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The Portland Bowl 2006
semi-finals day


Having competed five times previously in the Portland Bowl—finishing second once, third once, fourth twice, and being eliminated before the semi-finals once—this year was to be my last chance of that elusive first place. We had a sound Trinity team—myself, Teymur, David, Andre, and John—and we were reasonably confident, having beaten Oxford the previous weekend. However, we had exhausted my Guardian Angel's powers of good luck, and would have to rely on our ability to play the game. With Cambridge A and Cambridge B both also reaching the semi-finals, they were required to play each other, leaving us to face a Durham team captained by former CUBC president Geraint Harker.

The first stanza went well, with opponents bidding to the wrong game, and failing to double our 5C pre-empt. Then there was this hand:
Board 7
South deals
 S
 H A 8 7 6 
 D T 9 7 
 C A J T 7 2 
 S A K 4 3 
 H K T 4 
 D A Q J 
 C 9 8 4 
both vul  S Q J T 9 7 6 5 2 
 H Q 3 
 D K 6 
 C
 S  — 
 H J 9 5 2 
 D 8 5 4 3 2 
 C K Q 6 3 

West
Toby


1S
all pass

North



dbl

East
Teymur


4S

South


pass
dbl
I guess this hand is the exception to the "never put an 8 card suit in dummy" rule. Anyway, on the diamond lead, I easily wrapped up 12 tricks for +1190.

At the other table, the auction went as follows:

West



1S
dbl
6S

North
David


2C
pass
all pass

East



3C¹
5S

South
André

pass
5C
pass
¹ strong raise of spades

David, on lead to a slam with two cashing aces, didn't entirely cover himself in glory—he decided that opponents obviously had exactly eleven tricks, with no possibilty of setting up a twelfth, and that East had a club void and West had the king. The bidding makes this possibility more likely than usual, but still, when opponents bid to a slam in a competitive auction, its more likely that they have two losers than that they don't have the tricks, so I would lead an ace (there are arguments for either). Anyway, the trump lead cost 6 IMPs instead of gaining 15.
First stanza: 18–12 to Trinity.

The second stanza started well, with John and me being doubled in a cold 5H. John failed to make two overtricks by having a club sorted in with his spades. We also beat the opponents in two five of a major contracts.

Alas, when we went to score up, we found that our team-mates had doubled the same cold 5H contract, and declarer hadn't had a club in his spades, so we lost 9 IMPs on that one. The hands where we had beaten five of a major contracts, they had bid reasonable but unlucky slams. Finally, to make matters worse, opponents had bid to a lucky slam our way, while we had sensibly stayed out.

Second stanza: 2–23 to Durham.

In the third stanza, we were generously helped out by opponents opening a Lucas 2H, which went for 500 against no game our way. In return, Teymur and I generously let them make a game on this hand:
Board 23
South deals
 S T 9 
 H
 D K J T 9 
 C K J 8 7 4 2 
 S Q 8 
 H T 9 7 
 D A Q T 7 
 C Q 6 5 3 
both vul  S 7 4 3 
 H K J 5 3 2 
 D 6 5 4 3 
 C
 S A K J 6 5 2 
 H A 8 6 4 
 D
 C A T 
I don't remember the auction, but they ended up in 4S by South. I led the HT, which went Q, K, A. Declarer then ruffed a heart, returned to hand with the CA and ruffed another heart, then led a diamond to my ten. At this point, I thought it seemed almost certain that Teymur could ruff a club, so I led the C3 (McKenney for diamonds) thinking that perhaps my CQ might prove useful later. I should have realised that my DA wasn't going away, and that a heart return by Teymur would certainly be best in all circumstances. On the other hand, Teymur could have worked out that a heart lead by him would be best, but he trusted my signal and played a diamond. While we eventually came to a heart trick, our chance for a trump promotion for the setting trick had gone.

Our team-mates bid to slam on that board, so we lost 13 IMPs.
Third stanza: 21–22 to Durham.

The fourth stanza was very tight, with six flat boards. We lost 3 IMPs when Teymur and I played in a poor 3NT, while opponents played in 4S that made an undertrick fewer when trumps were 3–3; and we gained 8 IMPs when our team-mates found a good sacrifice over a making game (actually slam was making, but hard to find).

Fourth stanza: 8–3 to Trinity.

In the fifth stanza, we gained 11 IMPs when opponents misplayed a cold game, lost 10 when they bid to four of a major missing four cashing tricks, and our team-mates found the wrong lead. After a few other small swings it was:

Fifth stanza: 14–16 to Durham.

This left us 13 IMPs down going into the last set. No need to panic—solid bridge and a bid of luck will bring us back. Alas, the first hand of the set virtually sealed our fate:
Board 9
North deals
 S K 4 2 
 H J T 9 4 2 
 D K Q 5 
 C T 9 
 S A Q 9 7 3 
 H A Q 3 
 D
 C A 8 7 3 
EW vul  S 8 6 5 
 H 8 7 
 D T 6 4 2 
 C K J 5 2 
 S J T 
 H K 6 5 
 D A J 9 8 3 
 C Q 6 4 

West



dbl
dbl
4S

North
Teymur

pass
3D
pass
all pass

East


pass
pass
3S

South
Toby

2D
pass
pass
My hand isn't a textbook weak two, but third in hand at green, it's not absurd. I decided that since we were marginally trying to swing, I should bid it (had we been 13 IMPs up, I'd have passed). West then decided to force to game... As it turns out, with his partner's well-fitting hand, game isn't such a bad contract (I'm not quite sure whether I'd want to be in it), and it makes as the cards lie.
The next board put the final nail in the coffin:
Board 10
East deals
 S J T 7 
 H
 D A Q T 5 2 
 C T 9 7 4 
 S K 9 8 6 2 
 H J 9 8 7 
 D K 9 
 C K 6 
both vul  S 4 3 
 H A K T 4 2 
 D J 8 6 4 
 C 8 5 
 S A Q 5 
 H Q 5 3 
 D 7 3 
 C A Q J 3 2 

West



3H

North
Teymur


3NT

East


2H¹
all pass

South
Toby

2NT
¹ Lucas—5+ hearts, 4+ minor.
This is a good hand for the Lucas two, as it makes our bidding difficult and tells partner the best lead—note that 3NT makes on a spade lead. I don't have a great heart guard, but passing my balanced 15 count isn't likely to swing back 20 IMPS. Thinking similarly, Teymur bids an aggressive 3NT. After a heart to the king and a small heart back, I decide East is very likely to hold a diamond honour for her bid, and therefore, will not be able to hold the CK as well. I therefore try to drop a singleton CK offside—no luck! I conceed a club and they cash their hearts and exit with a spade. I rise with the ace and win my clubs effecting a show-up squeeze against West for one down.

The remaining hands weren't suitable for swinging— they were flat apart from one out-swing from trying to swing too aggressively, and one overtrick from my being asleep on the penultimate board (I'd played 46 boards, and we'd already lost the match). We could have gained some IMPs back on the last board if Teymur had taken an anti-percentage play in a 3NT contract (which strangely was made at both tables in the other semi-final).
Final stanza: 0–28 to Durham.

Durham then went on to defeat Cambridge B convincingly in the final.here is a report on our consolation final against Cambridge A.