Friday, 24 May 2013

A pair of imps

One of my favourite classic Japanese movies is called Rashomon , wherein a horrible story of cruelty is told through a plot device which involves various characters providing alternative versions of the same incident.

I was reminded of this while playing recently in the Cambs and Hunts County Teams final against the Jagger team.

First the story at my table, where we were sitting North-South.

I held: KQx Void KJ10xx AK10xx and heard my partner open two hearts, first in hand with neither side vulnerable. This was a weak two bid, showing 5-9 points and a six card suit.

While I was thinking what I could/should bid, Paul Barden, my left hand opponent, overcalled with 2, and it was my turn to bid.

Although I am fond of my own voice, even with bidding boxes, I thought that this overcall had relieved me of a tricky problem, and so I decided it best to await further developments and passed smoothly. Jon Cooke in the next seat, also passed (after some thought), so 2 became the final contract.

I led the CA, and Jon put down a rather threadbare Jxxxx  Kx xxx xxx - certainly full values for his slow pass.

I successfully cashed my two top clubs (declarer following with QJ) and followed with the 10, declarer, somewhat to my surprise, discarding a diamond.

Can you see what is coming? Well, of course, declarer has all the remaining spades, so partner is void in that suit. and therefore declarer had a 5512 shape!

Although I came to my two spade tricks in the end, there was no way to defeat two spades, and we duly recorded -110.

In the other room, Catherine Jagger too opened 2with the North hand, but this time there was no intervention from the opposition, and although 2 could have made Catherine played trumps once too often and drifted one off.

The Jagger team, thus duly gained two IMP's on the board.

Next hand.........

Wait a second.......I hear you cry.

Well, those of you paying attention, will have spotted that North-South could have made 7D on this deal. The full layout being:














I remember many years ago, kibitzing the late great John Collings (partnering Paul Hackett)  and seeing him being passed out in 1 with a grand slam available (also in diamonds, as I recall), never imagining that this might happen to me one day.

Although thirteen tricks are only available because of the fortunate layout if the club suit, it certainly would not be unreasonable to be in 6 on this hand, so who - if anyone is to blame?

Although I do feel myself to be something of a dinosaur (not only when my children point out this fact), the weak two bid seems to me to have undergone a metamorphosis in the twenty years that I was away from the bridge table between 1990-2010. And unlike many metamorphoses, this has not been one for the better: not only do many strong players in the country now consider a "good" five card suit quite sufficient for this bid at any vulnerability and any position, but there is really no holding them back even.when the hand is manifestly playable in at least one other suit, if not two.

I am a strong believer in mixing one's pre-empts, and "weak" openings in third and fourth position can, and should, be varied; however in first in second position, it really pays (in my view) to be more circumspect and disciplined. Voids are one warning sign whereas length in spades may be a powerful incentive for striking the first blow.

On the hand above, a pass by North would have certainly resulted in North-South reaching at least game level - or possibly taking a worthwhile penalty from a spade sacrifice. Once the bidding starts with a weak two, it is going to be an uphill task to challenge Bradley Wiggins!


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