Tollemache Qualifier 98

by Paul Barden

We were in a group of 9 with a team of 8 (Warren & Kendrick, Wightwick & Woodruff, Barden & Mestel and Jagger & Young) plus Chris Larlham as npc. This worked well enough; we seemed to do less well at the end of each day, so perhaps tiredness was a factor, but the advantage of getting into rhythm by playing all the sets should not be underestimated.

The set against Lancashire was an early indication of the way I was playing:

Game All
S 10732
H 1094
D 97
C 10865
Dealer South
S AK654
H 72
C AJ92
W        E
S 8
H KQ65
D Q1063
C Q743
H AJ83
D K8542
S       JM       N       PB      
1d 1s P 1NT
P 3NT all pass

At the other three tables, South led a diamond and 3NT made easily. But against us South led a heart, which went to the nine and king; this had the effect of removing an entry to East's hand. At trick two I led a club to the king and ace, then played on diamonds. South allowed the jack to hold, and when I cashed dummy's spade winners he alertly unblocked the queen and jack, leaving me without resource.

This was good defence, but soft play by me. I should have tried a small spade off dummy after the jack of diamonds held. No doubt North should rise with the ten; would you? Better still is to lead the DJ off table without unblocking the dA. South must duck this and then a small spade is led off table. If N wins this and puts a heart through he is squeezed in the black suits (or endplayed if only two hearts are cashed.)

However, we got all that back and more two boards later:

E-W game
S K5
H 84
D 42
C AKQ10843
Dealer North
S 943
H K5
D J1098753
C 6
W        E
S J1086
C 95
S AQ72
H 97632
D 6
C J72
N       PB       S       JM      
3NT X all pass

The 3NT opening was Acol style, allegedly a solid suit with nothing outside. My double just showed a good hand; we play that 4d would be take-out of clubs, but this hand is too defensive. South seems to have had a brainstorm in passing the double. Jonathan bravely passed on the strength of his king of hearts. This was very right and we cashed the first eleven tricks in the red suits with the help of suit preference on the second round of diamonds.

At other tables the hand was played in 5c by North or 5d by West. Against 5d, North led a top club and then had to switch to spades; this looks like the right defence and was found by Chris Jagger. Against 5c East led a top diamond and then had to switch to hearts. This looks harder, and Fiske Warren (playing with David Kendrick) scored up +550. But West should surely give suit preference in this position, whereas against 5d South must give count.

My one good hand of the event came against Derbyshire:

N-S game
H K5
C 1094
Dealer East
S 103
H Q92
D 10874
C QJ85
W        E
S Q762
H 1043
D 963
C K62
S J954
H AJ876
D 5
C A73
PB       S       JM       N      
P 1h P 2c
P 2h P 4NT*
p 5h P 6NT

The auction was quick, but North took longer over 2c than 4NT (asking for plain aces), and I smelt a rat. Reflecting that a lead from Kxx wasn't too likely to cost if I was wrong, I led a club. Lucky this time, and three off when declarer took the heart finesse. David and Fiske played the same hand in 6d, one off when East also led a club.

There was an echo later in the event, when we played the second half of the match against the same pair:

E-W game
S 1095
H 8754
C -
Dealer West
S 6
H QJ32
D 8762
C QJ105
W        E
S Q7432
H 96
D 1053
C 763
H AK10
D -
C AK9842
JM       N       PB       S      
P 1d P 3c
P 3d P 3s

No inspiration this time, and I led the seven of spades. North had a difficult decision to make, had I led from the queen of spades, or could West be induced to take the queen if the jack were played from dummy. He played the jack, and in due course drifted three off again. [I like to think I might have managed to duck holding sQxx as West, but we'll never know. However, one opposing declarer reached 7NT, and on a neutral heart lead, led the sJ at trick 2! East stared at this, but then took the trick, as you don't expect to lose IMPS for setting a freely bid grand. However declarer was only one down as a result. Why declarer declined the reasonable shot of laying down sAK I cannot say. - JM] David Kendrick made 6NT from the South hand by leading the jack of spades early in the play, inducing an error from East, but no one in our match managed to bid 7d or even 6d.

North on these two hands was Jim Tomlinson, who has sent me his write-up of them for the Derby Evening Telegraph. He was so charming that I made a horrible misbid in the first set to give most of the points back, and Jonathan joined in with a more understandable slip on this hand from the second set:

E-W game
S 832
D J43
C Q865
Dealer South
S KQ10964
H 7
D Q85
C A94
W        E
S J5
H 10643
D K962
C 1032
S A7
H AK982
D A107
S       JM       N       PB      
2h 2s P P
2NT P 3h P
4h P P P

Actually I've forgotten the auction, but it did start with an Acol 2h (not my choice). Jonathan led the sK and I unblocked the jack to clarify (?) the situation for him. Declarer won, played a heart to dummy, then a club to the king and ace. There was nothing in the play after this and ten tricks were made when the clubs broke 3-3.

I mention this hand because of the interesting play which results if Jonathan ducks the king of clubs. Declarer draws all my trumps, throwing a diamond from dummy, and West has to find three discards. The only winning defence is to throw two spades and a diamond. If he throws three spades declarer can duck a spade, win West's club exit in dummy, ruff a spade, and exit in clubs to make two diamond tricks. A possible alternative is to cross to dummy with a second heart and lead the jack of diamonds. Looking at the diamond suit in isolation East should cover this, but on this hand that lets the contract make. Declarer wins and again draws trumps, and this time the squeeze on West works against any defence. But if East ducks the jack of diamonds, West wins and plays two rounds of spades, East pitching a club. Now if declarer draws trumps he's lost control, and if not West can give East a club ruff when he takes the ace.

The eventual winners of our group were Berks & Bucks, with us quite comfortable in second place. This hand against them did not change that, but I was very angry about it:

N-S game
S 3
H KJ9853
D 2
C AJ854
Dealer North
S K1042
H Q4
D AQ753
C 92
W        E
S AQ75
H 1072
D KJ64
C 63
S J986
H A6
D 1098
C KQ107
N       PB       S       JM      
1h P 1s 2d
2h 2s* 3h P
4h 5d X all pass

My 2s bid showed a sound diamond raise. For some reason, Jonathan failed to alert it. He mentioned this at the end of the auction, and our opponents seemed unhappy, so we called the director. South now added that Jonathan had passed slowly over 3h, I said he hadn't, North said he had. In view of the failure to alert, the director offered North the opportunity to change his final pass, which he declined. He led his singleton spade, and Jonathan claimed two off. This was a poor score for us, since teammates had played in a club partial; if West passes North will bid 2c, South 3c, and North may well pass.

The director was called back because South thought I didn't have a 5d bid. There was more discussion; it was agreed that everyone knew all along that 2s was conventional, Jonathan conceded that he had realised that he had failed to alert by the time South bid 3h and had dithered to some extent about correcting his error.

At the end of the set the director returned with his ruling; in view of Jonathan's statement it was ruled that a hesitation had occurred. It was ruled that pass was a logical alternative to 5d, and therefore the score was adjusted to 4h making up one.

This is not too unreasonable a ruling for a TD to make, and I was civil enough to him. But I was very angry about our opponents' behaviour. They can see by cursory examination of declarer's hand - and it was immediately available to them since he claimed at trick one - that he could not have been thinking about bidding over 3h. Therefore I have learned nothing from any hesitation. To my mind it is wholly unsporting to seek an adjustment when no unfair advantage has been gained.

At the end of the event I wanted to appeal, but Chris Larlham refused to let me do so, as is his right. He knew that the appeal would not affect the final standings, he felt that there had in fact been a hesitation (he was kibbitzing at the next table) and he had been advised (rightly, by Chris Jagger) that pass was a logical alternative to 5d. In fact the main thrust of my appeal would have been that any hesitation would not suggest 5d over pass, but I had no wish to argue with Chris, so the appeal went unheard. Since the event I've consulted neutrals, who have expressed the unanimous view that I would lose an appeal. I'm surprised by the unanimity, and it confirms my suspicion that the rules on hesitations have gone too far.