For the first time in decades a women’s team (consisting of five women and a male captain with frayed nerves) qualified to compete among the top 12 teams in the Danish 1st division. It’s hard to say who have been anticipating the battles the most; the female players or their male opponents. In the second weekend of the tournament our team started by playing Team Pharmaservice. Since my good friend Dennis Bilde decided to play in the Madeira tournament the same weekend (in which his team came second) I warned him that the girls were going to slaughter his teammates in his absence.
It went more or less according to the plan until the last two boards came up. On the penultimate board I was sitting west facing this bidding by my opponents:
Long before the last bid was made, I decided to lead the ten of hearts, knowing declarer held no heart cuebid. We played with screens and I made my lead in a fairly normal tempo in an attempt not to reveal any problems regarding the lead.
As dummy hit the table with king empty third of hearts I could feel my pulse rise. Declarer H.C. Graversen, Dennis Bilde’s former partner on the Danish national team, went into the tank for minutes. The air was heavy from the tension and I could almost smell his anxiety and my partner’s excitement from behind the screen, certain she held the queen.
It is in moments like this that bridge to me is better than… Well, let’s just say most other sports.
At last he called for the king and soon claimed his 12 tricks. I was vexed and asked him how he guessed. Besides the argument that had he been in 6NT as could be considered to protect the heart king, he needed the jack of diamonds to drop if the heart ace was offside, he confessed that he guessed it because I was the one on lead. Last summer my partner Anne-Sofie Houlberg and I used to play Dennis and H.C. as warm up for the European Championships in Dublin and the World Bridge Games in Lille and had more knowledge of my partner and I than most of the male opponents we are going to face.
I am convinced he was the only male player in the league to expect the blonde to underlead her ace against a slam. At the two other tables 6C was played by west, the lead was a spade honour.
Luckily our excellent teammates Lone Bilde and Helle Rasmussen at the other table had bid and even right-sided the slam, tying the board.
During our encounters last summer he always tried to double the girls, leaving his partner Dennis slightly frustrated by the -670 (or occasionally -1000 when we redoubled). On the last board of the match he finally got to double us for +800 (board has been a victim to censorship), limiting the defeat to 16-14 in favour of the girls.
The same night Dennis wrote me a message from Madeira saying that we could have been nicer to his teammates. I disagree. They got a discount.
The trap that backfired
In the second match of the weekend (a match consists of 2×18 boards) we faced another favourite opponent – the captain of the Danish women’s team. Unforturnately he has sat behind us during enough matches to know our tameless desire to play or defend doubled partscores.
We had just collected 1100 after our captain’s not unreasonable weak NT opening in third seat all vulnerable with ♠62 ♥Q63 ♦K74 ♣AK653
On the next board I held the following powerhouse: ♠QJ63 ♥K842 ♦– ♣97543
Pass to my right, pass and not intimidated by the previous board my LHO opened 1NT weak in third seat, however this time white on red. My partner doubled, pass by next hand, asking partner to RD. Now what?
According to our agreements if I bid after the forcing pass it shows a one-suited hand. Passing and bidding on the next turn after the RD shows a two-suiter.
Now I held a 3-suiter and a very good hand. However our double of a weak NT shows 13+ and we are can hardly be described as reluctant to use it. Since my RHO decided to pass the RD (they play the in my opinion very inflexible run outs that do not allow them to play 1NTD) I knew the HCP were probably evenly divided between us. With a void passing was not really an option for me, so I bid 2C. Now the bidding proceded:
And there I sat. East’s double was penalty, and since my partner knew me to be two-suited according to our agreements, I knew she had clubtolerance. Since she had not bid 2D I expected her not to hold long (or good) diamonds and now I became greedy. I was certain I would make 2CD – however that is only 180 – 380 with an overtrick. We were vulbnerable vs. not and could perhaps even make game in a major.
So I decided to go for 670 rather than the 180. I redoubled and as expected, my partner bid 2D, immediately doubled by next hand just as expected. I redoubled again, my partner bid 2H and I now expected my opponents to be tempted to double even though they might not hold a penalty double, simply based on the bidding.
Alas, both opponents passed in tempo. Laughter from the other side of the screen as the tray went back without a double. However my partner’s relief matched my disappointment. Dummy went down, I complimented the opponents for their passes, and my partner collected her peaceful 110…
After five matches out of 11, the Schaltz team (Dorthe & Peter Schaltz, Martin Schaltz-Lars Blakset, Mathias Bruun-Knut Blakset) has taken a dominant 18 VP lead (old scale) in the Danish 1st division, holding 101 VP. Only 20 VPs separate the eleven remaining teams. And the female newcomers…? They are comfortably placed in fifth position 🙂 Despite that I am sure the bookies still offer high odds on our chances of surviving in the best league by finishing in the top ten.
Christina Lund Madsen