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Australian Triumph

BridgeWinners is proud to bring our readers an exclusive (and sometimes disturbing) peek into the mind of one of bridge's young superstars: Joe Grue. Grue, affectionately known to his friends as Joe Boo, is renowned for his "creative" approach to the game. Enjoy!

When I look back upon all the great experiences I've had in major events, I think, "Bridge is awesome, and I can’t think of too many other things I would rather be doing with my life." This hand took place in the 2005 World Junior Championship finals against Poland.

This was the 3rd WJC that I had the privilege to play in. We won the first one I played in, which was in Rio back in 2001. 2003 in Paris, we were in my opinion the favorites, but lost in the semi-finals to a strong and deserving Italian team by half an IMP. You might be thinking to yourself, “How does half an IMP happen?” Well the Junior event gets roughly 20 teams and begins with round-robin play where you play all of the other teams once. We had beaten Italy by 15 IMPs in the round-robin, so that score was broken in half and we started our semi-final match with a 7.5 IMP lead. We had a terrible start and were down over 120 IMPs at the midway point of the 3rd quarter, but we managed to come back almost all the way, falling short at the finish by just half an IMP.

That semi-final match broke the record for most kibitzers watching on BBO (Bridge Base Online). So after the major disappointment of a 3rd-place finish in Paris we were at it again in Australia. Our team in Sydney was composed of me/John Kranyak, Joel Wooldridge/Johnny Hurd, and Justin Lall/Ari Greenberg. Again we were trailing for practically the entire match to this strong Polish team that was 6-handed, but essentially played 4-handed the entire time against us: Kalita, Kotorowitz, Buras, and Araskiewicz. All of these guys have since become professional bridge players, as have most of the members of my team. We trailed by 32 IMPs heading into our last 15 boards. Now I don’t know if what I am about to say should make me proud, or if it should tell me I need to work on trying to get a lead, rather than continuing to make great comebacks. I feel strongly that when someone is down by 30 IMPs with a quarter to play, the strategy should be to grind away at the opponents -- don't take wild shots and give few IMPs away. If they don't score, it's easy to win.

So, about halfway through the final set I picked up this hand :

Boo
AK7
AK62
1075
K73
W
N
E
S
1
X
2
3
P
?

I felt like things were going well for us so far, possibly even picking up most (or even all) of our deficit. Now try and picture things from my perspective, I have Johnny and Joel at the other table. For the past 4 or 5 years in crunch time it was me and Kranyak at my table and Hurd and Wooldridge at the other table, and we almost always took care of business. The result at the other table was 3NT by N/S making game. I will explain the auction at my table and you can see it through my eyes. It started with a Polish 1 opener by RHO which is artificial and could be strong, but could also contain a 12-14 point balanced hand.

I chose not to make the somewhat normal 1NT overcall. Maybe at the time I wanted to mix it up by taking a slightly anti-percentage action by doubling 1. It continued with LHO bidding 2, showing a 6+ club suit and usually no 4-card major. Now you might be thinking to yourself: "Why didn't he just jump to 3 preemptively?" Well, for them 3 shows a different type of hand. So my partner Kran bid 3 over LHO's 2.
What would you do?


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Nowadays I would know that we are in a game force here. But being a little wet behind my ears back then I was afraid a 3 bid by me would not be 100% forcing so I jumped to 4. Over my 4 bid Kran cue-bid 5 and I jumped to 6. The 6 was led and there I was in a good contract:

Kran
1083
Q875
KQJ942
Boo
AK7
AK62
1075
K73

They lead 2nd and 4th, so he would lead the 6 from 863 as well as 86, but not from 63. I took maybe 30 seconds to call a card from dummy. Eventually I called for the King and RHO won his Ace. Without much thought RHO now played back the Q. I won my Ace and counted my tricks. If trumps split 3-2, I would have 5 diamond tricks, 4 hearts in my hand, the AK of spades, and one club ruff on dummy: 12! But were trumps 3-2? Well, what did I know about the hand?. Here, I knew that my LHO had 6 or 7 clubs along with exactly 3 spades based on the inference that if he had 4 spades he would have bid 1 instead of 2 over my double.

I also know that the possible diamond holdings of the opening leader are as follows: 863 or 86 or 6. Of these holdings, we can eliminate the singleton diamond because RHO, upon winning the diamond ace, would have already given the diamond ruff. So that narrows it down to only 2 diamond holdings. One holding involves RHO having stiff ace of diamonds and that’s the reason he didn't even consider trying to give his partner a ruff at trick 2 (because he had no more). If that's the case then the hearts must be 4-1 because the 2 bidder would have 3 diamonds, which along with his 9 known black cards leaves him room for only 1 heart. The other possibility is that diamonds are 2-2 and trumps break 3-2. If that was the case then RHO might have returned a diamond seeking a diamond ruff, thinking it's his best/only chance to beat this hand.

That got me thinking, so I proceeded with the obvious play of low heart towards the Queen in dummy because it's all moot if no 9/T/J of hearts pop up in LHO's hand. Well sure enough there’s the 9 of hearts! So now I had to decide, was my read correct? I think it over a few seconds and it hits me like an epiphany! Since I know that LHO has 6 clubs and 3 spades he can't be 2-2 in the reds. Why, you might ask? Well, these opponents of mine are trustworthy to the extent that with Ax of diamonds and 6 diamonds in dummy, my RHO would always try to give his partner a ruff unless he knew that his partner couldn't be ruffing it. And the only way he could possibly know that is because he was looking at JTxx and his partner having 2 singletons on the auction is totally impossible.

Now my best friend at the time (and hopefully for the rest of my life), John Kranyak, is the dummy and following everything as closely as I am. I lead the 8 of hearts from dummy and as RHO follows low everyone at the table knows what the situation is. Let me tell you, I knew I would never hear the end of it from all of my friends and family if I finessed and it was wrong. But I can safely say that I have the greatest teammates and partner that would have my back if I did. And that's why I've been able to make plays that most people just dream about doing, because despite some joking around, they rely on me making whatever play I think is right, no matter what! So I played the 6 from my hand and to John's credit he instantly said before LHO had a chance to show out: “That’s my play."

Here was the full deal:

West
654
9
86
J1098652
Kran
1083
Q875
KQJ942
East
QJ92
J1043
A3
AQ4
Boo
AK7
AK62
1075
K73
W
N
E
S
1
X
2
3
P
4
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

22 IMPs were at stake, and this hand tied up the match with 8 boards to go, and it was still tied after those 8 boards. Johnny and Joel had a great set in overtime and we won.

I know people might say that I am just tooting my own horn when I give hands like these, but they are some of my favorite and most memorable hands I have ever played. I guess what I am trying to say is, yes I am giving hands that I did great things on, as that's my style, and if people (the readers) wanna hear more of them, then I have a large vault of hands like this one, ready for the telling. One of which might even allow me to embarrass one of the creators of Bridge Winners.

Sincerely,

Joe Boo

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