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.