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Las Vegas NABC, Day 3, Life Master Pairs Semifinals
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After a good night's sleep, we started out the first semifinal session in a strong section, getting to play against Bobby Wolff, Zia playing Giorgio Duboin, Zach Grossack, and Marc Jacobus among others.   Sitting in our direction were also some strong pairs, including our own Steve Weinstein playing with Kevin Fay.  Unlike the first day, we were ending up mostly on defense.

This was my favorite hand of the first semi-final session.  In third seat, favorable, you pick up:

East
J98732
73
K8
QJ5

Your partner passes, RHO opens 1, and you decide to overcall 2.  The bidding proceeds:

East
J98732
73
K8
QJ5
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

Your partner dutifully leads the 6 and dummy comes down.  

Dummy
KQ
K5
Q32
K109876
East
J98732
73
K8
QJ5
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

 
Declarer wins in dummy with the Q, and you encourage with the 9.  Declarer leads a low club to hand, winning with the A.  Your partner contributes the 4 (standard signaling).  Declarer plays the 3 to the 7, your partner following with the 2.  You win the J.

What’s your next move?

Dummy
KQ
K5
Q32
K109876
East
J98732
73
K8
QJ5
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P


The above hand was Debbie's hand.  She now figured out to switch to the K, which held.  She continued the 8 which I won with the A.  I then continued a low diamond, driving out the Q.  All four hands are shown below:

West
64
A10842
AJ64
42
Dummy
KQ
K5
Q32
K109876
East
J98732
73
K8
QJ5
South
A105
QJ96
10975
A3
D
 

Declarer now has 9 tricks (3 spades, 5 clubs, and 1 diamond), but he doesn't have the entries to untangle them.  At this point, declarer played the K, hoping that the hand with the A didn't have a cashing diamond.  Unfortunately for declarer, I won the A and cashed the J for down 1.  

I am certain that I would not have found a diamond switch at that point given her holding and dummy's... great D partner!  That was worth 88.5 matchpoints out of 103.
 
I am still having trouble telling how we're doing during a session, and am trying to break myself of the habit of needing to know.  It felt like we had a so-so session, but in fact we finished with a 55.33% to move up to 47th!
 
In the evening session it felt like we were facing less-daunting opponents.  We were back to declaring most of the time.  My favorite round was against Joel Wooldridge and his partner.
 
On the first board, I picked up 87 KJ108 QJ874 A2.  I considered opening it, but decided against it.  East opened the bidding 1 and partner doubled. The bidding continued:
 

East
87
KJ108
QJ874
A2
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
2
3
3
P
5
?

Your call?

East
87
KJ108
QJ874
A2
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
2
3
3
P
5
?

I looked at their card, and they had checked "light openings."  I asked Joel "How light is light... an 8-count?"  He said, probably at least 10.  I decided they were probably trying to steal from us.  Partner doubled and I had almost opened. I had the A.  I cracked it and dummy came down on the lead of a low diamond:

Dummy
52
A742
A93
9864
East
87
KJ108
QJ874
A2
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
2
3
3
P
5
X
P
P
P

Declarer won the A, and I encouraged.  He now played a low club, which I ducked and partner won with her stiff K.  The only other trick we got was the A in my hand, and they wrapped up 550.  I realized that I'd probably have a lot of company, and in fact, this board was worth a 25.  Not doubling would have been a very good board.  Sacrificing in 5 would also have been better.  All four hands are shown below:

West
QJ103
Q953
K652
K
Dummy
52
A742
A93
9864
East
87
KJ108
QJ874
A2
South
AK964
6
10
QJ10753
D

Joel chuckled "I guess he had a 10 count!"   Debbie later acknowledged that she had an exceptionally light double.  That said, she said that in general, given that they'd freely bid a game, I should think about whether I had any surprise in store for the opponents before deciding to double.  Double was a normal call, but in light of this principle and the auction, I might have figured out to pass. Lesson learned!
 
The next hand proved to be equally interesting.  I held 1085 73 J732 Q654.  Joel opened the bidding 2 in third seat, and his partner responded 2.  The bidding continued:
 
West
1085
73
J732
Q654
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
5NT
P
6NT
P
7NT
P
P
P
 
I asked them what the bid of 6NT meant, and he explained "extras."  Sadly, I would be on lead.
 
What would you lead?

West
1085
73
J732
Q654
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
5NT
P
6NT
P
7NT
P
P
P

I really wanted my partner to lead out of turn.  I knew I needed to lead passively, but what?  I rejected clubs immediately.  I decided against hearts as that would finesse my partner right away should she have something in hearts.  The choice was between a spade and a diamond.  A spade would have been prudent given that they'd shown all the keycards, three spades, and the Q.  But for some reason my fuzzy thinking rejected that option and I led a diamond.  Dummy came down:

West
1085
73
J732
Q654
Dummy
KQ964
86
954
AJ10
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
5N
P
6N
P
7N
P
P
P

Partner played the 8, and Joel won the A.  I was relieved I hadn't blown a trick with my bad initial lead.  Joel now played two rounds of spades, and then played three rounds of diamonds, everyone following.  He now played three more spades, my partner contributing two clubs and a heart, in that order. I discarded my J and then a high heart.  He now played a heart from the board towards his hand, winning the A.  He played off two more rounds of hearts, with me pitching clubs, and then played a club toward the A, which felled partner's K, but my Q took the setting trick.  It was a fortuitous turn of events for us, as this could have been a really bad round otherwise.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  We later had a discussion about the best lead against 7NT, and I now know to lead as absolutely passively as possible and definitely never to lead from jack fourth.
 
All four hands are shown below:

West
1085
73
J732
Q654
Dummy
KQ964
86
954
AJ10
East
J2
J9542
1086
K87
Joel
A73
AKQ10
AKQ
932
D

Overall, I felt we had a solid session, but really nothing spectacular, and we finished with a 49.76%, our first below-50% session.  We ended the day in 55th place, one above Steve & Kevin, so I get Bridge Winners bragging rights for the day.  Most importantly, we made it to the finals of a 3-day pairs event, a first for me.  I got another good night's sleep, and am going to try to stay in the boat for one more day!
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