Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Nomads

I went across to Edinburgh this afternoon for a match in the East District league. I was playing with Jun N-Pinder, who is also my partner for the Men's Pairs at the weekend in Dundeed. We've played something like a couple of hundred boards together now, and mostly have some sort of system worked out, but a couple-hundred boards is quite far off a regular partnership (we've had exactly one 2/1 auction!), so there's still the odd thing we need to discuss.

Edit: fixed the hand... 
There was an odd coincidence, in that the first hand we played out of both sets of twelve involved first me, and then Jun, leading a club to set up a ruff for partner...

I led the club 6, reasoning that if partner had a singleton or even doubleton club, I would be certain to be able to give him any ruff that was coming (he pretty much has to have three trumps on this auction, so I'll get two chances to lead clubs. After a club to the A, declarer played a heart. It's now no good giving Jun his club ruff if he has a doubleton, as South will be over-ruffing, but there's not much point playing anything else, but I played another club, and when Jun won and played a spade, declarer now managed to go two off, by letting him ruff second club.

Jun led a club, which went to my ace, and I played a second club - declarer can't now prevent me from getting my club ruff (although he did think for quite a while about playing A and another heart rather than taking the finesse, to try and reduce the risk, in the end, it wouldn't have helped). I think declarer probably should play this way - he can afford to lose one heart one spade and one club. If the heart finesse is right, it's just an 11th trick, whereas if it loses to Kxx, that concedes a 4th loser. I didn't ask him why he chose not to.

The match itself was pretty scrappy, and very low-scoring. We had a run of about 6 boards at one point where no-one made a contract, and I declared some hands absolutely terribly (in particular one where I essentially had 9 top tricks in 3 spades, but managed to get myself stuck in the wrong hand - the sort of mistake a beginner would be disappointed to make), but we managed to scrape a 2-1 victory in the end.

Off to Dundee at the weekend for the Men's Pairs and the Men's teams, which should hopefully be good fun. I'll also get to spend an evening in Dundee (not yet sure whether that will be with whichever bridge players I end up with, or if Jess (my girlfriend) is going to join me for the non-bridge-playing parts of the weekend. Either way, should be fun.

PS - here's the hand I originally posted as the first one. Interestingly, I played in 2S as North, managing to scrape exactly 8 tricks, whereas Jake played in 2S as West, which was not quite as much of a success - we were playing transfer walsh, and I think in retrospect my decision to play in 2S was probably wrong, but it seemed like a good idea at the time... 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

West District Pairs Semi-Final

Norman and I played in the West District Pairs semi-final last Tuesday. There is a 7 table final, and there were only 21 pairs in the semi-final, so we were hoping not to have any problems with qualifying, and so it proved - we won the semi-final comfortably, with a score of 67%, and so hopefully head into the final as favourites (although there are obviously several other pairs who could win it).

Here's one board where we didn't do so well:

We bid to 6♠, after I opened 1♦, and rebid 2NT. Norman didn't make this. Every table played in spades, and 4 out of 10 managed to make 12 tricks. I think you probably should, although I did stare at it for quite a while before figuring it out.

Double dummy, you're cold for 12 tricks - win the ♠ lead (the only lead which makes it even slightly awkward), and knock out the ♥A. W doesn't have another trump to return, so now you can pitch both your clubs on diamonds and ruff two hearts.

I think the right way to play it is actually to win the spade lead and ruff a small diamond before knocking out the ♥A. That way, if the trumps are 2-2 all along, you still have the chance to ruff one heart and set up the 5th diamond to discard another (all this without taking into account the fact that you can sometimes make an extra trick with the ♣ finesse). Playing this way, you'll make any time the trumps are 2-2 and the ♦Q comes down in 4 rounds, or any time the trumps are 3-1, and the ♥A isn't with the 3 trumps, and probably a lot of the time the ♣K is onside. I don't think you can ever make on any other lay-outs.

Norman used a second trump entry to ruff a second ♦ before he knocked out the ♥A, so went off as there cards lie, as there was now no chance of ruffing two ♥s. As I said, it took me a fair amount of time staring at this hand before I came up with the above analysis, so it's quite possible I've missed something, and in any case, it's certainly not easy to get the timing right to combine all your chances for 12 tricks.

As I said, despite this, we were comfortably ahead of the field, and so we're looking pretty good going into the final, which is on March 15th at the Buchanan.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Match vs. Hamilton

Things continue to be tight at the bottom of the first division in the West District. With three teams fighting it out to stay up, our match against Hamilton (one of the three) was likely to prove crucial. There were two slam deals in the first half, and 3 slams were bid between the 4 tables, so I think we only have ourselves to blame that we lost the match 10-6. 

First slam deal - this is what Norman thought his hand was during the auction:

Now, I don't really like the jump to 3NT. In fact, I think it's terrible. However, I think Norman can still recover. After I pull 3NT to 4S, he knows I've got at least 12 cards outside diamonds, and I've reversed (notice that I've reversed on a 14 count, and we still manage to miss it) - it's just possible that I have too much wastage in hearts for 6C to be a good spot, but it seems unlikely - I definitely prefer a 6C bid to 5C on this auction. Not quite sure what the recommended auction is on these two hands.

This is what the hands actually were, with the start of a recommended auction (I expect the majority of people will agree that the North hand is an opening bid when it has a 5th spade). 

I think probably a 4D splinter from South is the next bid, but we're going to struggle to get to grand. However, I think we should definitely bid the small slam. Only one of the four North South pairs in the match managed to bid that one, and no-one went anywhere near the grand.

Here's the second, where fully 2 out of 4 managed to make it to slam. I'm still not sure about the correct opening bid with the South hand:

I decided not to open 2C, on the general principle that opening 2 clubs with a two suiter always makes life difficult. However, I think this might be one occasion where this isn't quite right - I will almost always get a chance to rebid 3S to show the spade suit, and it's quite easy to visualise the hand being passed out when I'm cold for slam (give partner xxxx xx Axxx xxx, and I'd definitely want to be in 6S, but it's fairly likely that neither opponent has a bid over 1H).

There was another board where we slipped to let through a game that we should have beaten (as did everyone else), and our opponents did the majority of things right in the second half, and we lost the match by about 1400 points, which is 10-6. As I said, things are now incredibly close at the bottom, and we'll have to get significant points out of our last two matches if we're going to stay up.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Winter Pairs Round 5

So, after the 5th round of the Winter Pairs (the Buchanan Club's main pairs championship). I think we can safely say that Norman and I are out of contention for the top prize. Only three of our 5 scores so far are even above average, and even two 70%'s in the last two rounds probably wouldn't be enough. John DiMambro and Hugh McCash look like comfortable favourites, in first place, and with a 4th score that they could easily beat over the next two rounds (top 4 scores from the 7 sessions count towards the total). Danny and Anna are currently sitting second, and may have some chance of keeping that rank, although apparently they'll be missing for March and April. 

Here's one board which I'm pretty sure I misplayed.

I played in 4H by North on the lead of the club 6. Initially, t looks like I've got 10 tricks whenever the trumps behave - losing two diamonds and a trump. However, If the clubs are 3-3, I can pitch a diamond on one of the clubs. I'm almost certain I should have done this, since even if East does only have two clubs, she's ruffing a diamond loser, and there's very little worry about the defence getting a trump promotion. (if anyone does have AT98, then they've got two trump tricks anyway). However, at the table, I convinced myself that East's lead was honest, and didn't look any further than drawing trumps. 

In fact, I think pitching a diamond on a club might be better even if you're playing teams - if East has AT9x, then she has to give up one of her trump tricks to ruff your diamond loser, and you make when the trumps are breaking badly (although there is some risk of a trump promotion on certain lay-outs, I think). 

All in all, not a very well played hand, and pretty much typical of the evening. We had another board where Norman opened a strong NT, and I decided to drive to grand holding KQx AQ976 AK843 -, not even bothering to check whether we had the all-important king of hearts. We didn't, but it was onside, so that was 100% of the matchpoints on that board, but still not enough to rescue our scorecard. We made too many loose leads, and let through too many unnecessary overtricks, as well as getting our share of bad luck. 

Hopefully we'll fare a little better tonight, as it's the semi-final of the District Pairs. I'm sure I'll have something to report after that. 

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Hutcheson Swiss Pairs

I played the Hutcheson Swiss Pairs with Martin Stephens on Saturday. Hutcheson's Grammar is a school in the South Side of Glasgow that teaches its pupils bridge - several of them were competing in the competition. The event was well-organised by John Di Mambro and Avril Sloane. Martin and I did mostly sensible things (with a few exceptions), and this was enough for 3rd place, with 83 VPs. The pair that won it, Nigel Guthrie and his partner (whose name I'm afraid I don't know...) had 76 VPs with two rounds to go, so we weren't even close to victory, despite winning 5 out of our 6 matches. 

Cliff Gillis and Helen Kane, who finished 2nd, won all 6 of their matches, including beating the leaders 16-4 (might have been 15-5), but the leader's strong performance in the first four rounds gave them too much of a lead.

Here's a hand where I bid badly, giving Martin an awkward decision at the 4 level:

My 4H bid is poor. As we noted in the discussion afterwards, the opponents are pretty much always about to bid 4S, so what I should be doing here is making my partner's decision at the 5 level easier. A fit jump of 4C best describes my hand here, and should usually help Martin to make the right decision over that.

Martin chose to double, and we only managed to get 300 out of this, for very nearly a cold bottom - basically no-one else in the room had been forced to decide at the 4 level, and those that did might have defended more carefully to take 500 and a top.