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Las Vegas NABC, Day 6, Regional KOs
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Needing a break from some of the pressure, we opted to play in a Regional KO today rather than the Wernher Pairs, our original plan.  Our combined masterpoint total put us in bracket 2, and we started out in a round robin, winning one and losing one.  The overall quality of bridge wasn't quite up to yesterday's standard, as you'd expect.  This extended to ourselves as well. (There's something about playing better against better opponents, isn't there?)

After a terrific dinner at Forte, a local tapas place here in Vegas about 5 miles away, we returned to face our evening opponents.  The gentlemen at our table were two fellows from Hong Kong, here on a visit.  They played very standard bidding systems (15-18 NT), and about the only gadget they brought out was DONT.  But their cardplay was very fine, and they were formidable opponents. At the half, we were up by only 6.  In the second half we extended our lead to win by 13, making it into the semifinals today.

In the first match, my partner and I both had a Spingold hangover goof.  In second seat, all vulnerable, I picked up:

South
QJ9x
AKQx
J10x
xx

A pass to me and I opened the bidding 1.  Partner gave me an inverted-minor raise of 2.  I responded 2NT, having both majors stopped.  He now bid 3 (nonforcing).  I felt my hand was good enough for game, and bid 3NT.  He now went into the tank for a bit before pulling out the 6 card.  The auction ended, and on the lead of the 6, dummy came down:

North
A
J109x
AK98x
Axx
South
QJ9x
AKQx
J10x
xx
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3NT
P
6
P
P
P

I think all of us were suffering a bit from Spingold letdown, and partner, intent on exploring for slam, neglected to bid his four-card heart suit first and forgot he made a non-forcing bid. (I suffered similar letdowns as well on other boards, I might add!)  The bad news was that we were in the wrong contract. The good news was that we didn't get a club lead.
 
Plan the play from here.

North
A
J109x
AK98x
Axx
South
QJ9x
AKQx
J10x
xx
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3NT
P
6
P
P
P

This was going to be a toughie. I had to locate the Q.  I had to get rid of a club loser.  I had to avoid a heart ruff, as the opening lead looked like a stiff to me. After my initial analysis, it looked like my best shot was to pull two rounds of trump, and then try to ruff a club to my hand, and just hope that the lead was a small doubleton.
 
I couldn't figure out any way to disguise my heart holding, so I won in my hand with the A.  I floated the J, which held.  So far so good. I played the 10, which wasn't covered, and both followed.  So LHO still had the Q.  I now played a low club towards the board, LHO inserting the 10.  If I let him hold it, he couldn't get a ruff, but then I couldn't get a ruff either, as he'd exit the Q, taking away my last trump.  So I won the A, and exited a low club, won by RHO with the K.  He knew what was going on, and returned a heart, ruffed by LHO with the Q.  I claimed for down 1.
 
The full deal is shown below:
 
West
Kxxx
6
Qxx
AJ10xx
North
A
J109x
AK98x
Axx
East
10xxx
xxxx
xx
Kxx
South
QJ9x
AKQx
J10x
xx
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3N
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
 
Going over the boards later, I realized that I had completely misplayed the hand.  I counted my losers, but I had failed to count my winners. Once the Q was located, I had 4 hearts, 5 diamonds, and two black aces off the top, and the QJ of spades could be set up for my 12th trick.  All I needed to do was to pull trump, unblock the A, cross in hearts, and lead the Q, pitching a club.  I could win any return and then use another heart entry to pitch dummy's last club on the good J.
 
At the other table, they were in the correct 6 contract, which was tricky given the 4-1 break, but made.  We lost 17 IMPs on that board, but fortunately we handily won the other RR match to advance to the second round.
 
In the second match, our teammates had a challenging play problem. You're in 5. The bidding doesn't matter as the opponents were silent throughout the auction. Your hand and dummy's are shown below.
 
North
K98654
J
x
A108xx
South
A
AK10xx
Qxx
Q9xx
 
On the opening lead of the 2, you play low from dummy, and the 3 is played from your RHO, which you win with the A.
 
Plan the play carefully before reading on.
North
K98654
J
x
A108xx
South
A
AK10xx
Qxx
Q9xx
 
The 3 from RHO makes you think that spades may be splitting badly.  The opening lead looks like a stiff.  
 
At our table, our opponents played the A followed by the K, pitching a low diamond.  They then ruffed a heart, both following, and then ruffed a spade, which was overruffed by the opening leader (West).  West played back a diamond, which was ruffed in dummy.  Another spade ruff, which was overruffed by West. West now returned his remaining club (he started with KJx).  There aren't enough trump to ruff out the rest of the spades and hearts.  At our table, we set them two on excellent defense by my partner.  At the other table, our teammates were able to hold it to down 1 for a small gain.
 
The entire hand is shown below.  Double-dummy it looks possible to make, but single-dummy would you have made it?
 
West
2
xxx
KJxxxx
KJx
North
K98654
J
x
A108xx
East
QJ1073
Q9xx
Axx
x
South
A
AK10xx
Qxx
Q9xx
D
 
Today, we continue in our semifinal match.  If we don't make it to the finals, we will probably take the night off and go to a nice dinner.  But we're really hoping to win one of those fabulous section-prize T-shirts!  And some more masterpoints so our seeding points will increase for next year.
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