In Round 5 of Crockford's we were drawn against Norman Selway's team. You may imagine that a midday departure on Mothering Sunday was not universally popular, and some wives and mothers were less than convinced by my assertion that Mothering Sunday finished at twelve noon.
We had a tactical discussion in the car. Midgers thought that their experience and assumed edge in the skill stakes would ensure our defeat if we played it straight down the middle. I suggested that it depended on the make up of their side; we knew that Norman Selway wasn't playing and if all three of the female members of the team were included, maybe we should fancy our chances. This possibly sexist observation (only possibly?? ed.) drew a reference to Bobby Riggs.
Our luck was clearly in, since not only was Norman Selway missing, but so was Mark Horton-and then we won the toss (opting for seating rights in the even-numbered sets). In the first set the Baron and I were joined by the Welsh Camrose line-up of Jill Casey and Filip Kurbalija (we knew it was a Camrose line-up as they were sporting their WBF convention cards from November 1996 with the word `Camrose' in the slot for `Event'). Goughie and Midgers took on the untried partnership of Kay Preddy and Sandra Landy.
We had a great start, and after 8 boards were leading 28-8, but then came our first bad board. I had to play 2NT holding Axxxx Jxx Jx AQx opposite Jx Qxxx AKxxx Kx on the lead of a low club. Had I viewed to win this in hand, play a diamond to the A (felling the stiff Q offside), a diamond to the J and a club back to dummy I probably collect another trick in the endgame but I won in dummy to play a low diamond away from AKxxx and now life is too difficult and I was 2 off; at the other table Midgers and Goughie were defending 3NT and started by setting up declarer's hearts for her (they were 3-3) and, even though she lost to the Q, she still managed to collect 10 tricks. 13 out and the set lost 6-17 to lead by 9.
A bidding misunderstanding between me and the Baron cost 5 IMPs on board 20. I opened 1NT holding Kxxxx QJ10 Jxx AJ. LHO overcalled 2, showing either major, 6 card suit. The Baron held AJxx x xx K9xxxx and, instead of bidding an immediate Lebensohl 2NT, decided to wait to see if RHO had spades (which is only possible if they are 6-0 or 6-1). When his LHO's bid of 2 was passed back to him he tried 2NT, intending this still to be Lebensohl. I reasoned that it was natural and that he had not doubled at his first turn because he held a heart stop and not a spade stop and didn't want to risk a 6-card suit being run against us, so I passed. A low heart was led, preserving communications for the defence, and when both black suits broke badly I was three off. At the other table, playing a strong NT, they opened my hand 1 and played in 4, losing the predictable four tricks to hold the loss to 5 IMPs. We were unlucky on board 23 when we stayed out of a sub-par 3NT with the spade suit wide open which was bid by the oppo who found the suit blocked-though even then it can go off on double dummy defence. 10 out, and 6 more on the last board of the set when in the other room the oppo were able to play in their 5-3 heart fit after a 1 (weak NT) opening and a 1 overcall on Jxxx AQ9xx in the majors opposite KQx 10xx; at our table the Baron overcalled 1NT with 2 asking me to pick a major, and I picked the wrong one.
We entered the last set 7 behind. We lost an IMP on the first board and then followed three thin games for NS, bid and made in both rooms. Goughie and Midgers (who bid and made them) were convinced that they had done enough to win but although we won the set 7-6 (gaining 2 IMPs when I was allowed to save in 5 against a cold 4, without being doubled, and a further 4 when Preddy and Landy-no doubt bemused by the bidding when Midgers had 8 playing tricks in spades, knew he couldn't open 2 with Goughie, so opened a Multi instead-misjudged to bid to 5 over a 4 contract that can go two off).
So that was it-a defeat by a mere 6 IMPs. An enjoyable match, though, where our `secret weapon' nearly paid off: it must be many a year since Sandra Landy has been called `dear' at the bridge table as often as Goughie managed it (or been part of a collective `good ol' girls').