How is it possible to be assigned four ‘away’ matches on the trot? Strange, but that’s how it was for my Young Chelsea team, competing in the National Inter-Club Knockout: lots of driving down country lanes in Essex or Buckinghamshire in the gloaming, seeking out our opponents’ houses. At last, when it came to Round 5, we were assigned our first home match. We popped down the road to play — and were promptly knocked out by Tunbridge Wells. They had a strong team (Espen Erichsen and Norman Selway among them), but then we did too (Phil King and Mike Bell), so it was a blow — especially as I’ve loved partnering Phil. Phil is one of England’s top players, and a superb teacher and coach. I doubt there’s anyone in this country who has thought as deeply and analytically about bidding. But he’s not just Mr Logical, he also has some wonderfully imaginative ideas — for instance, ‘fake-Blackwood’:
I opened 2♠ (8–11 points), and Espen overcalled 3♥. Phil knew he was going to bid 6♠ whatever, but wanted to deter a diamond lead. He reasoned that a direct jump to slam would tip Espen off that he had a shapely hand and probable void — in which case Espen may well not lead a top heart but consider an alternative. So he bid slam via key card Blackwood to give the impression of a more balanced hand! Espen led the ♥A. I ruffed and then played a low club to my ♣J, East ducking (hopping up with the ♣K wouldn’t have helped). Then I simply drew trumps, played a club to the ace, ruffed a club, and returned to dummy with that precious ace of diamonds. Sadly it wasn’t enough to win the match — but beat you next year, Tunbridge Wells!