Momentum Swings Reprised

A few months ago, I wrote about momentum swings in matches. It is funny how crazy bridge can be at times and a recent pennant match in Melbourne showed just how fickle the game can be. Bridge in Melbourne is still recovering from the downturn in numbers following all the lockdowns and restrictions we experienced over the past two years. However, despite the smaller turnout at this year’s event, it was great to be back at the club and whilst I enjoy both online and face-to-face bridge, I do like the apres bridge conviviality at the club.

With a smaller field than in days gone by, the format for this year’s pennant is 3×9 board matches a night over six weeks. This was the last round of the night and our match featured great harmony and humour between the four players at our table where Jamie Ebery and I were pitted against Stephen and Danny Sharp. The camaraderie at shown by everyone at the table was a great reminder of how much fun a game of bridge at the club can be.

We started off with a couple of routine games in the 9-board teams match before two boards that required finding the Qx of trumps. We managed to get it wrong both times so at this point it felt like the match wasn’t going well for us. When a match takes a turn like this, my thought process is to tell myself that the pair at the other table might have taken the same line that we did. I find this helps me put those results behind me and ensure good focus for the next boards.

Two routine boards followed and with two boards to go, it can be easy to lose focus while thinking about the two boards where you didn’t find the trump queen. It is critical to success that as a player you take each board as it comes and put the past behind you since you cannot change the results of the past, and losing focus is a sure way to prevent a recovery.

It is often said that to win at bridge you need some luck in addition to playing well, and certainly luck went our way when this gem hit the table. 






♠ J9



♣ Q

♠ Q64



♣ K1085





♠ AK108



♣ 74





♠ 7532



♣ AJ9632

Our partnership agreement is to open almost all 11 counts, and at South holding a reasonable 11 points combined with a couple of adjacent 10’s, I opened in second seat and the bidding went:

North       East                 South        West

Ebery       Sharp D         Frazer       Sharp S

      Pass                1C11+ANY    3H

3NT           All Pass

The 3H bid really jammed my partner and so holding 10 points including a heart stopper, and without four spades, Ebery opted for 3NT rather than double. When my hand went down as dummy, my partner looked a bit shocked at the paltry offering.

With a heart void, East opted for a low club won by Ebery’s king who immediately played a low diamond to the 10 and a diamond back to the Q and East’s Ace. The AC continuation clarified the layout and after cashing the JC, East tried another diamond which was won in dummy. After playing a heart up towards the K which West won with the Ace and with no entries to his hearts, West exited QH, however the contract was now home.  

This felt like a great board for us, but there was no telling what was going on at the other table, and our attention turned to the final board of the round which was presented an interesting hand:






♠ 8



♣ J843

♠ 732



♣ K10





♠ Q109654



♣ A52








♣ Q976

North       East                 South        West

Ebery       Sharp D         Frazer       Sharp S

                                            1S               Pass

4D1            Pass                4S               All Pass

1 – 13-14TP Spade Raise

After my partner’s limit raise, any number of hands which might have allowed slam to make were possible. I thought for a long time about looking for slam with 4H (Voidwood for us) and we would have ended up in 4S anyway when partner showed zero keycards outside hearts, but the last thing I wanted was to end up in 5S going one off which was quite likely if my partner had too many heart values. So, I took a conservative view and signed off in game. When dummy came down, I was pretty happy that slam wasn’t on and that my decision to sign off was correct.

Heading into our score-up the match felt like a draw, however it turned out that one of the two boards where we missed finding the Qx was indeed bad, but one was flat. The match turned on the penultimate board when 3NT created a huge pickup for us. Our opponents played the board in a part score going off after Leigh Gold at West opted for a 2H pre-emptive overcall opposite his partner’s passed hand. This gave the opponents room to try to find the right strain, and landed in 3D which went four off. On the final board at the other table NS pushed on to 5H which failed and this gave our team another pickup and a win in the match.

This was a fun match played with good harmony at our table where everyone enjoyed themselves regardless of the outcome. Everyone played well and it really just luck that caused the result to go our way.  In such a short match it would have been easy for our side to have been despondent after the results in the earlier boards in the round. As we often see, bridge is a funny game and this round showed that anything can happen. Staying focussed and positive until the end stood us in good stead and reinforced the importance of keeping your emotions in check and your mind on the board in front of you.

© First published Australian Bridge: August 2022