The Invincible Zia tournament analysis – September

Named ACBL player of the year many times,world champion and member of the Hall of Fame, Zia Mahmood gives you a hard time every month during Funbridge Points Tournament!

Discover 3 deals analysed by Zia Mahmood from his September tournament.

Deal 2

S  6 2
H  K J 9 2
D  9 8 6 4
C   7 6 3
S  9 5
H  A Q 8 7 5 4
D  7
C  A 8 5 4
orientation S K 8 7 4
H 6
D K Q 10 5 2
C J 10 2
S A Q J 10 3
H 10 3
D A J 3
C  K Q 9
West North East South Zia

In the old days – not necessarily good, but simple – double meant “I don’t think the opponents can make what they just bid”. Nowadays in the tournament game most doubles are for takeout, showing the values to bid something with no clear idea what.

Here I had a balanced 17 points, but the strong five-card suit made my hand a lot too good for a 1 NT opening. I opened 1 ♠ after two passes, West made a reasonable overcall of 2 ♥, and when this was passed back to me I doubled for takeout. My robot partner had an awkward choice – its good hearts suggested a pass, but my double did not have to be based on high-card strength and it did have a suit to show. It decided to bid 3 ♦ and the East robot expressed a firm opinion about that contract.

We weren’t going to make it, but luckily the West robot was of the modern school. Thinking that East had made a takeout double West repeated its hearts. My partner might have doubled that, but perhaps it was afraid that I would think this was yet another takeout double, so it passed.

I won the spade lead and played my low trump – maybe I should have played my high one, because West won with ♥ A and continued with ♥ 4. If I had been forced to win that with ♥ 10 I would have been endplayed, but North was alive (if a robot can be alive) to the position and made the Crocodile Coup of winning with ♥ J to play another spade. We continued to defend accurately to take 3♥ down four, a 95% board.

Deal 10

S  K Q 6 5 2
H  J 8
D  10 7
C   Q 10 4 3
S  A J 8 7
H  A 9 5 2
D  A J
C  J 8 6
orientation S 10 9 3
H Q 10 7
D K 6 5 4 3 2
C  2
S 4
H K 6 4 3
D Q 9 8
C  A K 9 7 5
West North East South Zia
Double PASS

Maybe after the first deal North was convinced that I was a thoroughly modern player who would never leave in one of its doubles for penalty. After the normal start to the auction – 1 ♣ from me, double by West with its opening bid and both majors, natural bids of 1 ♠ by North and 2 ♦ by East – my robot partner had to make a reopening decision.

Of course it could have passed, but I like its desire to compete – you don’t get rich in a matchpoint event letting opponents play in a comfortable two diamonds. And you could see what it was thinking – if it doubled and I bid 2 ♥ it could bid 2 ♠ and imply its actual shape. It couldn’t just have spades, since it would bid them instead of doubling, so it must have clubs.

Maybe that’s what should have happened. But I was greedy – envisaging partner with ♠ A and some other values I hoped for a couple of club tricks, a couple of major-suit winners, a couple of spade ruffs… in my dreams they were going for 300 against nothing our way. So I passed for penalty and led a high club.

The sight of dummy dashed my hopes of early spade ruffs, but my partner encouraged in clubs so I happily cashed the king and led another for him to ruff… except that I didn’t get that far. The East robot ruffed instead, played a diamond to the jack, cashed ♦ A and led a heart to the ten. There was nothing we could do to stop ten tricks for minus 380. I thought this would be worth next to no match points, but as with everything else about this deal I was wrong – some pairs had doubled 3 ♦ , while others had somehow lost 500 penalties, so I emerged with a 31% board.

Deal 9

S  A
H  A K 9 7 3
D  7 4 3
C   A 9 7 5
S  9 5 4
H  Q 10 8
D  K Q 10 2
C  K Q 6
orientation S K 8 6 3 2
H 6 5 4 3
D 8 5
C  J 4
S Q J 10 7
D A J 9 6
C  10 8 3 2
West North East South Zia

Maybe I could have passed 2 ♣, maybe my robot could have passed 3 ♣, but our combined optimism landed us in an awful contract. The West robot led ♦ K which I ducked, but it wasn’t falling for that. It shifted accurately to a spade, and I didn’t see how I was going to come to more than about seven tricks.

For want of anything better to do I played ♣ A and another round of the suit. West won with ♣ Q and had only to play s spade to East for a diamond through and I would have no chance. But East had played ♠ 2 on the first round of spades – maybe it thought it was giving count, but West clearly thought its partner was discouraging spades (remember that I had bid the suit).

Reading the distribution accurately West shifted to ♥ Q, which would have been a good move if my singleton had been a low card. As it was, I could win with dummy’s ♥ A, cash ♥ K dropping West’s ♥ 8, and continue with dummy’s ♥ 9 to force out West’s ♥ 10. Still the robot could have played a spade to its partner’s ♠ K for a diamond through, but that “discouraging” ♠ 2 on the first round of the suit weighed too heavily on its circuits. It played a diamond, which I won in hand to play a third round of clubs – specifically the ♣ 10.

This left dummy’s ♣ 9 as an entry to the hearts, so I made a spade trick, four hearts, two diamonds and two clubs for a 98% board. But it’s going to be tougher next month – they’ve reprogrammed the East robot to signal attitude.