Saturday, 29 March 2014

Away in Falkirk

I played a match for Jake Corry's Merchiston team on Wednesday, away in Falkirk. I got the train to Falkirk High, and walked across Falkirk desperately seeking food. I finally gave in and bought a fairly terrible egg mayonnaise sandwich from a shop just round the corner from the bridge club, before rounding the corner and discovering a giant Tesco. I disposed of the terrible egg sandwich and bought something a bit more palatable from Tesco.

37.5% of our team arrived very late after they managed to fail to find each other at Edinburgh Airport. However, I was at one of the two tables that was able to get started on time. I was playing with David, who I played with in one previous match. Standard Acol-type things. We didn't get off to a great start. On the first two board we both went off in cold vulnerable games, by forgetting to draw trumps... on the fourth board I made 170 in 3♥ by cashing my 10 top tricks... 

Here's one hand where the bidding was subpar, I could have made it easily partway through, and then I did well to recover and bring home the vulnerable game at the end. Apart from the last bit, it is pretty much indicative of the standard of the play at our table.

I decided to open 1NT because I didn't really fancy a 2♣ rebid after 1♠ response from partner to 1♣. David intended this sequence to mean a hand that wanted to play in 4♠ if I had four ♠s and 3♦ otherwise. I didn't know this, and thought it was forcing. Anyway, West led the ♠3, and East won this trick with the J. The ♣8 switch went to the 9, T and A, and then I made the slightly weird play of a club to the J. 

For some reason I'd decided that if I had to lose a club anyway, I might as well do it straight away. I'm not really sure why doubleton queen didn't occur to me... Anyway, after LHO switched to a ♥ to the Q and A, that left me with 8 tricks. I ran the clubs, to come down to an ending that was something like this (no, I have no idea why East thought it was a good idea to pitch a diamond, either... )

Note that it doesn't actually matter what East has, West is now in some trouble when I play off the ♣2. If he pitches a ♥, then I can just duck a ♥ for my 9th trick, a spade gives up the long ♠, and a ♦ doesn't help either - I can now play the ♦A to strip West's last exit card, and endplay him with the fourth ♠. This is what happened. I was quite happy with the result at the time, as keeping track of that sort of end position is one of the areas in which I'm actively hoping to improve my play at the moment. However, I could have made life easier by just picking up the club suit when it was handed to me on a plate...

West needs to pitch all of his ♦s earlier and keep another ♥ to beat this I think, which is certainly not easy.

Anyway, despite that we didn't have a particularly impressive card, and the match was lost by a few hundred points, which means 2-1 in the way this league works. I think that leaves us comfortably mid-table in the first division, and I think this was our last game. 

I'll be playing with Norman a couple of times next week, National Pairs final on Saturday, and as a warm-up, the final round of the Buchanan Winter Pairs on Wednesday. In the latter, I think we need a score in excess of 69% to overtake Danny and Anna, who are currently sitting in 2nd place. To catch the leaders I think we'd need something closer to 90... 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

West District Pairs Final

After a strong showing in the semi-final, we went into the West District Pairs somewhat hopeful. Needless to say, our hopes were not fulfilled... well done John DiMambro and Hugh McCash, who won the competition, the only pair to score over 60%. They'll be accompanied by Shirish Chotai and Les Verth if they decide to make the trip up to the highlands to compete in the inter-district pairs (the Strang trophy, I think it's called). 

Although we only managed 50%, I felt like I was back to playing a reasonable standard of bridge - I knew what was going on a lot more often than I have over the past month or so. 

Here's one where we did well because the opponents made a classic mistake... what Hugh Kelsey referred to in How to Improve Your Bridge as "picking daisies". Let's start with a lead problem. Playing pairs, what do you lead from this hand, on this auction (1NT 12-14, if that matters).

I think it's close, but the majority choice in the room was the 7 of spades. I think I'd have picked the diamond 8, as the spades seems more likely to be giving away a trick (it's not even clear to me that the 7 is the right card to lead from that holding). However, you're pretty much leading blind. 

Now consider the same hand on this auction: 

2♠ was a transfer to ♣s, and 2NT showed 1 of the top 3 honours. What is the best lead now?

It might not be clear what to lead, but I figured that if the opponents were going to be able to run 6 club tricks, I might as well let them get that out of the way immediately, and then let them figure out how to make any other tricks themselves. Yes, there's a chance that we have 5 cashing tricks, but it doesn't look all that likely from my side, and its matchpoints, so I'm not necessarily aiming to beat this contract. Maybe my reasoning was wrong, but I certainly had more information to go on than the majority of other Wests in the room. 

The full hand was this: 

As you can see, the 2♠ bid really served no purpose - North was always just going to bid 3NT no matter what her partner responded, and so the extra information could only be helpful to the defence. 

Here's one more hand, where our opponents scored significantly above average for making 6♥, with 13 top tricks... would you and your partner be able to bid these cards to 7♥? (or, even better, 7NT?)


While in this instance 7♥ is pretty much 100% (7NT is actually 100% - there are 13 tricks on top, and no danger of a ruff), it's worth noting that in this field the grand would have had to be really, really good odds to be worth bidding. 6♥ + 1 was worth 9/12 matchpoints, so you're betting at 3:1 if you do contract for all 13 tricks.  Marginal grands really aren't worth bidding at matchpoints... 

I've no idea how so much of the field managed to stay out of slam. Perhaps they weren't given a helping hand by South bidding 2♠? Although I don't see how anyone could stay quiet with the South hand.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Men's Competitions

This weekend was the Men's Pairs and the Men's Teams in Dundee. I was playing in the pairs with Jun Pinder and in the teams with Jake Corry (Robert Clow and Derek Peden were our team-mates). David Liggat and Roy Bennet won the pairs (I think repeating their victory from last year), and Jun and I finished just slightly below 50% - not a particularly impressive showing from either of us, I think, although Jun did warn me beforehand that matchpoints isn't his forte.

As I left the teams, about an hour or so ago, Ian Sime, John Matheson, Brian Short and Alan Goodman had been declared the winners by 1 VP. There was something odd going on with board 10:

This was the board (and the auction) at our table. I was sitting north, and led the ♠K. Jake dropped the T, and I fell from grace, switching to a ♥, which gives the contract away, as now declarer can just draw trumps. As Jake pointed out afterwards, I should almost certainly get this right. With Qx in ♦, I know declarer doesn't have a dummy entry, so even if he does have a stiff spade, setting up the ♠Q won't do any harm, and so if he has two heart losers, they're not going anywhere.

The reason this board is controversial is that by the time it reached out team-mates, the East-West hands had been switched, which obviously makes comparison impossible (they went off in 5♦) I think the decision the organisers made was to scrap the board altogether (although the impression I got was that it didn't actually make a difference to the final result). There was a suggestion they could scrap it only in the matches where it was fouled. I guess there's also the question of whether there should be penalties for the team that messed it up. In any case, our results were bad enough as it was, without re-introducing that one.

There were a few more hands that I might get round to writing up at some point, but overall I wasn't particularly happy with my performance over the weekend. I felt like I was mostly playing automatically - jut following suit and doing the thing that seemed "normal", rather than actually thinking about each hand. It's  a habit that it's easy to get into, and I had been getting better at actually playing each board rather than just going through the motions. Not sure what went wrong this weekend.

Anyway, Jess did end up coming out for Saturday night. In fact, she ended up coming out on Saturday afternoon (due to a misunderstanding), and spent about 3 hours trying and failing to buy food in various places around Dundee, before I finally met up with her and we headed out to Nando's for a not-particularly-thrilling-but-at-least-you-know-what-you're-getting meal. She then headed to Aberdeen for a rugby game in the morning, and is off to Inverness for an academic workshop tomorrow. With a government meeting in Edinburgh on Wednesday, that means she'll have visited 5 of Scotland's 7 cities in just 4 days (and passed through Stirling and Perth on the train), which I consider a much more impressive achievement than my finishing somewhat below average in a couple of bridge events.

Winter Pairs on Wednesday, then I'm off to Tenerife for a couple weeks - we have the final of the West District Pairs on the day I get back, and then I'm sure there'll be more bridge coming up...

ETA: added the hand from board 10 - which Jake had already posted in the comments below.