Thou shalt not double Henk

I don’t play matchpoint events that often, but when M. asked me if I wanted to play the national 2nd division pairs with her, I was happy to make an exception, as 4 days of matchpoints against tough opposition sounded like fun. Your definition of fun may vary.

The 2nd division pairs is the 3rd flight of the national open pairs, with the top 24 pairs of the country playing in the Masterclass and the second group of 40 in the 1st division, making this the event for the next group of about 90 pairs. That group is split over 3 locations, with ours (North-East) in Zwolle. The format was simple: 2 weekends, in both weekends one played a 3 board round against every other pair. After 2 weekends, that adds up to 174 boards, or 6 boards against the 29 other pairs. The top 4 would qualify for next year’s 1st division, the bottom 8 would be relegated to the districts. Our goal was to avoid the latter.

How did we do? Well, we sort of missed our goal, but we did that in a way that I want to miss more goals. The first weekend was rather uneventful, 51% on Saturday, 49% on Sunday, or 50% for the weekend and 13th out of 30 pairs. Things started to change on the second Saturday, when we scored a fairly amazing 63.5% over the 7 rounds in the morning, then followed it up with 65.8% in the afternoon, for a total of 64.8% over the day. That was sufficient to move up from 13th to 3rd. For the last day, I figured that about 50% would be sufficient to keep us in the top 3, and I was right. Our 49.5% meant 3rd overall. For a pile of master points, a bottle of wine, and a most importantly, promotion to the 1st division. For the full results, click here.

How do you score 64% in a field like this? Besides the obvious (don’t make mistakes and have a bit of luck), it also helped that our opponents didn’t always believe our bidding and started to double assorted cold contracts:

Natural 1, 2from me, double as either negative or a strong hand with-support, 4and a double to show a balanced minimum, discouraging partner from bidding on. To be honest, I don’t quite understand the merits of that double (why not simply pass?) but then again, I don’t have to play the opponents’ system. The defence kicked off with 3 rounds of hearts, incidentally setting up the9, and ato theJ.A andQ set up the 10th trick. Yes, double dummy the hand is cold but the defence made it easy. Not a top score (that went to the pair that got a trump lead in 4x), but close enough.

I don’t quite understand the first double and would prefer 2, then 4in the next round. That, at least, shows that you have lots of diamonds and spades, rather than the potential 4-4 in a decent balanced hand. The second double was intended to have north finally pick a pointed suit. North, not completely sure what was going on, expected a more balanced hand and, rather than venturing a 4-2 or 4-3 fit, decided to take his chances on defence. There were none. M pointed out that I missed an overtrick but +590 was already good for all the matchpoints.

And finally:

1NT showed 11-14, double a decent hand, pass forced a redouble and east’s second pass said that she was happy with playing 1NTx. I tried 2_ and east decided that if they could make 1NTxx, we cannot make 2. Right?

Wrong.AK and a club didn’t exactly make life hard for me, but double-dummy analysis shows that any reasonable line will work. Best the defence can do is to follow conventional wisdom and lead a heart to theK and a heart back. +670 again meant all the matchpoints to us.

I have already blocked the weekends of March 16 and April 6 for the first division next year.

Henk Uijterwaal 2019