"Getting closer", the words of Cliff, Glasvegas captain, as the team lost in the final of the BBO InterCity League for the second consecutive year. Last time it was 6 IMPs, this time just 4 IMPs as we lost to Ascoli Piceno.
I played in the second half but there was much excitement in the first. Jim and John bid a grand slam that was a little better than a finesse, gaining 11 IMPs when the finesse worked. There was another 11 IMPs when John passed at the five-level when the kibitzers and I were wondering whether he'd make a grand slam try or settle for six - but a 4-0 break scuppered the slam bid in the other room. But a lot of these IMPs went back on the final board when the five-level proved too high and taking the penalty would have been more fruitful - but these decisions are always tough at adverse vulnerability and, again, slam was potentially in the picture.
At the end of the first sixteen boards the scores were tied at 25-25.
As in previous matches I came in to play with Cliff, sitting North-South, with Helen and Danny at the other table.
The first board was an easy game for the East-West pairs. The second board was a less easy game for them, indeed neither Helen or Danny thought that they had an opening bid and did well to get into the auction at all, so no surprise when it was flat in the part-score.
On the third board, Cliff claims that someone accessed his computer remotely and that was the reason that he opened a multi two diamonds with only five hearts. Our opponents struggled to cope and went two down at the three level. In the other room Danny's one notrump overcall found a pointless partner and three down, doubled, meant a 12 IMPs loss - the only better spot was opener's suit, never easy to find.
After a flat three notrump, good competitive bidding over the opponent's strong club pushed them into a no-play game that went three down. When our declarer misplayed his heart partscore, this was worth 8 IMPs.
We gained a game swing on board six due to a difference in bidding philosophy. Danny opened a strong notrump holding five hearts and Helen just bid game with a long spade suit. The Italian philosophy is to open the major, helped by their use of the Gazzilli convention. But in this case it let Cliff and I compete and then gave the stronger hand a difficult decision which he got wrong, as they languished in the partscore.
Then the North players held:
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What do you call - double, two hearts or two spades (Michaels)?
Whichever you select, the next hand bids four spades and the auction comes back to you. What now?
Another flat game was followed by a partscore hand where I misguessed which way to finesse for a queen, going down two instead of making.
Danny and Helen gained a slam swing on board fourteen, the direct approach working better than the slow one adopted at our table:
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On the penultimate board Cliff thought he had a hand that was difficult to evaluate:
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What do you think the hand is worth?
Discussions afterwards showed that Cliff and I were not playing the same methods by a passed hand. We had agreed Drury, so I presumed that all other jumps would be fit bids. However Cliff's version of Drury is very restricted, to allow opener to judge precisely what to do, whereas mine is more wide-ranging. Luckily it didn't make any difference this time, but just shows that you need to discuss a lot in an irregular partnership.
On the final board our opponents bid game in their 5-2 spade fit and Cliff found the normal, killing, lead. Careful defence beat the contract two tricks. As we'd finished first we were able to run to the other table to find out the score and see the final boards played. We were 7 IMPs down going into the final board but I could see that Danny and Helen would bid the no-play three notrump. As they did. But the defence lost its way early on and gave Danny a chance for glory, but the key card was the seven of clubs that the defence had established and he failed to appreciate that it was high, going one down. So we lost by 4 IMPs.
An unfortunate finish but the team has played very well throughout the season and can only regard it as successful.
The next edition will be in October and, if you are free on Wednesday evenings, I strongly suggest that you get a team together and play. It is a fun event.