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At the Generali World Open Pairs, Philadelphia 2010 Part 1

I played in the finals of the Generali World Open Pairs in Philadelphia!

When the WBF announced that the 2010 World Bridge Series would come to Philadelphia in 2010, Paul Cornelius and I immediately committed to play. We could not pass up an opportunity to play in a world championship on US soil and registered for the Generali World Open Pairs.

The Open Pairs is played over 15 sessions. After 5 qualifying sessions the 240 pairs field would be cut to 132 pairs, augmented by 40 drop-in pairs from the Rosenblum. After another 5 sessions of semi-finals, the field would be cut to 50 pairs plus an additional 22 drop-in pairs from the Rosenblum. The next 30 pairs not qualifying for the finals of the Generali Open Pairs could drop-in to the IMP Pairs Finals.


Paul and I are from the Silicon Valley area in Northern California. We are both ACBL Life Masters with about 2000 master points each and some regional wins. We have played together for about 5 years and like to challenge ourselves in our bridge endeavors. We had never played in a WBF event before and were quite unaware of the intricacies of the qualifying process. All we knew was that we were registered to play in the World Open Pairs and had set ourselves the goal of qualifying for the semi-finals.

 

Our main preparation was to figure out the WBF convention card. It is in a format different from the ACBL card, and there is a 74 page Guide for Completion of the WBFCC. That should tell you something of its complexity. Paul printed a copy of the ACBL defense to the multi to arm ourselves against this feared weapon used commonly outside the US. We also addressed the issue of mental preparation, and I took on the task of providing guidelines by exhorting myself and Paul to play the event “one board at a time”.

 

Technical and mental preparation completed, we arrived in Philadelphia on October 8th ready to play on October 9th. The event took place at the Philadelphia Marriott with game times at 11:00am and 4:00pm.

 

Qualifying Session 1:

Our starting position was posted as Section C 6EW. All boards were pre-dealt and all tables had screens. On the first board out of the box, board 11, South was dealer and opened 2 multi. There it was already! North bid 2, pass or correct. I doubled for take-out, South corrected to 2. Paul doubled for penalties, and we set it one for 87%. N-S were cold for 4, but pre-empted themselves with the premature multi. The next board went P, P, P to South who opened 1NT and played it there. 1NT was cold on the finesse for the spade king, but declarer believed my deceptive signal and declined the finesse, going one down. Another 87% to us. A great start!

 

The rest of the session seemed to go average plus for us without anything of note, except that the American pair of Gerard/Beatty bid an excellent 6 for 17% to us. Paul and I played down the middle, finishing the session at 55.4%, lying 59th. I was happy.

 

The play on Board #25 (rotated) against Beatty/Gerard had some interest.

 

Beatty
Q984
K
Q86
KQ986
Paul
AK10
Q96
K4
AJ532
Gerard
7653
J87
J972
74
Stephen
J2
A105432
A1053
10
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

Beatty led the club king. I won ace, and ruffed a club; cashed ace and king of diamonds and ruffed a second club on which Gerard discarded a diamond. I ruffed a diamond, all following. Now I cashed spade ace and king and ruffed a third club, Gerard discarding a spade this time. At this stage I was down to AT5 and T and played the T ruffing with heart 9. Gerard over-ruffed with the jack and returned the heart 8. Trusting Gerard not to make this play holding heart king, I played the heart ace to drop Beatty’s stiff heart king and had the rest of the tricks for 59% of the match points.

 

 

Qualifying Session 2:

We remained 6EW but moved to Section B. Again, we had a great start first bidding a cold 6 missed by the field for 82% and then got to the top spot of 7NT on Board #12 for 69%. This was a session of slams for EW and we got most of them right. Against the Dutch pair, Prooijen/Verhees, we bid an excellent 6 but this had no chance with trumps breaking 4-0 and QT53 lying wrong. Paul stayed in focus and played it carefully to hold it to one down and 54%. I played Board #28 in 6, making 7 for 64%. Then Paul and I had another excellent auction to avoid a doomed 6, settling instead into 6 on our 4/4 fit. This made on a squeeze against the Americans, Compton/Seligman, for 89%. The slams kept us in good score, but in the last round we missed a cold 3N and an equally cold 4 to end the session at 51%. Our cumulative score was 53% and we had slipped to 79th. We had done some good things, particularly in the slams and, despite some missed opportunities, overall it had been a satisfying day.

 

 

This is Board #12 where Paul and I bid a vulnerable 6 for 82%.

 

Paul
73
A7
Q87643
KQJ
Stephen
AK96
10
KJ2
A9643
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

 

Paul’s 3 should have shown a better diamond suit, but showing the 6th diamond focused me on the slam possibility. 4, and the subsequent auction, was all key card where Paul showed one or 4 key cards ( 4 ) and the club king in addition to the diamond queen ( 5 ). 6 was clear and worth 82% of the match points.

 

It was in this session that the Director warned us of slow play. I was surprised since I am a very fast player and while Paul is deliberate he is not slow. I did not argue with the Director but made sure that the Director was aware that we finished the next round in time. We also finished the next few rounds early and each time I made sure that the Director was aware of this. Finally, I engaged the Director saying that just because we had played the last card in a slow round did not mean we had been the slow party, The Director informed me that the pair following us had complained about slow play from us. I had noticed that the pair following us always seemed anxious for boards and to forestall further issues on this score, I thought it best to inform the director that I was easily in the top 10% in speed of play in this field and that he could check with Director Matt Smith who knew me from the San Francisco area. We did not have any further problems on the issue of slow play. I later found out that the Director was Egyptian and managed the Al Gezirah Bridge Club in Cairo. When I informed the Director that I had played at his club in 2009 during my vacation in Cairo, a connection was formed.

 

Qualifying Session 3:

This was the first session of Day 2. Again we were 6EW starting in Section D against the American father/son duo of Justin and Hemant Lall. Board #11 was another great first board when Justin and Hemant bid to 6. Holding 84; A72; 8764; AK75, I had been considering what to do with 5 when the tray came back 6. Naturally, I doubled and we beat it 3 when Paul got a club ruff for 99%.Through the first 7 rounds of this session we had 74.90%!

 

We had done nothing particularly brilliant - just collected our gifts. The Americans, Holman/Ferguson, missed a cold 4; the Brazilian women, Abravanel/Vargas, missed their cold 4; the Australians, Griffiths/Richman, missed their cold 4 then revoked against my 4 allowing me to make 6 for 100%.

 

This could not go on. And it didn’t. In the second half, the Englishman, Bowdery, played 4 brilliantly making 5 for 27% to us. The Americans, Johnson/Simson, bid their 4 and 4 for 26% and 38% to us. The Canadian pair, Lebi/Jacob, stopped in 3 for 6% to us. Quite a roller coaster!! We finished the session 56.7% improving to 40th position.

 

In this session, we played Huang/Tse. Patrick Huang, of course, is well known as a top Taiwanese player from the 70s. Edmund Tse is the retired vice-chairman of AIG. I had first come to know Edmund when he played in the Summer NABC in DC in 2009. I work for an AIG subsidiary and we exchanged some emails. I learnt that Edmund had been a keen player in his younger days representing Taiwan and Hong Kong internationally. He had taken a hiatus from the game during his years as a senior executive with AIG and was now returning to the game. We had not met personally before so I made it a point to introduce myself to Edmund before the game started. He was affable and gracious. We discussed some bridge and some AIG. Edmund told me he would be coming more often to the US for our NABCs. I invited him to the San Francisco 2012 Fall NABC.

 

 

Qualifying Session 4:

The worm turned in this session. We were now 6NS, Section B. Our opponents bid 6 for 14% to us. Then I played a tricky 3NT and made a complete mess of it. Down 2 and 3%. Ouch! The session continued dismally for us with scores generally below 40% and I could only hope that we would break 40% for this session. We finished at 38% and dropped 95 places down to 135th! The cut-off was 138, and we were in severe danger of missing the cut.

 

I don’t think we played badly, outside of my 3NT disaster, but there was very poor field protection. However, we had been the beneficiaries of this in the first three sessions so I could not complain.

 

Paul made a good decision on Board #17:

 

Hurd
108
K106
AKQJ973
10
Paul
K52
8432
2
87543
Wooldridge
Q7643
7
84
AQJ62
Stephen
AJ9
AQJ95
1065
K9
W
N
E
S
P
1
3NT
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

Paul’s 4 bid gave Wooldridge pause. Eventually, he decided to double and I went down the obvious one, but that was still 69% to us.

 

Qualifying Session 5:

This was the first session of Day 3 and we were 6NS in Section C. Paul had been North in our disastrous Session 4 so, of course, we took the needed corrective action and switched positions. This worked wonders. On the very first Board, #11, the Americans, Jones/Krekorian, had a bidding misunderstanding to get to 6 doubled by Paul, down one and 88% to us. On the next board, we got to the top spot of 3, making 4 and 69%. This session went swimmingly, and whilst I don’t remember any great bidding or plays by us or poor play by our opponents, we scored 56%, and moved up to 90th position and safely qualified for the semi-final.

 

Mission accomplished!

 

Our cumulative score for the qualifying rounds was 51.48%. It was my opinion that the general standard of play approximated a strong regional Flight A Pairs. I knew that the semi-finals would be different firstly because the players in good form had qualified and secondly because the drop-ins from the Rosenblum would further raise the standard of the field.

 

In this last session we had played a Turkish pair, and as is my wont I welcomed my screen mate with a smile and a greeting. He responded and we exchanged some good humored banter. Kut later came up to me in the bar, and expressed his appreciation of my cordiality saying that I had been the first player to smile at him at the event! He invited me to the Turkish Anatoli Bridge Festival in 2011, and in turn I invited him to the San Francisco Fall NABC in 2012. It’s amazing what a smile and a little good humor can accomplish.

 

To be continued...

 

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