Premier Grand Masters Pairs
by Michael Byrne

The Ranked Masters Pairs is one of the highlights of the English Bridge Calendar each year, and this year there were many different pairs competing in the different categories. The dealing machine had thrown up loads of interesting hands, which meant that there was plenty to cut your teeth on:

This was the first of back to back Grand Slams

Dealer East NS Game.

SK Q 5 2
HA K Q 9 7
D--
CA J 5 4
SJ 9
H10 8 5 4 2
D9 8
CK 9 8 6
HandS10 3
HJ 6 2
DQ J 10 6 5 2
CQ 2
SA 8 7 6 4
H--
DA K 7 4 3
C10 7 3

Given a free run it's quite easy to reach 7S, I suppose the auction

WestNorthEastSouth
1S
Pass2NTPass4D
Pass5NTPass6D
Pass7S

where 4D shows 5/5 and 5NT asks for top trump honours is possible, or if South prefers to bid 3H to show shortage, North can try the 5D exclusion keycard and then bid 7S, all roads leading to Rome. I heard a tale of woe from one pair in the bottom rank who asked me where they went wrong:

WestNorthEastSouth
1S
Pass2NTPass4D
Pass4HPass4S
Pass6S

The 4D bid showed 5/5 (but apparently North was unaware it showed a good hand), and 4H was described as "Last Train", another good convention that is abused by players who should no more be allowed to play with it than a small child with a chainsaw. "What else could I bid over 4S?" was the question I was asked - I sportingly suggested that, if they weren't prepared to risk a Grand Slam, they might have tried key card; at least hearing two aces they could bid the slam and over one, you are in no worse a position than jumping to six.

In the top division there were lots of variations, however, as East normally got the ball rolling with some sort of pre-empt. Where Heather Dhondy sat South she saw:

WestNorthEastSouth
3DPass
4DxPass?

Although slam looked likely, there was no way to reach seven, so she sat it and collected 1400 when the defence arranged for her to throw her clubs on partner’s hearts and get a ruff to hold declarer to four trump tricks.

At our table I was having a few fun and games for all the good it did me:

WestNorthEastSouth
2D#Pass
2SDblePassPass
3D6S!!!

#= weak

Having doubled 2S ostensibly for take out and seen Catherine Curtis pass it for penalties, Paul Fegarty knew something was up and just bid what he thought he could make. South might have raised to seven, but facing a void diamond was hardly likely to be good news, so Catherine passed and took 1460. Remarkably none of the six tables reached a grand slam, once again showing that pre-empting works.

The other Grand Slam was slightly easier to bid, and once again Catherine and Paul had a smooth auction to get there that earned them 11 imps:

Board 7. Dealer South Game All

SA K J 9 2
HA Q
DA Q J 7 6
CA
S8 7 4
HK 2
D10 8 4 2
CQ 4 3 2
HandS3
HJ 10 8
DK 9 5 3
CJ 10 9 7 5
SQ 10 6 5
H9 7 6 5 4 3
D--
CK 8 6
WestNorthEastSouth
Pass
Pass2CPass2D
Pass2SPass3S
Pass4CPass4D
Pass4NTPass5C
Pass5DPass6C*
Pass7S

A simple key card auction, with South showing her diamond control giving North enough to bid 7 with confidence.

Catherine and Paul were runaway winners of the event, showing that not all married couples are an easy target!

*= Queen of trumps + King of clubs