The Bombay Experience

by Chris Jagger

An invitation to play in the Tolani International Grand Prix in Bombay, all expenses paid, except for flight, seemed like an offer too good to miss. Three weeks later, two and a half grand later (January is a bad time to fly to India), after a dozen injections and armed to the teeth with malaria tablets, Cath, Lamford, JY and I set off for Bombay. The first serious blow came when JY, who was working his way through the air hostesses, had to spend his time chatting to a drunk instead. However, we arrived safely at 3am in 30°C in Bombay.

I ought briefly to introduce our team - Catherine Ashment and John Young may be familiar to county members. Paul Lamford, from London, is a backgammon champion, a full time expert on odds, and rather good at double dummy problems. Throughout the week he could be relied upon to fill any break in the conversation with a new thought on such and such a hand. His two key descriptions of a bridge action are "Impeccable" and "Barking."

We had a full day free to see the sights, and a chauffeur was at our disposal. This sounds great until you realise that there are about 16 million people in Bombay, all of them on the road, and all of them crazy! Two lane roads become six lane ones, and in the few cases where people actually stop for traffic lights, setting off is like the motor racing Grand Prix, with everybody changing lanes and jostling for position. Huddling away from the sides of the car, we were surprised to find that minor accidents (eg a car crashing into our side), didn't even cause our driver to stop! Seeing cars threading their way through the traffic on the wrong side of the road, just like a space invader game, at least made us realise that our driver was saner than the rest!

Bad news next day when we found it was a 9.30am start. So we made our way through the biggest dodgems ride on earth to the 5* Leila Hotel, the most fabulous hotel I've ever seen, but an incongruous sight, with shanty towns suddenly giving way to the magnificent gardens of the hotel.

We started with too many barking actions, and by lunch, just like the average England cricket side, we were in some trouble. An impeccable afternoon followed, and by the next day we were just about to qualify for the final, when a late barking fit left us two VPs adrift. The following hand was a missed opportunity - initial poor play by an Indian declarer followed by a good recovery after we misdefended.

Game All
S 4
H AK1075
D Q53
C A1095
Dealer South
S A8
H 64
D 9862
C J8763
W        E
S KJ96
H Q832
D J74
C K4
S Q107532
H J9
D AK10
C Q2

Declarer played in 3NT on a diamond lead. He ran the nine of hearts, which my partner ducked, and then the jack, which was taken. East returned a diamond, which declarer won in hand. He tried a club to the nine and king. East played the third round of diamonds (a spade now takes it off). Declarer has nine tricks, but cannot cash the queen of clubs and get back to dummy. He cashed the hearts, and West was squeezed, coming down to two clubs, a spade and a diamond. Declarer crossed to the queen of clubs, and exited with a spade. West had to give dummy a trick at the end. A nice example of a stepping stone squeeze, in which declarer has the tricks but not the entries to cash them all.

The consolation final had an interesting scoring system: 3-3 for 0-10 difference of scores, 4-2 for 20-50, 5-1 for 60-190, and 6-0 for at least 200 difference. A combination of point-a-board (ie pairs scoring), and imps. We finished fifth, and then turned our attention to the final event - the Cavendish Pairs, in which pairs are auctioned off, with the buyer taking the prize money. Cath and Lamford paired off with Indian experts, and JY and I played together - we suffered heavily on this board:

NS Vul.
S 104
H A10643
D A1075
C A3
Dealer West
S A87
H 5
D J8
C J1098654
W        E
S Q953
H J9872
D Q93
C 2
S KJ62
D K642
West        North        East        South       
3c P P 3NT
P 4NT P 5c
p 6NT P P

The Indians bid badly and play well, and this hand was no exception - why South had thought his partner might want to know how many aces he had I don't know (the 3NT bid is very wide-ranging, so 4NT has to be saying if you have extra values, please bid on), and they reached a seemingly hopeless slam. I led the cJ, taken in dummy, and the ten of spades was led. Looking at the four hands it is easy to see that East should cover, but he played low. If I had ducked, the contract would now be cold (readers might like to investigate the interesting ending if I take the second spade and return a diamond). However, I took the spade and returned another club. Declarer cashed the next club and East had problems. On the first club he pitched a heart painlessly, but any pitch would cost a trick on the second. He chose a diamond (playing me for Jxx), which cost two and the contract. In fact he has to pitch a spade, and declarer hasn't now got the entries to make the contract.

Lamford came 5th, Cath 12th, and JY/I came home.

Lamford was still discussing this hand two days later.