It is not everyday that one board results in the entire field in a county event bidding a small or grand slam. Malcolm highlights such a hand during the Suffolk Club Teams of 8. Click on SUFFOLK@NATIONALS to read more.
Andrew Robson, the leading bridge teacher/player in the country, is returning to Lavenham village hall early next year to give another of his acclaimed master classes.
The event on Friday 1 February is being organised by Clare bridge club. Click on ANDREW ROBSON for more details and to download an entry form.
The qualifying rounds for the Tollemache Trophy, the national competition for county teams of eight, took place at the weekend. Suffolk finished seventh in their group and thereby failed to make it to the finals. Click on Table, Results and Cross Imps for more details.
Click on TOLLEMACHE to read captain Rick Hanley’s report.
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The Suffolk and England player analyses hands or an aspect of play involving a local player taking part in a regional or national competition, or in a county league or event.
The dealing machine for the Suffolk Teams of 8 produced this truly remarkable slam hand.
There are three possible grand slams available for North/South. The least good one is 7♦, which requires the diamonds to break no worse than 4-2 (84%) plus no heart ruff at trick one (half the 3-0 breaks) which reduces the odds to just under 75%. If everyone is going to bid at least a small slam those odds are good enough to bid a grand slam. The next best slam is 7♥ which is almost 100%, the only way the slam could go off would be if the spades broke 8-0 and somehow the person with eight spades had not come into the bidding non vulnerable against vulnerable. For a completely 100% grand slam 7NT is the spot, with six heart tricks, one spade, three clubs and four diamonds , making a total of 14 tricks, one more than required. In fact the diamonds break OK, so there are 17 tricks available.
At some tables South opened with a game forcing 2♣ bid, very reasonable since a lot of the time the hand will produce nine tricks in No Trumps if there is a club stop. No doubt this was a surprise to North, sitting there with a four loser hand. A positive response in hearts, followed by a heart raise by South would usually get the pair to the Grand, after a cue bidding sequence, provided North had available a way of finding out that South had the Ace of Trumps.
There are some practical difficulties in bidding the Grand slam if South doesn’t open with a game forcing bid.
If South opens 1♦, North might only bid 1♥ (wanting to keep the clubs in play) and now South might find it difficult to get all the hand across. Some people play 4♦ here as forcing showing very good diamonds plus decent heart support, perhaps more descriptive than the alternative of showing the club shortage with a jump to 4♣s. After either route North will clearly drive to a small slam, but it may be difficult to find out that partner has ♦A and ♦King (rather than say King Queen Jack) plus A♠ and A♥
So how did everyone get on with this hand?
The hand was played 24 times.
The top spot of 7NT was reached six times. Congratulations to the pairs that got there.
7♦ was reached three times.
All the other pairs got to a small slam: 6♦ four times, 6♥ eight times, 6NT twice, and 6♠ once (that was unfortunately a result of a bidding misunderstanding and the contract went off).
There were a number of interesting slam hands at the recent Suffolk Teams of 8 Championships with a lot of IMPs riding on them. Board 4 is the first one.
How this should be bid depends on what methods EW play. If they play a weak NT, West will open one of the black suits and by far the easiest route to slam is if East is then able to make a strong jump shift. West with three card support and three Aces will be able to take control either by starting a cue bidding sequence or by simply using Blackwood. If West opens a strong NT and the parntership's methods enable East to bid 3♥ as a slam try, West should cooperate with a cue bid of 3♠ and East should continue the search for slam with a cue bid of 4♣.
It is harder to bid if East isn't able to make a jump shift on the first round. If, for instance, the weak No Trumpers open 1♣ and it then goes 1♥, 1 NT rebid, East now has a lot of catching up to do to convey the strength of his hand. Similarly if East just transfers into 2♥ after a strong NT opening.
There is almost no way 6♥ could go off, and double dummy you can make seven (via a club finesse which in practice you wouldn’t take). This is very much a slam everyone would like to be in despite only having a combined 29 count.
So how did the players at the Suffolk teams of 8 championship get on with this slam hand?
It was played 24 times. Twelve pairs bid 6♥ and one pair bid the equally good 6NT – so congratulations to them. One pair played in 4NT and it is possible that they were heading for slam too, but maybe there was a misunderstanding about whether 4NT was Blackwood or not. Worth checking with your partner how you play 1NT – 2♦ transfer - 2♥ – 4NT (is that Blackwood or quantitative in your system?)
In the recent Felixstowe Congress Swiss Teams two teams obtained 92 VPs, and therefore split tie procedures were employed to determine the ultimate winners: Helen Mason, Norman Less, Peter Bushby and Mike O’Reilly.
Peter Bushby had to cope with an unusual opening bid on one board in one of the early matches. Once upon a time transfer pre-empts were quite popular but not so many people play them these days and so they don’t turn up as often as they used to.
North opened 3NT. Most people play that as a long running minor, but this pair played that 3NT showed clubs.
Peter had the East hand and chose to overcall 4♥: although the hand only has 14 points, the six card Hearts suit is good quality (with the 10 and the 9 as well as the two higher honours); you would perhaps prefer to have a small singleton in clubs and the Ace somewhere else, but you can’t wait for the perfect hand. This hand is one that in an uninterrupted auction might open 1♥ and jump to 3♥ on the next round, so it is plenty strong enough to bid 4♥ over the conventional 3NT.
If in their system North could have had as strong a hand as he actually had then South might have bid 5♣, and now the best that East West can do is sacrifice in 5♥, for minus 500 versus minus 600 defending 5♣. As it happened South passed, and Peter was minus 100 in 4♥ undoubled, which was an 11 imps swing in when team mates bid and made their game.
Transfer pre – empts have a technical disadvantage, which is that they give the opponents two goes at coming in. When Peter bid immediately over the transfer this showed a good hand, with a weaker hand he could have waited for the opponents to complete the transfer then bid. An immediate cue bid of 4♣ should show a strong take out, a delayed double of 4♣ a weaker take out. Against sensible opponents you won’t often find you can collect a big penalty, but doubling both 3NT and then ♣ should be penalty oriented.
At the quarter-final stage of the Gold Cup 64 boards matches are played in eight-board stanzas. The first half of the match was very tight. After eight boards we were five imps up, after 16 boards seven imps up, after 24 boards six imps up, after 32 boards two imps up.
In that kind of match one stanza going one side’s way can transform the match, and that is what happened in the fifth stanza. There were two big boards which both went our way; both bidding decisions. Both close decisions in my view, and could have gone either way, but on this occasion it was our day.
See what you would have done with each of these hands. You are South with both of them.
Board 39 Both Vulnerable you are dealer with:
♠J75 ♥AKQJ7 ♦2 ♣AK63
You open 1♥, the next hand doubles, your partner bids 2♥ and the next hand bids 4♠. Your call…
Board 40 Neither Vulnerable, dealer West.
Opposition are silent throughout. Partner opens 1♠ you bid 2NT which is a spade raise, forcing to game; partner bids 3NT which you play as weak no trump values but with good controls. With your five loser hand you cue bid 4♣ (1stor 2ndround control) partner cues 4♥ (1stor 2ndround control, denying 1stor 2ndround control in Diamonds), you press on with Roman Key Card and partner bids 5♠ showing you the Queen of trumps plus two out of five of the four Aces and the King of trumps. Your call…
On Board 39 when my right hand opponent leapt to 4♠ on what was likely to be a hand with the high card points fairly evenly distributed I took the view that his hand was probably quite distributional; probably short in something, most likely Hearts. I thought it likely that we would not be able to cash four tricks. 5♥ could have been expensive in some scenarios, but that is what I chose to bid. In the other room my hand doubled 4♠, which made for 790, while 5♥ was only one off doubled for -200. 11 imps in, but on another day we could have been beating 4♠ with 5♥ going for 500 or more.
On Board 40 I decided I was going to bid slam if partner showed three out of five of the Key Cards, but not otherwise. The 3NT bid meant that partner was unlikely to have only one of the five Key Cards so although the 5-level was not 100% safe I thought the trade-off of continuing to investigate slam was worth it. With a slightly different auction in the other room the opposition bid 6♠ which on most defences, and in fact the defence found, would have made if the Diamond finesse was working. Another 11 imps in.
We had been playing for around five hours with just a small imp difference between the two teams. These were only two boards, but the match dynamics after them were now significantly different. On another day both those decisions could have misfired and although we won in the end by 42 imps those two boards could have swung the match the other way.
Board 39 Dealer S Both Vulnerable
Board 40 Dealer West Neither vulnerable
Our team for this match: Malcolm Pryor playing with Marc Smith, Rob Cliffe playing with Alan Mayo (Rob Alan and Malcolm are all members of the Seniors team which represented England in the recent European Championships)
Opposition for this match: Pat Collins, Peter Law, Bill Hirst, Jeremy Willans, Ian Draper
Semi-finals and final will be shown on BBO 13 and 14 October
The Suffolk Summer League is an intra-club team of eight competition with matches played over 24 boards, scored by IMPs and converted to Victory Points (with a total of 80 Victory Points at stake in each match). In a recent first division match between Clare and Stansfield there was a dramatic board with a lot of IMPs riding on it.
With the East West cards the Clare pair (Cleopatra Hensby and Andrew Moore) bid to 6NTs. Although with the favourable club layout it is possible to collect four club tricks, on almost any defence the 5-0 Spade break scuppers the contract.
For Stansfield Richard Evans partnering David Unwin was declarer in the more promising contract of 6♠. The 5-0 Spade break came to light when the ♠A was played. Now the best approach would seem to be a cross ruff, particularly since ♠ Q1075 sit over ♠J864. If things work out declarer is hoping to make six tricks on a cross ruff plus the Ace of Spades already cashed, and so needs another five tricks. Double dummy there is a very lucky way of getting those extra five tricks: during the cross ruff the ♦Q comes down and the Jack can be cashed without getting ruffed, so the extra five tricks come from ♦AKJ plus ♥A and ♣A. But the odds of that being the right line are small.
Instead Richard took the very reasonable line of trying to get the five extra tricks from ♦AK, ♥A and ♣AK. When the ♣K gets ruffed the defence can play a trump reducing one of the tricks available by cross ruffing and leaving declarer a trick short.
With a few key matches left to play Ipswich and Kesgrave currently lead the First Division, with Colchester second and Clare third.
The EBU Premier League is played over three weekends in three divisions, with the winners of the first division being guaranteed to represent England in the Home Internationals, the Camrose Trophy. The top two divisions each contain eight teams, each year two are relegated from the first division and two promoted from the second.
Suffolk has just one pair playing in the Premier League, Karen and Malcolm Pryor. At the end of the first weekend their team is lying second in the second division, in the promotion zone (Richard Evans writes).
Malcolm reports on a high level competitive auction in the final match which featured an “action double”
After West passed as Dealer, Malcolm opened 1♥ and East (Sarah Bell) chose to overcall 4♠. This put pressure on Karen, since Malcolm might have had only four hearts and a better hand, but she chose correctly to push on to 5♥. After two passes, now it was East’s turn to feel the pressure. Rather than unilaterally deciding to bid 5♠ she chose to make a so called “action double”.
After one has made a pre-emptive bid an “action double” gives partner the message “I was thinking of bidding one more, but I will hand the decision to you in case you think we would be better off defending”.
So now, having been minding his own business for the duration of the hand so far, West was now called upon to make the critical final decision. The auction was up until this point duplicated also at our team mates table.
I think it is a difficult call for West. At our table, looking at three card support for partner, correctly reading that his opponents had a 10 card fit in hearts, and looking at uncertain defensive values, he chose to bid 5♠, which went one off (we made one club and two diamonds). In the other room our team mate decided to pass the “action double”, and collected 100 when 5♥ also went one off, with the defence getting one spade, one club and one diamond. It is a tight call, and 5♥ doubled might have made if the Spades were 3-0 but I think passing the double is likely to be right more often than not.
The blue pointed Swiss Pairs event organised by Ipswich & Kesgrave last weekend was won by Conor Bignell and Jo Harpur with the fine score of 109 VPs out of 140. The event was superbly organised, and as part of their 60th Anniversary Celebrations the Club this year provided an outstanding two course meal for all participants after three of the seven 6 board matches.
Conor and Jo came into the final round needing at least 13-7 out of the match to take the top prize. Sometimes in that situation the opponents seem to get all the key decisions, and your fate depends on them. On other occasions you get an opportunity to take matters into your own hands.
Conor found himself faced with an interesting decision on the board above.
After North passed Conor opened 1♣ (only 10 points, but a reasonable 6 card suit and decent support for either red suit). Opposite the passed hand South could have overcalled any number of Spades, but chose a full blooded 4♠ .
After two passes Conor was in the spotlight. In their system a double by Jo would have been penalty oriented (some pairs play take out doubles after an overcall all the way up to 7♥ , although obviously the higher the bidding the more likely you are to pass the double).
Conor took the view that a) Jo hadn’t doubled for penalties, so didn’t have good Spades or a lot of points b) his own hand contained no Spades at all c) his hand had uncertain defensive values d) his side were not vulnerable, so if 4♠ was making he could show a profit provided he was less than 4 off. He therefore took a decision to bid 5♣ , which was only one off doubled, and an excellent result on the board. North could have bid 5♠ , and at some tables North did take the push to the 5 level, but 5♠ goes off so that is an even worse score for North South.
The EBU Summer Meeting has just concluded with a weekend of teams events. After 10 rounds of Swiss the top 16 teams go into an A and a B final, the rest of the field continue playing for another 5 rounds of Swiss. Only one Suffolk pair took part, Karen and myself, which is perhaps disappointing, but the numbers were down across the board; clearly London is not popular as a location, the only time in the last forty years that the event has not been held at a seaside resort.
One board contained the worst hand I can remember seeing for a very long time, a true Yarborough with not even a 10 in it, and 4-3-3-3 shape. Surprisingly, players holding this hand had a key role to play.
♠ 854 ♥ 873 ♦ 9762 ♣ 954
Your partner opens 1♥, and the next hand overcalls 1NT. You decline to take part and the next hand bids 3NT which ends the auction.
So what do you lead?
Almost everyone faced with this decision just led their partner's suit, after which Declarer could make the contract if they played the club suit for no loser.
Here is the full hand:
The only lead to guarantee beating the contract is a spade, allowing partner to clear the spades before declarer can get anywhere near an 8thtrick let alone a ninth. The spades have to be led from the Yarborough hand and obviously it won't get in again after trick one. There is a case for the leading a spade not a heart – the opposition seem to be prepared for a heart lead, and dummy didn’t use Stayman so probably doesn’t have four spades.
The EBU Summer Meeting kicked off last weekend with the main Pairs event, comprising 15 rounds of Swiss Pairs, starting on Friday evening and finishing on Sunday afternoon. It was staged in London as a one off while the Eastbourne venue used for the last couple of years is refurbished.
Three Suffolk pairs took part, Caro Hunt and John Heath, Peter Bushby and Norbert Voelker, Karen and Malcolm Pryor. In the past there have been a lot more than three Suffolk pairstaking part, and I would be interested to hear from pairs who didn’t attend this time about why this was so. There might be valuable information here for the organisers.
One noticeable thing in an event of this quality is that the bidding tends to be very competitive. If you have a trump fit on a part score hand so will the opposition and you will find everyone joining in. Pre-empts are frequent and you will often find yourself having to make decisions at a higher than usual level.
Peter Bushby has been very impressed with Mike Lawrence’s 2017 book “Judgement at Bridge 2” and has been experimenting as recommended in the book: the point of pre-empting is to hurt your opponents’ bidding; you should experiment with how far you can go with this.
The hand above is an example of Peter and Norbert putting this advice into practice in their second match in the competition.
Peter opened a weak 2 Hearts with the North hand, Eastdoubled and Norbert bid 4 Hearts. 4 hearts can go for 800, but East West can make a small slam in Spades or No Trumps, or a grand slam in Diamonds. You could argue that East West should still get to a slam in diamonds, but the point is that the aggressive pre-empting game caused them a lot of difficulties. In the end they took the low road, with West bidding only 5 Diamonds and East passing that. That was a lot of match points for Peter and Norbert who won the match 15-5.