The Corwen Trophy was played over two days over the weekend of 5-6 June. It was a bit of a marathon with 96 boards played, 48 on Saturday and another 48 on Sunday starting at 11.30 and finishing at 18.40 on each day. It was played on RealBridge so at least you could play in the comfort of your own home or, in my case, in the garden!
The standard of Bridge was high as all participants were invited to play by their respective counties. I was partnering Steve Preston as one of the five Hampshire pairs. Steve and I are not a regular partnership so although we hoped we'd do OK, the thought of winning never crossed our minds.
We had a relatively inauspicious start but steadily climbed up the ladder during Saturday afternoon, eventually ending in first place by the end of the day. We were very happy with that but, as we all know Bridge can always bring mixed fortunes so it was gratifying to hold that place throughout all the rounds on Sunday, ending up with a fraction under 60% overall, a good percentage over a long event with a large field of 106 pairs.
This was only the second time a Hampshire pair had won the Corwen, the last time being Dave Huggett and Andy Hughes in 1989.
There were many interesting hands and on two of them Steve and I got good results by not bidding. On one hand, the opposition opened 3♣. They were vulnerable, we weren't. In second seat I held ♠A9872 ♥AQ942 ♦10 ♣J9. A bid of 4♣ would have shown both majors but a stronger hand so I doubled. The next hand passed and Steve held ♠KQ ♥K83 ♦AK862 ♣Q103. With a number of bidding options, after some thought Steve decided to pass as taking 3♣ doubled two off would beat any non vulnerable game by us. In the event it went four off for 1100 and most of the matchpoints.
On another hand Steve opened 1NT (11-14 points), non-vulnerable against vulnerable. The next hand bid 2♥ (natural) and I was looking at ♠4 ♥AJ108 ♦AQ7 ♣J7542. If you play double here as penalties, good luck to you but we play it as 'values'. If I had doubled, Steve was bound to bid spades so that was out of the question. The alternative was to bid 3NT but it was not a foregone conclusion that we had game on. I therefore passed, hoping to collect a reasonable plus score. Steve's hand was ♠AQ65 ♥Q53 ♦K853 ♣93 so although game was not often bid and generally made 8 tricks, a few pairs were in game making, even with an overtrick. However, we collected +400 by defeating 2♥ by four tricks so achieved a very good plus score on the hand.
The hand shown above was interesting. With 16 points opposite a weak No Trump, I didn't initially have any aspirations beyond game but when my transfer to spades was doubled and Steve jumped to 3♠, my hand improved somewhat. We play 3♠ as four card support but a minimum. However, a singleton heart looked good so rather than just bidding 4♠, I cue bid the Ace of diamonds to see if Steve would be able to cue bid the Ace of hearts. When he did, slam prospects looked quite promising. I tried 4NT. Steve replied 5♥ showing two key cards but denying the Queen of trumps.
Expecting my left hand opponent to have something like KQxxx in hearts, it looked like our two hands were fitting well and I visualised something like the Ace of hearts, King of diamonds and Ace of clubs so I bid 6♠.
Steve's hand wasn't quite what I had hoped for but with the spades breaking 2-2 the slam quickly looked cast iron but that was no time for Steve to rest on his laurels as, being Pairs, Steve was now looking for an overtrick by locating the Jack of clubs. He ruffed hearts and hoped to discard a losing diamond on a club but as the cards lay the Jack of clubs was out of reach. Nevertheless 6♠ making scored nearly all the matchpoints as very few had bid beyond game.
A very enjoyable if pretty gruelling event with a lot of concentration required!