The National Pairs

by Jonathan Mestel

The County did well in the Regional Final of this year's National Pairs, coming 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 5th, respectively Sue Oakford & Victor Milman, David Carmichael & William Tunstall-Pedoe, Rod Oakford & Don McFarlane and Alastair Brodie & myself. Sue & Victor are thus Eastern Counties champions for the year. The eight of us duly trekked over to the Coventry Hilton hotel, for possibly one of the last EBU events to be held there, as apparently bridge players do not spend enough in the bar. Each of fifty pairs plays two boards against every pair over the weekend. The event was deservedly won by Pat Davies & Chris Dixon. Alastair & I were 3rd, Sue & Victor 10th, Rod & Don 11th, and David & William in the lower half. William comments that this was his first National event, and that he was impressed by the consistency of the scores on some hands. Not, I imagine, on the following two boards which were the most entertaining round of the event:

E/W Vul
S 109762
D 3
C AKQ1063
Dealer S
S AQ83
H 1087
D AQ9742
C -
W         E
S J5
H AK5432
D KJ106
S K4
H J96
D 85
C 987542

At our table the bidding was:

   South       West       North       East   
3c 3d* 6c 6h
P P 7c X

West's 3d was for take-out. Lest anyone suggest my hand was too weak for a preempt ("Loony" - Don), let me point out that To & Rowlands had a similar auction. Against them West led sA, so they achieved -500, an excellent score. At pairs, sacrifices against slams only tend to score well if, as here, the penalty is less than the game. Against me a heart was led, sJ returned, and after two spades, dA and a third spade, partner was somewhat surprised to find that his trumps weren't good enough to avoid a loser. -1100 is `Par' on the board, but was clearly bad for us. For example, Sue & Victor took a penalty from 6c. David & William had the auction as N/S:

   South       West       North       East   
P 1d 2d* X
3c 4d P 4h

2d showed the black suits, and South opted for the slow approach, as E/W seemed in some doubt over the meaning of the double. Somewhat confused, West bid 4d, apparently not realising it was a jump. Judging correctly that opponents might have a slam, our men settled for -680, which was worth 60%. After the hand West stated she had merely forgotten to use the `Stop' card and East claimed that if he'd realised that he'd have bid the slam, showing somewhat poor ethics. The director's comment was `Oh, this hand again!'

Don feebly passed my hand but Rod psyched:

   South       West       North       East   
P 1d 1NT! 3h
P 4h P P
5c!! P P X

This outcome seemed more hilarious to N/S than E/W, for some reason, who were somewhat caustic about North's 1NT. This needled Rod into mischievously borrowing a point or two on the next board:

Both Vul
S A74
H K1042
D Q2
C AJ63
Dealer W
S KJ10653
D 765
C 10
W         E
S 982
H J986
D 1083
C 542
H 73
C KQ987
   West       North       East       South   
1s 1NT! P 2NT*
P 3h* P* 4c*
P 4s* P 6c

Here 2NT was a minor suit enquiry, 3h showed a top honour in both minors, 4c was RKCB for clubs, and 6c was convertible to 6d. A good scientific sequence given the overcall, which of course would have been less successful if you swap the East and South hands! We also reached the slam after a pass by North, on the uninterrupted sequence: (1s)-P-2d; 2s*-3c; 3h-3s*; 4c-4NT*; 5h*-6c as Alastair judged well in the 3NT-zone. Against Sue & Victor, North tried a take-out double, South responded with a non-forcing(!!) 3d, North bid 3s and South's 5c ended the auction, for a deservedly poor score. William also doubled but East raised obstructively to 2s. Slightly unsure of their methods now, they stopped in 4d.

Later on, we held another big hand. You know how even your favourite partner sometimes seems to be on the other side? I've seen him referred to as "CHO" (centre-hand opponent). Well, for once everyone seemed on my side this time - let's call them left-hand partner and right-hand partner.

E/W Vul
S AKJ762
H 952
D 4
C Q85
Dealer S
S -
H AQJ1084
D AQ1052
C 92
W         E
S 1095
H K6
D J987
C AK74
S Q843
H 73
D K63
C J1063
   West       LHP       CHP       RHP   
1h 1s X* 2s
3s* P 4s* X
XX* P 4NT* P
6d 6s P* P
7d P P P

RHP might well have bid 3s on her first turn, and LHP 4s or 5s on his second, but the really helpful bid was RHP's double of 4s enabling me to show first round spade control. CHP's 4NT was forward going, support for all suits. When LHP sacrificed over 6d, CHP argued that he wouldn't have done so with a possible trump trick, and hence that if I needed a trump finesse it would be working. He therefore made a forcing pass over 6s and I felt able to bid the grand. This was quite satisfying, but it's worth noting that Sue & Victor only got 50% for defending 5h on the unconvincing auction 1h-2s-X-3s; 5d-P-5h;

So +800 for 6sx was already a big score. Should I really be going against this kind of odds? Well why not - it's fun to bid grands.