Join Bridge Winners
End of the Road to the GNT Final Four
(Page of 7)

After the first half of our match against District 9 (Dwyer-Ekeblad, Bathurst-Coren, Meckwell), our District 6 team (Gill-Shore, Pettis-Lo, Shi-Palmer)was leading by a score of 70-16. We decided to stick with our planned team rotation, and Noble and I sat out the third quarter as we had the first two matches. Our teammates had a rough set, losing 48-10 to bring us down to Earth a bit.

Obviously, we were disappointed and would have liked to go into the 4th quarter with a nice big lead. But you only get so much luck as a team on the day and I feel like Noble and I had used our share of it in the first half. If I'd doubled 7 for the lead instead of 3NT, it would have been a tie match.And let's face it, we didn't expect them to go quietly into the night.If you'd have told me we'd be up 16 going into the final quarter, I'd have happily accepted!

Since we'd been running well earlier in the day, Noble and I went back in to play the final quarter. We had seating rights and neither of our pairs had a strong preference for whom we would play. Since we had such a good set against them in the first quarter, we decided to head back to Meckwell's table, with Shi-Palmer playing against Bathurst-Coren at the other table.

We started off by picking up an overtrick IMP in a normal 3NT contract on Board 16. Then we conceded 2 IMPs on the second board when Meckstroth's stopper-less 1NT bid after a 1 overcall failed by only a trick when 3 in the 9-card fit was going down two after a 4-0 trump break.Then I faced a reopening decision:

East
K632
KJ10872
KJ2
W
N
E
S
1
4
P
P
?

Because our 1 could contain extreme length in either minor in a hand with a 4-card major, a 4 call here would unambiguously show that hand-type (we open 1M with 5-6 hands). What would you bid?

East
K632
KJ10872
KJ2
W
N
E
S
1
4
P
P
?

All of the calls seem to have major flaws. Partner can have quite a reasonable hand here if he is balanced or has short spades, so you could be making game or (more likely) have a cheap save that you would miss if you pass. 4 commits you to offense when partner might have passed a strong balanced hand with 3+ hearts, plus it will make it tougher to unravel a club fit when it's right. Double is normally the way to go in these types of situations but with no aces it's possible partner will sit when they're making.

I think it would be very difficult to determine the correct action in a situation like this, since a simulation is so dependent on both LHO's preempting style and partner's judgment. As I've said several times in the series, I like bidding when it's close, especially when the opponents might save you by failing to double or by bidding over you when they shouldn't. I chose the more flexible double, which didn't produce the result of my dreams:

West
AQ
K76
43
Q109743
North
J1098754
105
65
A6
East
K632
KJ10872
KJ2
South
AQJ98432
AQ9
85
W
N
E
S
1
4
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
18
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0

As it turns out, partner had a close decision as well. I'm usually a believer in taking out partner's takeout doubles, especially here when you could have a massive trump fit. Still, it's hard to fault pass when he didn't expect to make 5 and could beat 4 oppositeKxxx - xxxxx xxxx. Meckstroth scored up 5 for -990 and... win 10. The auction started identically (except with a natural 1 opener), but our teammate rewound and our counterparts shot it out anyway. Always nice when your teammates find a way to turn a bad board into a big win!

We traded small swings on the next two boards with the opponents picking up two overtrick IMPs and conceding one after a difference in siding of an easy game contract and an unsuccessful trump lead by my counterpart. Then I had a decision in a competitive auction:

East
952
543
QJ932
J8
W
N
E
S
2
P
P
X
P
2NT
P
3
P
?

At the table I was worried that partner might have quite a good hand if he had to choose between getting in the spade suit and forcing game. I polled a 19-count with 6 spadesto check myself and got a unanimous 3 bid from the peanut gallery, so partner could clearly havemore than that. Game is not very good opposite that hand, but it's good opposite AKxxxx xxAxAKx or various hands with5143 shape or similar. But since partner's in balancing seat, he could be a good bit weaker as well, and I think holdings where game is good are against the odds. My decision to raise to 4 seems overly ambitious in retrospect:

West
AKQJ7
AQ7
7
Q1092
North
8
J109862
A5
K653
East
952
543
QJ932
J8
South
10643
K
K10864
A74
W
N
E
S
2
P
P
X
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
21
4 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

4 went two down when partner played a club early hoping for a miracle, while the other table stopped in 3. It was a little annoying that the opponents stoppedlow because my counterpart bid a value-showing 3 in an analogous auction, then passed the presumably intended as forcing 3 bid. Still, my bid got the result it deserved so I won't complain too much!

We dropped an overtrick IMP on the next board when I thought I was squeezed for the 4th overtrick in 3NT, then I faced an interesting defensive problem (rotated):

West
10
AK653
A863
Q107
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P

First decision - do you lead a high heart or a low heart?

West
10
AK653
A863
Q107
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P

I've been burned a few times for not leading high in situations like this when I had a side entry, most memorably in the World Juniors in 2006 when the opponents had bid to 3NT with Qx opposite xx. So without a strong reason to override it, leading high has been branded onto my subconscious.

You lead the A, asking for attitude, and see:

West
10
AK653
A863
Q107
North
952
Q1092
1072
952
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P

Partner plays the 8 (upside-down attitude), and declarer the 7. Now what?

West
10
AK653
A863
Q107
North
952
Q1092
1072
952
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P

I thought this was a fascinating problem, and I tanked for quite a while. Eventually, I concluded that switching didn't really make sense. It seemed like declarer would win the switch and shove a heart right back at me, leaving me with the same decision but having already risked giving him a finesse he couldn't take on his own.

With such a weak dummy, we rated to beat the contract, so I tried to think about the price for being wrong for leading a high or low heart next:

  • If declarer has a doubleton and I lead high, he's almost certainly going down - a 1NT opener is unlikely to be able to make 7 tricks playing out of his hand. If I lead low and partner has Jx, declarer will likely go wrong, but a) he was probably already going down if I led high b) if he only needs one trick/dummy entry he may go right anyway and c) partner is less likely to hold the J since declarer has almost twice as many HCP.If I lead low and declarer has Jx, I give up a heart trick and a dummy entry. It still seems likely he'll go down, but it's a lot more likely he'll make than before.
  • If declarer has Jxx and I lead low, I hold him to the one heart trick and one dummy entry he's due. He's still probably going down as in the similar scenario above, especially since he has another card in hearts that's not a potential trick in some other suit. If I cash the A and I'm wrong, he now has 2 tricks and one dummy entry, but he does have to take them immediately and set up my long heart while he pitches from his hand.

I decided that the price for being wrong was higher for leading low due to my consolation winner if I'm wrong leading high. This was not immediately fatal, but I hadn't really considered partner, who had to pitch 3 times without much information:

West
10
AK653
A863
Q107
North
952
Q1092
1072
952
East
J8764
8
QJ4
KJ64
South
AKQ3
J74
K95
A83
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
23
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

I continued with a suit preference 3, but with 3 suits outstanding that didn't help partner enough. He chose to play the odds that I would hold either a high card or a doubleton in spades and pitched a second spade, which gave declarer his 7th trick.

At the other table, East averted this defensive predicament by balancing with 2 showing clubs and a higher suit.Our teammates couldn't touch that contract and the opponents gained another 5 IMPs.

We picked up 2 IMPs on Board 24 when Meckwell bid a touchy 3NT contract that went down a trick more than our teammates' 5, although it could have been down 3 additional tricks with perfect defense. After two more pushes, we missed our best opportunity for a pickup when Meckstroth took a self-admittedly strange-looking line in a normal looking game contract:

West
J7632
K65
K98
J6
North
AKQ104
A42
106
Q74
East
85
108
7432
K10932
South
9
QJ973
AQJ5
A85
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
27
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Noble led the J covered around and Meckstroth played 3 rounds of spades, pitching a club on the second round. I thought for a few seconds about whether to ruff with the 10 and concluded that if it was high enough to matter, declarer would just pitch the other club. I ruffed low and he chose to overruff with the 9, which was not immediately fatal. But now he chose to cross to the A to take the diamond finesse, which was, since two more rounds of clubs tapped him again. Unfortunately, partner just lost the thread and led back a trump when in with the K, not realizing he could promote the 6 by playing his J.

We'd had a pretty soft set before that, and after that board it was really tough not to think it was pretty much over. Obviously, we didn't know our worst board was actually a double digit win, nor that we'd won an IMP on this board when a different auction at the other table prompted a spade lead and an easy overtrick. It's just a good reminder that your teammates might be having a great set at the other table, and you just have to always assume you have a shot. As it happens, we still had another chance coming to win the match at our table, as did our teammates in the remaining 3 boards.

To be honest, I feel lucky to have escaped this set without costing the team a large swing for a concentration slip. Despite drinking quite a lot of coffee (for me), I was having trouble keeping my eyes open for the last 5 hands or so and I'm sure I was nowhere near my best. I just didn't have that much to do the last few hands. Noble and I have jobs that require long periods of thinking and concentration (though not this much concentration!), but we also both get up early and it was pretty late at this point.Playing 4 days in a row I'm sure took its toll as well - it's easy to forget that these events are very tiring if you aren't used to it!

After a push in 3NT, I had a defensive problem:

West
109
A92
9853
J865
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
X
3
P
P
P

Auction was the same at both tables, your lead?

West
109
A92
9853
J865
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
X
3
P
P
P

Leading a heart could be right but seems overly committal with partner showing values and length in the minors as well. I thought a diamond was indicated, both because it's generally better not to lead away from honors and because if partner is off-shape he's more likely to have diamonds than clubs since he can correct.

Youlead the 5 3rd/5th and see:

West
109
A92
9853
J865
North
AQ2
J1087
Q104
1072
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
X
3
P
P
P

Partner wins the A, declarer dropping the J, and switches to a standard K. Encourage or discourage?

West
109
A92
9853
J865
North
AQ2
J1087
Q104
1072
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
X
3
P
P
P

If declarer has KJxxxx Qx KJ Qxx, you need partner to switch to hearts before it's too late. Switch the rounded suit holdings and you need partner to cash a second club before it's too late. If partner holds the KQ he's likely to continue to matter what you do since it seems like it can't really cost. Some very good players would advocate playing the 6 here to try to get partner to play the K, then follow with the 5 to discourage. That might work here, but our partnership philosophy is not to make ambiguous signals unless you're sure partner can read it and it's worked well for us over the years.

I also personally try very hard to follow the Rosenberg-ian principle of not thinking and signalling, especially in situations like this where aslow encouraging card tells partner you don't have the Q or a doubleton, and he probably hasto under-leadhis hypothetical A if it's at all reasonable to be ethical. I chose to discourage hoping partner would switch to hearts, and I'm honestly not sure if that was right or not.

Partner thought I might have been discouraging to get him to switch back to diamonds for a ruff if declarer bid 3 on 5152 shape. This is possible, although it does seem anti-percentage, and today we just had to cash our 5 winners:

West
109
A92
9853
J865
North
AQ2
J1087
Q104
1072
East
73
K64
A762
AK43
South
KJ8654
Q53
KJ
Q9
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
X
3
P
P
P
D
29
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

The other table led a club from my hand and that made the defense trivial for another 6 IMPs out the door, cutting our lead to 10 IMPs with one to go. And it was a doozy:

West
987632
863
72
K2
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
7NT
P
P
P

Your lead.

West
987632
863
72
K2
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
7NT
P
P
P

LHO obviously has a VERY good hand since he shoved a grand opposite a partner who offered very little in the way of encouragement. It seems like the K is probably your side's only real high card. Spades aren't breaking which might mean they need the club finesse for their 13th trick. LHO just has to hold the A (and probably the major suit aces as well) to have his bid, so it seems like your best shot is to put declarer to a guess in clubs at T1 when he doesn't know about the spade break.

This seems like a clear lead in retrospect, but there's also a big difference between thinking about it comfortably in hindsight and leading against a grand slam at the table. Somewhat lost in the insanity of the end of the match (I didn't even notice until looking at the Vugraph archive) is that even after the horrible set we'd had, partner not only found the 2 lead, but did so in tempo. Unfortunately,declarer had 14 top tricks:

West
987632
863
72
K2
North
AKQJ5
AKQ10
J
AQJ
East
4
942
109653
9543
South
10
J75
AKQ84
10876
D
30

At the other table, our teammate did open the South hand to try to duplicate the other table since they had a good card, and West stirred the pot by psyching a 1NT overcall. After the double andrunout to 2 (clubs and a higher), our teammate bid only 6NT to give up 11 IMPs of our 10 IMP lead. We were watching onVuGraphin the hall for the last 4 boards or so since we finished a good bit ahead, so we were down to hoping for a Vugraph error once6NT hit the table.

It's always tough to make the last mistake, especially one quite as high-profile as this, especially since even with that board our teammates had a solid card. As you saw, we could have won the match at our table seven ways to Sundayin the last quarter as well. It was after midnight when that board was being played, and I would doubt any of the players were 100%. The only saving grace was that given how draining the last quarter was we'd probably have had a rough go the next day even if we'd pulled it out.

While the loss was hard to swallow at the time, overall this experience was still definitely one of the highlights of my bridge"career" so far. One of the best things about bridge is that you really do have a chance to play against the best, and we definitely got to do that in this event! I've also really enjoyed writing up this series of articles, and I definitely appreciate all the kind words and encouragement from the BW community.

18 Comments
Getting Comments... loading...
.

Bottom Home Top