Thursday, October 26, 2017

Bridge in the 21st Century, by Jim Kaplan

Could Scottish bridge compete with the country’s (warm-hearted) people and spectacular places? It was a tall order, After touring the Highlands and thrilling to glassy lakes (lochs) flanked with hills rising into the clouds, my wife and I understood why the Rough Guide handbook called Scotland the most beautiful country on Earth. Scots, uniformly warm-hearted in our experience, have invented everything from penicillin to TV to Dolly the cloned sheep.

Yet when we entered Edinburgh’s New Melville Bridge Club, there were still more wonders to behold. Located in its own building, the club has three playing rooms, two cloakrooms, and plenty of sweets. Players used electronic Bridgemate scoring with a welcome line for opening leads. Club director Mike Ash announced our presence, and players rotated to our table with warm greetings and soft condolences about our cartoon graveyard across the pond. There was a refreshments break after three boards and there was also such a relaxed cadence we didn’t mind that play took four hours.

Ash warned us that most of the players were in the developing stage, but we finished only seventh among 16 North-South pairs. Even so, there were places where experience counted. I was sitting North and dealing, with North-South vulnerable:

NORTH
S A Q J 9 8 7 4
H -
D -
C A Q 10 6 5 2
WESTEAST
S 6 5S 10 2
H Q 10 8 6 5H A K 4 3
D K Q 8 6 5D A 10 9 7 4 2
C KC 7
SOUTH
S K 3
H J 9 7 2
D J 3
C J 9 8 4 3

How would you open this hand? Strong two-suiters appear maybe once every five years, and you’d better take advantage of them. The Melville commentary sheet recommended opening the strong and artificial 2C. Here’s a good auction as described to me by an expert:

North  East  South  West
2C  Pass  2D  Pass   
2S  Pass  2NT  Pass   
3C  Pass  4C  Pass   
4D•  Pass  4S••  Pass   
5H•••  Pass  6C  All Pass

• First round control
•• Second round control
••• First round control

I saw no way to show my extreme distribution without opening 1S and jumping to 3C, admittedly risking a passout after my opener. With only two losers, experience taught me that a slam was likely, not withstanding bidding complications. It’s tough enough to show one void, much less two. Our bidding proceeded as follows:

North  East   South  West
1S  Pass   1NT  Pass
3C  Pass   3S  Pass
6S   All Pass
Opening lead: heart ace

A 6C slam would have been safer to bid than 6S, but we were happy making seven. Not every table was in slam, possibly because East may have overcalled 2D. Yet there’s still a way to bid slam in a spirited auction:

North  East   South  West
1S  2D   Pass  4D
6C  All Pass

As Michael Douglas said in the movie “Black Rain,” sometimes you just have to go for it. While we prepared to leave the clean, classy and cultured capital city built around a castle on a hill for the last stage of our journey, a player told us, “Edinburgh has style, but Glasgow has soul.”

Stay tuned.

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