Wednesday, 29 October 2014

National League First Weekend, Sunday

Well, that didn't go well. Norman and I went from 4th on the X-IMPs table at the end of Saturday to 20th at the end of Sunday, which suggests we had by far the worst performance on Sunday of anyone involved. Admittedly we did play one round against probably the strongest pair in the division, but I'm not really sure what happened for the rest of the day. We totally collapsed in the last match, managing just 0.09VPs as a team, and apparently we were -3IMPs a board, which seems nearly impossible.

With all that said, I think I'll just write up a hand they played in the first division, which Frazer Morgan did very well to get right:

You find yourself in 6♠, and West leads a ♠. You cover this with the ♠K, E wins and returns another ♠. You win this, and when you draw the last trump (pitching dummy's 3rd ♦), East thinks for a while, before pitching a low diamond. You play K♥, A♥ and then ruff a ♥, everyone following, then play K♣, A♣, and ruff a ♣, but the ♣ doesn't appear. You now play off the last ♠, pitching the ♣J from dummy, and East pitches ♦. You're now in this position. Seems simple right? 
You have to decide whether West has discarded down to ♦Qx and has the 4th ♥, or whether East started with five ♦s to the Q. Frazer eventually decided that if East did indeed have 5 diamonds then he shouldn't have had anything to think about on his first discard, so successfully dropped the ♦Q offside. Well played, and the Piper team with Phil Stephens, Frazer, Alex Wilkinson and Douglas Piper are deserved leaders of the first division after the first weekend. Harry Smith's team, who I think were clear favourites going into the weekend, lead the second division narrowly from Archie Bouverie and Cathy Ferguson.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

National League First Weekend, Saturday

At Paul G's recommendation, I haven't actually really been through any of the hands yet, so this will be my least bridge-y post yet. We played 5 matches yesterday, and won 4 of them! (admittedly the last one was 10.33-9.67, but we'll take every VP). We're lying in 3rd place, and have yet to play the two teams that are above us, but it's going well so far, and yesterday did not feel like a drain.

It was slightly frustrating that we were on a different timetable to the first division, so I didn't really get a chance to talk to any of the guys I know that were playing in that (and I don't even know the current 1st division rankings), but hopefully I'll get a chance to catch up with them today, as we finish a little earlier than we did yesterday.

So far so good, there'll probably be some bridge content if I write up what happened today (I deliberately did make a part-score on a squeeze yesterday, for what I think may be the first time ever, so I might also write up that one).

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The 49ers

I played a match yesterday with Jake Corry in the East District League against the 49ers. Their team is very strong, and at table 3 we faced Paul Barton and Brian Spears, who have been regulars in the Scotland open team for the last few years. Both Brian and John Matheson were getting the train back to Glasgow, so instead of hanging around for my usual post-match drink and post-mortem with the rest of the Merchiston team, I hopped in Ian Sime's car and went straight to Waverley - discussing a few of the hands on the train back with John and Brian. 

Here's one that I played in 4♥. Brian is pretty sure he misdefended it, and I have no idea whether I misplayed it, but it's definitely a tricky hand, and we had at least managed to find the best game.

The system we had agreed to play was the card that Jake sent me 6 months ago for the Men's teams, so neither of us was entirely sure of everything on it, and Jake wasn't quite sure about my 4♥. I was relieved when he passed, and Jake was relieved when Brian asked what 3♥ would have been over 1♠, and I confirmed it was a 3 card invitational raise in ♠s. Brian led the ♠5 from the West hand, and I had to decide what to do. 

You can be pretty sure the ♠5 is a singleton, and working on that assumption I considered several lines of play. You could play a ♣ to the A, ruff a ♣, pitch the last club loser on the ♠K, and hope that you can somehow hold the defence to 3 tricks in trumps. You could play a ♠ immediately, pitching a club. Again, you're hoping that you can hold the defence to three trump tricks, but this time you know you're going to let East have two ruffs. Or, you could try and draw trumps - hoping to hold the defence to 3 trump tricks that way, and get back to dummy later to pitch the clubs on the spades without anyone ruffing. This has the advantage that it's more likely to keep East off lead, and that it is obviously easier to keep the opponents to 3 trump winners when you use the K to draw some of them. It has the slight disadvantage that you're pretty much committing to take the ♣ finesse when E has the ♥A on this line, and when this loses think you can go off on some layouts where you could have managed the trump situation on the other lines.

I chose the last line, and Brian ducked the ♥K. It's now cold, as with only three trumps between them, it's not possible for the defence to make more than 3 trump tricks (in the end Brian ended up playing a ♣ and I made 11). Brian's other option was to take the ♥A and play a ♦, locking me in dummy. As the cards sat, I would now have made the contract if I cashed the second ♦ honour before playing a top ♠, as the ♦Q drops doubleton. However, it's not clear if I can, or should, get that right. 

The game ended with a comfortable win for the 49ers, which is not much of a surprise. I enjoy playing against Brian and Paul, and had some interested discussions on the train home (my hand record is covered in hands from various other events that John Matheson gave us when we ran out of steam on yesterday's boards). Tonight is the Gold Cup, which will be the first time I've ever played a 32 board match, I think. Norman and I are playing with Mike McGinley and Michelle Gladstone, against a team from Ayr. Then two whole nights with no bridge, followed by the first National League weekend, which will almost certainly be the first time I've ever played that many boards in two days. 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Westchester Teams

In the second of the annual club teams competitions last Wednesday, Norman and I were paired up with John Di Mambro and Hugh McCash. We were hopeful going into the event, but both pairs had some disappointing boards, and we could only manage second place, behind the team of Betty Bell, Peggy Donaldson, Fergus and Lina Kerr (well done to them!). We would have won if I'd managed to make this slam... in retrospect I'm pretty sure that I should have, at least on the defence I was given.
I opened a normal strong NT, and Norman drove to 6N (after checking if I had 5 hearts), which is a little pushy, but should probably usually have some play. 

Betty led the ♦5, which nicely cleared up that suit, but I was still stuck for a likely way of making 12 tricks. There's Kx♣ onside, which is not very likely, I figured a better chance was to play the ♠ suit for one loser, which can be done whenever S has Hxx, as long as I guess which honour it is. When I led a ♠ towards dummy, Betty popped in with the ♠K, and returned a ♦. I decided to stick with my original plan and play for ♠ 3-3, and continued with a ♠ to the Q. When S showed out, I had nowhere to go. In retrospect, this was just plain lazy. There is clearly nothing to lose by cashing three rounds of ♦s before playing on the ♠ suit, as South is going to have to find some awkward pitches (although she should know she can get rid of the ♥s safely, as I'm unlikely to be 5-4-2-2. 

If I do this, South actually does come under pressure when I run the ♥s after the ♦s are done. I have a total of 7 red suit tricks, so she has to find three pitches in the black suits. As long as I still have the ♠A, she can't do this without either setting up all of dummy's clubs (with the finesse) or setting up all of the ♠s in my hand. Unfortunately by cashing the ♠Q at trick 4, I broke up my own squeeze. Note that there's no cost to just cashing at least 6 of the red suit tricks before I test the ♠s, so I think I can actually chalk this one up to a misplay. 

I haven't written up many hands in the past month, but that's mostly because I haven't found time to write anything. I've been playing quite a bit, and have quite a few tales to relate. 

I also have a lot of bridge coming up - next week I'm playing bridge Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (West District League, East District League and Gold Cup), and then have National League all weekend. Hopefully I'll find some time in between to squeeze in a couple of blog entries.