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2013 Mid-Year Checkup
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As more than half the year is over, it's time to do a mid-year checkup on my yearly goals.  Where do I stand relative to the goals I had set at the beginning of the year?
 

Make it to day 2 in a NABC+ National pairs event.  

I made it to day 2 of the NABC+ IMP Pairs with my regular partner Kevin Schoenfeld.  Although I was thrilled to make it to day 2, we didn't do particularly well on the final day.  I'd like to repeat the feat in an event at the Fall Nationals, but do better on the second day.

Place in the top 10 of an NABC National event. 

Close, but no cigar.  Kevin and I placed 16th in the Red Ribbon Pairs, which is certainly respectable.  But I still have a ways to go on this goal.

Get 22 more Platinum points. 

I've taken 3.25 off the total, so I still need about 18 more.  I will be feeling a lot of pressure at the Fall Nationals!

Win an A/X Swiss. 

With Kevin Fay, Greg Humphreys and Chris Moore, I won a one-session A/X Swiss at the Spring Nationals.  I think that for this to count, though, I really need to win a two-session A/X Swiss.  So this goal still remains.

Learn to save the analysis for after the game. 

I am making great progress on this goal.  I no longer analyze the hands at the table.  However, although I started out the year being very good about not making comments at the table and saving them for later, I have since regressed.  I am renewing my focus on practicing the "Keller" convention; I think it's going to be a difficult challenge to make it a habit since I'm naturally somewhat of a chatty Cathy, but it's one I intend to keep working at.

Become proficient at identifying, planning, and executing squeezes. 

I continue to work on this one.  

Drastically reduce careless mistakes at the table.  

I think I have done a good job on this goal.  The mistakes I now make are careful ones. ;)   I have noticed that sometimes I am sloppy in more subtle ways -- not making signals completely clear to partner (perhaps because of some uncertainty in my own mind), making a bid that could be misinterpreted if the auction goes one way or the other, etc.  For the remainder of this year, I am going to work diligently on being more precise in aspects that affect the partnership, such as bidding and defense, and reduce those types of mistakes.

Represent my district in either the NAPs or GNTs. 

This goal will be on my list again for next year.  I was really thrilled to have made it to the semifinals of both GNT Flight B and GNT Flight A.  We finished 5th in the NAP Flight B, so we were close to getting to go.  This one will carry forward to next year's goals.

Spend more time with my husband. 

This year I have been playing much less than last year.  At most, I have played in sectionals on one day on the weekend, and in many cases, I've just skipped them.  As a result, I'm getting a lot more quality time at home, which is a good thing.

I had hoped to go to the Summer Nationals this year.  But as I was unable to put together a team for the Senior Swiss (which started on my birthday, the first day of my eligibility) or for the Roth, I decided to skip it.  This will put more pressure on doing well at the Fall Nationals, but there's nothing that can be done about that other than to rise to meet the challenge!

But enough about me.  Let's have some fun with a hand.  Playing at the club with one of your regular partners, you pick up the following hand:

South
Q953
87
J1086
J86

Your LHO opens the bidding 1, which is alerted, since it could be as short as one.  Further explanation indicates that the 1 opening denies a five-card diamond, heart or spade suit, and is forcing.  Partner doubles.  RHO now bids 1, which is also alerted.  He denies a five-card major.  You pass.  LHO now bids 2.  He has a real club suit.  Your partner doubles again.  RHO bids 3.

South
Q953
87
J1086
J86
W
N
E
S
1
X
1
P
2
X
3
?

Your bid?

Your partner probably won't figure you for too much, since you passed his first double.  But the artificial bids muddied the water a little bit.  You do have four spades, and diamonds to boot.  Partner has a good hand, so we should be safe at the 3 level.  You stick out a bid of 3.  LHO passes, and your partner bids 4, which is all passed out.  You're now wondering whether you did the right thing.

LHO leads the A, and dummy comes down pretty much as you expected.

North
AJ108
KQ65
KQ932
South
Q953
87
J1086
J86
W
N
E
S
1
X
1
P
2
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

What's your plan from here?

North
AJ108
KQ65
KQ932
South
Q953
87
J1086
J86
W
N
E
S
1
X
1
P
2
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

The first order of business is to figure out which hand is going to become the master, and which one the dummy.  On a non-club lead, if the strong hand (dummy) becomes the master, then you have one possible spade loser, 2-3 heart losers (depending on the location of the A), one diamond loser, and no club losers, assuming reasonable splits.  You can dispatch a heart loser by ruffing in hand.   Because the dummy is so much stronger than the closed hand, it's tempting to make it the master without thought.
 
Looking at your own hand, you have at most one spade loser (again, the K), one heart loser, one diamond loser, and three club losers.  You can eliminate the three club losers by ruffing them in dummy, but transportation back to your hand will be a challenge.  If the A is on your left, then you will be able to pitch a club on the K.
 
Your opponents lead the A.  You ruff in dummy with the J, trying to preserve flexibility in the trump suit in case you reach your hand.
 
Now what?
 
 

North
A108
KQ65
KQ932
South
Q953
87
J1086
J86

It looks like the luxury of choosing the master hand has been taken away from you.  Now the dummy really is the dummy!
 
You play a low diamond to the J, which LHO wins with the A.  LHO returns a low club which you ruff in dummy.

North
A8
KQ65
KQ93
South
Q953
87
1086
J

What now?

North
A8
KQ65
KQ93
South
Q953
87
1086
J

You'd like to get back to your hand to test hearts, but transportation back to your hand is limited; diamonds are your only option.  You could instead try playing the K, and give up on pitching a club loser on a good heart.  But the opponents will probably shoot back another club, making you ruff in dummy, at which point you have a sure trump loser, even if the K is singleton.  In addition, you will still need to get back to your hand to pull the last trump. 
 
At this point, you decide your best bet is to cross back to your hand with the 10, hoping diamonds split 2-2, and see what happens.  The 10 holds, as both follow.

North
A8
KQ6
KQ9
South
Q953
87
86
J

Pondering your dilemma, you have an epiphany: perhaps it's possible to trade a spade loser for a club loser.   You know a few things from the bidding that can help you.  From what you know of the opponents methods, you know that RHO does not have five hearts.  If LHO had four hearts, he would have responded 1 for his second bid.  This means that RHO is booked for exactly four hearts, and LHO 3.  LHO has also shown up with exactly two diamonds, and he most likely has six clubs from the bidding.  So LHO's likely shape is 2-3-2-6.  At this point, if LHO has the K, it's doubleton and you can play the spades for no losers. You're going to have to bank on it, as that seems to be the only way this game is going to make.   If you can avoid a trump loser, then you can afford to lose a club.  
 
You decide to finesse the remaining spade honor.  It holds. You play the A, which fells the K on your left, as hoped.  The rest is easy. You play the K, which loses to the A on your right.  The defense cashes a club trick, but you ruff the next round of clubs and pull the remaining trump, claiming.
 
The full deal is shown below:

West
K6
1042
A4
AK9542
North
AJ108
KQ65
KQ932
East
742
AJ93
75
Q1073
South
Q953
87
J1086
J86
D

On any other lead than a club, or without a club continuation, the hand is not that challenging.  But when the defenders decide to tap the dummy, you have a real problem with transportation.  Even so, several pairs managed to make four, and one made five; my bet is, on a different defense.  Other pairs were lucky to have their opponents push on to 5 which was down a couple, doubled. I think I would have much rather defended on this hand than declared!  

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