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Farnborough Hands - a Personal Selection
by Phil Bailey
This is a personal selection of Farnborough hands by Phil Bailey from the album presented to Ted Nesom in Novemebr 2001 on the 50th anniversary of the club.
A collection of Farnborough hands would not be complete without a notable contribution by Barbara Howarth. I have probably played more hands with Barbara at the club than anyone else, so for those of you who don't know the following might help you when you play against her. When Barbara says 'I am really going to concentrate now' her partner might as well give up and go home as a stream of bad results will inevitably follow, in the same way that 'I've completely forgotten which cards have gone' means that Barbara will then make a contract no-one else has by some obscure squeeze or other. These latter come into the category of 'Howarth flukes' of which I could quote several examples. One that has happened more than once is Barbara's Grand Slam Force. Now that more players use Roman Key-Card Blackwood this does not come up so often these days, but the Grand Slam Force is a 5NT bid (without a previous 4NT) asking about top trump honors. Top trump honors are supposed to be Ace, King and Queen but Barbara often forgets this and counts Jack instead, which has resulted in some dubious grand slams. After the auction on this hand had started 1C-1H-4D (cue bid agreeing hearts) my 5NT bid got the response showing two top honors (so should have been the KQ). Fortunately the heart finesse worked and the clubs were guessed correctly so 7H made.
I have been known on occasion to record auctions that could be used for a guess the bidding competition. This is one of those hands, although once you get the West response the rest (sort of) follows. After East's 1C opening West decided to psyche 1H (his shortest suit) expecting to bid 3NT on the next round having put the defence off the heart lead. Unfortunately East had rather a good hand in support of hearts so her next bid was 4C (Gerber), and when West made the mistake of giving the correct response (4H to show the Ace) that became the final contract, going 5 down with 6C making.
Neil MacKenzie featured this hand in an article a long time ago and I know one of our members used to carry a copy of it around with him for a long time. Neil and I both psyched on this hand and managed to make five bids between us on our combined 5 count. I opened 1S as South, West doubled, Neil responded 2C, which attracted a predictably loud double so I bid my diamonds, West bid 3C, North raised diamonds, and East bid slightly conservative 3NT - sufficient for North to expect me to hold a little more so he saved in 4D but undeterred East pressed on with 4NT. The resulting -520 for us was worth a disappointing average as another pair had missed a slam and someone managed to go off in 7NT in the five table field.
The only time I can recall going around the room and collecting the auction at every table on a hand was this one from a Friday teams. Only two auctions were the same (and they got the worst score), and most were wildly different. The pair who made 2Cx with 5 overtricks (a 2C overcall over 1NT showing diamonds being doubled by South to show values which East was happy to pass out) must have been disappointed to find a slam bid at the other table. Everyone made 13 tricks (Don and Ann Mitchell being the fortunate pair in 7D, especially as the contract was only 2D at the other table) - the contracts reached were 2Cx, 2D (twice), 5C (twice), 5Cx, 5D, 6C (twice), 6Cx, 6D and 7D.
This hand features the longest suit I have ever seen at Farnborough. You might think that the most likely contract is 7S but when the hand occured on a Friday around 25 years ago that was the contract at only two of the seven tables, as two pairs got themselves doubled in 6S and three pairs decided to defend against 7D. 7D would make on a trump lead (which would serve people right who think a trump is generally a good lead against a grand slam) but once made when East led a top heart and West failed to spot a trump amongst her spades. The top contract, of course, is for North to play in 7NT which, depending on the auction, could become a realistic possibility if it was thought that East could be void in spades.
The first time I ever played at Farnborough was in 1973 in the days when once a month all the players cut for partners. My first ever partner was Patrick Ryan and despite some odd things happening we recorded a huge score and won easily. At the start of my Farnborough days winning I had 100% winning record until I first played with David Burn, now renowned as an International player and writer, and we came bottom. Patrick has always been one of those players who seem to attract unusual results and this hand and the next are a couple of examples. 3NT on a combined 20 count was a little fortunate to have a chance of making. Patrick opened 1C, South bid 1D, West 1S which forced me to pass (although an agreement to play as 2S natural is sensible) although I did bid 2S when East's 1NT was passed round. West thought that East's double of this was penalties so he bid 3S over South's 3D forcing Patrick to try 3NT. With the spades 7-0 my hand was effectively shut out and all he had to do was drop the doubleton QC and he would have made the contract but luckily for us he finessed and so went one off.
This hand occurred at a Farnborough Swiss Teams when Patrick Ryan was playing with Derek Patterson. They bid to 3NT on their combined 20 count when Patrick opened an Acol 2C on the West hand by mistake, because he thought that South (who had actually passed) had opened 1S and he was just overcalling. North had a natural heart lead so that was nine tricks, no problem.
Sometimes it is easier to play against better opposition rather then people who play cards more at random. We bid to 6NT, and seeing all four hands the 3-3 break in hearts and the SJ9 being doubleton suggests no problem in the play but I had received a club lead from East on which West played the Jack to my Queen. Seeing we were in a slam not all might bid I gave up on the possibility of the overtrick in favour of best chance to make 12 tricks by playing a club to the nine assuming that East would have the 10 from the play to trick 1 - as can be seen this play was not a great success.
The opportunity to overcall 6 of a suit over 1C does not come up every day so on this hand I overcalled 6S (doubled and redoubled as a matter of general principle). The SA being singleton meant that dummy could be reached for the heart finesse but the singleton King meant that North had the suit guarded, but when I ran my trump suit North threw a heart thinking he needed to keep his diamonds. North-South at least knew the score for this was 2070 having conceded 6S redoubled on another hand earlier in the week.
It was not unknown in the old days for imaginative shuffling to occur in the Friday teams. Derek Patterson was North and heard the auction start with a strong club by East, 2D by South which showed either diamonds or a three suited hand short in diamonds, and 2NT by West which had been explained as a balanced positive response. Therefore expecting short diamonds and a spade suit opposite him Derek bid 7S, duly doubled by West. All Derek could make were his five trumps so he went 8 down doubled which was a bit of a disappointment with his hand.
Occasionally hands occur which people say you must have made up. There was a hand from before my time at Farnborough that I was given by Neil Mackenzie when he (allegedly) made 7S** when one of the defenders put her hand down thinking she was dummy for some reason - now having 13 penalty cards available Neil was able to choose their sequence of play and thus make his contract. This all seemed a bit far-fetched to me (although I duly wrote the hand down) as I couldn't really envisage that someone would put their hand down as dummy when defending until this hand came up in the Friday teams with Barbara Howarth against Derek Patterson and Frank Fisher. I led a top spade against 1NT redoubled and a rather good dummy appeared from Frank, followed by a not so good dummy appearing from Barbara as well. Derek managed to stop her putting any more of her hand down after the spades had appeared, and having thus established that our spades were 6-3 and so he was going to make his contract did not enforce the penalty card rights and recorded 560. However this was a losing board for him as Mark Howarth and Phil Jones had bid to 6D at the other table for 920 and a gain of 9 IMPs.
When I was little it was considered normal to try and make a grand slam missing an ace if there was a possibility you would make the contract if the defence did not take it at once. Neil Mackenzie invented a way of bidding these hands (the Mackenzie 7-level asking-bid) so you could position the opening lead in the hand without the ace. You needed to have two denominations in which you could play, one of which was going to be played by one player and the second by the other hand. You bid to 7 of the lower suit and wait to see who doubles (in those days people tended to double grand slams if they held an Ace) and then transfer the declaration to the other side if the Ace was going to be on lead. There was a good example of this a couple of years ago but in my old age I forgot to change the contract. I opened 1H, North overcalled 2S, East bid 3D, South bid 3S so I raised to 7D which was fine, but I forgot to bid 7H when South doubled and leave it to North to try and find the club lead, and redoubled instead.
Any account of Farnborough would also be incomplete without a Jackpot Coup - this is when the last four cards in one hand are all of the same rank. This first concept first appeared in an article in a magazine and was instantly seized upon as an example of what the game is all about. It was around this time that I found myself playing in the EBU Junior Pairs sitting holding exactly the same cards in another section to David Burn, a Farnborough regular at the time and we had a side-bet of who could end up with the best five card poker hand for their last five cards in any hand. No Jackpot Coups came about but I won with the best fall house. Ideally the Jackpot Coup should be achieved without any obvious loss of tricks in making the contract. I have managed Jackpot Coups of Jacks, and I remember Frank Fisher's triumph when he first managed a Jackpot Coup of twos. This hand,'which would otherwise be rather boring, must be rare - a Jackpot Coup of Kings, as well as collecting all the matchpoints for making 1S exactly. The defence led three rounds of diamonds (dummy playing small) ruffed, S9 ran to the Jack, Ace and a club won by the queen, a spade to the 8 was ducked, then a heart to the ace and a club which East ruffed left dummy with four kings for the last four cards.
One of the consequences of sporting bidding is to discover the best way to try and make impossible contracts. Having been forced by my partner up to 6D after opening 3D as South you have to go for the most likely way of persuading the opponents to contribute the Ace and King of trumps on the same trick - you can choose between leading the Jack and hoping for East to cover from Kx or lead small from your hand hoping West feels inclined to play the King from his Kx. I went for the latter option and when West decided to play his Ace from Ax instead so the contract made. At one time I had around 50% record in slams missing AK of trumps. My favourite one of these did not occur at Farnborough when the defenders held Ax and Kx, and to let the slam make they had to try cashing another Ace at trick one which got ruffed, then ruffed something low with the Ax which could be overruffed and then the hand with Kx played the King on the first round of trumps.
Sometimes unlikely contracts make when a perfectly reasonable looking lead lets the contract make. This was one of those although East had given their side a chance. The auction round the table was 1H,1S,4H,4S,6H which East doubled. If West had taken this to be for an unusual lead and led a diamond then the contract would have no chance, despite it being North who is void in diamonds rather than East. West actually led SA and now two spades ruffs in my hand brought down East's KQ and so SJ was established to get rid of the losing club to make the contract.
One of the conditions of a psychic bid should be that it is a surprise to partner as well as the opponents, and the partner has to be careful to make their normal bid on such occasions. Derek Patterson could not have been accused of having fielded my psyche on this occasion when our opponents had settled in 2H in a 4-2 fit with a combined 32 count after I had overcalled 1S on the South hand after 1C-Pass-1D. The bidding then proceeded 2C by West, 2H by East which West thought she could pass, and Derek rather foolishly protected with 2S whereupon EW at least got to game, but as they made only 11 tricks we still got a top.
Postscript to Farnborough Hands by Phil Bailey
Some of the hands which made my short list included the time when I was on duty and ended up playing with someone who, it quickly became obvious, had never played bridge before and hadn't thought to mention this. Although he was not clueless in defence he did not bid at all so I just had to bid a random number of my longest suit when it was my turn. Eventually on the very last hand I opened 1S and he raised me to 2S and despite having only a completely minimum opening I bid 4S but I should have bid 6S as that was cold with 7 playable.
As a postscript may I thank all partners and opponents over the years who have contributed to my collection of hands. I always try and collect names of players involved and remember, for example, in a London congress having to send one of my team-mates back to their table to find out the name of the player who had let through 7NT* by leading out of turn when his partner was about to cash an Ace. I also collect unusual scores (positive and negative), and there a few that can no longer be achieved when the rules were changed to increase the bonus for making a redoubled contract to 100. The lowest scores I do not have recorded in my book positive or negative are 360, 540, 740, 810 970 1140, 1180 if anyone wants to assist. I should also mention that recording of names with my hands is not meant to be unkind to anyone. We have always had a mix of players of all standards at the club, and players prepared to enjoy their bridge evenings, and long may this continue.