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.
|K Q 5 2|
A K Q 9 7
A J 5 4
10 8 5 4 2
K 9 8 6
J 6 2
Q J 10 6 5 2
|A 8 7 6 4|
A K 7 4 3
10 7 3
Given a free run it's quite easy to reach 7, I suppose the auction
where 4 shows 5/5 and 5NT asks for top trump honours is possible, or if South prefers to bid 3 to show shortage, North can try the 5 exclusion keycard and then bid 7, 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:
The 4 bid showed 5/5 (but apparently North was unaware it showed a good hand), and 4 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 4?" 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:
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 partners 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:
Having doubled 2 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
|A K J 9 2|
A Q J 7 6
|8 7 4|
10 8 4 2
Q 4 3 2
J 10 8
K 9 5 3
J 10 9 7 5
|Q 10 6 5|
9 7 6 5 4 3
K 8 6
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