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Dallas NABC Report
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Life has been interfering with writing of late, so I am long overdue with a tournament report.  I headed off to the Dallas NABC on the first Monday, planning to play in three events: the Rockwell Mixed Pairs, the Bean Red Ribbon Pairs, and the Jacoby Open Swiss.  I was to play all events with my regular partner, Kevin Schoenfeld, although we didn't have a team in place for the Swiss before I left for Nationals.  

Our first event, the Mixed Pairs, was a disappointment.  We had two sub-par games and didn't qualify.  Kevin had been there since the beginning, and had done pretty well up til that time, qualifying for day 2 of the IMP pairs, and placing in the Silver Ribbon pairs, so he was ready to take a day off.  

I trundled up to the partnership desk the next day, casually scanning the cards and the area where people were hanging out.  I overheard a relatively young guy (Neil Chua) explaining to a relatively old guy about how although he had only 250 masterpoints, he played better than his points. Having been there before myself, I decided he'd be a good person to play with.  I waited until a break in the conversation once it was apparent this match wasn't to be, and approached him, and we quickly agreed to play in the two-session regional pairs.  As we talked, it turned out that we already knew each other -- we'd teamed together a the Toronto NABC a couple of years before (marking me as an old gal for not remembering!).  After quickly cobbling together a convention card, we sat down to play.  We had a really nice time, and had two decent games, enough to scratch but not enough to place in the overalls. It was a good day.  (Neil later went on to do very well in the NAP Flight C event at the end of the week.  Yay Neil!)

In the Bean Red Ribbon Pairs, I was back playing with Kevin again.  Kevin and I had an average first game, and a slightly above average second game to qualify for the finals.  In the finals, we again had an average first round, and then finally had a decent second round to finish 30th in the overalls. Although it was well below my original expectations of finishing in the top ten, given the past two days, it was a relief to finish in the overalls.

For the final event, the Jacoby Open Swiss, I still hadn't found anyone I knew who was looking for teammates.  So on the Friday before the event, I again sidled up to the partnership desk and studied the cards there from a distance, not wanting to be totally obvious that I was looking.  If we didn't find a suitable pair, we'd play pairs that day.  I noticed a guy next to me was doing the same thing, and one of us got the courage up to ask "What are you looking for?"  I told him I was looking for teammates for the Jacoby Open Swiss, and it turned out he was doing the same.  I told him my criteria was simple: a fun pair, and a pair that could be competitive in a National event.  He felt the same way, and it turned out that our results were on par with one another, so we shook hands and made a match.  Jack Waller was his name, and he was partnering Pow Wooldridge, whom he'd picked up from the partnership desk earlier in the week.  

We started out going gangbusters in the Swiss, winning our first two matches handily, against good (pro) teams.  This garnered me one of my year's goals: getting to 50 Platinum points so I could play in the Platinum Pairs next year.  Each match win was worth .53 Platinum, and I had been 1.04 short prior to the start of the event.  So after two matches I was over by .02.  Woot!  I thanked my partners and teammates, but of course I wanted to do quite a bit better than that.  But everything from here on in was gravy... the pressure was off!

My favorite board in the first half was the pivotal board in match 4.  Sitting East, I picked up:

East
AQJ9x
10987x
10x
x

The bidding started with North opening 1, and proceeded apace:

East
AQJ9x
10987x
10x
x
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

My partner led a low heart, and dummy came down:

North
xxx
AJx
A97xx
Ax
East
AQJ9x
10987x
10x
x
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

Declarer won the A in dummy, and immediately started on clubs.  He played the A, and then a low club to the J, which was taken by my partner's Q as I showed out.  Kevin led me back a spade, and I inserted the J, hoping he had another and would get in again.  The J lost to declarer's K. Declarer now played the J out of his hand, and Kevin covered with the Q.  Declarer ducked, letting Kevin win, and I followed with a low diamond. Kevin played back another heart, which declarer was forced to win in hand with the K.  Declarer played a diamond to the A on the board, with Kevin and I both following.  At this point, he had no more transportation to the board.  He exited a low spade, which I won with the A.  I cashed my good Q, and exited a low heart, hoping that Kevin had the Q (which was almost certain from his opening lead), and hoping he had another diamond honor to cash.   In the end, we wound up setting them two, for a 13 IMP gain because the contract was made at the other table.  
 
The full deal is shown below:
 
West
x
Qxx
KQxx
Q98xx
North
xxx
AJx
A97xx
Ax
East
AQJ9x
10987x
10x
x
South
K10xx
Kx
J8
KJ10xx
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
 
Looking at it from declarer's point of view, making 3NT is a tough assignment.  He knows that his RHO (me) is 5-5 in the majors, so minor-suit finesses are likely to fail.  It looks like he has two heart tricks, one diamond trick, and three club tricks, and can develop two spade tricks, depending on splits. He only needs to develop one more trick.  But it's very tricky. Timing is everything on this hand, both on offense and defense, and I give big kudos to our teammates for making it!
 

We lost our third match by a little, and won our fourth match to end up at 49.33 VPs at the break.  

After enjoying a nice dinner at Twisted Burger in Dallas, we returned for the second half, perhaps having had a little too much to eat.  I was definitely wishing that the start time was at 7 rather than 7:30... these long days were getting tiring!  Early success against pro teams can be a little deceptive, since often the clients also play in the first half.  The second half was bound to be tougher.

The first six boards of our first match were unremarkable, save for a sketchy 5 game bid by the opponents that I didn't expect our teammates to find.  On the last board, I picked up the following hand as South, white vs red: 

South
K9865
xxx
xx
QJx

Partner was the dealer, and partner opened the bidding:

South
K9865
xxx
xx
QJx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
?

Partner had reversed.  We play that the cheaper of fourth suit or 2NT is the weak bid, and that rebidding our five-card major could show a weak hand, but is a one-round force. I decided to continue by showing my fifth spade:

South
K9865
xxx
xx
QJx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
?

Partner raised my spades, showing 3.  Your bid?

I now knew his complete shape: 3451, and could imagine hands where a game could make.  I am always the optimist, and we were playing IMPs.  I soldiered on and put us in game, despite what looked to be wasted values in clubs.  On the lead of the A, dummy came down:

North
A10x
AQxx
AQ109x
x
South
K9865
xxx
xx
QJx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

My optimism wasn't well founded.  I stared and stared at the dummy, trying to figure out how I was going to make this hand.  It looked to me like I had a loser in every suit.  I was off the QJ, was off the K, the K, and had to ruff two clubs, which might result in an extra trump loser.   At least one red-suit finesse was going to have to work for this contract to make.  I stared at the dummy some more as LHO shifted to a heart.
 
Well, no time like the present!  I inserted the Q, which lost to the K on my right. Another heart came back which I won with the A.  I now had to avoid losing the lead at all, so I could work on pitching my heart.  I also had to end up in my hand somehow, so I could take the diamond finesse.  And, I had to ruff a club.   I had to hope for a good spade split (or QJ tight), or the contract wasn't going to make.  So I played the A, both following, and low to the K, the J falling on my right.  Next, I played the J, banking on LHO not covering, and pitched a heart.  I then took the diamond finesse, which won.  I played the A, both following.  I now played another diamond, and ruffed in my hand, both following.  Phew!   I now ruffed my remaining club in dummy, and played a diamond, pitching a heart, while RHO ruffed in, a nice loser-on-loser play, to make my contract.  

 

The full deal is shown below:

West
Qxx
J9x
K8x
AKxx
North
A10x
AQxx
AQ109x
x
East
Jx
K10x
Jxx
109xxx
South
K9865
xxx
xx
QJx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

I was a little sad to go back to the table to find out that the board was a push.  We wound up losing the match by a fair amount, when our teammates went for -1100 against a game at our table.  But four out of the seven boards turned out to be pushes.
 
In match six, we were up against Versace and Lauria, and got creamed, not winning a single IMP.  But if you're going to get creamed, it's good to get creamed by the best!   Our seventh match was swingy, and we wound up winning it by a little.  We won our last match by 12 and thought we had qualified for the next day, but sadly, we were short by an IMP or two.  Nevertheless, it was a good run.  As tired as we were, we played well in general, and I was happy about that.  At the end of the day, I vastly exceeded my Platinum goal, ending up with 2.56 Platinum for the day. 

 

On the final day, the four of us again teamed together to play in the A/X Swiss.  At this point, the entire team was exhausted, and we didn't play well. We played so poorly, in fact, that we ended up in a round robin at the end.  But it was still fun to play with these guys -- they were nice, and had a good sense of humor, and lots of good stories to tell.

All in all, it was not the best Nationals I have had.  But I did manage to get a placing in a National event, and almost made it to day 2 in the Jacoby Swiss, and got the rest of my Platinum.  And, the city and food were good. :)  So I really can't complain.

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