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Play and Defend Better: for improving players


They come from Wellington but Graham Stronach and Sandy McKirdy had one of their finest weekends of bridge at last weekend’s Taranaki Bridge Congress. With their teammates, John Luoni and John Patterson, they blitzed their way to victory in the Open Teams, winning all their matches except for a 50-50 draw in one of the final stage matches. They won the Qualifying Swiss by 10vps and more emphatically scored 67.78 vps in the 6 -team round-robin final with the second-placed team scoring 46.28.

Then, Graham and Sandy continued on with 71% in the first of three rounds in the CD Marion Hill Open Main Centre Pairs and with more modest scores in the other two rounds, won that event by 8%.

They have played together for about three years. Sandy returned to bridge after a period away.

They bid aggressively and play their cards well as this hand from the Pairs demonstrated:

Session 1

Board 5
North Deals
None Vul
Q J 3
A 7 6
J 2
J 9 8 3 2
A 9 8 7
K J 9 5
K 10 9 8
W   E
K 10
10 8 4 2
7 5
K 7 6 5 4
6 5 4 2
Q 3
A Q 6 4 3
Q 10
West North East South
Sandy McKirdy   Graham Stronach  
  Pass Pass Pass
1  Pass 1  Pass
4  All pass    


An aggressive but reasonable game. The lead was Spade-small5 which both the declarer and North players found a little hard to read. The key to this contract as in many cases is that declarer should not try and establish tricks in his own hand but set up dummy, using his own weaker trumps for ruffs and drawing trumps with those in the West hand.

Graham played the hand perfectly. He took the Spade-smallJ with the king and played a second spade to the ace. He could tell that the lead was not 4th highest as that would mean there were 6 cards higher than Spade-small5 (using the Rule of 11) in the West, North and East hands. There were 6 in the East-West hands alone and North had already contributed a 7th. It’s a good rule, that one.

So, Graham ruffed a third round of spades low in his hand and led a diamond from hand. South won the ace and returned a low diamond. Graham won, played Club-smallA, ruffed a diamond and discarded dummy’s last diamond on the Club-smallK.

Only now did he attack trumps and with the favourable fall of the Heart-smallQ, Graham had made an overtrick for 100% of the match-points.

They were the only pair to bid and make the heart game with only 3 out 10 pairs in hearts making 11 tricks.

Sandy McKirdy and Graham Stronach 20.jpg
  Sandy McKirdy and Graham Stronach

(Legitimately, the only ways for the defence to take three tricks is for South to lead either heart..yes, that’s right from Q3…and either for North to duck the opening lead and then South to continue hearts when in with Diamond-smallA or if North played 2 rounds of hearts at tricks 1 and 2, South must duck the first diamond and North win the second round with Diamond-smallJ to play a third round of hearts. Do you think at the 7 tables where less than 11 tricks were made that that either defence was found? I am more than a little doubtful!)

Sandy and Graham only scored 92% on the next board for another slightly aggressive game contract (Wellingtonians do not play in 2NT!) and continued on their successful way. I can only reflect they choose different opponents to bid and play their hands against so well in the future!

Richard Solomon

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