Chris Jagger has written the below report from the recent Schapiro Spring Foursomes about a couple of the more interesting hands:
The Spring Foursomes was held over a gruelling five days in Warwick, the toughest event of the UK calendar. This year a disappointing 37 teams entered, but it did seem as if all the best teams were there.
However, the smaller number of teams did cause some issues with the double elimination knock-out format, and Gordon Rainsford, Chief TD for the EBU, ably came up with a repechage format where the early teams going out got a third life, and battled it out for a place in the quarter finals.
It all provided a lot of interest, and a lot of bridge! Come Sunday evening, our team (Hinden, Allerton, Forrester, Osborne, Jagger) became the undefeated team, thus securing a welcome rest on Monday, until 4pm when we had a semi final to play. We also got to choose opponents, and opted for a four player team who are more likely to be tired, of Castner (King, Auken, Welland).
Let’s start with a quiet part score, where I vied for the worst defended hand award.
Round 7. Hand .11 Dealer South.
The 2 bid was showing a strong hand with hearts, or a 4-5 majors hand.
I led the ace of clubs, and got a count signal from partner, which was clearly five. I ‘knew’ partner had at most 3 spades and 2 hearts, so she had at least three diamonds, and in fact probably exactly three diamonds, as she had not competed in my suit.
Nothing looked very attractive at this point, and any suit could help declarer. I selected the 10, which is often a good choice with the jack in dummy. For example if there is Kxx in hand then declarer at some point will be forced to lead up to the jack and will establish a diamond trick, so it gives nothing away. It also protects against declarer having A9x, when a low card would allow declarer two tricks in diamonds. The only bad holding is if declarer has AKx, when of course it is costing a trick.
So far all was fine, and declarer allowed me to hold the trick. It was now clear that partner had the king of diamonds, so I could play a diamond to the king and establish my queen. But hang on a minute: if I did that I would then be put back on lead with the queen of diamonds. Attempting to avoid this, I followed up with the queen, allowing partner to win the third diamond with the king.
As you can see, a rather embarrassing queen, low, king, ace, setting up the jack for declarer, who did eventually go off, but must have been rather pleased with this start!
Fortune generally favoured us, while Orca (Allfrey, Robson, Crouch, Mahmood, Plackett and Erichsen) put out Black (Gold, McIntosh, Paske, Rimstedt, Rimstedt), setting up a mammoth final the next day, now 64 boards (the schedule said play was from 10.30-9.30).
First set saw a fascinating game contract, where the ‘baddies’ gained 12 imps against us:
Final Round. Hand .4
West opened 1, and North overcalled in spades. At this point, South made an unassuming cuebid, but ultimately drove game – if partner had some sort of fit for clubs then game would have play. The star of the show on this occasion was Andrew Robson, declaring. East led the 10, won by the ace. A spade to the king and club off dummy, won by the king. A heart went to the ace, and declarer crossed to hand in clubs.
At this point declarer can draw trumps in two rounds (if spades are 3-2), and then hope that the clubs are splitting 3-3 (the club split at this point is more than 50% as various holdings have been ruled out, however of course you need the trumps breaking as well). However, there is a better line. Needing entries to dummy, you finesse the spade (more than 50% as diamonds look like being 6-2: I don’t want to go into all the percentages here, but suffice it to say that the spade finesse is the better line), and if RHO follows with a low spade, you now ruff a club high, and enter dummy with the queen of spades, to cash the last two clubs.
As it happened, West showed out in spades, and declarer had to revert to plan B. He cashed the ace of clubs hoping for a 3-3 break, and when they were, he carried on with the fourth one. East ruffed, but by this time declarer had got rid of his hearts, and ten tricks were there.
Has anyone spotted West’s missed opportunity? If not, run the play through again and see if you can spot where West went wrong – it’s hard!
In fact after declarer wins the heart in table, he leads a club up, and you follow with the jack of clubs, looking like someone with KJ doubleton. This makes it more likely the spades will be breaking 3-2, but crucially makes sure declarer knows that all the clubs are good. Now there is no need to ruff out clubs, and so the best line is to play two rounds of spades ending in dummy. However, with the spades 4-1 you are now down. And when you cash the ace of clubs you realise that you have been conned!
Third board from the end of the match I cost our side 22 imps, or even 29 imps! Another defensive problem I got wrong.
Crouch and Mahmood had a fairly natural auction to 6, 4 being presumably a psychic cuebid. 4 was there way of asking for aces, and his partner showed one with 5. Now things started to unravel for South when 5 was doubled. He passed to see if his partner could redouble to show the ace, and when he couldn’t, signed off in 5. North of course liked his hand, and decided to overrule his partner. Now South knew that 6 had little chance with the lead coming through his partner’s hand, so tried 6NT, hoping this partner would have the king of clubs, and protecting it from the lead.
I thought long and hard on the lead. If North had the king of clubs, leading the ace would serve no purpose (other than perhaps saving an overtrick), but might give the contract away (it gives the club trick away but also potentially will allow declarer to squeeze someone for the twelfth trick). On the other hand if partner has it we are beating 6NT by some margin.
Eventually I fell from grace and led a spade. Declarer gratefully wrapped up 12 tricks.
Could we have done anything else? Well this auction is all about the location of the king of clubs. South, who cuebid of 4 and then converted 6 to 6NT clearly didn’t have it, and was hoping that partner did. So it was either North or West who had it. In fact West could have doubled to say this is going down (even if they pull to 7, West knows that that is two down too, so should double again). Some of you may play the double as lead directing (and indeed we do), but here is it vanishingly unlikely this is needed for anything but to tell partner about the king of clubs, and it has the bonus of making the undertricks more painful for declarer too!
Finally, just to show that we did get some things right, an earlier board, which shows the perils of giving away your hand by doubling contracts.
Round 4. Hand .26 Dealer South.
Many pairs missed game on this hand, and as south I felt I had an awkward bid after 1. I had plenty of strength, but it didn’t look like a good hand for no trumps, and I was missing a lot of top cards. Fortunately partner scraped up a raise to 3, and I had an easy 4 bid.
A diamond was led to the king, and a heart returned. Without the double I would no doubt have hoped the hearts were 3-2, ruffed one diamond, and then crossed to hand with ace and another spade to draw trumps. This would have led to one down when you find out the hearts are not breaking.
With the double it now looked like the hearts were not breaking, and I was one trick short. It is a risky line that might lead to two down, but you need to make doubled contracts (we scored up with 3NT-1, so a safe 1 down is -3 imps, 2 down is -9 imps, and making is +13 imps, thus you stand to gain 16 imps by playing for the contract, and lose 6 imps if you go an extra one down – it is well worth playing to make the contract).
Thus I crossed to a spade, ruffed a spade, ruffed a diamond, and ruffed another spade. When everyone followed, I was able to play another three rounds of trumps, leaving dummy with three winning spades and the ace of clubs. In hand I had no trumps, just Qx in both minors, so they could cash a diamond as a third trick, but then had to give up the rest.