Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
Herself and I recently spent a delightful month in New Zealand, driving through most of that beautiful country from Auckland to Dunedin and Christchurch. Throughout our journey we met only very pleasant, friendly people who made our stay extremely enjoyable. None more so than the folks we encountered when we made a stop at the Hutt Bridge Club in suburban Wellington. We happened to be there on a Tuesday evening when they had 17 tables in play and we were warmly welcomed in true Kiwi fashion. That doesn’t mean that the locals were throwing top boards at us, it was a better than average field and we had to work hard for every matchpoint we earned.
The diagrammed board was the first one we played that night and we didn’t get off to a wonderful start. Herself, sitting North, opened the bidding 1 club. East had a decent collection but really nothing to say and I, in the South seat bid 1 spade. West passed and North made the normal raise to 2 spades where the bidding ended. This was the way the bidding would most likely have proceeded in a country affiliated with the American Contract Bridge League but some things are different down under as we shall soon see.
West led the heart queen and I paused to count my losers. I had an inevitable 3 heart losers, possibly 2 or even 3 spade losers and maybe a diamond loser as well. Still, there was some prospect of making the contract if the Great Shuffler had put some of the missing honours in favourable locations.
The defence quickly cashed their 3 heart winners ending in East who switched to a small club. I won in hand and played a low trump to the king and East’s ace. East continued with another club which I also won in hand to play a trump and finesse the 10 only to lose yet again, this time to East’s jack. No matter what happened next, I had an inescapable diamond loser and had to concede down 1.
“That will be a bad board for us” I forecast as we put the cards back in the board and so it proved at the end of the night as we only scored 25% of the available matchpoints. How was I able to be so insightful? I knew that most New Zealanders play the Acol bridge system which originated in England and favours weak no trump opening bids of 12 to 14 high card points, rather than the 15 to 17 HCP that is more popular in North America. Therefore most of our competitors holding the North cards would have opened 1 no trump and, in all likelihood, bought the contract there. No matter how skilled the defenders might have been they would have been unable to beat this contract if played carefully by North. Despite our lack of success on this hand we managed to climb to 63% and a respectable 3rd place finish by the end of the night.
If you ever find yourself in the Wellington area and in need of a bridge “fix” might I suggest you contact the nice people at the Hutt club? You can find them online at: http://www.hutt.bridge-club.org/