My ten-year-old football-loving son thought I was making some silly joke when I told him last weekend that I was off to Manchester to play in the Premier League. No, I said, I’m serious: that’s what it’s called in bridge too. I’m playing in the Second Division. Three weekends of bridge, and at the end the top two teams get promoted to Division 1. It’s a tough field: many of the star names of English bridge are competing, even in Division 2, and we’re currently lying 7th out of 10.
There are six of us in our team, and we’re taking turns to play, swapping partners according to who’s available. Last weekend I played with Peter Taylor: we took the train together and spent two solid hours discussing our system. I can be quite annoying about system, because for me you can’t have too many partnership agreements. As we got off the train, I said, ‘Just one more thing: if the opponents bid 1NT–3NT, double asks for a spade lead.’ He looked doubtful, but I bossily urged him to agree. Fast forward to our last match on Sunday:
It was a good, bold double from Peter. Our opponents were told it asked for a spade lead, but they didn’t know what to do: were they going to be bullied out of a vulnerable game? It really is worth having some agreement here (Peter and I hadn’t got that far either). Many players ‘redouble’ to deny a spade control. Others (like Geir Helgemo) think ‘pass’ should deny one. Anyway our opponents both passed. I led the ♠2 and we took the first five spades. I discarded the ♣7 (reverse attitude) followed by the ♣2 (my lowest, asking for a diamond switch): when the dust had settled we had scooped an 800-point penalty. What a stroke of luck that we’d made that last-minute agreement!