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Lose the Trials Semifinal with Me, VI
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With three segments left to play in the semifinal of the 2019 Open Trials, FLEISHER (Marty Fleisher, Chip Martel; Eric Greco, Geoff Hampson; Joe Grue, Brad Moss) led KRIEGEL (John Diamond, Brian Platnick; Oren Kriegel, Ron Smith) by 27 IMPs, 180-153.

Sixth Eighth

We had the seed for the last time this set. Ron and I played against Chip and Marty, and JD and Brian took on Brad and Joe.

FLEISHER won an overtrick IMP to start the set, but we scored on Board 17:

Kriegel
Q10542
J652
Q6
86
Martel
AJ3
1093
A853
KQ5
Smith
K9
A
KJ9742
A1092
Fleisher
876
KQ874
10
J743
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
P
1
2
2
P
P
P
D
2 North
NS: 0 EW: 0

Ron led a diamond to the queen and ace, and Chip led the 3 toward dummy. Ron won perforce and tapped dummy with the K. Chip ruffed, led a club to the K and A, and ruffed a third round of diamonds with the 8, which I did not overruff.

Declarer cashed a heart and led a club. I ruffed and played a spade. Ducking would have allowed Ron to win and give me a ruff, after which there would still be a spade to lose. Instead, he rose with the A but drawing the last trump would have left clubs blocked, so he exited in spades. Ron won, gave me a ruff, and I cashed the Q: down one, +50.

If declarer had played for the exact shapes, he could have refrained from playing any more hearts and could have gotten home by leading a low club at trick six. (Details left to the reader.) This was suggested by the bidding and opening lead: I might have bid with six spades, and Ron may have preferred to lead a singleton spade, even an honor, rather than from his broken diamond suit.

At the other table, North opened a 14-16 notrump, East doubled to show values. East-West were briefly in 3NT until South doubled, and they ran to 4. Declarer was unable to reach dummy, so there were three clubs plus two aces to lose: down two, +100; 4 IMPs to KRIEGEL.

We added the same number of IMPs on Board 18:

Kriegel
AQ9
K975
K104
K54
Martel
J754
AQJ
Q63
1063
Smith
2
1064
J9875
AQJ8
Fleisher
K10863
832
A2
972
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT West
NS: 0 EW: 0

The 4 lead went to the K and A. I led a club to the Q and called for the 9. Marty rose with the A, which gave me my seventh trick, and continued spades. I eventually cashed out for making one: +90.

If Marty had ducked the A in tempo, I probably would have gone wrong by letting it ride. If South held the Q, I would have better chances for overtricks, plus South would sometimes have risen if holding the A.

At the other table, West's 1NT was 12-16, and East had a tool available: 2 showing a weak hand with both minors. West chose 3, and North led a spade to the K and A. Declarer led a club to the Q and made the normal play in diamonds, running the J to the Q. Down two was now in range: diamond, heart shift, diamond ruff, heart, but the diamond position was not clear. JD and Brian use standard carding, so the 2 was consistent with three-card holdings, as well as A-2 and K-2.

Brian returned a club. Declarer won in hand, drew the last trump, and gave up a diamond. When South shifted to a heart, declarer could have ensured the contract by ducking, but he rose with the K and Brian cashed three hearts: down one, +50.

This was Board 19:

Kriegel
K10854
KJ7
A75
J5
Martel
Q2
4
109642
KQ1086
Smith
97
A8653
KJ
A943
Fleisher
AJ63
Q1092
Q83
72
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
2
P
3
P
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X East
NS: 0 EW: 0

Martel lacked traditional values for his 2 overcall, which caused problems for Ron in the play. Marty led the 7 to Chip's 10 and Ron's A, and Ron played three rounds of diamonds, ruffing in his hand (South did not cover the J). At this point, Ron needed to lead a spade to survive, but he expected Chip to hold the A on the bidding and played a club instead.

Chip won and shifted to a trump to the 9 and J. Ron led a spade off of dummy, and Chip rose with the Q and played the K. Marty discarded, so Ron ruffed with dummy's 7, cashed the K and exited with the K. He took two tricks in the ending for down one: -200.

We didn't expect to win IMPs on this deal, but at the other table:

Grue
K10854
KJ7
A75
J5
Platnick
Q2
4
109642
KQ1086
Moss
97
A8653
KJ
A943
Diamond
AJ63
Q1092
Q83
72
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
2
P
3
P
3NT
X
P
P
P
D
3NTX East
NS: 0 EW: 0

JD led a club against 3NT-X: J, Q, A. Brad ran the 9 to Brian's Q. Brian shifted to diamonds. His choice of the 2 (attitude) catered to this holding. He wanted to give declarer a reason to play the J, rather than put up the K, retaining an entry to dummy. As expected, declarer played the J and ducked the Q. JD continued diamonds, so the K won, and Brad led another spade. JD went up A and played a diamond to dummy. Declarer cashed the K and played another spade, but the defense had the rest of the tricks but one: down four, +1100; 14 IMPs to KRIEGEL.

On the lie of the cards, it would have been more successful to work on hearts. Down one was possible early in the play, and down two possible afterward.

That 28-IMP spurt brought us even with FLEISHER, at 181 IMPs each, after trailing for about a full day's worth of play.

We forged ahead on Board 20, when Brad and Ron held:

East
Q1076
Q9653
J3
A3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
X
2
P
?

With both sides vulnerable, would you make a game-try?

Ron passed; Brad made a try and reached 4. Partner's hand was:

West
K2
AK74
742
QJ105
East
Q1076
Q9653
J3
A3

so game was basically on the club finesse, which lost: +140, +100 and 6 IMPs to KRIEGEL.

After an overtrick IMP to FLEISHER on Board 21, there was another bidding decision on Board 22 (East-West vulnerable):

West
A1093
10874
98
965
W
N
E
S
1
1
?

Would you make a negative double?

This was the complete deal:

West
A1093
10874
98
965
North
87
QJ63
K642
J83
East
QJ6
AK9
J7
AK742
South
K542
52
AQ1053
Q10
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
3
X
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

I passed, and we wound up defending 3. We took two tricks in each side suit: down two, +100.

At the other table, Joe doubled and eventually reached 4. Brian led a diamond to JD's A, and JD shifted to a spade, ducked to the Q. Joe gave up a diamond, and Brian overtook the Q to continue spades. Joe played dummy's J, which JD allowed to hold. Declarer played A, A, K, K, then finessed in spades. Brian had three tricks to take: down two, +200; 7 IMPs to KRIEGEL.

Board 23 was flat in a making partscore. On Board 24, a cold-looking 4 could have been defeated with a spade lead (from K1095) due to a 4-0 trump split. The opening leaders' partners bid diamonds or doubled for a diamond lead, and there was no obvious reason to do. The next swing came on Board 25, when JD and Marty held:

South
A6
K8754
A1073
A2

At favorable vulnerability, you see two passes to you. Would you open 1 or a 14-16 1NT?

This was the layout:

North
874
A632
KJ8
1053
South
A6
K8754
A1073
A2

JD opened 1 and reached the excellent 4. Trumps were 3-1, but he guessed diamonds for +420. Marty opened 1NT and played it there. We led spades, but only cashed two rounds after winning our heart trick, so declarer made four: -180 but 6 IMPs to KRIEGEL.

We were now leading by 12 IMPs, but Board 27 narrowed the margin:

Kriegel
AQ7
QJ954
4
10642
Martel
86
32
AK532
AQ97
Smith
10432
A108
Q109
J85
Fleisher
KJ95
K76
J876
K3
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
P
P
3
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 North
NS: 0 EW: 0

Despite his extra-valued (at least in today's light-opening world) opening bid facing Marty's 1 opening, Chip settled for partscore. He expected a poor hand in the 11-13 range from Marty, especially poor if the diamond fit was good, as here. Game was reasonable, but with the a diamond loser, it had no chance. 3 made on the nose: -110.

At the other table, after a similar start (the nebulous opening bid was 1, not 1), South raised to 3, and North continued on to game. 3NT went down three, sending 6 IMPs to FLEISHER, but on a luckier day that swing would have been in the opposite direction.

On Board 29, Chip's natural 1 opening allowed Marty to compete to 3 on four-card support, which made five (if we had put declarer to a trump guess, he might have made only four). The Precision 1 opening bid at the other table led to JD and Brian selling out to 2, which went down one, vulnerable, so FLEISHERwon 2 IMPs.

Board 30 was the final deal of the segment:

Grue
Q875
K1094
95
A109
Platnick
J1062
5
A102
K8763
Moss
AK3
Q2
KQJ874
J4
Diamond
94
AJ8763
63
Q52
W
N
E
S
1
2
X
4
X
P
P
4NT
X
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0

At our table, Ron opened the East cards 1NT and made five in 3NT: +460.

At the table shown, JD and Brian might have been on their way to 2-X, but something funny happened. Brad and Joe play a split-system: natural when vulnerable (usually) and Precision when not.

Brad had alerted his 1 bid by waving it in the air. Brian didn't realize that was an alert and thought Brad was just signalling that it was time to push the tray. If 1 had been natural, 2 would have shown both majors, which explains Brian's jump. He realized something was funny after he had bid but before Brad's second action (the fact that his opponents were nonvulnerable clicked in his mind), and he wanted to change his call. The director ruled he could not change it, and the final result was down five in 5-X: 12 IMPs to FLEISHER.

We asked for a ruling on the grounds that Brian didn't realize there had been an alert, and it is the alerting side's job to ensure their opponents are aware of alerts. However, on video, Brian appears to nod after the alert, which looked to the director and committee that he had noticed the alert and acknowledged it, and his later error was based on forgetting his partnership agreement.

That certainly isn't the worst ruling ever, but it seemed like a raw deal to us at the time, and it still seems wrong to me. I believe Brian when he says that he didn't know there was an alert, and I think players deserve protection in cases like this, especially when the auction could have been changed before East had even taken a second call.

Despite the 20-0 run by FLEISHER to close out the segment, we won the sixth eighth 41-22, cutting our deficit to just 8 IMPs, 202-194, with 30 deals left to play.

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