The Cambridge Club recently invested in some leading-edge technology - we bought a "Duplimate" computerised dealing machine. No, it isn't just a question of saving the players the arduous job of shuffling and dealing, which of course is hardly a chore. Its main advantages are
(i) that the deals are perfectly random, which in practice means that they are more exciting, and
(ii) that a printout of all the hands is available to each player at the end of the session.
A further advantage is that running a Swiss Pairs becomes feasible. The Club is happy and indeed keen to hire out this facility to the County and this has enabled the County to run its first ever Jubilee Swiss Pairs, which was held in June at Trumpington. After five of the six rounds, Ann & I were in the lead with 92 VPs out of 100 but we then met Jonathan Mestel & Rod Oakford, who were in cracking form, crushed us 20-0, and won by 11 VPs.
The new technology ain't cheap and takes some work to set up initially. Philip Wraight and Bob Gittins both put in a lot of time and effort here. But once the equipment is set up, producing a set of boards and printouts is, I understand, quick and easy.
A disadvantage of having printouts is that scrutiny of the hand records generally reveals that one played much more badly than one realised at the time! This was one of my poorer efforts in the Jubilee Pairs (with the hand rotated for convenience):
West (Gareth Birdsall, partnering Sonia Zakrzewska) dealt and opened a weak 1NT and Ann (N) came in with an Asptro 2, showing spades and another. Sonia passed and I jumped to 3, which Ann raised to 4. Gareth led the J.
After a fairly cursory look at dummy I could see that prospects looked good. The line of ruffing diamonds in dummy seemed to offer a strong chance of ten tricks and a good score surely, though the absence of the 8 was slightly worrying. Pursuing this line I won with dummy's A, crossed to A + ruff, back to K, ruff, ruff, ruff with the K, Gareth pitching a club. Now I played the A, but no sign of the 8 so far. Then I played a low club off dummy, low from Sonia, Gareth winning with the J. Gareth then played the K, smartly overtaken by Sonia with the Ace, and she continued with the fifth diamond (a club would also have worked, but not a heart). I am now down to J97 of trumps whilst Gareth is sitting over me with Q8 and a heart. I ruffed the diamond high but Gareth didn't make the mistake of overruffing: he discarded his heart, and now his trumps are worth two tricks - one off. Gareth would have been slightly more tested if his clubs had been AJ, not KJ: in that case he'd have had to win the first round with the Ace, not the Jack of course, though Gareth would have seen this instantly.
But now that I look at the printout I see that a much stronger and certainly more successful line would have been to win the first trick in hand and play on clubs immediately. Then I'd have made an overtrick!
Congratulations to Jonathan and Rod, of course, and many thanks to Philip & Sally Wraight for their huge input as non-playing directors of this very enjoyable event.
Addendum by Jonathan Mestel
My thanks too to two great County stalwarts. The event ran very smoothly and was enjoyed by all.
This was a nice `find the queen' hand from the critical match:
Not a very good contract objectively. Rod considered doubling 4, which would have been a cooperative effort, but I might well have removed to 4 anyway.
Ann led 4 to the J and K, and after a little thought, John cashed the red aces and exited with a diamond, South showing an odd number in each suit. So who has the Q?
The bidding and carding indicated that North was 5-5 in the red suits, and so South has three of each and it is safe to cash Q and KQ before drawing trumps, throwing clubs. At this point, cashing A is a slight risk worth taking, as when North follows, a club ruff in hand completes the count, and the 2-2 break is a certainty. Had North followed a second time, the finesse through South would have been marked.
But if North had held xxx AKxxx AJ10xx - it would have been a different story, as after the diamond return I would probably have lost two trump tricks, my equanimity, many Match Points and partner's respect...