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The Las Vegas regional is one of the strongest on the calendar, but this year attendance was disappointing: the table count was down over 600 tables. Some of that decline is probably due to the fact that it was held during a different week this year (June 22-28 in 2015; June 6-12 in 2016), but another factor was surely the schedule.

There were no new knockouts scheduled for Thursday through Saturday (a Thursday-Friday knockout was added at the 11th hour), instead having three one-day events: compact knockouts on Thursday and Saturday and a Swiss on Friday. Hopefully without having torehash old debates about tournament priorities and schedules, I'll just mention that the schedule was overwhelmingly decried by players at the regional (and some not at the regional). Hopefully, tournament organizers will notice the widespread rejection of this format and schedule accordingly.

Enough proselytizing, here are some deals (IMPs throughout).

West
6
K8
AQJ973
K1097
W
N
E
S
P
3
4
4
P
P
P

At favorable vulnerability, partner deals and passes (he would have opened all 11-point hands and some 10s), and South opens 3 after brief thought. You overcall 4 (would you?), and North's 4 bid ends the auction.

What is your opening lead?

West
6
K8
AQJ973
K1097
North
A2
10972
K105
AQ84
W
N
E
S
P
3
4
4
P
P
P

Say you lead the A: 5, 2 (upside-down; could be a singleton or doubleton), 6.

How do you defend?

The full deal:

West
6
K8
AQJ973
K1097
North
A2
10972
K105
AQ84
East
1075
QJ64
2
J6532
South
KQJ9843
A53
864
W
N
E
S
P
3
4
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

If you led a club or shifted to a club, -650. If you led or shifted to a major, -620. If you led the A and continued diamonds, +100. I can't see any reason you should get this problem right. Bridge is just frustrating sometimes.

Try this play problem:

North
6
AQ4
QJ763
Q954
South
AQ75
K973
A10863
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
P
P

You reach 4 after a Precision 1 opening, and West leads the 2: 4, K, A.

Plan the play.

It would be possible to ruff a spade early, but that will block the hearts, and if they aren't 3-3 problems will arise. Similarly, if you lose a spade finesse and hearts don't split. As you will be virtually cold with 3-3 hearts and can fall back on a spade finesse if necessary later, it seems right to start by playing three rounds of the suit (click NEXT to follow the play):

West
North
6
AQ4
QJ763
Q954
East
South
AQ75
K973
A10863
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
4
K
A
3
1
0
3
2
Q
5
1
2
0
A
8
7
6
1
3
0
4
2
K
10
3
4
0
3
7
9
3
1
5
0
Q
4
6
J
1
6
0
6

You take the Q, A, K, as East, a poor player, discards the 2 (standard signals). You finesse dummy's 9, then cash the Q as East discards the 3 and 4 and West follows suit.

What now?

North
6
QJ763
5
South
AQ75
9
108
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
P
P

Of course, you could finesse the Q now, but East's carding virtually guarantees that West holds the K. A better approach is to continue clubs, hoping West will ruff and play a pointed suit to your advantage. Even barring that, you may have an arrow left in your quiver.

You continue with a fourth round of clubs. East discards the 8, and West considers before discarding the 10. The fifth round of clubs draws the 4, 3, and 2, leaving:

North
6
QJ76
South
AQ75
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
P
P

How do you continue?

Exiting your heart is hopeless: West will switch to diamonds, and you will lose a late spade unless West's K is singleton. Cashing the A won't work either, again, unless spades are 1=7, but that is unlikely given East's carding—would he really stiff his diamond honor to hold J109x? The only hope appears to be leading alow spade, hoping that East takes the trick, letting you score both the A and 9.

You lead the 5, and West follows with the 9. East mulls this over, overtakes with the 10, and returns the J. You rise with the A, dropping West's king, and continue with the Q, tapping out West's last trump, so you actually make an overtrick. The full deal:

West
K9
J1062
A1094
J72
North
6
AQ4
QJ763
Q954
East
J108432
85
K852
K
South
AQ75
K973
A10863
D

Of course, East should not have overtaken the spade, but West could have averted disaster by flying with the K and drawing declarer's last trump. It shouldn't have been necessary, but sometimes you need to build a very high (electric?) fence around partner.

One last problem (click NEXT to see the play):

West
North
2
KJ873
A874
AQ3
East
South
AQ106
5
KJ2
K8752
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2N
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
2
K
A
3
1
0
2
4
A
4
1
2
0
4
3
J
Q
0
2
1
4
4

West leads the 5 (fourth best) to the king and ace. What looks like a routine 3NT takes a turn for the complex when you lead a club toward dummy and West discards the 4. You lead a diamond to the jack, losing to West's queen, and West returns the 4.

What do you play from dummy?

North
KJ873
A87
Q3
South
Q106
5
K2
K875
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Westmight have acted holding the A, particularly with six spades, but he wouldn't have with the Q. If that seems like a frail reed to lean on, I agree, but you put in the J and are relieved to see it force East's A. East returns the 9.

How do you continue?

North
K873
A87
Q3
South
Q106
K2
K875
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

You might just have nine tricks if diamonds are friendly (a 3-3 split or 10x or 9x with East), but if you don't, you will need some sort of squeeze or endplay, likely exerting pressure on West in spades and diamonds.Unfortunately, there is no convenient way to rectify the count for a simple squeeze.

You might duck this trick, win the, say, spade return, and duck a club. This will be the position:

North
K8
A87
Q
South
10
K2
K87

A diamond back destroys your entries. You can't unblock the Q, cash the K, and return to your hand to effect the squeeze with the K. Cashing the Q and then ducking a club is no better, because now the K is marooned. Of course, cashing the K before ducking a club is no good either, because it that sets up the fifth (and perhaps the sixth) winner for the defense.

What about ducking the spade, winning the continuation, cashing the top heart and clubs, and throwing West in with the 10? The ending will be:

North
8
A87
South
10
K2
8

If West began with four diamonds, he will have to break the suit for you, but if he started with Q10xx or Q9xx you could have taken three tricks on your own, and if he started with Q109x he can foil you by exiting with hislow diamond. Dummy's spot will hold, but the defense will have a minor-suit winner at trick 13.

No, the route to nine tricks is to win the Q (West plays the 7) and lead a club to the queen. The layout probably resembles:

West
J8
Q9x
109x
North
K87
A87
Q3
East
3
10x
x
J109x
South
106
K2
K875
D

If West discards a diamond on the Q, that suit runs. If he throws the 8, declarer builds a trick in the suit. Instead, West pitches a heart, and you play a club to the king, squeezing him.

Again, a diamond pitch gives you the contract, as does the 8. After a heart discard, you cash the K and A. Either that suit splits 3-3 or you cash the K to strip West's last heart, then exit the fourth diamond. West will be down to J8 and the 10 will be your ninth trick.

The full deal and successful play:

West
J8754
Q964
Q1095
North
2
KJ873
A874
AQ3
East
K93
A102
63
J10964
South
AQ106
5
KJ2
K8752
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2N
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
2
K
A
3
1
0
2
4
A
4
1
2
0
4
3
J
Q
0
2
1
4
J
A
5
2
2
2
9
Q
7
3
3
3
2
5
6
Q
6
1
4
2
3
9
K
9
3
5
2
K
5
7
6
3
6
2
2
9
A
10
1
7
2
K
2
7
Q
1
8
2
8
3
8
10
0
8
3
J
7
J
6
0
8
4
8
8
10
10
3
9
4
N/S +600
13

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