Monday, 23 November 2015

National League weekend 2

The second weekend of the National League was this weekend. Full results are available here. Congratulations to the team of Mike Ash, Alex Adamson, Finlay Marshall, Arend Bayer and Patrick Home, who won the division. They went in as favourites (and in fact would only narrowly have missed out on automatically being in the first division), and won out in the end. Congratulations also to the Burn team, who will get to play in the First Division next season. Also well done to Brian Short, Alan Goodman, Sam Punch and Stephen Peterkin, who won the first division with over a match to spare (Derek Saunders also played in that team, but I think he only played the Saturday of the second weekend, so hadn't played enough boards to qualify for the Camrose). Phil S and Frazer will be the third pair in the Camrose team for the first weekend, with Alex and Phil M as their reserves.

We did a lot better in the second weekend than we did in the first, but had left ourselves with just too much to do to catch the teams in front. Even beating the Burn team 15-5 on Saturday didn't do enough to close the gap when we narrowly lost a couple of matches in the afternoon. We had the best score in the second weekend, narrowly ahead of Ferguson and Adamson. Here's a full table with scores from both weekends (since the version on the national league website requires you to do some arithmetic). 

CaptainFirst Weekend ScoreSecond Weekend ScoreTotal Score


The most exciting hand of the weekend was the very first board of the very first set (although we didn't play it first):

Adam opened the North hand 1S. By agreement we open most 7 loser 8 counts, and he has a 5 loser 7 count, so this isn't horribly off system (he does have ways of showing a longer minor in most auctions). East decided not to bid, and after a bit of thought, I bid 3NT. I wasn't sure whether we had any explicit agreement about 3NT, but it pretty much has to show this sort of hand. Adam asked me what my minor was with 4C, and when he jumped to 6, I figured that AKQJ9754 was almost certainly a better trump suit than whatever he had in mind, and corrected. East wasn't kind enough ot make a Lightner double, so I rolled in an easy 940. Note that you can make 7 of either minor, but only if you arrange to play it from the short hand to avoid the ruff. 

The auction went slightly differently at the other table: 

Having right-sided the contract, there was no lead that could avoid a couple of overtricks in this contract, and we chalked up 18 IMPs for 940+850... Note that 13 tricks in hearts are cold if played by East, but West can only make 12. 

We spent a few minutes in the pub wondering if you could construct a hand where each player can make exactly one grand slam, before realising that we pretty much had a template for one here - swap a few of North's spades with a few of East's diamonds, and West is cold for 13 tricks in spades, whereas East can only make 12. Each player can make exactly one grand slam. 


I've enjoyed playing the National League this year, and will definitely be looking to enter again next season. Whether Adam and I will stick with the strong diamond, or find anyone who's willing to play in a team with us if we do is yet to be seen...

The organisers currently have a consultation going on to come up with suggestions for the format. While obviously I have a selfish interest in keeping the second/third divisions as they were at the end of this season, I'm not convinced I'd bother entering if I knew I had to play in the third division for both weekends, so I think there's probably a good argument for keeping the format the same as it was this year. It also seems fairer to people who didn't enter this year for whatever reason, or want to rearrange their teams. Given that the league is essentially an international trial, I think that for it to take a full 2 years before you can even get into a position to be eligible for international selection is probably a bit much.

It did feel slightly unfair that the shorter matches in the first weekend counted the same as the longer matches in the second weekend, but at least in the second division they weren't that much shorter (and we still wouldn't have made it into second place even if you scaled up the second weekend scores by a factor of 16/11), so overall I think the format worked, I just wish we'd managed to play a bit better in the first weekend, so we could at least have kept it interesting.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Winter Pairs 3

The Winter Pairs is the Buchanan club's main pairs competition, the best 4 scores out of 8 collected from September to April count towards your final score. Last year, me and Norman finished third overall. This year, we started off badly with a below-average round, but have now followed it up with two scores in excess of 60%. We'll need a couple of really big scores to be in with a chance of winning, but it's a good start. 

Here's one where I made a different decision to literally everyone else in the room who was faced with the same problem (although I don't know how many people that was). 

Playing matchpoints, what's your call? I thought it was a pretty easy pass... I only have 2 cards in each major, I have a bare 12 points. Partner hasn't opened either a weak 2 in a major or a Lucas 2, so I thought it was long odds on that the opponents had a major suit fit, and are going out outbid us if I come into the auction. I just don't think it's odds on that I go positive if I open this hand, which is surely the only consideration when opening 4th seat playing matchpoints. 

As you can see from the traveller (slightly rotated from above - I was actually East), no-one else was both put into the same position as me and made the same decision. I can only assume that a number of people opened in third seat and that some were playing a weak NT, and decided to open my cards 1N, but I'm sure at least a few people must have been in my position, and decided to go ahead and open anyway. To be fair, I don't think I would have gone down in 2♣, so if I was destined to buy the contract there, then I was not correct to pass. 

I posted the hand on Bridge Winners, and as I write this it's exactly split down the middle between 1♣ and pass, so clearly pass isn't quite as clear cut as I thought, but it worked out well for us this time. 

We had a few unlucky boards towards the beginning, made a few mistakes in the middle, and were given a few gifts at the end, all adding up to 61.51%, which is a decent score, but almost certainly won't be one of our top 4 scores if we do go on to win the competition. 

Next week, East District League match - I'm playing with Adam, so we can get a bit of practice before National League, and the Chris Harrison Pivot Teams, where each member of the team plays 8 boards with each other member of the team. Norman and I are playing with Maria Jackson and John Di Mambro, and we're hoping we can finally win a Buchanan club competition - last season we finished either second or third in every single one... 

Monday, 26 October 2015

National League Weekend 1

We played the first weekend of the National League this weekend. With the Second Division splitting to form Second and Third Divisions after the first weekend, our first goal was to avoid qualifying for the third division. With a couple of matches to go, it was looking close, and then we lost heavily to the Burn team in our penultimate match, and didn't think we were in with much of a chance. Luckily, a few of the other teams who were on the verge of qualifying also lost, and a big win in our last match was enough to see us sneak through in 7th place (8 teams in the 2nd division). You can find the full table here

1ADAMSON184.17 87.70
2WICKENS172.96 81.83 
3SHENKIN157.85 74.69 
4BURN147.33 90.10 
5GUTHRIE140.18 49.80 
6CLOW137.05 53.25 
7FABEN127.37 64.22 
8FERGUSON119.30 56.41 

We do actually move up a bit when you remove the games against the lower six teams, with a somewhat more creditable 6th place, but we're still a good way behind the three teams at the top. We did manage to beat both Wickens and Adamson in the first round, but it will have to be a pretty spectacular set of scores next weekend if we're going to overcome that sort of difference. Ian Burn's team is the biggest winner from discarding the matches against the bottom six, gaining a full 40 VPs when compared to Adamson, and actually starting the second weekend at the top of the division, despite only finishing 4th overall.

The reason we didn't do better is mostly because we didn't play well enough. There were, as there always are, several chances that we could have taken which would have seen us win the matches we lost. We managed an impressive 20 IMP swing out on one board (both 6CX and 4HX+2 making against us...). Our team mates had a similar sort of weekend, some ups and some downs. If you believe the Butler, we were pretty evenly matched - they were .19 IMPs a board better than us, just sneaking positive, whereas we were just negative.

Adam and I had a couple of system mix-ups, but most of our errors were just straight up errors, and could just as easily have been made if we had been playing Culbertson, instead of the strong diamond we (for some reason) have decided to adopt. 

Here's one where I think we were a bit unlucky:

Seeing both hands, you might not be overly excited to play in 6 clubs, but on the auction I (with the West cards) knew that Adam had exactly a 4-3-1-5 shape and 11-15 points... given that there were only 13 points missing outside of diamonds, I felt that 6 clubs was at worst going to be an even money chance, and just bid it. Adam played it quite nicely, winning the opening lead, ruffing two diamonds and playing off three rounds of hearts, hoping North would have to win and would be endplayed in spades. Unfortunately North had another club to return, and the slam was one off. South did have the spade 10, so the slam can make double dummy on the intrafinesse in spades, but that wasn't really a very realistic play, unless you're wiling to run all the clubs and back yourself to read the spade suit when South has to find two discards. 

We'll get a bit more practice in before the next weekend, and hopefully I'll be a bit sharper, as we'll be more definitely in the middle of bridge season. First goal, once again, will be to avoid qualifying for the third division next season... 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


I played with Norman against Gilmorehill in a match on Monday night. We lost 12-4. Our first defeat of the season, despite already having played two strong teams (GUU and St Andrew). It's looking hopeful that we might manage to play in the first division for another season. 

There was one hand that I'm quite proud of, although it's one that I should always make (and I'm not particularly proud of the auction. I'm actually quite grateful to Jim McMenemy, who took so long to find his return at trick 4 that I had a chance to go through all of the possibilities, and find the right line in the end.

Here's the NS cards:

And here's the auction:

Our auction was not exactly textbook - I think I should probably have passed 5 and let Norman decide, but I wasn't completely confident he'd always double, and I didn't like the fact that he didn't know we had a (likely) double fit. When dummy came down I could see we'd given up at least 500 and probably 800, so I'd better make 5.

John on my left led a small , which I won on the table, and played a immediately. Jim went into the tank for what I think was literally 5 minutes thinking about his return, before returning the Q. So, what are my chances in 5?

Well, there's a 3-3 spade break. Then I can get away one of my s on the last . But that's really not very likely given Jim's double. Jim could have a singleton honour, then I can finesse in , and the is my only loser. A lot more likely is the 3-2 break, but it's now too late for me to take advantage of that (unless John has the 3rd and doesn't have another to return). Maybe I should have tried ducking a at trick 2, but that was risky in case someone could ruff (likely given that opps bid to the 5 level on not very many points).

There are also some remote squeeze chances - if Jim does have 3 and 4, then he can be squeezed between those two suits, but that really doesn't seem very likely at all. It's even less likely when he follows three times when I draw trumps...

So, the play has gone - to the K, ducked, !Q returned to the A, AKQ of , RHO following twice. What do you do next?

I cashed the ♦K, both defenders following small, and then I led the T. John actually made life easy for me now by covering with the queen. If he covers with the J I actually still have a guess (if I believe he's capable of covering with the J from Jxx), but by this point I had decided how I was playing the hand, and was going to get it right anyway (I'm going to assume he was showing me some respect, and assuming that I was always getting it right. 

I ducked this ,  and when as expected Jim showed out and John didn't have another to return, I could claim the rest with the aid of a ♦ finesse.

The full hand:

This hand is relatively straightforward if you're paying attention, but it's exactly the sort of hand I usually get wrong. If Jim had made a passive return, it would actually have made my life more difficult, as I'd still have had the option of ducking the (or playing for the unlikely squeeze). I think I should still get it right, but we'll never know if I would have.


Monday, 10 August 2015

Hand Evaluation Through the Ages

I'll start this with a quiz of sorts. What would you open either of the following two hands, playing standard modern Acol? And roughly what point-count equivalent would you say they are (taking into account shape, honour location, etc)? 

Hand A:

Hand B: 

My answer on both hands in 1NT, I would be extremely surprised to find anyone who answered differently. Hand A might possible be worth upgrading if it were 4432 rather than 4333, but I suspect you'd also have to shuffle that Jack into a more useful position (something like Kxx xx AJxx AQxx might be too strong to open a weak NT, but that's quite a long way from the actual hand).

My answer to the second question is that I would rate hand A as a slightly weak 14 count (maybe 13.5, or something), and hand B as a weak 13 count (maybe 12.5, possibly even less). 

I ran both hands through Jeff Goldsmith's automated version of the Kaplan and Rubens/Danny Kleinman hand evaluation schemes, and it approximately agrees with me, although it's even more extreme in it's downgrading (I suspect both methods deduct a full point for the 4333 shape). The calculator rates Hand A as 12.80/13+ and Hand B as 10.95(!)/12+. 

Now, you ask, why am I interested in the evaluation of two such boring weak no trump hands? It's because I found both in a book by SJ Simon (A Design for Bidding) from the 1940s. He used the Hand B as an example of a hand that's too strong to open 1NT when playing a weak no trump:
"You cannot afford to have partner pass with 11 points, particularly 11 points made up without Aces"
What changed? Have we really gotten so much better at evaluating hands that we can completely flip the evaluation of two such seemingly banal opening bids? Did people just get so much better at defending since Simon's day that thin games don't make as often?

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Matchpoint Monday

I'm back in Glasgow, and have managed to get a couple of games in with Norman since I returned. Last Monday we played in "Matchpoint Monday", which is a Monday on which the club night is matchpionts, rather than aggregate. The whole club participates in the same tournamnent (rather than scoring the individual rooms separately), and so there's actually a non-trivial amount of prize money at stake. We finished in first place, with a nice haul of £12.50. 

Here was a hand where I spent a long time over the play. As it turns out, unnecessarily...

I opened the South hand a Lucas 2S, and ended up in a very good game. After the lead of the jack of clubs, there's a fair bit to think about. If clubs don't break, and East has at least one diamond honour (which, although it happens not to be the case, seems odds on on the lead). Ideally you'd like to unblock the HK and pitch a diamond on the HA, but if you win the lead in hand, there's no route back to dummy for a pitch, and you've given up on making 5 club tricks if the lead does turn out to be a singleton, but the opponents are unable to take their ruffs. 

I eventually won the lead in hand, crossed to the HK and played a trump towards the KJ. This shouldn't really work if the opponents do have a ruff coming (they knew I have at least 4 clubs, and probably 5 from the auction), and I was pretty certain the lead was a singleton (leading from Jx in declarer's second suit isn't very attractive), but in the end I decided I didn't have anything better to do. 

I was also thinking about the fact that even if clubs were 2-2, my only realistic chance of 11 tricks was to sneak a diamond pitch in before I lost to the trump ace. As it turns out, that 11th trick was worth exactly 2 matchpoints - I hadn't taken into account the fact that most people would have no way to bid this game.

After a month in India in June, and moving house in July, I'm about to start settling back into a "normal" life. Adam and I will have to do a lot more practice together if we're going to make a serious go at the National League Second Division, and I'm back to playing most weeks with Norman, so hopefully I'll gather enough material for more than 1 post in August.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

T Nagar Club

You may (or may not) have noticed a slight hiatus in my bridge-blogging recently. It was probably already slowing down in May, but I haven't posted at all in June, and that's because I've been working away in Chennai India. One of the first things I did when I got here was email the local bridge club to try to organise a game. However, I only managed to get there last Tuesday (after being here for more than three weeks). In part, because the Indian National championships were on in Bangalore last week, so the local club wasn't playing their usual weekly tournaments. 

I arranged to play with Sathish by email, agreeing (with some slight apprehension) to play whatever system he chose to send me. I was somewhat relieved when he sent me something that looked pretty much like what I play usually at home, with a few minor variations (for example, a raise to 2 of a minor is 9-11 with 5 card support - I never actually got around to finding out what a raise to 3 of a minor was...), and we agreed to meet at the club on Tuesday night. 

I turned up at the T Nagar Club about 40 minutes before play was due to start (having left a lot of time for the highly unpredictable traffic), and walked into a room where about 4 full tables were already occupied with people chatting away in Tamil. As you can see from the photos above, the setting looked quite definitely Indian, but also quite definitely like a bridge club. I greeted a couple of people, told them I'd already arranged a partner, and sat down at a table to wait. After about 2 minutes of conversation in Tamil, I heard: "T854 spades, 98 hearts, AKJ3 diamonds, Q53 clubs, favourable, it goes pass, pass to you". It turns out that in India the language of bridge is English, and I was able to follow the rest of the story. 

Interspersed with a few words of Tamil, he went on to explain how his light 1♦ opener had allowed his partner to find the right lead against 4♠. They cashed the first three tricks in diamonds, everyone following, and he played the 13th ♦. With ♠A7 visible in dummy, partner only had to ruff with the ♠9, and he'd promote a trump trick in our hero's hand. We all know the end of the story - partner had the ♠9, but declined to ruff, declarer was able to draw trumps and the contract made. When Sathish finally arrived, we cleared up a couple of details of the bidding we hadn't managed to confirm by email, and kicked off the proceedings.

 I started off disappointingly guessing a key suit incorrectly in a normal 1NT contract, and failing to make an overtrick. According to the scorecard, this was worth 40% of the matchpoints, so I suspect that there were several more available if I'd gotten it right. We had a generally successful session (including beating 2♥XX by 3 tricks on one board...), but another couple of bad boards: one where I made a silly raise, and one where Sathish just forgot to ruff a loser before drawing trumps meant that our score was only good enough for second place. 

 Here's a board where we did well. I'll start off with the bidding problem:

What's your call with this hand? If you do open 1♥, what is rebid if partner bids 1NT (playing "standard" 2/1 without many agreements at all (I don't think we'd agreed to play Drury...). I decided to open 1♥, and  ended up playing the hand in 2♥. The lead is a small ♣, how do you play? 

I decided to try and get my ♠ ruff, as I couldn't really see a way to even 7 tricks without it, and so played a ♠ out of my hand immediately after ruffing the ♣. This was won on my left, and after quite a lot of thought, LHO finally played a ♥. I think any thought at all on this trick pretty much marks him with the ♥Q, as a ♥ to cut down the ruffs seems automatic without it, and I think the decision to finally play a ♥ anyway probably means he has Qxxx (however sound this reasoning is, it turned out to be correct...). I was now allowed to scramble home, making 5♥s 2♦s and a ruff (I won this trick in hand, ruffed a ♠, ruffed a ♣, ran the ♦Q which lost, and was relieved when E didn't have a ♣ for a trump promotion, and everyone followed to the third round of ♦s). Several tables had NS in much worse part score and at one table someone managed to beat 2♥ by two tricks, so this was a good score for us. I think 2♥-1 is probably the normal score, assuming EW don't manage to find the ♥ lead from Qxxx which cuts out the ♠ ruff. 

 An interesting evening, with a few differences form a British bridge club, and even more similarities. Shame I only managed to make it down once, but if I'm ever back in Chennai again, I'll be sure to pay a visit.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

How high?

I played in the weekly club aggregate tournament on Wednesday. We didn't do very well, being on the wrong side of too many "normal" games that were not bid at the other tables. Ricky and Horst won our way, with Jim and Peter taking the East West first prize. 

I did have an interesting night though. On four separate occasions I had to decide how high to raise Norman's 1♠ bid, some of the decisions being more clear-cut than others. How high do you go? 





Monday, 4 May 2015

April's bridge

It's been an eventful few bridge weeks for me. First, there was an away match in Falkirk - where Adam and I had an auction where neither of us was sure if transfers were on, resulting in the opponents missing a good ♥ game, and drifting one off in 5♦. I definitely had unauthorised information on the auction, and the East District quite reasonably ruled that I'd taken advantage of this by not bidding on, and corrected the score to 6♣X. Luckily, this meant we still won the match by about 100 points. Also, it means we've now agreed which positions we play transfers after interference, at least after a 1♣ opener.

While all this was going on, there was a debate about Adam's eligibility for the National League. He hasn't been in Scotland long enough to qualify to play in the 2016 Camrose, but as we are entering in the Second Division, so aren't actually eligible to selected to play in the Camrose, we thought this would be ok. Eventually, the selection committee agreed, and we'll be entering next year. Mike McGinley and Laura Middleton are our team-mates.

Then there was the Melville Congress. Danny has an account of the pairs competition here. Martin and I didn't exactly cover ourselves in glory, but struggled to a lackluster 51% or something. It was Martin's first time playing transfers over 1♣, but I don't think we can use that as an excuse - I didn't play very well all, and we just let too many boards slip past. Then Adam and Martin's dad Peter joined us for the teams. I didn't actually feel that our performance in the teams was much better than in the pairs - I rather spectacularly let through 3♥X  by, essentially, forgetting to draw trumps turning what should have been +500 into -530, and causing us to lose a match we should have won comfortably. With a big win in the last match, we still somehow had done enough to win ourselves a silver prize (I think our team was technically bronze, but presumably we beat the next best silver team, and so qualified for the better prize).

Then there was the East District Men's teams - Paul has an account of it here. We came in in second place, and left in second place, but again we didn't really do a lot right - the only reason we managed to scrape second is that Paul, Miro, Mike and Arend were so far ahead of the rest of the field that barely anyone else managed to get above zero. There were a couple of hands where I pre-empted too far with hands that weren't quite offensive enough, and was soundly punished by the opponents.

Then this Friday, Jess was having dinner with the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, and as I had cancelled on Norman to go and play with Jun on Wednesday, we decided to head to St Andrew. When I got there, there was wine, cake and some delicious quiche-like things, as well as a raffle. I initially assumed that this was just how they like to do things on a Friday night at St Andrew, but it turns out we had picked the day of the club party. Once again we didn't have a great showing - scraping just over 50%. I had several interesting play hands, and seemed to be getting below average scores on all of them (although looking at the travellers now, most of them seem to have improved). I had an interesting bidding problem: 

What do you bid with the East cards? 4♣ seems obvious, as it keeps the auction alive and if partner does have a ♣ void, then there's a chance there's a grand. However, it also has the difficulty that whichever suit partner chooses, you've now wrongsided the contract in the more likely (?) event that he has exactly 2♣s - I'm not sure this is actually more likely, as you know partner has doubled in direct seat with what is presumably not a huge number of points, so he's more likely to be short in ♣s. I think 6♥ is probably correct. My actual choice (probably being greedy at match points) was a somewhat ambitious 6NT. This still had chances, when South led the ♣A, and his partner didn't give a suit preference signal... he had to guess between the majors, but unfortunately, he guessed right. I was one off for a surprising 27% of the matchpoints... one East who also guessed to play in 6NT got the unlucky ♠ lead and went 7 off! 6♥ or 6♦ making would have been 100%, so you win all the matchpoints if you came up with either 4♣ or 6♥, assuming you have the methods to find out that partner has a useful void. I'm not really sure how 80% of the tables stayed out of slam altogether.

John and Trish Matheson had a bidding mix up on another slam board, and still managed to get 94% against us. Trish transferred into ♣s, except she accidentally transferred into ♦s, and when her partner bid 3♦, she realised something had gone wrong, and just jumped to 6NT. With 14 tricks on top in any of three strains (ok, 7♦ is lucky), and with only a particularly bad trump break beating 7♠, you might think this was worth an average score at best - but everyone else managed to play in their club fit (one pair, who shall remain nameless, doing so at the three level...). So once again 6NT making 13 tricks was a huge score when 7 minor was cold. I don't know what it is - people don't appreciate the power of a long minor to take tricks in NT? Or they are just pleased to be bidding a making slam, and don't worry about the scoring?

It's the Buchanan Congress this week. Norman and I managed to finish third in the pairs - two places lower than last year, but we'll be aiming to do better in the teams next Saturday, particularly as our team-mates were one of the two pairs to beat us this weekend. Congratulations to Iain McIntyre and Bobby Moore, who get to take home the McLelland tankards (and I'll have to find somewhere else to keep my masterpoint certificates).

Friday, 10 April 2015

JJ Final

Yesterday was the final match of the season for Hillhead, we played the final of the Jackie Josephson against Gilmorehill. Unfortunately, they were just too good for us - we lost by about 4000 points over the 32 boards, even taking into account the fact that we started with a 2000 point headstart. I thought we did well to play in what seems to be a clearly better slam on this board, although our auction was not particularly impressive.

After Norman bid 2♦ over my strong 2♣ opening, I pretty much just drove to slam, as I didn't really have any way of finding out if he had the only card I was interested in - the ♠K. 

Norman drew trumps and played a ♣ towards the K. When Jim went in with the ♣A, the hand was over. John Murdoch seemed to think that this was wrongly played, but I can't actually figure out why. You don't have two entries to hand to pitch the black suit losers on the ♥QJ, and you still have the chance of the ♠J dropping when you play it this way. Maybe you should run a lot of ♦s first? But this line has at least an 80% chance of success. There was also a discussion afterwards of how good 6NT is (on a ♥ lead). Basically, you need to be able to play this ♠ suit for no losers. Danny Kane and Jim came to the conclusion that this was 62% after the match (this was Jim's instinct, and Danny did some calculations).  

Using Richard Pavlicek's bridge calculator (I don't have a Windows machine at the moment, so can't run SuitPlay): you can pick up: void in either hand (1.5%); stiff J in either hand (2.5%); Jx in either hand (16.2%); Jxx in either hand (35.6%) and a small singleton onside (6.1%). This is a total of 61.9%, so they did pretty well... 

In addition, no defender can keep all of ♠Jxxx ♥K ♣A if you come down to a 5 card ending, so if you're willing to back yourself, and if the player with the long spades has one of the high cards in the other two suits then you have some chances of an endplay. 

We also won a Gold Cup Plate match on Wednesday, so will get a rematch against John Dick's team, who knocked us out of the Gold Cup proper in our very first match. No bridge this weekend, but next weekend is the Melville one day congress, I'm playing with Martin Stephens in the pairs and Adam Dickinson, with Martin and his dad, in the teams. 

Things are getting closer to being sorted for our National League team, a couple of people have some decisions to make, and it's possible there will end up being just two of us looking for team-mates, but I've spoken to a few people lately who don't have teams sorted yet, and I'm confident I'll be playing again, if not quite sure who with yet.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Livingston Away

We played away at Livingston yesterday, in what I think was probably our last league match of the season, but there might be one more. We found out rather more than any of us wanted to about a knee operation that someone in the adjoining bowling club had recently been through (the room wasn't very soundproofed), and cruised to a comfortable victory. I played with Yvonne Wiseman, and we had the run of the cards, finishing +3400 at the end of the night, and only conceding two game contracts, I think. 

The most exciting hand was the one above. Yvonne made it very easy for me, by opening the West cards 2♣. There's pretty much no way that I'm stopping in any contract other than 7NT now, so I should probably just bid it straight away, but I thought I'd waste some time by bidding 2♦ on the way. I got the expected confirmation that that Yvonne's bid was based on a solid ♠ suit, and decided to stop messing around. LHO led a club, and I might a slightly lazy claim, just putting my hand on the table, and pointing out that I had 14 top tricks (had the opponents forced me to state a line of play, I would probably have been pitching the ♠A on the ♦A, just because I could...). 

Perhaps surprisingly, we were the only pair to reach this optimal contract. Our other EW had a Blackwood mix-up and stopped in 6 of something, the opponents also had one pair who bid 6 of something, and one pair who somehow managed to play in 7♥ (maybe the guy with the solid ♠ suit was worried his partner would correct to 8♥ if he bid 7♠?). 
I'm not sure how things would go if Yvonne made the (I think) more normal 1♠ opening on her huge hand. over 2♦, she will still rebid 3♠, and once again I know she has solid spades and something outside, but without being about to find out about the 4th ♥, or the 8th ♠ I think it might be difficult for me to count 13 tricks. I'm certainly never going to picture her actual hand!

Yvonne thought for a while before bidding 2♣, and I spent the time wondering if I had a slam try if she opened 2♠. I think I do, we keep our second-in-hand weak 2's pretty solid. Something like AJTxxx xx Kxx xx opposite makes 6♦ nearly cold, and that's pretty much a dead minimum - I remember reading somewhere that if a suitable minimum from partner would make the contract a laydown then you should just go ahead and bid it. I was also wondering whether the fact she'd taken a while to bid gave me any ethical problem (I think probably not, she could have been considering any of passing, bidding 1♠ or 3♠, so it's not clear which way the information points - although I guess she wouldn't think for a while then pass, as this almost always gives partner a problem). Actually, given the style we were playing, I think it's very unlikely Yvonne would ever think for a while before bidding 2♠. Thinking for a while before bidding 1♠ on this hand would have made things more difficult for me.

We also agreed in the car on the way back that we'll be entering a team in the National League. There's at least 4 of us, and possibly up to 6, we just need to figure out who actually wants to play, who's eligible, and who wants to play with whom. It'll be good to be back in it, and hopefully with a good chance of qualifying for the first division. As I also submitted a Scottish Cup entry last week, (I'm playing with Adam and we're teaming up with Danny and Anna), I feel like I'm well organised for next year. 

Last night of the Winter Pairs tonight. Norman and I are not quite out of contention, currently sitting in a fairly comfortable 3rd place, but we'll need a score something in excess of 67% to catch the to pairs who are out in the lead. It's close at the top between Liz and Grace, who started off the competition with a a massive 68.83, and Christine and Ian who have consistently scored in excess of 62% almost every session.