tell them in the break (assuming protocol allows this) - it's pretty disturbing news to hear that you just lost 9VPs on one board, and I think our opponents were understandably put out.

Anyway, with that victory, and a couple of other good results, we were firmly in the top part of the room going into the final session, and in with a good chance of yet more M&S vouchers.

I'm going to try and finish my Peebles accounts this week, as well as an account of the SIM pairs I played on Wednesday, as we're playing the Winter Fours next weekend (me and Norman with Jake and Martin), and I'll hopefully have another whole weekend of bridge to right about.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Peebles Part IV: Swiss Pairs session II

We had a good score going into the afternoon session, and continued to score reasonably well. With two matches to go, we were sitting something like 5th, and played at table two. Here's one where one of our opponents (a Scottish international, no less) made a slightly dodgy comment, but we let it slide at the time:

I'm not sure I have the auction exactly right (as I appear to have gone a little bit mad if I do... However I do know that we agreed diamonds and I bid blackwood. Now after his partner had led the ace of clubs, West asked me what Alex's 5♠ bid meant. More specifically he said "so, does 5♠ show two aces". Now, it was clear to all the world that we were missing the ♥A, and that his partner was about to switch to a ♥, but this is still somewhat dodgy - not sure what ruling we would have got if we'd called a director at that point, I'm not sure there is a logical alternative to heart switch, but I'm never really sure what the rules are...

Anyway, as I realised immediately after the board, what I should have done on the given auction is pass 5♠. As it happens, there's not much chance that's going to make either, but it's surely better than announcing to the opposition that they have two cashing aces, and then playing at the six level.

In the final round, we found ourselves playing at table 1. We were still in third place, and 19 points behind the leaders, who had been leading from the beginning, so we needed to win the match 20-0 to win the event. On the very first board, we bid a borderline slam which happened to go off, so it became clear we weren't going to get our 20-0, and in the end, we finished with a 12-8 loss (I think), and 5th place overall. Still, it was a successful day, and more M&S vouchers in the bag - more importantly, also finishing above the rest of the people in the house. In the evening we went to a party being held in someone's hotel room, which was filled with the great and the good of Scottish bridge, before heading back to Peebles for another beer or two, and a good night's (or at least a few hours') sleep, in preparation for the teams.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Peebles Part III: Swiss Pairs session 1

I played the pairs at Peebles with Alex Wilkinson. Alex is Phil Stephens' regular partner, and I think can now reasonably be described as something of a regular in the Scottish Open team, so I was definitely the weaker half of our partnership. The pairs happens entirely on the Saturday, and was a Swiss, with 8 6-board matches in total. We did remarkably well overall, finishing 5th, without ever really seeming to do anything right. Most of our good results came from not doing crazy things, which I think was partly due to the fact that neither of us at played together before, so we were at least trying to do normal things (I was also at least trying to do normal things because I know Alex is better than me - I definitely play significantly better when I know my partner is better than me, which I'm sure says something interesting about me psychologically). 

Anyway, having said that, the only board I remember anything about really from the first session was one where our good result can't exactly be described as coming from our both playing sensibly: 

Yes, you read that auction correctly. Having opened 1 club in four seat, Alex decided he had to follow through with a psychic spade bid. I then correctly judged that my LHO looked like she was about to pass out 1 spade, and so didn't feel the need to raise. I'm not sure exactly what happened in the play - I wasn't even paying enough attention at the time to notice that Alex only had 3 spades, but they contrived to let it through, for +80 and a very good score.

There were several other gifts - our opponents let us play in 4HX when they were cold for grand in either minor or NT, and then another set of opponents played a perfectly normal 6S contract in 6NT - the rest of the field making +1460 vs. their +1440 giving us a whole lot of match points. I think we won all our matches in the first session, including a couple of big wins, and were sitting in something like 8th place going into the evening session, while we all retired to the Crown Hotel for dinner, and a relatively limited amount of alcohol, as we were still in with a shot...