Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Bridge in Canada

I'm in Prince Edward Island (or "the island", as the folks around here refer to it) to visit Jessica's mum for Christmas. We had the extended family for the couple of days either side - a total of 14 people, with the requisite amount of seafood chowder, quiche and roast turkey. All quite an undertaking. 

On the day we arrived, I had a quick check to see if there were any nearby bridge clubs, and discovered that there was a game with a guaranteed partner at the extremely nearby Haviland club - just a few minutes walk through the snow, and right next to the sea. 

Everyone was very welcoming, and inquired what I was doing on the island. I had a nice game with Ray Malone, who sometimes does some teaching at the club as well, and we tried out a fairly basic 2/1 system. 

Looking at the website, we appear to have finished third, with 58%. As far as I can tell, that is comparing East/West percentages with North/South percentages and I don't remember there being an arrow switch, but as Paul pointed out when I visited Chennai, third is probably an appropriate place to finish as a first-time visitor. The results are here: http://clubresults.acbl.org/Results/270256/2016/12/161219A.HTM 

We would have finished in a comfortable first place had I not forgotten to duck the second spade on the board below. For some reason I became convinced the suit was 4-4 when North returned the 2, but failed to take into account that if they were 4-4, I could afford to duck a second round.... 
The next board where I failed to make a game was a little more interesting, although looking at it again, I think I just overthought things, and it should be fairly simple. 

How do you play 4 spades as East after the defence take the first two tricks with a heart to the Ace and a ruff, and play a club?

The correct line, I think, is to simply cross to the ace of diamonds and take a spade finesse. I was concerned that by doing this I would cut myself off from the heart winner in dummy, so I played a low spade immediately, successfully managing to find the only way to fail on the actual layout, which was Kx with North. If the spade finesse loses, you're still ok as long as South doesn't have another spade to return, as now you can unblock the hearts and draw the last trump by crossing to dummy. If the spade finesse wins, of course, you don't need the second heart winner. 

Anyway, it was a fun afternoon, and a very picturesque setting: 

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year from Canada!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Winter Pairs 1

It's September again, and that means the club's premier pairs competition, the Winter Pairs, has started. Norman and I got off to an enormous start, with a score of 68.3%. John Di Mambro and Douglas Mitchell got an almost-as-enormous 66.23% to finish in second place, so the race is well and truly on. The format is that your top 4 scores out of 7 evenings count, so another couple of really big scores will be necessary if we want to win, but we've certainly given ourselves the best chance. 

We only got a below average score on 4 boards out of 24. Here's one of them: 

I played in 3NT. I won the first heart trick, hoping the suit might be blocked (it is), and ran the club queen. When this won, I could see 10 tricks for the taking. I cashed everything before taking a diamond finesse - confident that South would not have bared the diamond K, and was held to 10 when it lost. I'm not quite sure how three people managed to make 11 tricks even after getting a heart lead - maybe winning the lead and taking a diamond finesse immediately? Perhaps it's tough for South to cash two hearts on that line when they can see that that sets up a heart trick for declarer. 

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Buchanan Congress Pairs, plus more

This month was the Buchanan Congress. I've had some success in the Congress over the past few years, winning the Pairs with Norman in 2014, and finishing second in both the pairs and (I think) the men's teams last year. This year was not so good. 

I played in the pairs with Danny. He has a good account of it here. He charitably missed out the hand below: 

I played in 3NT as West (I don't quite recall the auction, but I suspect I responded 1NT to Danny's 1♥ opening, and then accepted his invite). 

North led the ♠6, and I won this on the table, and counted 11 tricks, 4♦s, 5♣s and 2♠s. For some reason, I had completely neglected the existence of the ♦K... 

I cashed the ♠K and the ♣A, and then claimed, stating that I would make 4♦s and 5♣s. South correctly pointed out that, erm, no, I didn't actually have 4♦s, and we immediately called the director. Given that I'd set up the defences' ♠ suit for them, and that they had the top three ♥s to cash, we put the score in as down 3, and got on with the next board as the director went away to make a ruling. 

I'm not quite sure what happened in the end, but the director spoke to us after the session, and told us she was planning to rule the contract to 3NT making! Looking at all 4 hands, I think this is (astoundingly) probably correct. There's just no way for the defence to get more than 4 tricks, both the major suits are blocked, and the ♦T is dropping on the first round, so there's no way to get that suit wrong.

I absolutely agree that when a declarer has made a claim as ridiculous as this, you should be as harsh as possible in determining what a "reasonable" line of play is. but as long as I pitch a ♥ and not a minor suit winner when South cashes his (only) ♠ trick, the contract is there for the taking. 

I haven't actually checked what happened with the ruling - according to the results it's still down 3, so maybe the opposition objected to this ruling - given that it would take us from joint 5th up to 4th place in the consolation final, I wasn't inclined to argue. 


This Wednesday it was a standard aggregate night at the Buchanan, and I played with Norman as usual. We finished third East/West, with John Donaldson and Jimmy Jordan winning. This was probably the most interesting hand of the night:

Norman opened the West hand 2♣, and after I showed a double negative, we were able to settle in 4♥, for an excellent score. I think both the play and the bidding are interesting. First, do you open the West hand 2♣? I'm generally convinced by the argument that with a 2 suiter you just open one of the suits, but I think this hand is just too strong. Here's a hand where you're a big favourite to make game:

♠xxxx ♥xx ♦xxx ♣xxxx

And here's another where slam is nearly laydown:

♠xx ♥QJxxx ♦xxx ♣xxx

Is partner supposed to bid with either of these hands? Given that in both cases you have a fairly big major suit fit, can you rely on the opponents to come back in on either of these hands? I think the answer to both is no, and I'm happy with Norman's decision here.

Now, assuming you've navigated the bidding and are playing in 4♥, what's your plan? You can be pretty confident of 5 tricks outside of ♥s, which leaves you needing 5 tricks in ♥s. How do you go about getting them? On the lead of the ♦2, I was optimistic of cashing 4♦ tricks, but when N ruffed the fourth with the ♥9, that was also good enough for me - as the trumps are now 2-2 I can now basically just draw trumps while ruffing two spades in dummy. I suspect after three rounds of ♦s stood up I should have started cross ruffing things immediately, but it all worked out.

Next weekend is the YCBA congress in Harrogate. I'm playing with Martin Stephens, Frazer Morgan and Peter Stephens (over the course of the three days). Phi Morrison is also there, and has helpfully organised all our accommodation, but isn't actually playing in any of our teams. On that note - congratulations to Phil, Frazer, Phil and Alex for winning the right to represent Scotland in the Chairman's Cup in Sweden.

Friday, 6 May 2016

The second best hand I've ever held

Haven't posted anything in a while. 

In the meantime, I won a silver prize at the National Men's teams (playing with Jun, Adam and Paul - slightly awkward winning a silver prize with two recent Camrose players in our team, but these things happen). I won a silver prize playing with Jun at the Melville Congress. Finished second in the club's pairs championship (congratulations to Christine and Ian, who led it from the start), and Hillhead have managed, for the first time (I'm told) to retain our place in the first division of the West District League. Unfortunately, Merchiston didn't quite manage to do the same, and we were relegated in the East District League. 

Despite all that bridge, the hand I'm going to post is one I was dealt playing casual bridge at Martin Stephen's house last week. I was dealt the South hand below, and Becky opened 1 heart on my right... what's your plan?