Brian Senior has written about a number of key boards from the final day of the Harold Poster Swiss Pairs.
One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small,
and the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all.
Go ask Alice,
When she's ten feet tall.
(Jefferson Airplane: White Rabbit)
Some of the bridge during Sunday's final day of the Harold Poser Cup could have come fresh out of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland. The wild distribution on many deals suggested that the electronic equivalent of some mind-expanding drug had been injected into the dealing computer's central processing unit, or perhaps that the operator had been sharing a hookah-smoking session with Wonderland's famous caterpillar.
My first exhibit was the first board of the day for Gary Hyett and Ros Wolfarth.
Match 10. Board .7 Dealer South. All Vul.
Ros opened 2, hearts and a minor and, when West overcalled 2, Gary jumped to 3NT. However, when East competed to 4, Gary reassessed his hand. Partner would surely have at most a singleton spade and, if she just had a couple of clubs, that might be sufficient to provide 12 tricks in a club contract. He jumped to 6 then thought that he might just as well raise the stakes a little higher by redoubling when East expressed an opinion that the contract would not make.
East led a spade. Gary won, ruffed a spade, led the king of hearts to the ace and ruff, ruffed his last spade and took a diamond pitch on the queen of hearts. He came back to hand and played a high club and all East could make was the ace of trumps. Gary had 12 tricks for the rather rare score of +1830. Funnily enough, that was a complete top, though three other pairs did bid and make 6, while nobody found the killing trump lead against the slam.
Match 12. Board 19. Dealer South. E/W. Vul.
The 3 opening came as something of a surprise to West, who had no good bid available to him. He could, of course, have passed, planning to collect however many 50s were available on defence. Had he done so, no doubt North would have responded 3 and been raised to game by South. Now West could have doubled for take-out and East, not expecting to be able to make anything at the five level might leave it in. Only a trump lead prevents the grand crossruff which produces 10 tricks in a spade contract.
But, of course, West was not prepared to pass with 21 HCP, and opted for a 3NT overcall, surely the most practical choice – one certainly cannot double when holding a spade void. The only worry when overcalling 3NT is that partner might convert to 4 on jack-to-six or the like. Anyway, North thought he would be able to defeat 3NT so said so, and West could see what that double had to be based upon so, believing him, ran to 4. Yes, an SOS redouble might have worked better, but that risked partner responding in spades, as he would have no way of knowing that spades was the problem suit.
So 4 doubled it was, and North led a top spade. Declarer ruffed and cashed the two top diamonds, bringing down the queen. That was good news. All declarer required now was that clubs not be five-zero. He therefore cashed the ace of clubs – and gave up control of the hand.
Declarer played a third diamond, which North ruffed, and back came a spade. Declarer ruffed and played the fourth diamond. North ruffed and returned a third spade, but declarer could ruff that and play a top heart, and North could only come to the jack and king of clubs; down one for –200.
But North could have got an extra trick. After ruffing the fourth diamond he needs to play king and jack of clubs. Declarer wins the queen but now everyone is out of trumps and declarer has to play hearts from hand. The defence gets the last two tricks with the queen of hearts and a spade, for down two.
Declarer could have got out for down one legitimately had he not cashed the ace of clubs, but that would have seen him go down in a cold contract when the trumps split four-one, as South would ruff the third diamond and North still come to three club tricks.
Minus 200 was worth 61% to E/W. Results ranged between 6 doubled down three for +800 to N/S, to 5 doubled making for +750 to E/W. Both of those were unique results.
Match 12. Board 24. Dealer West. None Vul.
North doubled West's weak two opening and South responded with a 3 cuebid, which would usually ask for a spade stopper. However, while North in fact had three spade stoppers, his hand was far too good to settle for 3NT facing a hand that had just forced to game, so he bid 4. Now South jumped to 5 with the intention that this would show a solid suit, and North jumped to 6NT. As he put dummy down, South commented that he hoped his partner had a diamond – famous last words.
North won the spade lead and led a low club at trick two and, rather like Humpty Dumpty, the defenders' club honours had a great fall. East put in the jack and West, perforce, had to overtake with the queen. He returned a heart, which declarer won with the ace and now declarer crossed to dummy's ten of clubs to rattle off the diamonds and claim the rest of the tricks. Well, yes, that is what should have happened, but declarer hadn't actually noticed what had happened to the club trick and instead continued with the ace of clubs. That brought East's club pips into the game, and declarer was held to just the six top winners in his hand that he had started with; down six for –300 and a 96% score to E/W. Had North spotted what had happened and made his slam, that would have meant 85% to N/S.
Pride of place on this deal must go to Joe Fawcett and Alistair Gidman, the only pair to reach the cold 7. Take a bow, gentlemen.
Match 13. Board 30. Dealer East. None Vul.
I don't like the 2 opening, as experience has shown that such hands are generally much better started with a simple suit bid so that no level of competition can prevent both suits being shown. However, we are not here to criticise the bidding, we are here to look at the play in 4.
South led a top club and declarer ruffed – yes, I know, but that is what happened at my table, and it definitely fits in nicely with the Wonderland theme. Perhaps East was the Mad Hatter or, more likely, the Red Queen who, as a queen, thought that rules were for other, lesser, people.
Declarer now took his best shot for the contract by leading the king of hearts, hoping to pin a bare queen. No such luck. The K lost to the ace and back came a low club to the jack and a second ruff. Declarer led the jack of hearts next and North won the queen and played a third club. Again declarer ruffed. He could still make his contract if the trumps split three-three, so cashed the ace, king and queen. Alas, South turned up with four trumps and could ruff declarer's next play of a heart. South had thrown a club on the second heart, so now had only one club to cash, and declarer came to a diamond at the end for down three and –150.
Somewhere along the way, however, declarer had spotted that little club, hidden away in amongst his spades, and the revoke cost a two-trick penalty so that the result was changed to down five and –250. That gave N/S a 93% board.
The funny thing was that the revoke also cost a trick in the play, quite apart from the revoke penalty. Say that declarer follows with the club at trick one and ruffs the second club. He plays the king of hearts as before, ruffs the club return and plays the J. This time, when North wins the queen, he doesn't have a club left with which to force declarer. If he returns a heart or a spade, declarer will just lose to the J for down one, so North must instead play the ace of diamonds for another force. Declarer can now discard, win the next diamond, and cash the three top spades before playing winning hearts, or he can ruff and start playing winning hearts through South, which will bring the nine of spades into the game. Either way, he gets out with a trick more than was the case after revoking at trick one.
Finally, South could ruff the second heart rather than allow North to win the queen. Now South could play a club or a diamond to force declarer, but the weakening of South's trump holding would mean that declarer would still escape with eight tricks