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Wellington was the venue for the third qualifying event for the 2016 National Trials. Not that all 36 teams had a trip to Poland on their mind. The large field, following on 38 in Auckland and 28 in Dunedin, was proof that these events are popular and offer less ambitious players the opportunity to mix it with the best.

This time we had 9 round x 14 board Swiss format, a good number to determine a rightful winner. When the music stopped, trialists featured quite strongly at the business end, though the winning team contained a pair well qualified to be in our National team with another who made a strong statement for first time selection.

There were126 deals of which we are only going to feature two. The first is a kind of deal which you will either love or hate, depending where the bidding ends.

Board 26
East Deals
Both Vul
K 9 5 3
9 8 3
K 10 8 7 3
K J 6 3
J 10 8 4 2
J 6 5
W   E
9 8 7 5 4
K Q 10 4 2
A 5 2
A Q 2
A Q 7 6
A 7
J 9 6 4



At the 36 tables, there was naturally a wide range of contracts with North-South declaring 19 times and East-West 17. Game can be made both ways with 4Spade-small by East-West making very comfortably despite holding only 17 hcp combined. The bad trump break should and did in all bar one case beat North-South’s 4Heart-small game. Even though a diamond lead will beat 3NT by South, all four times that was the contract, the spade lead from West plus the favourable club position gave South a very easy and successful ride. 

One rather successful option for East-West, this time, was for East to open the bidding 2Spade-small showing spades and a minor or spades and another suit. With such a "robust" spade suit, the bid  is not for the faint-hearted.  With South showing a strong balanced hand (2NT), West could go all the way to game and find the most perfect lay of the cards. There will probably be 2 trump losers to go with the Diamond-smallA, but no more. Otherwise, East passes, North-South will find their heart fit and unless East does stick their toe in the water, their opposition will buy the contract in 3/4Heart-small.

The other deal came in the final match and was an opportunity for the North-South pairs to show their bidding skills.

Board 11
South Deals
None Vul
K 10 7
A 9 4
A K Q 8 7
6 5
9 4 3
Q J 10 3
Q J 8 7 4
W   E
A 8 6 2
K 8 7 5 2
5 3
10 3
Q J 5
J 10 9 4 2
A K 9 2



22 out of 36 pairs played the board in 3/4NT with only three being successful. Only four reached the cold 6Diamond-small contract, including both pairs in the Coutts V Jacob match while 7 others can earn some form of honorary mention for reaching 5Diamond-small and staying clear of the no-trump trap.

After a 1Diamond-small opening from South, North has a very very awkward choice of bids unless one is playing Inverted Minor Raises, where 2Diamond-small shows 10+ points  and is at least a one round force (some say it is game forcing). North just cannot bid 3NT at their first turn as they are too strong and have no heart hold. It is not usually wise to lie about one’s major holding though a made-up 2Club-small call is not that appealing either. If you choose 2Club-small, South raises the suit and you might be a little wary about no-trumps given partner is showing 9 cards in the minors.

An initial made up 1Heart-small response from North might work here if the bidding proceeds:

                             North                   South


                             1Heart-small                        2Club-small

                             2Spade-small 1                     2NT

                             3Diamond-small 2

1 4th suit forcing

2 slam try even if 4th suit was only a 1 round force (since any bid over 2NT should be game forcing)

Now, a 4Heart-small splinter (showing shortage) from South would be the winner.

Let’s, though, see how Inverted Minor Raises can work. They worked very well for James and Sam Coutts and for Nick Jacob and Glenn Coutts:

                             North (Sam)             South (James)


                             2Diamond-small (inverted GF)       3Club-small   (natural)

                             3Diamond-small  (waiting)              3Spade-small  (completes shape (usually 3154)

                             4Diamond-small  (requests cues)  4Heart-small   1

                             4Spade-small 1                         5Club-small    1

                             6Diamond-small                            Pass

cue bids, first and second round shown together.


                         North (Nick)                        South (Glenn)


                          2Diamond-small (inverted GF)                  3Heart-small (splinter)

                          4Diamond-small (slam try, no Club-small control)  5Diamond-small

                          6Diamond-small                                        Pass



Claiming for 12 tricks would have been so much more pleasant than receiving a heart lead in 3NT.

After 8 of the 9 rounds, Ware had a handy lead:

Ware                              126.06

Coutts                           109.61

Cornell                          106.64

Hurley                            103.21

Wilson                             99.21

It looked like it was Ware’s event for the taking but a lot can happen in 14 boards..and did. Ware played Hurley and only scored 2.51 vps. Meanwhile, Coutts played Jacob (Tom Jacob-Brian Mace, Nick Jacob – Glenn Coutts) and scored 19.28. Suddenly, the maths looked very different and very good for Coutts:

Winners 2016 N Island Teams.JPG

North Island Teams winners, Sam Coutts, Martin Reid, James Coutts and Peter Newell

  1. Coutts (James and Sam Coutts, Martin Reid- Peter Newell)                                                         128.89
  2. Ware (Michael Ware- GeO Tislevoll, Alan Grant-Anthony Ker)                                                      126.57
  3. Cornell (Michael Cornell – Ashley Bach, Michael Whibley- Matthew Brown)                                 122.67
  4. Hurley ( Evelyn and Bob Hurley, Wayne Burrows- Charles Ker)                                                    120.70
  5. Humphries (Susan Humphries- Steph Jacob, Jenny Wilkinson- Shirley Newton)                          110.94
  6. Wilson (Russell Wilson- Alister Stuck, Lorraine Stachurski- Mindy Wu)                                        107.63

Apart from Newell-Reid, all the pairs in the teams who finished in the first three places and 5th place were “trials teams”. That was a great result especially for Sam and James Coutts which certainly helped in their being named reserve pair in this year’s Open team.

Finally, a special word of praise for all involved in the organisation where no stone was lefty unturned, including shuttling players to and from the airport, to the directors, Arie Geursen and Allan Joseph, the scorer, Sam Ward, a most efficient caddy in young player Tegan Bennick, all those behind the scenes and last and by no means least, Mindy Wu, who managed to be both caterer of excellent food and play in the team which finished 6th, a neat double.

Richard Solomon












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