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GNT Flight A Qualifiers, Day 2
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As I wrote in last week's post, my GNT-A team of Kevin Schoenfeld, Michael Fleisher, and Mindy Foos won our two Round 1 round-robin matches in the District 21 GNT Flight A qualifiers to advance to round 2 the next day.  I took some cold medicine after the first day to help me sleep (I believe that cold medicine is not on the list of banned substances by the ACBL... maybe it should be?), and woke up in the morning relatively refreshed and raring to go.  We left late morning and drove around an hour to the playing venue to start round 2.  I felt good, considering that we had played 64 boards the day before.  (In contrast, last year, I was so tired on day 2 that I played very badly.)
 
Our quarterfinal match was against a higher-seeded five-person team.  (I guess higher-seeded should go without saying, since we were the lowest seed to make it to day 2.) Two of the players were from our unit, and I knew them well, having either played against them or teamed with them in other events.  The pair we were playing against were both solid players.  However, they had never played together before, and they were discussing their card as we entered the playing area.  Their relative unfamiliarity with each other would work to our advantage.
 
In the first quarter, my partner and I bid to the 5-level in competitive auctions on four out of 16 boards.  My partner was skeptical that this was a wise move.  I, however, was undaunted.  It turned out to be right on one board and wrong on two others.  On the fourth, we'll never know, for reasons I'll explain later.  The two bad sacrifices were against games that turned out not to make.  One was dangerous because we were both unfavorable, but it turned out not to cost much.  On another, we lost IMPs because our teammates doubled the opponents at the 4-level (which did make), and we competed to five (which didn't make) and got doubled.  Oops!  Lose 14.
 
However, on the very next board, I picked up the hand below, and the bidding proceeded as shown:
 
South
x
AQ9652
10x
J10xx
W
N
E
S
2
X
3
4
P
P
4
5
P
P
X
P
P
P
 
Here we go again... another doubled contract!   I got the lead of a club, and dummy came down:
 

 

North
Axx
K87x
Axxx
Qx
South
x
AQ9652
10x
J10xx
 
RHO won the first two rounds of clubs with AK, and LHO showed out on the second round.  RHO then continued a club to my 10, ruffed by LHO and overruffed in dummy.  Now what?  It looked like I had no spade losers, but one sure diamond loser.  It wasn't looking good.  I decided to pull trump, which was easy, since they were originally 1-2.  I then ran my winners in hand, keeping all of my spades in dummy.  They were discarding a lot of spades, as well as some diamonds.  I now played a low spade to the A, ruffed a spade to hand, and then played a low diamond over to the ace on the board.  By this time, they had discarded enough spades that my teeny spade on the board was good!   So I wound up making my contract through a pseudo-squeeze (if you can even call it that), taking advantage of my opponents' relative inexperience playing with each other, as they were both guarding diamonds.  Win 14!
 
Overall, I was really pleased with how the first quarter had gone at our table.  I thought we had a really good round.  We went back to our home table and learned of a brewing controversy.   Unbeknownst to us, one of the opponents, who is a member of our unit, apparently doesn't live within the district boundaries, having moved out of our area a couple of years ago.  The DIC had become aware of this, and in the morning he was declared ineligible to play.
 
This would have been all well and good if all five team members were there.  Unfortunately, the reason they had added a fifth person was that one of the team members wasn't feeling well and wanted to sit out round 2.  As the round started, his teammates called him in a panic and asked him to hightail it up to the playing center, a 90-minute drive away.  For a while, they had someone else sit in, but for much of the time, the other table was idle.  Instead, the opponents were getting docked 3 IMPs for every 5-minute delay.  Their fifth man arrived five minutes before their time was up.  Five minutes later, and we would have won the match by default.  All told, they accumulated 24 IMPs worth of penalties: we collected +3 IMPs on four boards that weren't played at the other table, plus an additional 12 IMPs for general lateness, I assume.   (Maybe someone reading can tell me why they would have been allowed to play a number of boards with someone who wasn't on their team, and then not allowed to play four boards while they were waiting... I certainly don't know.)
 
Consequently, by the end of the first quarter, we were up by 73-31, which included the assessed penalties.  None of us could really believe it, and no one was happy about it on either side.  Our teammates spent a lot of time just waiting; our opponents spent a lot of time waiting as well.  We all wondered how this person was able to play the day before.  It remains a mystery.
 
We started round 2 with complete teams on both sides, and it was pretty close.  A 5-over-5 decision yielded us +11 IMPs.  A defensive error on my part allowed them to make a 3NT contract that they shouldn't have made, for -10 IMPs.  Both sides bid and made a minor-suit slam.  Push.  At the half, we'd gained only 3 more IMPs.  But coupled with the 42-IMP lead from the first quarter, we had a nice 45-IMP buffer going into the evening session.

At dinner, we told our teammates that the opponents at our table were bidding game on anything that remotely smelled of game (smelled gamey?).  And these opponents were good enough to make sketchy games.  So our teammates took that to heart in the second half.  (Not that they had missed many games thus far, mind you.)

In round three, one of our first contracts was a doubled 5 sacrifice over a vulnerable 4 game.  At favorable vulnerability, I was thinking of it as insurance, which it turned out to be, and we gained 8 IMPs on that board.  (My partner was getting a little discouraged that my tendency to bid at the 5-level was being rewarded so much!)

Later on in this part of the match, the following hand occurred:

xxx Kxxxx 109xx x

Partner opens 1 in first seat.  What do you bid?

Both players in the match raised to 2.  At our table, opener made a game try with 3, and responder made a counter-try with 3, after which point opener went to game.  Cheeky!  Both hands are shown below:

North
xxx
Kxxxx
109xx
x
South
AQxxx
x
Ax
AKxxx

Not only did it make, it made five!  I sure hoped our teammates remembered what we told them.  Fortunately, they did, and the board was a push.

Our teammates bid two games and one slam that our opponents did not, and we gained 31 IMPs on the quarter.  At this point we were up by 75 with one quarter to go.  The other team still wanted to keep playing, so we played on, although by this point we were getting punchy.  128 boards in a weekend is tiring!

The fourth quarter was very close.  There were two boards of note.  On board 21 I picked up the following beauty:

AQJT9x xxx xx xx

My RHO opened 1NT (strong).  I was so tired at this point, I was thinking "what the heck is our conventional call for spades (now that we play HeLLo)?"  I was pretty sure it was just 2, but I was starting to take too long to think about it, so I just passed.  LHO now bid 6!!   Earlier in the match he'd been teasing his partner about how he (LHO) was the better declarer and how they'd always won IMPs when he declared.  I guess he took it to heart and decided to declare this one as well!

My partner amazingly found the lead of the 5.  Dummy came down with the Kxx, and declarer called for a low spade.   I played the 9, lowest from touching honors, and it held.  I now looked at dummy through bleary eyes and tried to decide whether or not to cash the A.  Was that going to make the K good for a pitch?  Ultimately I decided that it simply didn't matter.  If he was that short in spades, he was long in something else and the pitch wouldn't do him much good, so I attempted to cash my A.  It held.  Down 1. 

At the other table, the person in my seat did overcall their spade suit, and our partners sensibly stopped in 4, making six.  It's cold for six if right-sided, because the spades can be pitched on long diamonds in responder's hand.  But it doesn't make from the "wrong" side on a spade lead.  Nice lead, partner!

The other interesting board was one where our teammates stopped in 6, and our opponents bid to 7NT.  At this point they were undoubtedly trying for swings.  My partner led a club from Jx, which was perfect, since I held 10xxx.  Declarer had the stiff K, and dummy had AQxxxx.  Nothing else split nicely, and my partner was able to capture a long diamond for down 1 and a 17-IMP gain.

We lost big on a couple of boards, but those two gains balanced things out and we gained another 6 IMPs in the last quarter to win the match, and move into the semis for the first time (for me)!

The MEYERSON team also advanced to the semis, as did another local team captained by Dan Raider.  All in all, out of the original top four seeds, only the VANCE team remained after two days of playing.  I'm thrilled that we made it to the semifinals.  Our next match is going to be a tough one, but we have two months to get ready for it, since it's not until late April.  In the meantime, we have GNT Flight B and Open qualifiers coming up; more opportunities to play and write!

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