It's been a couple of weeks since the Monterey Clambake, an excellent Regional Tournament out here in the West. This year it was held in downtown Monterey, which was convenient to lots of good places to eat. It was also freezing cold. So cold it hurt. But that's not Monterey's fault, or the fault of District 21. It just was.
I was scheduled to play with three different partners in four events. The first day I played with one of my regular partners in a two-session pairs event, in which we did not do well. (Mostly, our issues were bidding issues, which is also what trips us up at the club.)
The second day, I played with my regular partner Kevin Schoenfeld in the premier two-session pairs event, which required qualifying in the first session to play in the evening Barometer session. We sat E-W during a session where most of the boards ran N-S. There were 38 boards in play in this event, which meant we were only playing 2/3 of the boards that others were. The frustrating thing about playing a session where all the hands are in the other direction, is that so much depends on what your opponents are doing (or not doing) and less is up to you. Although I thought we played decently, we were subject to a lot of bad luck (e.g., a pair bidding a cold grand against us). We wound up with a sub-50% score, qualifying us for evening Swiss, teamed with another pair who also didn't make it to the Barometer final.
In the first match of the evening Swiss, we drew an excellent pro team. We played them extremely well, I thought, winning or tying every board, to end up with a substantial win. We won the next match by a lot, and won our third match handily as well. Going into the final match, we were leading the event. Unfortunately, in our last match, we had two bad boards at our table that cost us dearly, and we wound up losing that match by a lot, to drop down to sixth in B. Although the result was disappointing, I was really happy with how well we'd played for the first three matches.
On the weekend, I played with Ken Rosenfeld, an excellent local B-level player with whom I'd played a few times before. We teamed with his regular partner, Joel Koransky, and one of their mutual partners, Dana Brown, in a one-day compact KO. Our masterpoint totals put us in bracket 3.
I decided to write down every auction of the match, in part so I wouldn't be tempted to discuss it during the game (Keller, baby!), and in part because Ken and I hadn't played together much, so it would be good for after-game discussion to clear up any bidding issues that might arise. It would also be helpful in writing up the fun hands after, so I wouldn't have to make up the auction later on.
We won our first match handily. Our second match was a bit rockier, but we managed to eke out a 3-IMP win to advance to the semis. After a nice dinner, we returned to play against an excellent local team.
I thought the match was going pretty well, when I picked up the following hand as dealer, red versus white:
I decided not to open my hand and the bidding proceeded as follows:
We play Puppet Stayman, and with this sequence he was showing a four-card heart suit, and I was showing a four-card spade suit. He promised 20-21 HCP, and I have an awesome club suit which will be an excellent source of tricks.
I figured I better check to make sure we're not off two aces. So the auction continued:
I should note that although we hadn't previously discussed this bidding sequence, I was certain my partner would take my bid of 4♣ as Gerber, and I was not disappointed.
I got the lead of the ♦Q, and dummy came down:
After winning the diamond on the board, I played a low club to the King and LHO discarded. I paused to consider my options. Originally, I had been planning to ruff spades in dummy, but that option was no longer going to work. However, upon further reflection, it wasn't necessary, as I would have a spade pitch on a heart, and another pitch on a diamond. My club spots were just enough to pick up the bad split, so I played low to the ♣A, and finessed the ♣10 to pull his last trump. From there, it was easy. That one board gained us 13 IMPs, helping us win our semi-final match.
The final match was very close. Nine of the boards were virtual ties. The match was won on two boards where Ken and I bid game, and Ken made both games (while at the other table they were in part scores on both boards). As a result, we wound up winning the event, which was only my second or third compact KO win (one of the others was won with Ken & Joel as well, but for some reason, compact KOs have been the bane of my bridge existence).
The final day the four of us teamed together in the A/X Swiss. We only wound up winning one of our seven matches... we were clearly outclassed on the day. But there were some good boards along the way.
In match 2, I picked up the following hand as West, favorable:
The opponents brushed aside my preempt and bid to 3NT. What's your lead?
Having no outside entries, I decided to lead the ♥9 in the hopes that my partner could get in and lead through declarer. Dummy came down:
Declarer ducked in dummy as my partner won the ♥J. Partner continued hearts until declarer took his ace on the third round. Now declarer led the ♦Q from the board, partner covering with the ♦K and declarer winning the ♦A in his hand. He then continued with a diamond to the ♦10, won by my partner's ♦J. After cashing the 13th heart, he shot a spade through declarer's ♠K, so we took 3 hearts, 1 diamond, and 2 spades to send declarer down two. The full deal is shown below.
Disappointingly, the other table achieved the same result, but I was happy that we'd defended well, regardless.
In match 6, I picked up the following hand as South. West opened the bidding, and my partner doubled, my RHO passing
What's your bid?
I carefully put out the 1♥ card, willing everyone to pass. Lefty passed, and partner now cuebid 2♣. Righty passed. I know a forcing bid when I see one, so I reluctantly bid 2♦. Lefty passed again, and partner now bid 3♦. What's your bid?
I passed. I figured I had said everything I had to say. I knew he had a big hand, but I didn't think it was possible for us to make anything. As it turned out, on a club lead, I was able to make five. At the other table they were in game, having gotten there when the North hand placed the contract after the first response from South. Both hands are shown below.
In retrospect, it probably would have been better to cue-bid clubs again with the North hand, or simply place the contract after the second bid. Regardless, it was a tough hand to bid on both sides.
A fascinating thing happened during the last day, which may become a topic for another post. During one match I was declaring a 3NT contract with a long diamond suit in dummy. After winning the opening lead, I cashed a top diamond. Both opponents followed, and given the quality of the diamonds, it was clear to everyone that the diamond suit was running. I played a diamond to the board and instructed my partner to run the diamonds from the top. My RHO asked me "Are you going to claim?" to which I responded, "No". He then said, "You can't tell your partner to do that unless you're going to claim." What?! Rather than argue, I grumpily instructed my partner to play specific diamond cards until they were all gone, and then went about playing the rest of the hand. I later spoke with a director, who said that this person was not correct.
But it leads me to think: what other things have people told me at the table that are completely wrong? I suspect that some things people say are because the rules have changed over the years and they're not aware that that the rules have changed. But sometimes I also wonder whether some people do this sort of thing to less-experienced players to try to intimidate them? I will continue to observe and note this over time.
All in all it was a fun day, even if we didn't have terrific results. It was nice to come home from the tourney with a win (and a wine glass, which I will give to my mother-in-law). And it was really fun to play with folks that I don't normally get to play with. So it was a nice way to spend four days in the freezing cold!
Plus... it's free!