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A Spingold Story
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Hi all,

I had a few requests for an article on our Spingold experience so thought I would throw something up. I hope it is interesting/fun :) While Bryan Delfs put my name on our team, he was actually our captain since he did everything.

A few weeks ago, I was still looking for a partner for the Spingold and found out a local Seattle player (Bryan Delfs) also didn't have plans and was willing to play. Many know him already for his fine bridge play and he also used to work for the ACBL and did some reporting/data stuff there (I believe) in addition to being involved in things like the collegiates and youth NABC and some other similarly awesome things. So, with a total of 3 days played together previously we immediately made plans on how we were going to conquer the Spingold. However, I was supposed to find teammates and didn't do a very good job. Apparently teammates don't materialize if you are lazy about looking/searching :)

Fortunately, Jenni Carmichael came to the rescue! During our one day of practice before Toronto at the Seattle sectional, she introduced us to Lee Ohliger who was also in town. She asked if he had teammates yet for the Spin and when he nervously said "no, not yet", she suggested we team up together. Lee was unable to find a way to gracefully decline so the teammate problem was solved! We now officially refer to her as "coach". In addition to Jenni setting up the team, we also agreed to play a relay precision system that Bryan recently started playing with Tom Carmichael and I had played twice with Jenni and practiced a version of three times with Chris Gibson. Lee and James were also playing a system that Tom developed and played previously back in the 90s. So, really the team should maybe have been named Carmichael except that name was already taken :P

Our plan was the same as many lower seeds: hope for a 4 way, probably lose in the afternoon, win in the evening, then have a long fun day against a super strong team on day 2 then split off to our more regular partners for the Wernher and Swiss. Near the top of my bucket list was "make day 3 of the Spingold or Vanderbilt", but playing a new(ish) system with an unfamiliar partner didn't make this year seem like a likely one. Our seed was so low that we were paired up with the 25 seed to play head to head all day. After discussing our "do you want to play regional stuff tomorrow if we lose or go see Toronto?" plans, we settled down for a fun day of bridge.

On to some hands!

In day 1, the story of the first half was a tale of a few swing boards. The first one:

North
10x
AK1095
J97xx
x
South
AKQxx
Q72
A
A10xx
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
?

This was my favorite auction of the first half. It needs some decent breaks but it seems like a slam I want to be in. I could have also asked where partners singleton was but decided I mostly wanted to hear if they could cue a minor suit king and sign off if so and keycard if not. I figured I could get 4 spades + 6 hearts or 3 spades + 7 hearts along with the 2 aces for 12 tricks. When dummy hit, I thought we were very likely to win 13 on the board.

Ahh, the optimism of youth (for a bridge player anyway). The 8 of spades was led and covered all around. This was either very good or very bad. When I cashed the K of spades to find out, LHO ruffed small and my optimism started to die. Continuing to play the hand out I figured if the short spade hand had 4 diamonds I might be able to set up the diamond suit and then draw trump to still make. Alas, they had 3 small diamonds as well and down I went for -13 imps.

Another interesting board was (cards appx since I lost the hand record):

North
J9xxx
AJ7xxx
Jx
W
N
E
S
2
P
4
4NT
P
5
5
P
P
6
P
P
P

You are north on lead against 6, what's your pick?

Bryan diagnosed correctly that the opening preemptor had short hearts, and the A of hearts drew my singleton 9. Unfortunately, W had shorter hearts and ruffed, then used the KQ of hearts on dummy later to discard 2 diamond losers. Ugh! The 4NT bidder was planning to correct the 5m to 5 to show a slam try in hearts. Phooey!

Another lead question (bidding appx)

South
AQ10xxx
xx
K10xxx
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
P
2
3
3
5
5
P
P
X
P
P
P

What's your lead against 5 x'd?

I chose to lead the A of spades. This was unfortunate since nobody looks to be short and declarer had the K. However, when I led a club to partner's A he had to guess whether to come back a club or a spade and (reasonably) guessed to come back a spade. Declarer won their K and claimed, for -550. I blamed a lack of Rusinow (one of my favorite new things I've started playing lately) at the time for making it hard, but in reality if I just lead the club to start with for a spade through we beat it 2 for win 5 instead of lose 12 since our teammates were in 5 x'd as well but only down 1. I should also have cashed the K of clubs at trick 2 to see attitude in case partner had a singleton and led a club after he encourages which makes life easy for both of us. Ugh!

At the half, we were down 21. Doable. However, these boards and a few others felt like we had given up our shot at being up 20 and now the 2 strongest pairs would play the rest of the match.

The third quarter saw us getting 11 imps back in random swings back and forth to bring it within 10. Holy crud! All we need to do is find 11 imps and we can pull off the upset!

Next question: You feel like you are having a terrible set and the opponents are getting a lot of things right. There are 5 boards left and then you have this auction:

East
KJ109
A10852
J7
KQ
W
N
E
S
1NT
2
X
P
?

Do you go for the throat and pass? Or do you bid some number of spades? There are 5+ kibitzers watching and the match could definitely swing on this board.

West
952
A9843
J9654
North
Q8764
K64
Q72
82
East
KJ103
A10852
J5
KQ
South
A
QJ973
K106
A1073
W
N
E
S
1NT
2
X
P
P
P
D
2
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
6
3
A
3
1
0
A
4
2
Q
3
2
0
3
5
8
K
2
2
1
J
6
A
2
0
2
2
9
7
5
K
3
3
2
7
9
4
5
2
3
3
J
10
5
Q
1
4
3
Q
8
9
3
3
5
3
10
J
K
10
1
6
3
4
K
3
9
3
7
3
Q
4
6
2
3
8
3
7
6
7
10
2
8
4
A
J
8
8
2
8
5
N/S +670
13

The main play that I was proud of here was playing small on the diamond J without apparent thought. I hoped W would read it as J from KJT instead of Jx and fly and return it. In retrospect it doesn't matter a whole lot though, since E always gets endplayed whenever they trump in whether its a club or a diamond. I can make 3 if I am remembering the heart spots correctly, but the board took 20+ minutes to play (E thought for a very long time about how to exit after overruffing the club) with a director now hovering and I saw a guaranteed route to 2 w/o any possible screw up and took it. 

One other aspect to this: a friend came in partway through the hand and watched E agonize over each play. When we said "making 2" her thought was "Making 2? All that thinking for 2 hearts making 2? This match must be insanely close". Then another kibitzer mouthed "doubled" and it made more sense :)

After this hand and for the next 4 boards, my hands started shaking (because victory felt within our grasp) and didn't stop until well after we compared. The opponents did lots of the same things right at the other table, but +670 was enough to win by 2.

Day 2 was super tight, with a ton of pushes throughout with similar choices made at both tables. In fact, with 2 boards to go in the final set: we were tied! However, board 29 we made a vulnerable game that went down at the other table so we won 13 to advance to day 3! I can't imagine the stress of playing a 4 board playoff to make day 3, so fortunately it didn't come to that :)

Even though we got crushed in day 3, it was some of the most fun bridge I've ever played. The entire pepsi team was super friendly, fun, and a blast to play against. A memorable quote:

"I was thinking of redouble partner, but I could not guarantee only down 1 at worst in 5 X'd"

After the club K is offside (with me, instead of my partner who X'd 5) and I pitched on the first diamond lead up to declarer, the quote was "Good non redouble partner!" as it went down 3.

They did XX a different hand though. 3 p 5 p p X XX to my partner who has QTxxx Jxx QT9xx -. He figured I made my bed so I got to lie in it and passed, for down 1 and win 4 the hard way.

If you don't know Bryan, he is super funny and had the opponents and me well entertained throughout. My favorite quote when talking about hands later was a 6 contract we got to that went down on 4-1 trumps. He played low to the Q planning to finesse if the J or T of trumps popped but when it didn't he played back to the K instead of the 9. His comment was "trumps were 4-1, what terrible luck!" was way easier to sympathize with than "trumps were 3-2, what terrible luck!". While our vugraph session had some bidding confusion/errors on it, he made 7 on a squeeze against Pepsi which was pretty darn cool. Thanks to those who voted for us on vugraph, sorry we didn't represent better :)

So, not sure when/if I'll hit day 3 again - but I had so much fun I'll certainly be back trying! The entire team was Bryan Delfs, Lee Ohliger, and James Sundstrom along with "coach" Jenni Carmichael :) It was the first day 3 for all of us and I believe the first day 3 of a national event for both Bryan and I - not sure on Lee and James.

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