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Chicago NABC Day 1: Bruce LM-5000 pairs
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I haven't been writing much at all, since I haven't been playing much at all. I've been working like crazy, and have had very little time for play of late. Last month I probably played three times, a far cry from the 5-6 times per week I was playing before I went back to work. And the rust really shows, as my poor partners will testify to.  But here I am at Nationals for ten days, hoping to brush off the cobwebs and play well at least some of the time!  My goals this Nationals are far less lofty than this time last year, where I finished 36th in the LM pairs. This year I'm playing in the lower-level event, the Bruce LM 0-5000 pairs, which is more my speed right now. I will also be playing in the big Spingold for the second time (hoping to make it to day 2!), assuming my teammates don't wise up and boot me off the team. Then I'll be playing the rest of the week in various National events, culminating with the 3-day Swiss at the end.  I hope to write more than last Nationals, where there were too many other stressors (now gone) to allow me to play, deal with life AND write!

I am staying at an Air BnB near the playing venue, the host hotel having been sold out.  It's a very nice place, with two bedrooms. Apparently it's owned by two friends, and each friend rents out one of the bedrooms. So when I got here, I had no idea who was staying in the other bedroom (which was mildly disconcerting). After quizzing the owners, they said it was "some Russian from the SF Bay Area" and showed me his pic -- it turned out to be Dmitri Shabes, another bridge player from the Bay Area whom I know!  What are the odds?  Such is the privacy of this place that I still haven't bumped into him at the apartment, but I did see him at the playing venue last night where I informed him I was his roommate, much to his surprise.

For the first event, the Bruce LM 0-5000 pairs, I am playing with my longtime partner, Kevin Schoenfeld, He was kind enough to change his plans to fly out here earlier to play with me, for which I am very grateful.  (Another consequence of working a lot is that there is little time for organizing and you can't be sure of your commitments until fairly close to the event.)  We haven't played together in a while, but we're both hopeful that our long-term partnership will stand the test of time. 

We had a decent first session on Friday. Nothing spectacular, and I made my share of small mistakes, and one or two big ones. But we still finished with an above-average game. One consequence of not playing much is that I notice that I'm not quite as aggressive in bidding or doubling as I used to be, lacking some amount of self confidence. I'm hoping to get that back over the next couple of days with steady play. I have been at least noticing the mistakes, which is the first step to correcting them.

In the first day, there were a number of hands with bad splits.  We were sitting E-W, and I picked up the following hand:

East
J9862
AQ52
76
52
W
N
E
S
P
1
?

Your bid?

I wasn't particularly anxious for partner to lead the suit, although overcalling 1 might have led to a good sacrifice down the road. I opted for safety and passed.  The auction proceeded:

East
J9862
AQ52
76
52
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
3

An interesting turn of events...
 
East
J9862
AQ52
76
52
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
3
4
?
 
What now?

 

I again chose to pass. I contemplated doubling, but never considered pushing to 5.  To my delight, the auction continued:

East
J9862
AQ52
76
52
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
3
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
?
 
What do you do now?

I passed, ending the auction.  Would you crack it?  Given the bidding, I wasn't sure that we'd have any cashing hearts, and it was possible we had no defense. I was worried that if I told them how to play the hand they could pick up the spade suit.  So I passed, figuring that not everyone would be in slam, and this would be a good result.  On a heart lead, dummy came down:

North
K105
K10
Q832
KQ83
East
J9862
AQ52
76
52
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
3
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
 
I won the opening lead and played another high heart, declarer ruffing in hand. He played a low spade to the K finding out the bad news. In the end, he was down 2 for a good board.
 
The full deal is below:
 
West
J98643
94
J9764
North
K105
K10
Q832
KQ83
East
J9862
AQ52
76
52
South
AQ743
7
AKJ105
A10
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
3
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
 
 
In the second session, we had a similar situation with us defending.  As West (deal rotated) I picked up:
West
7