Friday, November 2, 2012

A well played match?

Bridge is never dull, at least for a student of the game like myself.  I love the curious little things that happen at the table.  That’s what this blog is really supposed to be about.

In a recent regional, for example, we had the following auction:

1 1 1 1
2 2 3 3

I don’t remember what happened after that but I think it went 4, spoiling the pattern a bit.  But it was an elegant display at that moment.

But there was one eight-board match in last weekend’s sectional Swiss that I thought so strange that I’m going to share the story.  With two rounds to go of the seven-round event, we had 52 victory points (a pleasing number for card-players).  So, with a strong finish we might end up in the overalls.  At this point, one team (our first opponents) had 94, an (almost) unassailable haul.

We were playing a less-experienced team and I thought we had a good chance of a solid win.  On the first board, our opponents bid to an unremarkable game and made it exactly.  It did seem that they might have made one or two overtricks but I dismissed it as a flat board.  Well, we won 13 imps because our teammates bid and made a slam.  Who knew?

The second board looked like we might get a 6 imp gain as our opponents stretched a little to a non-vulnerable game that went down 2.  I was pretty sure declarer could do better but I wasn’t expecting the 11 imp gain that we got when our teammates also stretched but played it a little more carefully.

The next board was a very boring little vulnerable 2+1 for us that looked like at most a couple of imps might change hands.  But no, we increased our lead by six when our teammates somehow came back with 100.  

At this point, it seemed that we might be up a bit, but not nearly enough for a significant victory point score.  I was very happy when the next board came up.  Our opponents were vulnerable while we were not.  My RHO dealt and opened 1.  My hand was  A8652  AKT3  void  QT74.  I decided to make a takeout double. This was followed by two passes.  Oh dear, partner’s going to be a bit disappointed to find that I have no trumps at all.  But never mind.  RHO opponent then decided to make an S.O.S. redouble (his shape being 4432).  This was passed out.  Interesting!  Partner had six good diamonds and our defense was accurate with the result that we took 8 tricks for the unusual score of 1000.  I knew this was a big gain, but it was hard to predict what would happen at the other table.  Apparently, they played in a more normal contract and our teammates were -110 for a gain of 13 imps.

So, half-way through the match we were up by 43 imps!  Things started to unravel a bit then, however.  On the next board, I picked up (not-vulnerable versus vulnerable) the following unremarkable hand: ♠ AQT953 ♥ QJ7 K5 ♣ 84.  I opened 1 heard partner bid 2NT (Jacoby) and I of course bid 4S.  Partner bid 5, I responded 5 and partner then bid 5.  RHO chimed in then with a double.  Hmm, obviously, RHO has the K and he’s now getting a heart lead.  If there’s another loser somewhere we’re going down in 6.  Maybe notrump would play better from partner’s side (RHO won’t be able to lead a heart then, will he?).  OTOH, maybe we’re already at our limit.  Well, surely if partner thinks we might have slam, we can make 11 tricks in notrump! [says I hopefully].

This hand was a true comedy of errors.  My partner didn’t really have his 5 bid (KJxxx Kx xxx AKQ) and we were about to be down 1 in 5.  My RHO didn’t have the K.  He had the A!  Did he really need a heart lead?  And, what was partner’s 5 bid supposed to accomplish anyway, particularly as the lead would be coming through his K?  And, perhaps silliest of all, we couldn’t take more than six tricks in notrump, whoever was playing it!  Partner passed (thankfully, nobody doubled) and then they took six diamonds and the A for -250.  Playing in the wrong strain cost us two imps, but no victory points.  Our lead was down to 31.  

We then lost an imp on a 1NT part-score.  On the penultimate board I invoked a somewhat unusual tactic: the preemptive game try.  My hand:  T986  AKQ93 6  Q97 .  With nobody vulnerable, partner dealt and passed, as did RHO.  I opened 1 followed by a pass.  Partner raised me to 2 and RHO passed again.  With a maximum of 20 (or possibly 21) high-card points between us and a singleton diamond, there seemed no likelihood of winning this declaration at 2. Indeed, the opponents might even be able to make 4 if I give them the chance. I decided to bid 2, a help suit game try.  That will deter the opponents, I thought, and partner will probably revert to 3 - the same contract that we would probably play in if they balanced.  Well, partner actually bid 4 given his excellent support for spades (Jxx).  No, seriously, he bid 4 because he had a 10-count.  All I needed was for the K to be onside to gain 8 imps.  Unfortunately, it was offside and I lost 3 imps (our side was -50 at both tables -- I don’t know what their actual contract was).  But my expectation on the hand of 2.5 imps was the kind of odds I can live with.  Lead down to 27.

Then came one of those unfortunate occurrences that you just have to take philosophically.  We bid to a normal 4 contract after a strong notrump and Stayman auction.  I don’t remember the dummy precisely but I recall that the shape was 4423.  Our trumps were pretty good ones, we were only missing the K, T and three small.  Unfortunately, my LHO held all five trumps and, try as I might, I couldn’t engineer an endplay on her because most of the adverse high cards were held by RHO.  I ended up down one while my counterpart at the other table played for some unknown reason in 3NT making easily.

We ended up with 14 imps which was good enough for 16 VPs.  Unfortunately, we lost the final match by six and finished out of the money.  As we were waiting for the last round, I was showing all of the crazy swings to my wife Kim (whose team ended up second in the event).  The director David Metcalf overheard this exchange and quipped “a well-played match.”


  1. Hey, much more fun than comparing a bunch of 4M and 3NT making contracts!

  2. Nice match!
    What scale are you using such that 14 imps is worth only 16? My googling shows 14 imps over 8 boards as worth 19 points.

  3. We were using the ACBL 20-VP scale. Not sure where you're seeing 19.

  4. I know that there are different VP conversion scales that exist. This I learned in a recent club Swiss when I complained to the director that the paper summary on the wall correctly calculated the IMPs differential but did not correctly calculate the VP conversion. Then the director (also David Metcalf!) realized that the computer scoring system he was using was applying a British conversion rather than an ACBL conversion.

    Just another example of the adage that the Brits and the Americans are two people separated by a common language!