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Croatia Chronicles Part 1

This is the first installment of tales about many interesting hands from Croatia, where I played in the 2nd World Junior Bridge Congress. I did a poor job of making notes about interesting hands in each match, but I am going to do my best to reconstruct the actions at the table, as well as players' names when possible.

My partner for Croatia was Adam Grossack, who is currently 19. We played in Philadelphia last year together on an Under team, and missed qualifying for the KO stage by half of a VP. This year we were determined to do better, although we figured it would be a bit tougher since this event was Under 26. We started out with an easy match - The Croatian Under 21 team. We had high hopes as we pulled our hands for the first board of the tournament, which we defended well to beat 4 three tricks, after declarer made an error.

Kaplan
AK4
Q76
1064
QJ98
North
J53
K8
AKJ82
K42
Grossack
Q76
AJ54
Q953
73
South
10982
10932
7
A1065
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
P
P
P
D
2
1NT North
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
2
1

Grossack passed, as did South, and I opened the bidding with 1, our catchall opening bid which could hold a doubleton diamond and is limited to 15 HCP. North overcalled a strong 1NT, which ended the auction. Grossack led the 4, which is generally fourth best and declarer played small off dummy. What do you play?

 

This is a simple application of the rule of 11, but I see a lot of people get it wrong. Declarer is marked with two cards higher than the 4, and they are his only two cards in the heart suit. Holding the 7 makes this even easier, although the play would be the same even without it. Partner wouldn't lead low from AKJ4, so declarer is marked with at least one honor. If it is the jack, playing small doesn't cost anything but a tempo, and in a hand like this, tempo doesn't rate to matter that much. If it is the king, playing small avoids wasting the queen, and we can lead low the second time to partner, who will be able to win the ace, and return one, and hopefully get in later to cash the fourth heart. If it is the ace, then we break even once again, only costing a tempo. As an additional bonus, since we hold the 7, whenever partner holds the 8, playing the 7 (or 6) will become equal in effectiveness as playing the queen. Consider A8 or K8 for declarer. By playing low, we may cost a tempo, but rate to break even, and will often gain.

I played the 6, and declarer won in hand with the 8. Declarer then crossed to dummy with a club, on which I dropped the queen. In retrospect this was a mistake since it creates possibilities for endplays on me, and may give up a trick since dummy has four of them. Declarer then played a diamond to his jack, which partner won with the queen. After some thought, partner returned a small spade, dummy played small, and I played the king. It seemed that this wasn't a case where deceiving declarer would be helpful, and giving partner the wrong impression could be a disaster on this hand.

Partner should have either the Q or J for their small spade return, since we play attitude oriented shifts in the middle of the hand. Partner has also shown the Q. If he has the AK, he has 10-11 HCP, leaving declarer with only 13-14 HCP - an unlikely notrump overcall. Therefore we assume that partner has either AJ or KJ. When partner has the AJ, we must return a small heart to follow through with our T1 play. If partner has the KJ, then whatever heart we return will be fine.

In the unusual case where I am playing 3rd hand low, it is useful to have a way to tell partner this is the case. Playing the 7 at trick one, and following up with the 6 when returning the suit would be enough to wake up partner that I have three hearts instead of two (Q76 instead of 76). This count signal could simply partner’s problem quite a bit.

Anyway, I returned the 7, declarer played the king, and partner the ace. Partner then returned the third heart, thinking he was establishing his jack after knocking out declarer's remaining honor.  He was pleasantly surprised when I won the queen and returned the A and a small spade. If I were to return a low spade instead of the ace, I know that a good declarer won't have any trouble guessing spades right if they hold the queen, however it usually never hurts to try something like this in a junior field.  The problem was that my play of the CQ earlier had opened me up to an endplay if declarer held the Q and got it right. I knew I needed to get rid of the A. When I led the spade, partner won the queen and cashed his last heart, on which I threw a club. Partner then returned a club, and we had to get a minor-suit trick in the wash. The full deal was:

Kaplan
AK4
Q76
1064
QJ98
North
J53
K8
AKJ82
K42
Grossack
Q76
AJ54
Q953
73
South
10982
10932
7
A1065
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
P
P
P
D
2
1NT North
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
2
6
8
1
1
0
2
3
A
Q
3
2
0
7
4
J
Q
2
2
1
6
2
K
3
0
2
2
7
K
A
3
2
2
3
5
9
Q
2
0
2
4
A
5
7
8
0
2
5
4
J
Q
9
2
2
6
J
10
8
8
2
2
7
7
5
9
K
1
3
7
A
3
10
6
1
4
7
K
5
6
10
1
5
7
4
9
10
J
0
5
8
N/S -200
13

This was solid defense by both of us, and a nice way to start the week.

Next there were two mundane deals (although we picked up 14 IMPs on them), followed by a deal with a small lesson:

Kaplan
K82
A1073
J5
8653
North
J95
86
KQ9642
102
Grossack
A64
KQ92
7
AQ974
South
Q1073
J54
A1083
KJ
W
N
E
S
2
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
5
4 West
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
7
A
5
3
1
0
3
J
Q
2
2
1
1
K
4
3
6
2
1
2
Q
5
7
8
2
1
3
A
J
3
2
2
1
4
4
K
5
10
3
2
4
J
A
11 tricks claimed
E/W +450
7

North opened the bidding with a weak 2, and partner made a takeout double. South raised, and now I was relieved that I did not have to decide whether my hand was NF or invitational.  After the raise, a free 3 call accurately described my hand, and partner happily bumped to game.

Now, onto the play - North led the K, overtaken by the ace, and a diamond returned, and ruffed in dummy. I have at least one club loser, but the key here is to keep control of the hand. I can afford a couple club losers, but if I let them in too many times, I will lose trump control. I cashed two top trumps, and before cashing the third, played the A. After both players followed, I now had a near-lock for the contract. While I still held a trump in dummy to handle another diamond tap, I could knock out a club honor. If they are 2-2, I'm home no matter what, and if they are 3-1 (KJT behind the queen), then I need to do this now, otherwise I can get tapped out if they continue pumping diamonds. This club split is somewhat unlikely though, since with a small singleton, North probably would lead his singleton club. It’s also interesting to consider the play at MPs. If I am reasonably confident that North would lead a stiff club if he had one, it is probably worth risking the contract for a possible overtrick. Today the clubs were 2-2, so everything would work. At the other table they lost control somehow and finished down three (I won't ask.)

Skipping ahead to board 8, the Croatian declarer at our table declared a 4 contract quite nicely. See if you can duplicate his play:

Kaplan
Q963
AQ87
J43
52
North
AK42
KJ32
K
K643
Grossack
85
6
Q962
AQ10987
South
J107
10954
A10875
J
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
P
P
X
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
8
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
3
Q
J
2
0
1
6
4
7
J
1
1
1
2

Follow the play up until trick 2 with the next button. Plan the play from there. I will give the full deal in Part 2.

I will close with the final board of the first match, where we stayed low:

Kaplan
A82
A754
Q92
A94
Grossack
KJ74
KQ982
54
87
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
X
P
2
P
P
P

Our NT range in all seats and vulnerabilities is 14-16, but I felt that in 3rd seat red this 14 count was simply to awful to open 1NT. It may be the first time in my life I have downgraded out of a 1NT opening, but between the 4333, no spots, scattered values, being vulnerable, and facing a Precision passed hand, I didn't like a 1NT opening. After I opened 1, North bid 2, and partner doubled. We play fairly standard here, and don't use transfers or anything else. Over the double I bid 2, and partner took the low road and passed. With some friendly defense I made 4, even though trumps went 4-0 offside. Would you want to be in game? Would you bid any differently?

This covers the first match in the Round-Robin, and with more interesting hands coming soon. We won our first match 62-10, earning the maximum of 25 VPs, and getting us off to a strong start.

I also encourage you to check out Phillip Alder's excellent write-ups (including hands from when he kidbitzed us) in the Daily Bulletins.

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