Playing a 60-board match each day is quite testing but many of the teams, including ours, are playing four-handed. Not ideal, but at least it makes it easier to assign blame. Our first match was against Penfold. A lot of imps were exchanged, helped by a couple of slam swings, and this hand:
What is your plan now?
My solution to this problem cost us fourteen imps, meaning that we only had a fourteen imps lead after one set. We doubled this lead in the second set when even more imps were exchanged, although, it be fair, this was the case in all the matches.
Unfortunately the wheels came off in the final set as we lost sixty-four imps. We lost a swing when Alex and I decided not bid a 50%-ish slam - it normally made but the hand is being set as a play problem on the forums, so not one that we'll worry about: as Tom Townsend has said, there are many decisions in bridge that are not worth the angst that they seem to cause; if they are around 45-55%, just make a decision and get over it, in the end it will even out. This slam, 3NT played the other way around, a normal three diamonds opener going for one more trick than the (slightly strange) two diamonds chosen at the other table wiped out our lead. When we missed a non-vulnerable game and team mates failed to find some tough defences, we were in 11-19 VP territory. The final score was 120-155 imps (over sixty boards).
Having spent the breaks on Saturday watching a full bowling green, Sunday brought persistent and heavy rain. We were playing Pryor, a team of six but our ex-team mates were not playing this weekend so they were playing as a four.
We won the first set by thiry-six imps, not least because Alex and I found a good sacrifice, did not bid a slam off two aces and took advantage of defensive slips not made by Mike and Simon at the other table. We gave seventeen imps back in the middle stanza when our opponents misbid to a thin, but making, slam; a three notrump played the other way up was more difficult for us to beat but our (defensive) bidding methods did not help; and team mates played in the wrong grand slam when our opponents were only in game. Naturally we did pick quite a few imps elsewhere.
The final set was all one way traffic and we emerged with a sixty-four imps win. It was a set not to overstretch, or to bid with discipline, so it was interesting to see that we were capable of that. One hand in this set shows how unfair this game can be sometimes. Like all but two in our division, we bid the following hands to six clubs.
An excellent contract, only threatened by a 3-0 club break and, even then, only when you misguess. All six declarers in the second division made the slam (presumably guessing right); three of the four declarers in the top division got it wrong, losing twelve imps each time. So the second division players not only outbid but outplayed their 'betters'. The opponents never bid and East leads the two of spades (playing 4th leads). Who would you play for the void?
Our opponents did not bid the slam, so you win or lose a bunch of imps by getting this right. The slam is about 89%, but suddenly feels like 50%.
We get a month off now before the next two matches in Manchester. All the results are available on the EBU site.