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Interesting hands from WBG
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There were so many things I wanted to share, some history of the players in the Spanish team, how it feels, day by day, to go through an important championship or how my partnership, through hard work and intensive training, managed to get to the required level despite Jordi playing no bridge at all for the first half of the year.

But I don't have the time, and I don't think most of them would be interesting anyway. So I will present to you the most interesting hands we played -- everybody loves deals after all -- and some anecdotes at the end.

First hand is from the Round Robin against New Zealand.

North
43
865
AJ5
KQ986
South
A8652
KQ4
K42
105
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
X
P
P
P

Seems like we have stretched for this one. Lead is 6 (attitude 2nd/4th)

How would you play?

 

G.Goded
KJ107
10
108763
432
North
43
865
AJ5
KQ986
J.Sabate
Q9
AJ9732
Q9
AJ7
South
A8652
KQ4
K42
105
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
3NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Declarer won K in hand, and ran the 10 (as other declarers did). Even if it lost to East's J, the only danger would be a spade shift, and a diamond through. If that happens some guessing will be needed, if spades look like 5-1 he would need to win A to prevent a diamond through, but if not, he can play West to have Q (which is likely given the low diamond attitude lead).

What he didn't expect is that Jordi Sabaté, sitting East, would smoothly duck the 10. At this point declarer could make double dummy, but he took the normal approach of repeating the club finesse, this time losing to the J.

Jordi returned 9, declarer ducked, and perhaps wrongly, I overtook 9 with 10, to lead a diamond (I thought declarer was 5422). Again declarer could had improved his score with a good read by rising with the A to establish the club suit.  He would be able to enjoy the clubs, but he would be unable to lead hearts twice from dummy as well, so he would end up one trick short for -200.

However, I had decided to lead an encouraging 4th diamond from 5 small diamonds to discourage partner from switching to hearts (little did I know that a heart lead would secure +500 easily). So declarer trusted my lead, and probably my double as well, and finessed J. This sealed his fate. Unable to enjoy any more club tricks, he was not even able to score 2 hearts. He finished with only 1 spade, 1 heart, 2 diamonds, and 1 club for -1100.

I don't think my double was great, but North took quite a lot of time to raise to 3NT, and I was a bit angry with myself for not doubling another thin game on the morning match that same day.

This hand comes from the knockout match against USA. At the time this happened I thought we were 42 IMPs down with 32 boards to go, so I was desperate for some swing.

G.Goded
K73
KQ9
J763
Q63
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
X
3
P
P
?

In theory we have placed ourselves in a forcing auction. But it's not clear if this theory applies after a third-hand opening, partner is limited to 15 after all. What would you bid?

My plan was to bid 2 after double, should I bid 3 now? This would involve partner and hopefully get us into a decent spot, but hearts won't be very useful opposite partner's shortness.

Should I double? That seems like a better alternative IMO, but on this hand it was a loser. If I did it, I better pray that my world-class opponent mis-guesses spades, or I would have ended with -530.

West
2
J1075432
984
52
J.Sabate
J10854
6
K105
AKJ4
East
AQ96
A8
AQ2
10987
G.Goded
K73
KQ9
J763
Q63
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
1N
X
3
P
P
3N
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
3NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
4
9
K
3
1
0
7
J
5
6
3
2
0
3
9
8
Q
2
2
1
10
3
2
A
1
3
1
J
A
3
2
2
3
2
9
Q
5
4
3
4
2
6
3
J
7
1
5
2
K
8
6
4
1
6
2
8

I decided to go all in and try 3NT, hoping to catch a good dummy. I didn't like it much when RHO doubled, but at least I could be sure he was not running a suit from the start.

LHO might have taken the double as Lightner, or at least showing strong spades.  He probably wasn't expecting me to have a spade fit, so he led 2. This gave me the tempo to be able to make the contract. You can follow the play on the early tricks clicking on NEXT in the above diagram.

 

I thought East was trying to achieve this ending:

West
North
6
K105
East
A
AQ8
South
KQ9
J
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
1N
X
3
P
P
3N
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
3NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
4
9
K
3
1
0
7
J
5
6
3
2
0
3
9
8
Q
2
2
1
10
3
2
A
1
3
1
J
A
3
2
2
3
2
9
Q
5
4
3
4
2
6
3
J
7
1
5
2
K
8
6
4
1
6
2
8

Where after playing a heart from dummy he would escape... with Q! Leaving me stuck in dummy and having to concede 2 tricks.

But things didn't have to end this way, as he was squeezed before me, so when he pitched his low heart on the last spade, I pitched my low heart as well, keeping KQ and J7. Now I played a heart to his A. He tried a low diamond then giving me the choice to play West for Q playing low, but I was not missing this one. I rose with J to score my heart.

Later I found that I misplayed twice. First, I didn't notice the diamond discards. I was so focused on whether East was keeping his small heart or not, I failed to notice West had discarded 98.  Since I had 76 in hand it meant the 5 in dummy was equal to my J. So I didn't need to squeeze East to make it, I could have kept 3 hearts in my hand. In fact, doing so is a bit better because it also makes when East has 4324 shape (if that is possible).

Secondly, East could have made an incredible play to defeat the contract. The concept for this killing defense is the same as this much easier one from my web page: http://www.bridgegod.com/playprob.php?probid=539

Can you see what East could have done to beat me after I won the first spade trick in hand?

West
2
J1075432
984
52
J.Sabate
J10854
6
K105
AKJ4
East
AQ96
A8
AQ2
10987
G.Goded
K73
KQ9
J763
Q63
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
1N
X
3
P
P
3N
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
3NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0

So the concept is that sometimes, you want to kill communications... with dummy (or declarer), to avoid later endplays. But you want to retain control as well, so a timed underlead is the only defense to save you from a strip squeeze later.

On this hand East could defeat me by winning the second round of spades to underlead his heart ace. This destroys my communication for the strip squeeze, while retaining just enough control, because if I give him his heart ace, dummy becomes squeezed before spades are good, allowing him to establish a second diamond winner by force if I pitch a diamond, or abandon a winner and lose 2 diamonds in the end otherwise.

Double dummy, the hand always makes on a spade lead, but it requires that I play J or 10 from dummy. Then, if East later tries to destroy the strip squeeze by ducking the heart, I could switch to diamonds, scoring 4 clubs, 2 diamonds, 2 hearts, and a spade.

Apart from the hands there are some anecdotes worth sharing.

Our captain had been joking during the first days that we would qualify in the top 8 and USA would qualify below and we would select them as our opponents. When the time came, he actually picked them, not that he had any other choice though.

We got much more attention than we had in the past. There was a WhatsApp group with Spanish followers that talked during the matches. At the start I tried to follow it, but after a couple of days, I would return home to see the group had around 500 new messages daily.  Most surprising for me was another group formed by my non-bridge friends from my high school days, they also noticed our success and tried to follow starting from the semi-finals. In the past, they had refused to have anything to do with bridge, to the point I had been unable to teach them what a trick was for 20 years. That's why I was so happy to see them finally show any kind of interest. Here is a small transcription of what they said on the chat:

 

-I found a link to a video where they play, here it is

.....

-Why do they play with a board in the middle?

-I think it is to stop them from seeing partner's faces

.....

-Why does one have a giant calculator on his lap? Isn't that cheating?

-Gonzalo has such a bad face, seems like things are going terrible

.....

-I am going to give a like to Traian.

.....

-It says Monaco 3 IMPs, Spain 21 IMPs, is that good or bad?

....

-(copy paste from Wikipedia with the IMP definition), so the more IMPs the better!, we are winning!

....

-One of them is leaving, is it over?

-It seems over, are we going to the final?

 

Actually it was just the first segment, at the end of the day there were 260 messages talking about the game, and by the end of the semi-final and the bronze match they had learned a lot more about bridge. One of them even followed the play and understood not only tricks, but the concept of game, and some of the BBO commentaries. I think he would be willing to learn, but with his new kid it is not going to be easy to find the time.

But they were not the only ones watching the live videos, my wife was also trying to follow the play, although she only took 1 month of lessons 4 years ago. She was watching the semi-final on the table where Goded-Lantarón were playing when my little daughter entered the room.

Looking at the screen my daughter recognized her grandfather who usually talks to her on Skype along with me. But something was wrong. Her grandfather, who always was smiling and cheering her on, looked terribly serious and worried. Now my daughter is slightly autistic and doesn't know how to talk yet, but she wanted to cheer and comfort her grandfather however she could. So she approached the table and started to send kisses to the screen.

We got much more attention in our country than we expected, a group of players even came to receive us at the airport with flags as if we had won, and we had a surprise party at one of the local clubs, where the 7 of us play. And now so many people from all over the country keep telling me how they enjoyed watching one match after another through BBO. Another thing they ask us is, when will the next big championship be? Well, for us, it is in 4 years since we didn't qualify for the Bermuda Bowl, and for economic reasons we have never played the European Championships together either.

Some might think that finishing 4th is better than we ever expected. That is not true. Jokingly or not jokingly, all of us had pictured ourselves on the top of the podium before the tournament started. It was a tough task, but one we were determined to achieve. The captain even forced us to bring suits to wear for the ceremony. Sadly it couldn't be this time, will there be another?

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