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Pairs The Great Leveller

The National Open Pairs at Auckland Bridge Club.

Have you heard that before? Some days everything works and others…everything works for the opposition! It may be sobering to know that even our top internationals have such days. Take the final 24 boards of this National Pairs event. Few would doubt that Matthew Brown and Michael Whibley are one of this country’s top pairs. They led this event with a reasonable margin but then had one of those afternoons where they scored 38.54%. Joining them in the under 40% was the strong pairing of Michael Cornell and Jonathan Westoby. Interestingly, none of the challenging pairs could quite get enough match-points to catch Matthew and Michael to leave these as the top eight positions in the 14 pair final:

  1. Michael Whibley – Matthew Brown                           366.5
  2. Tom and Steph Jacob                                               359.7
  3. Steve Boughey – William Liu                                    352.9
  4. Gary Chen – John Wang                                          341.3
  5. Ian Berrington – Richard Solomon                           340.3
  6. GeO Tislevoll – Michael Ware                                  339.3
  7. Clair Miao – Wayne Burrows                                    338.4
  8. Barry Jones and Jenny Millington                            334.7

Of course, Michael and Matthew had scored hugely well up to those final 24 boards. They were top qualifiers on Day 1 with a near 64% average including a third session 70.24% , well clear of the field except for second placed Michael Ware and GeO Tislevoll and finishing over 30% clear of the bottom of the 14 qualifiers. They then posted a pretty impressive 63.37% over the first 28 boards of the barometered final. That was when the tide turned though they had just enough margin to hang on.

                             First and Second on the day

 Matthew and Michael.jpg    Steph and Tom 19.jpg
Michael Whibley and Matt Brown   Tom and Steph Jacob

The Plate section was won by just 0.3 of a matchpoint, with Linda Cartner and Glenis Palmer having that vital tiny advantage over Patrick Carter and Julie Atkinson. Both were recorded with the same 55.93% score.

The Consolation was a little clearer with 16.5 match-points separating Gina Hsu and Jacky Lo in first place from Owen Camp and Mike Dunn.

Let's remind Matthew and Michael of a happier board from the qualifying:

Board 16
West Deals
E-W Vul
A Q 3
10 5
A 9
K Q J 10 5 2
8 7
K Q 3
Q 6 4 2
A 9 8 3
W   E
9 6
9 7 6
J 10 8 7 5 3
7 6
K J 10 5 4 2
A J 8 4 2
West North East South
  Michael Whibley   Matthew Brown
Pass 1  Pass 1 
Pass 1  Pass 4 
Pass 5  Pass 5 
Pass 5  Pass 6 
All pass      

 1Heart-small showed 4+ spades and 1Spade-small three. Matthew jumped to game though Michael (North) thought he was good enough to try for slam with both minor 5 level bids being cue-bids. With no heart control, Michael could not bid the slam though Matthew's Heart-smallA enabled him to do so.
The slam, which just over half the pairs bid, is particularly frustrating for the defence. If they lead a heart, the club loser disappears on the Diamond-smallA and yet if they lead a club, then there are enough discards for all South's heart losers to be thrown. If they lead a diamond or spade, declarer throws away the club loser and then runs the Club-small K discarding a heart from dummy. The defence cannot get more than one trick.

They open 2Club-small: We can make slam
This was the situation on one board in the qualifying. In fact, both sides could make a slam though one pair reached a slam that could have been defeated:

Board 21
North Deals
N-S Vul
10 9 5 2
K J 7
K J 9 7 3
Q 7
Q 10 9 8 2
10 9 7 3 2
W   E
A K J 8 6 4 3
A K Q 6 4
A 6 5 3
J 5
A Q 10 6 5 4 2
West North East South
  Pass 2  3 
Pass Pass 3  Pass
4  Pass 6  All pass

 No North-South pair got to play in their making club slam though one pair did extremely well by sacrifising at adverse vulnerability at the 7 level, just one down doubled. Playing Pairs, it looks like West should convert back to 6Spade-small for a better score though with a freak deal and 10 cards in diamonds on the side, this contract is in theory more susceptible to a ruff than 6Diamond-small.

However, on this day, that was not true as with 6Spade-small cold, against 6Diamond-small, one South player had a chance to shine by underleading their Heart-smallA to wake partner up and switch to a spade. Alas, the lead was the Heart-smallA. Twice more North was on lead. They both chose black suit leads with the spade lead defeating the slam (well chosen as there was no Lightner Double) but the club lead giving all 13 tricks to the declarer.

The event was well organised and directed by Caroline and Murray Wiggins with a decent amount of bridge and good catering by the host club. If one is to have a below 40% set, then when you still scrape through to win the event is an excellent time to do so.... and, take heart, we can all have them. I know! 
Richard Solomon





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