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California Capital Swiss 2014
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This past weekend I played in the California Capital Swiss Championships, the premier two-day event at the Sacramento Regional.  Last year my team finished 7th, and I hoped to do better this year.  But to do that, we first had to make Day 2.   My team this year consisted of two of my teammates from last year, Michael Fleisher and Mindy Foos, along with Michael Bodell.  As a team we had won Flight X at the most recent regional, so we figured we'd be competitive.

Our first match was against another team from our club.  It would prove to be a swingy match with lots of competitive decisions.

On one hand, red vs white, in second seat, I picked up:

South
xx
A10xxxx
AK10xx
W
N
E
S
1
?

Your bid?

 

I have been having problems with bidding again when I don't feel I've fully expressed my hand, and I'm trying to fix that as it gets me into trouble. So I pondered my hand and thought to myself "Am I going to feel the need to bid again if I bid 2NT?  Why yes I am!"   And with that thought, I pulled out the 4NT card, figuring it would put everyone to the test.  My LHO chuckled as she slapped down the 5 card, and it all passed out.  Sadly, 5 was cold.

At the other table, my hand bid 2NT, and the NS crawled their way to a 5-X contract, which was down 1.  So we lost 6 IMPs on that board.  (Apparently not many agree with my bid, as you can see in the bidding poll I posted.)

On the penultimate board, red versus white, I picked up:

South
Jxxxx
KQxx
x
Kxx

My partner as dealer passed.  RHO opened 1NT and I opted to pass rather than getting in the action.  LHO bid 2, transferring to spades, which partner now doubled.  The auction proceeded:

South
Jxxxx
KQxx
x
Kxx
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
X
2
P
4
?
 

At this point, I was salivating, waiting for the auction to pass around to me so I could crack it.  I was proud of myself for choosing not to overcall. As I'm thinking about all of this, partner inserts a 5 call, which gets doubled, and I pull to 5 which gets doubled and passed out. I waited with trepidation for dummy to come down.  The lead was the A:

North
A987x
Q10987xx
x
South
Jxxxx
KQxx
x
Kxx
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
X
2
P
4
5
X
5
X
P
P
P

The bidding all made sense.  But now I was going to have to make it.  We had all the high trump, which was good.  But there was a threat of dummy getting tapped out.  This hand had possibilities of going down a bundle.

But you try it.  Plan the play from here.

 
North
A987x
Q10987xx
x
South
Jxxxx
KQxx
x
Kxx
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
X
2
P
4
5
X
5
X
P
P
P
 
I started by ruffing the opening lead.  I first thought about which hand to make the master.  If I made my hand the master, I was going to have to ruff both spades and clubs, as well as pulling trump.  I would likely lose the A in either scenario, and I didn't have enough trump for it to matter.  Partner's hand had much more play.  On a normal 3-2 diamond split, I would need to ruff one or two diamonds in hand, and concede a club.  I'd have to guard against getting tapped in dummy.
 
I delayed pulling trump, and played the 10 from dummy.  RHO won with the K.  She now cashed the A, undoubtedly worried that if she didn't cash it she might not get it.  Then she returned the J.  I felt I had no choice but to win in dummy with the A, since I needed to ruff another diamond or two, and didn't want to tap out dummy.  I played the 9, and RHO played the A.  At this point I made a critical error, I believe because I played too fast and possibly because I never thought I was making the hand.  I decided to ruff high.  Stopping to think for just a moment would have revealed the obvious: LHO must have the J, therefore there was no reason to ruff high.  
 
I went about pulling trump at this point; unfortunately, I got a 3-1 split, with RHO holding the 10, and I was down 1.  At the other table, they were in 4, making 3.  Had I made the contract, we would have gone from -6 IMPs to +13 IMPs.  So this error was a costly one, costing us 19 IMPs.  It was a swingy match, and we wound up losing 30-14.  (By making the contract, we would have won by 3.)  Drat!
 
The full deal is shown below:
 
West
AKxxx
x
Jxx
Q10xx
North
A987x
Q10987xx
x
East
Qxx
J10x
AK
AJxxx
South
Jxxxx
KQxx
x
Kxx
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
X
2
P
4
5
X
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
 
Well, it did mean we would probably get a relatively easy matchup in our second match.  It's good strategy to lose the first match, right?
 
Our second match was played against another good local team, and although it was a relatively close match, we lost.  We won our third, fourth and fifth matches, so we were in the hunt for a qualification.  We lost our sixth match pretty handily, and now everything came down to the final match.  We've been here before.  
 
Up to this point  we had faced solid local teams, but no pro teams. Imagine my surprise when we found ourselves matched up against the team of Kit Woolsey, Sylvia Moss, Chip Martel, and Kevin Rosenberg in our last match.  No offense to the other teams, but I guess this is what's meant by saving the best for last!
 
Kit and I were sitting in the same seat, so it promised to be an interesting learning experience for me.  Michael and I are playing a weak NT, so that in itself might create some swings.  The first two boards were good for us: at our table, we set a 2 contract and a 5 contract to win some IMPs.  On the next board, after opening 1 in 3rd seat and my partner giving me a Drury response, after an intervening double, I decided my hand wasn't good enough to go on, and stopped in 2, making 3.  (Of course at the time, I'm thinking my decision was correct.) At the other table, well, it's Kit.  Kit and Sylvia bid to a game, and made it on a squeeze.  Chapeau!  Lose 7.
 
The next board would prove to be the pivotal one.
 
In second seat, both vulnerable, I picked up a nice 12-count:
 
South
KJ865
A52
52
A73
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
4
P
P
P
 
Your lead?
Dummy
7x
J10974
K107
109x
Polly
KJ865
A52
52
A73
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
4
P
P
P
 
On the bidding, I decided to lead the 2.  I reasoned that my partner couldn't have much, and playing passive would be the way to go holding tenace positions over the opening bidder.  Declarer won partner's 6 in hand with the Q, and then led the K.
 
Do you win it and if so, what do you lead?
Dummy
7x
J10974
K107
109x
Polly
KJ865
A52
52
A73
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
4
P
P
P
 
I opted to win it and exit a heart to avoid being endplayed. With declarer having 20-21, I was not counting on my partner for much.  Partner discarded a discouraging 6.  Declarer won the heart return in hand, and played a diamond to the 10 which was won by my partner's J.  He returned a spade, won by declarer's A, but at this point it was all over.  Declarer played his two high diamonds and pitched the remaining spade on a good diamond.  Double darn!
 
The full hand is shown below:
 
West
7x
J10974
K107
109x
North
Q1042
63
QJ8
8654
East
Ax
KQx
A9xxx
KQJ
South
KJ865
A52
52
A73
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 East
NS: 0 EW: 0
 
Declarer decided to open his 19-count 2NT.  At the other table, my teammate opted to open 1, after which Kit, holding my hand, was able to overcall 1.  Since my teammates play negative free bids, my teammate was able to bid 2.  They thus ended up in 4 declared from the other side.  The overcall made it easy for North to find the spade lead on the go.  Maybe you would have found the spade switch with my hand, but I didn't.
 
The rest of the match was tame, and we wound up losing by 6.  We were both close to qualifying, but each of us needed a big win to make it. So it turned out to be a match of mutually-assured destruction.  It was, by far, my favorite match of the day... a privilege to play against such great competition. (Their team went on to win the A/X the next day, a nice consolation prize.)
 
All in all, I thought we played well, but were on the wrong side of a number of competitive decisions.  Michael Bodell and I were playing a weak notrump which turned out to "wrong-side" a number of contracts.  Nevertheless, it was a fun day of bridge, independent of the outcome.
 
The next day we played in the A/X Swiss and had a similar type of day.  After winning the first three matches, we were not to win another, and we finished out of the money.  But, as always, it was still a fun weekend of bridge!
 
Stay tuned for my next report... I'll be playing in the Bridge Winners Challenge Match this coming weekend, where I'll be representing the Bridge Winners team for the first time (playing with Eugene Hung).  Since Steve and Gavin will be sitting out that round, I'm sure I'll have some good hands to write about after!
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