I played in the weekly club aggregate tournament on Wednesday. We didn't do very well, being on the wrong side of too many "normal" games that were not bid at the other tables. Ricky and Horst won our way, with Jim and Peter taking the East West first prize. I did have an interesting night though. On four separate occasions I had to decide how high to raise Norman's 1♠ bid, some of the decisions being more clear-cut than others. How high do you go?
It's been an eventful few bridge weeks for me. First, there was an away match in Falkirk - where Adam and I had an auction where neither of us was sure if transfers were on, resulting in the opponents missing a good ♥ game, and drifting one off in 5♦. I definitely had unauthorised information on the auction, and the East District quite reasonably ruled that I'd taken advantage of this by not bidding on, and corrected the score to 6♣X. Luckily, this meant we still won the match by about 100 points. Also, it means we've now agreed which positions we play transfers after interference, at least after a 1♣ opener. While all this was going on, there was a debate about Adam's eligibility for the National League. He hasn't been in Scotland long enough to qualify to play in the 2016 Camrose, but as we are entering in the Second Division, so aren't actually eligible to selected to play in the Camrose, we thought this would be ok. Eventually, the selection committee agreed, and we'll be entering next year. Mike McGinley and Laura Middleton are our team-mates. Then there was the Melville Congress. Danny has an account of the pairs competition here. Martin and I didn't exactly cover ourselves in glory, but struggled to a lackluster 51% or something. It was Martin's first time playing transfers over 1♣, but I don't think we can use that as an excuse - I didn't play very well all, and we just let too many boards slip past. Then Adam and Martin's dad Peter joined us for the teams. I didn't actually feel that our performance in the teams was much better than in the pairs - I rather spectacularly let through 3♥X by, essentially, forgetting to draw trumps turning what should have been +500 into -530, and causing us to lose a match we should have won comfortably. With a big win in the last match, we still somehow had done enough to win ourselves a silver prize (I think our team was technically bronze, but presumably we beat the next best silver team, and so qualified for the better prize). Then there was the East District Men's teams - Paul has an account of it here. We came in in second place, and left in second place, but again we didn't really do a lot right - the only reason we managed to scrape second is that Paul, Miro, Mike and Arend were so far ahead of the rest of the field that barely anyone else managed to get above zero. There were a couple of hands where I pre-empted too far with hands that weren't quite offensive enough, and was soundly punished by the opponents. Then this Friday, Jess was having dinner with the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, and as I had cancelled on Norman to go and play with Jun on Wednesday, we decided to head to St Andrew. When I got there, there was wine, cake and some delicious quiche-like things, as well as a raffle. I initially assumed that this was just how they like to do things on a Friday night at St Andrew, but it turns out we had picked the day of the club party. Once again we didn't have a great showing - scraping just over 50%. I had several interesting play hands, and seemed to be getting below average scores on all of them (although looking at the travellers now, most of them seem to have improved). I had an interesting bidding problem:
What do you bid with the East cards? 4♣ seems obvious, as it keeps the auction alive and if partner does have a ♣ void, then there's a chance there's a grand. However, it also has the difficulty that whichever suit partner chooses, you've now wrongsided the contract in the more likely (?) event that he has exactly 2♣s - I'm not sure this is actually more likely, as you know partner has doubled in direct seat with what is presumably not a huge number of points, so he's more likely to be short in ♣s. I think 6♥ is probably correct. My actual choice (probably being greedy at match points) was a somewhat ambitious 6NT. This still had chances, when South led the ♣A, and his partner didn't give a suit preference signal... he had to guess between the majors, but unfortunately, he guessed right. I was one off for a surprising 27% of the matchpoints... one East who also guessed to play in 6NT got the unlucky ♠ lead and went 7 off! 6♥ or 6♦ making would have been 100%, so you win all the matchpoints if you came up with either 4♣ or 6♥, assuming you have the methods to find out that partner has a useful void. I'm not really sure how 80% of the tables stayed out of slam altogether.
John and Trish Matheson had a bidding mix up on another slam board, and still managed to get 94% against us. Trish transferred into ♣s, except she accidentally transferred into ♦s, and when her partner bid 3♦, she realised something had gone wrong, and just jumped to 6NT. With 14 tricks on top in any of three strains (ok, 7♦ is lucky), and with only a particularly bad trump break beating 7♠, you might think this was worth an average score at best - but everyone else managed to play in their club fit (one pair, who shall remain nameless, doing so at the three level...). So once again 6NT making 13 tricks was a huge score when 7 minor was cold. I don't know what it is - people don't appreciate the power of a long minor to take tricks in NT? Or they are just pleased to be bidding a making slam, and don't worry about the scoring?
It's the Buchanan Congress this week. Norman and I managed to finish third in the pairs - two places lower than last year, but we'll be aiming to do better in the teams next Saturday, particularly as our team-mates were one of the two pairs to beat us this weekend. Congratulations to Iain McIntyre and Bobby Moore, who get to take home the McLelland tankards (and I'll have to find somewhere else to keep my masterpoint certificates).