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Lose the Trials Semifinal with Me, VII
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With two segments left in the semifinals of the 2019 Open USBC, KRIEGEL (John Diamond, Brian Platnick; Oren Kriegel, Ron Smith) had recovered some lost ground but still trailed FLEISHER (Marty Fleisher, Chip Martel; Eric Greco, Geoff Hampson; Joe Grue, Brad Moss) by 8 IMPs, 202-194.

Seventh Eighth

JD and Brian sat North-South, and Geoff and Eric went to play them, while Chip and Marty sat against Ron and me.

FLEISHER landed a blow on Board 1:

Kriegel
AK
KJ
AK1073
J742
Martel
2
10762
J94
A9865
Smith
Q1085
53
Q652
KQ10
Fleisher
J97643
AQ984
8
3
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
3NT
P
P
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0

I jumped to 3NT rather than doubling because I didn't want to suggest more suitability for playing in hearts than I had. After Marty bid out with 4, I doubled because I thought pass would have indicated my 3NT bid was based more on playing tricks, and I thought I had below-average offense.

After Marty's 4 call the only possible winning position for us was to play 5 from my side. Chip would likely have led his spade, after which I could have drawn trumps and just lost two aces. If we had reached 5 from Ron's side, Marty's likely singleton-club lead would have beaten us. Of course, this is all academic, because at the point we had reached, getting to diamonds at all was unrealistic.

We started with two rounds of diamonds, and the play was scary for a while, but Ron had just enough for me that we nipped 4-X by one trick: +100.

At the other table, this was the auction:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
2
3NT
P
P
P

North could have pushed the board (or better) by saving, but he had more defense than he might have had, with an ace and four hearts, and West might have been gambling. South led a heart, so declarer took nine tricks: -400 and 7 IMPs to FLEISHER.

Two flattish games followed (FLEISHER won an overtrick IMP on one of them), and Ron faced this play problem on Board 4:

Kriegel
97632
8
KQJ72
87
Smith
AQ105
K6
A8653
A9
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

South led the 9 to dummy's king, as North played the 4.

How would you play?

This was the full deal:

Kriegel
97632
8
KQJ72
87
Martel
J
Q942
104
KQ10432
Smith
AQ105
K6
A8653
A9
Fleisher
K84
AJ10753
9
J65
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 East
NS: 0 EW: 0

Ron led the 8 to the 2, K, and A. Marty shifted to clubs, forcing an entry to his partner's hand. After Ron played A, spade, Marty still had a trump left to score a diamond ruff: down one, -100.

Leaing a heart at trick two was reasonable but perhaps against the odds. On the dealing percentages, there are more cases where Ron's line gains than fails: KJx with either player plus the A onside vs. stiff J with North and the A offside. That's about four-to-one, but in the cases when South has a small singleton, he would probably have entered the auction or led differently, and he may have led something else with KJx as well. (Cases with spades 2-2 are irrelevant because declarer is cold no matter what he does.)

The alternative line of spade to the A, spade, would have worked as the cards lay, but declarer wasn't down even after leading the heart from dummy. He could and probably should have (North likely would have risen with the A if he held it) ducked in hand, forcing South to win. Then, after a club shift, he could have led the K, throwing dummy's remaining club, keeping North off lead.

At the other table, JD and Brian did well to push their opponents up:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
2
X
4
P
P
5
X
P
5
P
P
P

North led the K, and after winning, declarer led the K out of his hand, which induced the defense on the actual lie of the hearts to cash their club winner. This avoided losing a diamond ruff, which would have happened if he had crossed in diamonds to take the spade finesse. There were three losers, so the board was pushed at down one, but it was a missed opportunity for our team.

This was Board 5:

Kriegel
52
A10972
AK1052
Q
Martel
AQJ8643
53
A432
Smith
K7
K
Q9874
109875
Fleisher
109
QJ864
J63
KJ6
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
3
4NT
X
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X West
NS: 0 EW: 0

After A, A, club, there was no trouble in the play, even with 3-0 diamonds: making five, +550. At the other table, the auction was:

W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
5
P
5
P
P
P

The limited opening made it easier to go quietly. Declarer made five after the same start: -400, 4 IMPs to KRIEGEL.

Over the next four deals, each team won an IMP, and there were two pushes. There was a slightly larger swing on Board 10:

Kriegel
A8652
A752
QJ
KQ
Martel
K104
A542
J86543
Smith
10973
QJ6
K97
1072
Fleisher
KQJ4
983
10863
A9
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT West
NS: 0 EW: 0

North led a club to the A, and South continued clubs. I chose to lead a low spade out of my hand, thinking I needed four spade tricks and the heart finesse to win (along with clubs 5-3, not 6-2). On the lie of the cards, this resulted in down two, after a heart shift by South. I lost five clubs and one trick in each of the other suits: -200.

At the other table, Eric led a diamond at trick three, which is a better play. It costs nothing if the layout is friendly, and he can switch to spades if the first diamond is ducked. North actually took the A, cashed his clubs, and exited in diamonds. Declarer took the heart finesse and went down one, but never lost a spade: +100 and 3 IMPs to FLEISHER.

On Board 11, with neither side vulnerable, I was allowed to play in 3 in a 6-3 fit with 15 combined HCP. I couldn't quite handle everything and took only eight tricks: down one, -50. JD and Brian did well at the other table to stop in 3, which made exactly despite a 5-0 trump split: +110 and 2 IMPs to KRIEGEL. The opponents' diamond mesh was Qxx opposite a singleton, so 3NT was a terrible contract. 5 was better but still pushy, requiring a winning trump finesse plus some splits.

I held this hand on Board 12:

Kriegel
A108
53
Q1053
KJ96
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
X
?

What call would you make?

I tried 5, which might have been a little much, but I would have felt guilty bidding less and having to act over 4. 5 got doubled, and Ron's hand was not what I was hoping for:

Kriegel
A108
53
Q1053
KJ96
East
964
642
K
AQ8532
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
X
5
X
P
P
P

The defense got all their tricks: down three, -500. That didn't have to be a poor result looking at our cards, but the enemy heart fit was 6-2 and there was no way to establish enough tricks to shake our two defensive diamond winners. Brian and JD played in 3, making, for +140 but 8 IMPs to FLEISHER.

Would you preempt in first seat, both vulnerable, holding this hand?

North
Q2
102
53
KJ109854

Brian did; Chip didn't. This was the full deal:

Kriegel
K854
964
J62
Q72
Martel
Q2
102
53
KJ109854
Smith
J63
KJ753
AQ98
A
Fleisher
A1097
AQ8
K1074
63
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 East
NS: 0 EW: 0

Ron made an overtrick after a club lead. In the other room, East doubled the 3 opening, and West's 3 advance ended the auction. That contract was undoubled but not pretty, and declarer wound up down three: +300 and 10 IMPs to KRIEGEL.

Both pairs missed the target on Board 14:

Martel
AKQJ84
J54
1042
5
Fleisher
1095
AK6
KQJ9762
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
2
X
3
4
P
P
P

Platnick
AKQJ84
J54
1042
5
Diamond
1095
AK6
KQJ9762
W
N
E
S
1
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Chip had no way to know Marty had extreme distribution, and it was not safe for Marty to move over 4. Brian went mildly low by just inviting game (however, 2 overcalls ain't what they used to be; see part six of this series), but JD was strong enough for a cuebid with such a slam-suitable hand.

The segment concluded with a declarer-play problem based on siding (Board 15):

Greco
K7652
9642
762
K
Platnick
Q94
K
QJ53
107643
Hampson
103
Q83
A1084
AQJ5
Diamond
AJ8
AJ1075
K9
982
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

At the other table, South opened 1, and North's semiforcing 1NT response ended the proceedings. Ron led a diamond, so the 9 won. Declarer worked on clubs, and we were unable to use the bulk of the spade suit. Declarer wound up with two spades, two hearts, and three diamonds: making one, -90.

JD opened 1NT and received a spade lead to the 10 and J. Declarer had some chances, most or all of which required using the club position to sever the defenders' communications. JD tried the K, which lost to the A, and Geoff continued spades. At this point, there was a double-dummy line possible: win the A, unblock hearts, and cash two diamonds, then lead a club. This would be the position:

West
K76
964
K
North
Q
5
107643
East
Q8
10
AQJ5
South
8
AJ10
982
D

Whichever opponent won this trick would have only four winners to cash, after which he would have to allow declarer to take the heart finesse for seven tricks.

In practice, JD ducked the second spade. With the K already in the bag for the defense, if declarer tried to strip the hand and exit, East could win the first club and cash enough tricks to defeat the contract. Down one was -100 and 5 IMPs to FLEISHER.

FLEISHER won the relatively low-scoring segment 25-17, extending its lead to 16 IMPs, 227-211 going into the last set.

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