Sunday, 21 December 2014

The JJ

The Jackie Josephson is a teams-of-eight knockout run in parallel with the West District League. It has a handicap system, with a handicap of 1500 points for each division of difference between the teams, plus 1500 extra for the holders. We were playing a team who were not holders, but were from the first division, so started 1500 points up. We were due to play Paul Maiolani and Bob McKinnon at table 1, but there was a mix-up, and when I arrived a few minutes late at 7.33, the opposition were desperately trying to find an 8th player to turn up and fill in - they eventually persuaded Paul's wife to make it out there, and then shuffled the team around accordingly, so that she could play with Paul at table 4. 

I'll write up two boards, my highlight and my lowlight of the evening. I'll start with the lowlight. Here's a defensive problem (not too much of a problem, I think, but I managed to get it wrong):

I led a ♠ to Norman's ♠A, and he led the ♠T back to declarer's ♠J and  my ♠K, declarer pitching the ♥J from dummy. What's your next move? 

For some reason it just never crossed my mind that the ♥ suit might be completely wide open. I managed to convince myself that we were only beating this if another ♠ could set the suit up, and partner had the ♦A, and so continued with a third ♠. I have no idea if declarer's ♥ pitch from dummy actually affected my thinking as I pretty much just had a complete blind spot. That was a non-vulnerable game that I'd just wantonly let through. In my defence, Norman could probably have made my life easier by cashing one top ♥ before playing a ♠ - it's unlikely that giving away a tempo in the ♥ suit is going to be fatal (from his point of view, he knows from the lead that I don't have the ♦A, and that the ♣s are running), and even if he doesn't read my ♥T correctly, at least I'll know what to do when I get in. Here's the full hand: 

Here's a hand I played in 4♠: 

I'm not sure any of the bids in the auction are exactly textbook stuff (I might even have passed Norman's aceless 12 count), but still, I was in a reasonable game, and W led that ♦T. I won this in dummy, thought for a long time, eventually deciding that I was going off if west could ruff the next ♦, and played a ♦ to my hand (I probably should have just won it in hand in the first place...). I now played a ♠ towards dummy, and the J held, with the ♠9 dropping from East. This looks quite likely to be a singleton, but I couldn't be sure of anything yet. I played a ♣ towards my hand, E playing the ♣Q. I won this, and played a ♥ towards dummy. The ♥Q held, and I played another ♣. East won this, and exited with ♥ to his partner's A, who then played a third round of ♥s, with East following. That was in this position: 

I win the ♥ exit in dummy, and now I'm home - I know that West had 3♥s, surely at least 7♦s, and 2♣s, so that means the ♠ was in fact singleton. So I play a club to the J, ruff a club, and then ruff the final heart with the ♠Q, forcing East to lead away from the ♠T at trick 12. 

Interestingly, the only lead to beat this (double dummy) is to play a low ♣. I think the idea is that it takes out one of the entries to the south hand early (because the double dummy play to make the contract is in fact to play the ♠Q on the first round, and subsequently finesse (which I think you probably should do on restricted choice grounds, if you're playing on ♠s). In retrospect, this might be better than the line I did take, I hadn't appreciated the power of the 865. But my ending was prettier. Also, in retrospect, I risked just going off if East could ruff the third round of ♥s - this might be an acceptable risk after I had seen the ♠9 on the first round, but I have to admit to not having fully taken that into account during the play, so there was an element of luck involved, but at least I was able to see the ending when it was there.

No bridge over the holidays. I did consider heading down to London for Year End, but it ended up just being too impractical. I'm playing Monday, Tuesday Wednesday the first week back in January, though. Including the final Manning Foster, and a chance to win my first Buchanan Club trophy, as well as round 5 of the Winter Pairs.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Peebles Part II - Sunday Afternoon Teams

We started out Sunday at table 1, but things went down from there - we managed to finish the entire weekend with exactly twice as many VPs as we had at the end of Friday, so suffice to say Sunday was not a success. The same can't be said for the other teams we were staying with - Phil, Frazer, Alex and Phil managed to stay the course and win the event - eventually on a tiebreak from Ian Sime's team. We played them in the second match on Sunday, and the board below was most of the difference 

This was the most exciting board of the Sunday afternoon. 

This was the auction at our table. I decided to settle for a simple 4♠ on the first round, but didn't feel like defending was the right decision with my hand. Not a decision my partner was impressed by, although technically 5♣ can be made. 5♠X should be cheap over this, as there are 10 top tricks, but I managed to go for 300, having been given a chance of the full 650... 

Alex led the ♥7 to the J and A, and I dropped the ♥9 (because, why not?). Phil cashed the ♦A, then thought for a while before playing another ♦. I can now make this. Running all the ♠s squeezes West in ♥s and ♣s (although I have to read the end position right). Instead, I cashed a few ♠s, and then took the ♣ finesse, going two off (if the ♠s were 1-1, I would have taken the ruffing finesse instead). 

Our team-mates managed to double 4♠ on the board, so that wasn't exactly a win. Ian and Jun had the most unusual auction to discuss at dinner: 

I suspect Ian's plan was to be doubled in 4♠, but instead he managed to buy it in 3NT - which is after all likely to be making when he's pretty sure that partner has at least one ♠. Jun had a chance to make all 13 tricks when west led a low ♥ (East is squeezed in three suits when he runs everything) but was quite happy with 11 tricks.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

December Peebles, Part 1: Friday

We arrived at Peebles on Friday afternoon at around 1.20 with exactly 11 players. No one seemed to be too bothered about this, and it worked out ok - Alex got Trish Matheson to play with him, and so we had three teams of four. The teams were: Team Stephens (Martin, Sally, Phil and Peter); Alex Wilkinson, Trish Matheson, Jake Corry and Jun Pinder; I played with Yvonne Wiseman, and our team-mates were Ian Angus and Phil Morrison.

We did well enough, winning our section, which was good enough for joint 6th overall. There were 3 different boards in the set where one hand had 8 solid in a major... 

This one produced a variety of results. The auction shown in the one Yvonne and I managed, although I'm not sure I should admit to it. The one bid I think I got right was 1♠... Yvonne's 2/1 was game forcing, and I should definitely have rebid 3♠,  after that neither of us really knew what the other was doing - 4♦ was the only bid I could think of that Yvonne definitely wouldn't pass, although we did at least manage to make it to the 6 level. I managed the play ok, counting to 13 like a pro and putting my hand on the table. We were somewhat disappointed to have missed the grand, but that was enough for a big swing in, when the opposition decided to open the West cards 4♠, and were left to play there. Here's a question - if you do decide to open 4♠ on the West cards, do you raise when partner bids 6♠? (I think you probably do have to bid 6♠ with the East cards, even though it might be wrong. Partner is first in, so should have something) I think probably the answer is no, but that's part of the reason why I think 4♠ is clearly the wrong bid - it's pretty unlikely you're going to be unable to bid 4♠ later if it's necessary.

We went into Peebles for dinner, grabbing food in the Crown Hotel before going back to the houses we're staying in. Frazer Morgan and Ed Jones joined the party at some point before the evening session, and I'm playing in a team with Ed, Martin Stephens and Peter Stephens. Phil and Frazer are getting some practice in before the Camrose, and that leaves Yvonne and Jake to play with Ian Angus and Jun in the other team (we like to mix things up a bit).

I played this board in 4♠. Not perhaps the greatest auction, but I found the play interesting. the defence led a diamond, and I won and immediately played a ♣ to the K. East took this trick, and the defence cashed two ♥ tricks. If they now force dummy with a third ♥, I think I might be in some trouble, but they played a second ♦. I spent quite a while trying to figure out how I could ruff two ♦s and a ♥ and still not lose another trump trick before finally realising that I was going to have to bring in the club suit - which means I'm going to need 3 ♠ entries to dummy, and so the queen has to be on my left. I played a ♠ to the 9, ruffed a ♣ and when both opponents followed I was home - cross to the ♠J, ruff another club with the ♠A, and claim.

The board that generated the most discussion in the bar afterwards was the final board of the set. 

This generated a huge number of different auctions around the room. Assuming it starts Pass Pass, what do you open the East cards? The most popular choice among the people I polled was 1♦, the second favourite was whatever strong artificial bid you have available. There was a minority who chose 1♠, but I think this is probably pretty clearly wrong - it pretty much always loses the ♦ suit permanently. The 1♦ opener does have it's problems though - what are you going to do if it comes back to you in 4♣ or 4♥? Does 4♠ really get this hand across? How would you bid the same hand if you took out both of the aces? Anyway, this was the auction at our table, 4NT was a specific ace ask, and 5NT showed both. 7♦ is a reasonable shot now, but you're probably regretting the fact that you didn't get to find out about ♠s. 

When the bidding came back to me in 7♦ with the North cards, I quietly passed and hoped partner would be able to find a ♣ lead for himself. I actually thought for about 5 seconds before passing, which could have caused my partner a problem, as the only thing I think I could possible be thinking about is a Lightner double. However, I think it's pretty clear not to double on this hand, as you really have no reason to believe that the opposition can't make 7NT. No-one managed to right-side 7♠, so the winners on the board were those who somehow managed to stop in a small slam.

At the end of day 1, we're sitting at the top of the pack, with 51 VPs from 3 matches. We should be playing either Liz McGowan or Derek Sanders team in the next round on Sunday morning, but first, there's a pairs event - I'm playing with Phil Stephens, and it will be another chance for me to practice Polish leads, which I played for the first time yesterday with Peter. Good start to the weekend, let's hope it continues.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Grovesnor Aces

I played with Adam Dickinson. First time we've played together, but it worked well. We had almost no agreements, other than those we managed to come up with in the car on the way there. We still haven't actually agreed what leads we were playing (although I think it was 4th and 2nd, as you'll find out below...).We played weak no trump, bidding 4 card suits up the line (so 4.5 card majors, or something like that). I find in a new partnership without time to discuss anything, a weak no trump tends to work better, as there are fewer understandings needed. In particular, when partner opens something other than 1NT, you know he doesn't have a weak NT, which can help enormously in a variety of competitive situations. 

Edited, 6 December:
Apparently some of what I wrote below was controversial. I've deleted the names of the participants, and a couple of the more colourful phrases I used to describe what happened. Comments added in italics. General correction is, I didn't actually hear the initial incident, and don't know who was at fault there. I could hear a large portion of the subsequent argument, but don't want to get into a discussion of who was at fault.

The main event was not at our table, but at table 1. At some point, dummy didn't pick up the card declarer called for I think it was a singleton, so this is probably something we might all have done, and this resulted in some subsequent confusion at least this is the impression I got from the subsequent conversation. Her opponents then politely asked if she'd mind picking up the cards from dummy and making it clear that they had been played. There was then an argument, and I don't know the details of this, and don't want to speculate and then the fun started... From here is stuff I could hear from across the room I don't know too many details, but I do know that at some point dummy was refusing to play the cards her partner called for, and Law 44B had to be read out at the table: 
Play of Card from Dummy
Declarer plays a card from dummy by naming the card, after which dummy
picks up the card and faces it on the table. In playing from dummy’s hand
declarer may, if necessary, pick up the desired card himself.
Despite the sexist nature of the laws, it's pretty clear what it says, but dummy still refused to play the cards. At some point law 74 was also mentioned by our captain, who did very well to remain calm when giving a ruling at the table in a difficult situation. 
Proper Attitude
1. A player should maintain a courteous attitude at all times.
2. A player should carefully avoid any remark or action that might cause
annoyance or embarrassment to another player or might interfere with
the enjoyment of the game.
I think both captains handled the situation very well, but it was very distracting for all involved, and was entirely unnecessary distraction from what was actually a very interesting set of boards. 

I'm just going to mention one which we managed to defend very well, although declarer may not have played it optimally... 

Everyone vulnerable, West opened a weak NT second in, and that bought the dummy.

Partner led the ♦6, and when this when 3, 9, J, I could now place pretty much the entire diamond suit. Partner would not (I expect) have led the 6 from KQT6(x), although he might have led it from KQ76(x). Given that declarer didn't seem the sort to win the J when he had the T available, this meant I could pretty much place partner with exactly KT8x(x) in ♦s. Declarer now slipped up, playing the ♠J out of his hand, and Adam switched to the ♥2. I won the K, and returned a ♦, setting up the suit (it doesn't seem likely that we're going to get rich on the ♥ suit).

Declarer now played a ♠ to his A, finding out the bad news in that suit, and then decided to exit with ♦. I'm not quite sure what he was thinking here, but it gave me a chance to tell Adam I had the ♥Q by pitching the 2, and when he now cashed the ♥J before playing a ♥ to my Q, I stopped to have a think. I know declarer has ♠AQJx (I've seen them all) ♥xxxx (Adam would surely not have blocked the ♥ suit if he had 4), ♦QJx (by now I've seen the ♦T from Adam, so I know the exact position) and so he must have exactly one of the top club honours, either Ax or Kx. However, my partner is not insane. If he didn't have the ♣A, he would surely have cashed his ♦ tricks when he had the chance (he pretty much knows all this too), so I switched the the ♣Q, taking the rest of the tricks for +400 on a partscore board. 

I can't decide if it would have made my life easier for Adam to cash his ♦ tricks before playing a ♥ to my Q. I think actually it would have made it more difficult. I have to pitch both my ♠s, but this would be wrong if declarer had the ♣A, so I think Adam made my life as easy as possible by playing it this way. Good defence all round. 

We had a few other interesting boards, including one disaster where I went for 800 in 3♦X when the opponents couldn't make anything, and one lucky board where we rolled in a 6♦ which pretty much relied on ♦s 3-3 (or JT tight). We probably overbid somewhat (we were in game on 14 out of the 24 boards, and played 18 out of 24, despite the points being almost exactly evenly split). The team eventually managed to scrape together a 2-1 win, with a 600 point margin over the 24 boards at 4 tables. We really needed a 3-0, to keep with Dundas at the top of the league, but we're still in with a shout if we can manage big wins in the rest of our matches. Next week, December Peebles.