This year's Spring Congress saw the event move from the Cairns Hotel to the larger more prestigous Majestic Hotel, just opposite. This seemed like a welcome move and there were plenty of players in action, 352 players in the teams and 336 in the pairs.
The teams swung back and forth with every match, early leaders were the team of Martin Jones and Gav McKay, along with junior international James Thrower partnering Croz Croswell.
They were unlucky on this hand:
Q 7 5 4
A Q 9 7 6 3 2
|A K Q 7 4 3|
J 7 6
Martin Jones and Gav Mckay bid to 6, and when dummy came down they might have been worried they were missing a grand slam. Unfortunately spades were 5-1, declarer went three down after the kiling diamond lead. (He tried to draw trumps and the defence had three diamonds to cash when they ruffed in) This was -300 and an ugly result with 7NT cold. At the other table however declarer (who shall remain nameless) was enjoying her customary after dinner snooze and went one down in 4, and winning a lucky 5 imps for her troubles.
After match 6 my team had leap-frogged to the top of the table thanks to a lucky 59-0 win. Unfortunately the last set went quite poorly and we were overtaken by Jeff Smith, Jackie Pye, Dave Robinson and Richard Pike, who scored an 18-2 win in their final match at table 3.
This was a hand that will haunt me for a while:
Partner opened 1 and the next hand passed.....what now?
In order to win the Harrogate teams all I had to do was play this hand in clubs. Had I managed any level from 2 to 5 that would have been enough for a victory. Had I got to 6 that would still have been as good a result as I actually managed!
The merits of responding a spade are not immediately clear and in fact upon mature reflection it was completely ridiculous. I had no winning options over 2 as even 3 4th suit forcing would have got us to 3NT which had no chance as well.
The full hand was:
|K J 8 3|
K J 10 7 6 3 2
|6 5 4 2|
J 5 4
Q J 5 4 2
|Q 10 9|
K Q 10 9 8
Q 9 8
A 7 6 3 2
A 10 7 6
There would have been no defence to 5 and my partner struggled but had to go one down in 2.