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Monterey Regional, Evening Swiss
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The Monterey Regional is one of the nicest regionals in our area.  It always starts the first week of January, except that this year, it started on New Year's Eve.  I decided to spend New Year's Eve and Day at home, and traveled down on Thursday.  After an unremarkable first day of pairs, my partner and I entered another pairs game on day 2.  This was a two-session event with a barometer final that you had to qualify for.  We had an agreement: if we didn't Q, he was going to take the evening off.  We didn't Q.  Now what?   We wouldn't get our evening entry fee back so I had to find another partner and another event.

I lurked around the playing area with an eye on the partnership desk.  Close enough to see, but not to be seen.  Occasionally someone I knew would saunter by and I'd inquire "Whatcha doin' tonight?"  Inevitably that person would be busy.  I then saw Ari Greenberg with his new girlfriend in tow and asked him the same question.  Ari was sick, suffering from a bit of a cold.  He was scheduled to play in the evening Swiss with Eugene Hung, Cheryl Mandala, and Yul Inn.  "Can I join your team as a fifth?"  Ari thought for about a nanosecond and quickly warmed to the idea... he could play two rounds and then take the evening off.  Sweet!   He consulted with his teammates, everyone was okay with it, and I was in!  I was able to contribute my evening's entry since it was already paid for, sweetening the pot.  The team elected me captain, which was perfect, since I had nothing to else do for the first two rounds.  (I also considered caddying, since I hadn't gotten much exercise this week.)

In the first match, I decided to kibitz Eugene while I finished filling out our card.  I learned something new in doing that: you cannot kibitz members of your own team or even anyone within two tables of where your team is sitting.  Makes sense, but who knew?  It was only the second 5+ person team I'd ever been on. No harm, no foul, so I went over to stand on the sidelines to watch and rejoined the team when it was time for the comparison.  The first match was a strong win for +18 VPs.   The team blitzed the second match, and we were now at 38 VPs.  I was very proud of my organizational work as captain thus far, but now I was going to have to contribute my playing skills too.

Play like a pro or play like a client?  I thought it would probably be best if I sat in the seat of the weakest player if playing against a team we knew. Instead, we wound up sitting against a pair we liked, irrespective of playing ability. As luck would have it I wound up declaring the first four hands.  On the first board, my LHO made an unusual lead of leading the Q against a suit contract from AQJ.  K10 was on the board, and I ducked.  Why? It could only help to duck if there was a stiff A on my right.  In that event, LHO would have had a diamond preempt, so a stiff ace seemed unlikely. It would have been better to go up with the K in case he had underled his ace.  But I didn't.  Now the contract was in jeopardy, so I took a deep breath and considered my options for making the hand.  Ultimately I decided on a crossruff, and when they didn't lead a trump back the next time they got in, I was able to salvage the contract.  Lose 1 IMP.  Vowing now not to trust my opponents leads or carding, I settled down, and won 1 IMP on the next board, and 7 on the next when I decided my hand just wasn't good enough to invite game, and I was right.  (I made 4 but only because of my LHO playing a card out of turn.)   The cards didn't produce any other good swings, and we wound up winning the match by just 6 IMPs.

In the last match we met a team composed of a local Flight A pair, and a pro and his client at the other table.  Play like a client?  I put myself in the client's chair. Again, it was a tight match.  On the first board, our opponents stopped in a diamond partial, making 4.  (Did they miss 3NT?  It wasn't clear...)  Our teammates went for the game but it didn't make, so we lost 5.

On the next board I picked up the following hand:

South
107
AQ1053
Q98
AK10
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
?

Your bid?

South
107
AQ1053
Q98
AK10
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
?

With a 15 count and no good rebid, I opted to show my point count by opening 1NT rather than bidding my five-card heart suit.  Three passes followed, and on the lead of the 2, dummy came down:

North
Q543
84
K10642
97
South
107
AQ1053
Q98
AK10
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
P
P

I played low from the board, and RHO covered with the 8, which I won with the 10.  So far so good: three club tricks booked. 

Plan the play from here.

North
Q543
84
K10642
97
South
107
AQ1053
Q98
AK10
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
P
P

Diamonds seemed like the obvious next step.  I floated the Q which held, both following.  I now played the 9 which lost to the J on my right.  A club came back which I won with the A.  So diamonds weren't going to work.  Since I had no transportation to the board to take advantage of the good diamonds once established, I simply gave up on them.  I was now going to have to see how many tricks I could get out of the heart suit.  I had no way to get to the board to finesse anything, and the opponents would knock out my remaining club stopper and start on spades once I let them in.

I thought about it long and hard and decided that the only way to make this contract was if the K was on my left, without the J, and hearts split 3-3.  So I would play for that possibility.  I played the Q from my hand, and both LHO and RHO played low.  So far, so good!  I banged down the A, both following, with the J still nowhere in sight.  So it looked like my plan was going to work!  I played another heart, and the K and J crashed.  The expected club came back, which I won with the K, and I cashed my remaining tricks for +120.  At the other table, my seat opened 1, and they wound up in 2, which didn't make.  So we gained 5 IMPs on that board.  
 
All four hands are shown below:

West
AJ92
K72
53
QJ62
North
Q543
84
K10642
97
East
K86
J96
AJ7
8543
South
107
AQ1053
Q98
AK10
D

Looking at the hands later, I don't understand why my LHO ducked the first heart.  He held the A, so he didn't need to duck the K to cash the clubs.  There is no possibility of crashing honors, since given the bidding, had I had that many hearts, I wouldn't have opened 1NT.  Both opponents are marked with at least 3 hearts from their partner's point of view.  But sometimes when you give someone a chance to go wrong, they will, as it's tough to reason everything out at the table in real time. 
 

I gave the 5 IMPs back on the next hand where I misdefended a 1NT contract.  The bidding was similar to the previous board:  Partner passed, 1NT (15-17) opening by my RHO, passed out.  I held:

West
632
AK65
Q976
K10
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
P
P

The auction wasn't very revealing, but hearts looked to be the best bet.  Eugene and I had few agreements, but we did agree that the lead of an Ace against notrump would ask for attitude (and the King unblock or count).  So I led the A, revealing this dummy:
 
West
632
AK65
Q976
K10
Dummy
J874
8
10432
Q875
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
P
P
 
Declarer called for the 8 and Eugene played the J, declarer contributing the 2.  Eugene's contribution denied the Q, which meant that declarer had it.  What should I continue at trick 2? 

West
632
AK65
Q976
K10
Dummy
J874
8
10432
Q875
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
P
P

A spade was likely to finesse Eugene.  A club was impossible.  For some reason I also discounted a diamond, although looking at it in the light of day, it seems like the obvious switch.  Anyway, I decided to bank on Eugene having five hearts since I had entries in the minors, and continued hearts, playing the 5, which lost to declarer's Q.  When I got in with the K (declarer playing A and another), I continued hearts.
 
All four hands are below.

West
632
AK65
Q976
K10
Dummy
J874
8
10432
Q875
East
Q105
J10943
AJ
964
South
AK9
Q72
K85
AJ32
D

We were able to take 4 hearts, 1 diamond, and a club, but the contract made.  At the other table, my teammate went down.  Had I not given up the Q, and instead found a diamond switch, we would have set the contract two (taking 5 hearts, 2 diamonds, and a club) and won the match. As it was, we lost by 4, which put us in a tie for 2nd place, losing to Joel Wooldridge's team by 1 VP.
 
I should point out that there is a theme to all the mistakes made by me and the opponents in the hands I highlighted, and it's something I'm going to try to take to heart and incorporate into my thinking on every hand.  Before making a play, ask yourself "Can it ever help me to do x?" If I had stopped to think more deeply about these things while a play was happening, I might have avoided some of the mistakes I made.  I'll report later on how well this is working.
 
It was great to be able to join such a terrific team at the last minute, and it's always fun to play with Eugene.  So, thanks team!
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