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My Dallas Dreams, Part 2
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This is part 2 of an article previously published in Bridge Magazine.  For part 1, which describes how Christina joined the German Open Team for the Jacoby Swiss Teams, see here.

Playing with Roy and Sabine

To be honest I had no time to pay attention to the results during the tournament. The Swiss is a bit stressful with a few minutes between each set and 200 players standing in front of the TD’s desk waiting to see which table numbers they are assigned to. I just noticed we kept winning, but did not know by how much or who we played against, unless it was someone I knew like Fredin-Fallenius (Scandinavian as myself).

After the break we played against a smiling and nodding Chinese team. I held the following hand, watching this auction none vulnerable:

South
Axx
x
A1098x
98xx
W
N
E
S
1
X
1
P
2
P
2
X
P
2
P
P
P

1 = denying majors

I calmly doubled them in 2, which would have gone for 1100 on the actual layout. East had forgotten about their agreement and held Kxxxx of spades, my partner had 4414 with the stiff K and hearts and clubs on opener’s neck.

Despite having seen me use my red and blue bidding cards twice as much as the green ones three matches straight, Josef wasn’t entirely sure my double was penalty and pulled to 2 for +110. Almost the same result, only a zero short. It is actually an interesting problem; Josef could see that with the given explanation of 1 denying majors, we had to have a major fit. However why didn’t I bid the first time? From my perspective it has to be penalty, since if I want to compete for the partscore, I like to enter the bidding right away. I could have doubled 1 or simply have bid my major. The question for Josef was who to trust, and since we to my great surprise were playing the Chinese open team, he decided to trust the opponents rather than the blonde across the table. I can hardly blame him. However in teams you need a really good argument to pull partner’s double of 2 of a minor, since should it make, you can survive the -180 (or occasional -380). The upside is so much bigger. Even though nearly half of my doubled 2m contracts have made, my lifetime IMP gain is still huge since I can afford many -180s for +800s. So this is my secret tip: double 2m more often.

Besides that lost opportunity we couldn’t do much differently, and we had 6 flat boards out of 7 in that match – and then our secret weapon: Roy and Sabine. They can turn air into IMPs.

Roy held the South hand in this auction:

West
xxx
xx
Jxx
A9xxx
Sabine
AQ10xx
9xxx
Kxx
x
East
KJxx
AJ10
xx
KQJx
Roy
x
KQxx
AQ10xx
10xx
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1N
P
P
X
P
2
X
XX
P
2N
P
P
X
3
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
3X South
NS: 0 EW: 0

At unfavorable after two passes, East opened 1NT, passed to Sabine, who doubled showing majors or one minor. Roy bid 2 (pass or correct). West doubled, Sabine redoubled (which Roy alerted as majors), East passed and Roy asked about the double, which was explained as takeout of clubs (which seemed odd to Roy).

He bid 2NT, agreed as a cuebid looking for game in a major, however Sabine passed (presumably due to the misunderstanding of the double of 2). East doubled and Roy bid 3 intended as a game try, passed around to RHO who doubled.

A trump was led to the ace and another trump, both following. Roy played a diamond to the king and a club from dummy (in case East started with only 2 hearts and mistakenly won).  East won and played a diamond, Roy won with the ace, ruffed a club, and led a diamond from dummy.  RHO discarded, South won and ruffed the last club.  Then A, spade ruff, drew trumps, and claimed 2 overtricks for +1130.

To put it in Roy’s words: "You also need a bit of luck to win an event like this." And the Chinese got some new bidding sequences to discuss.

In the evening I played one more match and got to sit out the last one. Dream lineup. I went to the bar for a glass of wine and went back in time for the comparison.

The best part about playing on this team was that we did really well while I was playing – and even better when I sat out. :-) My teammates finished day 1 in the Swiss by blitzing the Dutch stars and world champions Huub Bertens-Ton Bakkeren and Simon de Wijs – Bauke Muller 53-0 to leave us on top - my favorite position overnight.

After the comparison I made an outburst of joy and high-fived my teammates as I do after every good match. It seems to me the Germans are less inclined to celebrate the small victories in life, however they laughed heartily every time I did my round of high fives. Later in the bar, an acquaintance of mine, the Canadian star Vincent Demuy, told me he saw my celebration and thought to himself, “Oh, she qualified.”

We finished the evening in Roy and Sabine’s room with champagne and laughter. Next morning we were to play against the FLEISHER team with Zia and co.

The Finals

We had a huge carryover and during the night I hardly dared dreaming of winning the event, afraid to be disappointed once again. Josef and I started in the morning. In the lead with 8 matches to go there were some tactical considerations. It was obvious that the two regular partnerships should play at least the last two matches.

The FLEISHER team was the only team with a score close to ours. Sabine thought I should play against Zia (partnering Steve Garner) to see what fireworks that would create, but Roy is more tactical and put us in against Rosenberg-Willenken. As always Roy was right.

It was really bad timing for me to play my only bad match against our main competition. My brain simply wasn’t awake. The first board is a good example. I was sitting South against Rosenberg-Willenken:

Rosenberg
Q
Q1074
A9643
1032
Josef
875
AK865
K87
KQ
Willenken
J1062
93
Q52
A954
Christina
AK943
J2
J10
J876
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Nothing to the bidding, however after my artificial diamond game-forcing bid, I sensed a fragment of a hesitation from Michael Rosenberg in West. He thought for a while, then led the 2 (2nd and 4th leads), so as dummy hit the table I was certain he held the A and I assumed him to hold 4 clubs.

East ducked the K and took the queen with his ace and after some thought played a small spade. I rose with the ace to see the queen drop. It could be from stiff Q, QJ and QJ10. Now I had the dilemma that if I ruffed a club to finesse in spades, if Rosenberg held QJ doubleton he would win and play a club for his partner to score the 10. But honestly I only gave it about 5 seconds' thought since I was so eager to just guess the diamonds and make my contract with spades 3-2. So I just cashed another spade and saw the bad news. I now cashed J and played a fourth club, expecting it to be overruffed, however, West showed out and I ruffed it. I cashed the AK of hearts and ruffed a heart, East discarding a diamond. Now I played the J, ducked by West! I rose with the king (convinced it would hold) and could now play one more heart to allow me to score a spade trick.

I then packed together my cards and said “down 1”. “No...“, Josef said looking a bit disturbed. “Just made”. It shows my lack of focus that I didn’t even realize I made my contract after Rosenberg let it through by ducking with the A.

Unfortunately that was far from my only mistake. Last board of the 7-board match Roy played this 3NT beautifully and was rewarded by a push:

West
10975
K75
QJ74
Q9
North
AQ4
J63
A98
A854
East
J86
Q108
62
KJ763
South
K32
A942
K1053
102
D

Roy and Sabine play a system that allows them to open balanced hands with 10 points, in this case resulting in Roy declaring from the South seat, where at our table Rosenberg was declaring from the North seat.  Roy got the favorable small diamond lead. However that is far from enough as you still need hearts 3-3, and the opponents get in twice. So to prevent a club shift, Roy led a small club from dummy at trick 2 towards his ten. Garner (East) went up with the king to continue the diamond lead, thus blocking the club suit for eternity. 9 deserved tricks.

At our table Josef (East) led a club to my 9, ducked by Rosenberg.  I continued with the Q, ducked again. I shifted to a spade, and Rosenberg thought a long while before letting it run to dummy’s king. Now he took a long pause. I could see hearts 3-3 and couldn’t figure out his problem. He played a small diamond from dummy and I played low without giving it any thought. After he successfully finessed the 9, he gave up two heart tricks to score his 9 tricks, whereas had I split in diamonds he would lose the unavoidable 5 tricks. After his impulsive disappointed reaction at the comparison, Roy quickly tried to defend me by saying it was not so easy. However, in hindsight, I think I should have figured it out due to Rosenberg’s long pause and air of slight despair. When declarer thinks, he has a problem. And as defender you have to figure out what it is.

We lost the match by 2 IMPs after yet another good set by Roy and Sabine. I was angry at myself for not being more present in what turned out to be the battle for the victory. Josef had been a rock throughout the tournament; besides not always able to guess what I had for my doubles and redoubles, he had made no mistakes and now patiently looked at me and said, “I see you are tired.” I tried to deny, but he was right. I didn’t feel tired physically, but my brain needed an adrenaline boost.

Despite my bad start I kept playing as long as we met what Roy described to me as “random Americans”. He meant random to me. The team we met next consisted of Fred Stewart, Kit Woolsey, Steve Beatty, Mark Cohen, Ross Grabel, and Howard Weinstein. To me they were nice elderly men, and they probably thought something similar of me.

Some people don’t like to play doubled contracts. I am not one of them. I actually like it even more if they are redoubled because of the adrenaline kick. Sometimes I wish for it to happen if I feel I am losing focus, and luckily for me, that was exactly what happened on the first board of match 2:

I had convinced Josef to play weak notrumps, so favorable I opened 1NT on this crappy hand:

K93 QJ32 AJ106 74

Now the next hand doubled and Josef redoubled. RHO, Ross Grabel, quickly passed without asking any questions, and since we play redouble for blood and money, I confidently passed too and felt the adrenaline kick in.

Howard Weinstein thought for a short while, then passed and led the K, and Josef put down this orgasmic dummy:

Dummy
AQ10864
K8
9742
A
Christina
K93
QJ32
AJ106
74
W
N
E
S
1NT
X
XX
P
P
P

Lead: K

I had 8 tricks just from the top and already started fantasizing about the 9th trick as I played the A and LHO showed out! Jxxx of spades behind. The contract was now actually in danger, since if I finessed the 9 and the A was offside, I didn’t have an entry to dummy. However I was quite certain that the reason RHO passed so quickly was because he didn’t have anything and hoped the redouble would get him out. So I finessed the 9, unblocked the K, and led a heart towards dummy’s king.  LHO won the ace, and cashed his 5 club tricks (had they been 5-5 I would still have made 8 tricks) and it was just made. +560 was still a small pickup since they just played the normal 4 contract at the other table. Best news was that now I was awake!

We were back to winning and decided that I would keep playing as long as we won. In the Swiss the top tables play pre-dealt cards whereas the rest have to shuffle. Before the third match I arrived a bit late to the table. I greeted the opponents who kindly informed me that the boards were pre-dealt, so we didn’t have to shuffle. I gave them a big smile and thanked them for the info, glancing at Josef who tried to hide a smile. We played well and after a few boards some kibitzers arrived at the table and sat down behind me. One of them was Sjoert Brink.  The opponents looked a bit surprised and asked me who our teammates were. “Roy and Sabine,” I replied, and they looked as if we had lured them into some trap.

We won again and again, and now Josef’s regular partner Alexander Smirnov had to play the rest in order to get the masterpoints and potential title. It is the first time in my life I have played on a team where I could just lean back, relax, and let others finish the job. I had a mixed feeling of relief and anxiety since it is strange not to have any influence on the situation. So I went back to my room, put on a dress, and went to the bar to get a glass of wine, waiting for the comparisons.

The first two of the last four matches my teammates were brilliant as usual. I don’t think I have ever witnessed such a constant high level as displayed by Roy and Sabine throughout this tournament. In the second-to-last match they had a good set, however that only limited the defeat. Roy started asking questions about what happened at the other table, obviously disappointed with the match result. Some people may regard this as a negative character trait, however to me it is a symbol of his passion and fighting spirit. I think the ones who care the most, win the most.

And this is where Sabine enters. She calmly suggests that we don’t waste time discussing previous boards and get ready for the last match instead. She is professional to the bone.

We went from leading by more than 10 VP’s to leading by only 2, the FLEISHER team breathing down our necks. The rest of the teams were so far behind it was either them or us. I felt my stomach turn remembering my mistakes from the morning match and knew I would never forgive myself, should they turn out to be fatal.

We played against the DIAMOND team (Platnick-Diamond, Greco-Hampson) in the last match, the Rosenblum champions from 2010. FLEISHER played SCHWARTZ (Lotan Fisher-Ron Schwartz and Boye Brogeland-Erik Saelensminde). I sat down to kibitz Marty Fleisher-Chip Martel against the young Israelis. Fleisher and Martel played very well, bid and made some tough games, and were estimated to be up by about 25 IMPs as the last board hit the table.  

Vulnerable against not, Fleisher held:

North
QJ7
10
QJ732
AK62
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
P
2
?

In second seat he opened 1, and though his partner did not double a 1 overcall, he chose to make a second double after RHO raised to 2. This was redoubled and partner pulled to 2, doubled.  Despite his partner having a maximum hand for his pass, the contract went 3 off for -800, limiting the FLEISHER victory to 10 IMPs.

West
K1053
Q543
104
Q94
Fleisher
QJ7
10
QJ732
AK62
East
84
AK986
AK95
J5
Martel
A962
J72
86
10873
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
P
2
X
XX
2
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
 

I think it is fascinating what makes a player make a questionable double in a situation where he is two VP’s from the leaders and has a +25 set. Momentary loss of focus? Hubris? I regret not having asked Marty on a later occasion.

The FLEISHER victory meant our team had to win by 6 IMPs against a very good team. I saw Josef and Alex and they said it went well. I hardly dared to breathe, afraid to do something to spoil the moment. I stood next to Eric Greco from the DIAMOND team who is normally very friendly towards me, and he was so annoyed he just looked at me and went away. That had to be a good sign.

Josef presented the following board:

West
QJ53
J1072
J5
K102
North
A9876
K3
AK103
A5
East
1042
Q654
642
Q94
South
K
A98
Q987
J8763
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1
P
1N
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 North
NS: 0 EW: 0

Greco led a heart, won with the A. Now Josef played the K, a heart to the king, spade ruff, diamond to the king, spade ruff, Q, club to the ace, and then A drawing trump. He then cashed the spades and gave up a club trick in the end for 12 tricks, a nice slam missed at the other table playing 3NT making, so +13 IMPs.

Roy and Sabine finished and we scored up. It was the best comparison of my life. We won 36-0. I cried out of pure joy, threw myself around the necks of my teammates, even poor Alex who is somewhat smaller than myself. I have never experienced such a feeling. I had tears in my eyes and hugged all the ones who came to shake our hands to congratulate us. Later in the evening Fulvio Fantoni came to me and told me he knew I had won since he could hear my winning cries in the other part of the building where he was sitting playing the last segment of the Vanderbilt…

Picture taken by Nick Mallouf

I am forever grateful to my awesome teammates for letting me be in this dream; especially to Josef for playing with me in the belief I was a novice…

I danced instead of walking the rest of the night; already after half an hour my face was cramped from constantly smiling and my heart felt complete. For the first and last night in Dallas I didn’t dream about anything since my dreams could never top my reality.

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