The local IMP league runs on Wednesday nights, and is the primary testing grounds for the top local players. For many years the IMP league was dominated by a few teams composed of the very best players, and participation dwindled as other teams knew they had little chance. The top players then made a very wise decision - they disbanded the elite squads, and instead created teams of both top players and not-at-the-top-yet players. This resulted in a strong sense of competition across the league, and this winter's league is a healthy ten teams.
One of my-ex's (ex partners!) invited Karen & I to join a team this winter, and this Wednesday saw us in battle against a tough team. How do you know a team is tough? - a couple on the team has a cat named Meckwell.
At the other table was the battle royal - three recent national champions, and a player with many national medals. At our less royal table, we faced a recent national champion playing with a strong player.
These events are "playing up" for Karen - that is she is playing against players far stronger than she normally plays against, and these players will employ skill sets that she is not used to battling.
Even though I kidded her at the beginning of the match, that all she needed to do was match the results of the national champion in her seat at the other table, Karen understands that even at the top levels, much of the boards are just about okay: get to the okay contract, and make the okay play, and get the okay result. There is no need for brilliance on many of the bridge boards you will play, but there is a need to contain the number of unforced errors you make: the not-okay stuff.
The cards don't run our way on the dozen boards of the first half - I cost us 10 net IMPs due to aggressive bidding - a raise of Karen's minor opening to two on three card support costs 6 IMPs, a super light opening in 3rd seat ends up impelling me to take a phantom sac for -9 IMPs, and a second seat vulnerable five card weak two on AJ9xx and nothing else wins 5. Play is mixed at both tables, and we are down 37 IMPs at the half, where 40 IMPs is the most you can lose a match by in the league.
In the second half, we have the cards on many of the boards, and focus on okay - bid to the right contact, bring it in.
Our opponents missed a possible slam, and then bid these EW cards to 6 Hearts:
Responder was not sure if 4D was a cuebid with hearts as trump, or if two hearts was just used as a cheap forcing bid before showing a diamond fit - perhaps to find out if there was a 5-3 spade fit. Responder took 4D as natural, and raised to game. Opener reverted to hearts, and they got to slam, and LHO led a small club. What's the okay play here?
Declarer played club ace, diamond ace, ruffed a diamond, dropping LHO's king. Now slam is almost frigid if trumps are 3-2, but what about a 4-1 trump split?
Declarer cashed three top spades discarding two clubs and a diamond, then ruffed a club, ruffed a diamond high (LHO had started with just two), ruffed the last club, ruffed another diamond high, and then put a spade on the table in this ending:
On the last board we bid 1S-X-XX-2C;-P-P-2D-All Pass.
Now in expert partnerships 2D would be forcing - a redouble followed by low level new suit bid - however in our poor style, where we often have poor hands for our poor bidding, we treat such poor bids as poorly constructive only. It shows about 11 to 12 "points", where poor points include points for suit length. Thus 2D here is 6+ diamonds and about 9 to 10 high card points. 2D made just two, and brought in 5 IMPs.
We had recovered 31 IMPs in the second half, and lost the match by 6 IMPs. If we make the playoffs and play this team, they will have a slight carry over, plus a cat named Meckwell for fan support.