Kiwi Kibber #1: NSW vs QLD Youth
Posted by Nick Jacob on Monday, 14 July 2014 at 00:54
So, what's the big deal about the ANC? I had not even heard of it until I came over to Adelaide this time last year. When I arrived, there were vugraph tables set up, twenty board matches being played, and all results being submitted to the web. The atmosphere was great: competitive but also friendly. It all felt much closer to Europe than to New Zealand.
After packing up from Auckland and relocating to Melbourne, I jumped at the opportunity to play this year's ANC. Yet, no one told me about the Victorian voodoo in the Open division of the ANC. How could it affect a Kiwi, anyway? After going for 1600 in a partscore and getting most slam decisions wrong in the day, maybe there's some truth to this superstition. Let's draw a veil over these escapades and follow some of the other matches.
For my first match report, I chose to kibitz two partnerships that, for me, epitomise the youth division of the competition. Round two, NSW vs. Queensland, Ed Burrows and James Ferguson playing against Jessica Brake and Michael Gearing. Ed and James have been enthusiastic in their practice over the past year and can often be seen bidding on BBO with Andy Hung providing guidance. Jess has graduated from playing with her dad to being selected to represent the Australian Girls' team for the World Youth Teams Championships in Turkey. Michael is an ultimate Frisbee enthusiast and a talented chess player who is quickly being sucked into the world of a far superior mind sport (no bias!).
Clockwise from left: James, Jess, Ed and Michael.
Before the match, Ed smashed a couple of clues to Nev's cryptic. Would this bode ill for the Queensland youth?
Board 6 set the tone for the match: aggression from Ed and James. But this was controlled aggression, unlike the extravagant kind normally associated with the youth.
If the opponents intervene at the one level, what's the difference between passing the overcall or rebidding 1NT on a minimum hand? Whatever the difference was, it was enough for James to bid game, with 3NT being a very difficult contract to beat. Ed ducked the spade lead and won Jess' continuation of the queen with his ace. Next he played a heart to dummy's king and ducked another to Michael. Maybe he should have ducked a heart to Jess, whose club switch into the A10 could not have hurt. Since Michael held both club honours, he was forked. He could set up a club trick for himself (and declarer) or give Ed the time to set up a second spade trick to go with his four hearts, two diamonds and a club. When he did the former, Ed had his ninth trick and 6 IMPs.
After a game each way, Michael and Jess got caught in one of Ed's bear hugs.
When Jess balanced over 1♥, Michael could not resist trying for game. James led a heart to Ed's jack and Michael's king. Two rounds of clubs failed to bring any reward (Ed pitching a spade) so Michael spurned the spade finesse, winning the ace to advance the ♦J. This looked like a quick two off, but Ed's pecs haven't been honed for nothing. He found the awesome play of ducking this trick!
When Michael continued with the ♦T, the stage was set. Ed won the queen and began cashing hearts. Michael erred by throwing a diamond from his hand to render dummy squeezed by the defenders.
When Ed cashed the last heart, Jess' hand was forced to pitch a spade, else Ed's diamond would have been up. Then on the ace of diamonds, Michael pitched a spade. Unfortunately James had pitched a spade on the last heart, so he had to concede the last trick to declarer's club queen. Had he come down to ♠KT and the ♣J, they would have taken an extra trick. Two off was still worth another 6 IMPs.
Next, try Jess' bidding problem.
If you are preempted, it is a sound principle to stretch your raise to one level higher than what you would have bid uncontested. That is, if you would raise to 3♠, raise to 4♠. However, if there is an exception, this is it. If you trust that the opponents are making 3NT, you are probably going for too many in 4♠X. Jess' singleton club suggested her opponents would be running the suit, so she decided to bid 4♠.
When James doubled, they took the phantom another two off for 8 IMPs to NSW.
More IMPs had trickled out to NSW before board 4 hit the table.
As soon as James opened that festering North hand, Ed was never stopping below game. Michael started with a strong lead: the three of hearts. At other tables, the lead of the doubleton diamond for a ruff was a big enough tip for declarer to get the spades right. (Throughout this match, Michael and Jess had chosen quite thoughtful leads which put a lot of pressure on Ed and James.)
Here, Ed had to work out the hand on his own. After thinking for a while at trick one, Ed won the lead in his hand, cashed the king in dummy, and ruffed the third heart in his hand. Next, he crossed to the spade ace to lead a club to the queen. When that held, he cashed the club ace and waltzed over to the spade king. Even if the queen had not dropped, he still would have made because there was no entry to the defense's third spade with a top diamond - after taking a club ruff, Ed would have either scored both low trumps in dummy if the defense tapped him, or eventually made a diamond trick. As it was, his dummy reversal racked up an easy ten tricks for 10 IMPs.
Though the final scoreline would have been tough for Queensland, it didn't reflect on the quality of their play. Something that impresses me with young players is thoughtfulness - it is an easy trap to be blase about tossing cards and taking positions in the auction. Michael and Jess considered every hand, and their auctions and leads reflected this consideration. Twenty board matches are tests of endurance, and the results of playing with this thought and concentration through these matches are already manifesting.
New South Wales showed a brand of mature youth bridge: bidding aggressive games, putting pressure on the opponents, and not taking huge positions in the auction. The year of hard work that Ed and James put into their games is starting to show results, and NSW will be keen to make a strong run in this year's youth division. For this team to show so much improvement from last year is a great sign for youth bridge in Australia.