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My Little Spingold Run - Day 3
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I'm writing up my Spingold experience this summer. This is Day 3 (spoiler: final day).  You can find previous entries here:

Here is a team photo we took after winning the second match. From left to right: Frank Merblum, Alan Applebaum, me, and Alex Perlin.

Frank, Alan, me, and Alex

We inherited the 15 seed and drew the 18 seed, and for the first time in my Spingold career, I had the higher seed! We drew HAMMAN, a team of American stars with no sponsor: the great Bob Hamman himself, Peter Weichsel, Ross Grabel, Howard Weinstein, Brian Glubok, and Roger Lee.

First Quarter. We sat against Glubok and Lee, with Hamman and Weichsel at the other table. On the first board red on white in 4th chair, I held Kx KJ9xx xxxx Jx. Auction went pass, pass, and Glubok opened 1 to my right. Would you overcall 1? What's your criteria? I guess I'm wimpy in these situations. Here I was mindful of the vulnerability looking at my minimum values opposite a passed hand; my main reason for overcalling here would be for the lead against 3NT, and it seemed fairly often the auction might go (1)-(1blah)-(1NT)-... and I would be on lead anyways.

So I passed and LHO invited 2NT and RHO raised to 3NT, and naturally partner led a spade and I had to wonder the rest of the hand whether a heart lead would beat the contract. Fortunately 3NT was making with either lead, and this was a push.

The match started slowly, with 3 more basically flat boards (we won 2-0). Then the fireworks started.

All red, I picked up 9x AQx J10x AKxxx in 4th chair. LHO opened 1 and RHO bid 1. I passed, and LHO raised to 2. Partner bid 2 and RHO bid 3. What now?

Well this was unexpected. Alex didn't bid over 1 but had now entered the auction at the 2-level. Meanwhile, RHO had made a slam try and I had this monster hand! What was going on!?

It was difficult to nail down what partner might have for a sequence that I had not seen before. Obviously he had little high cards but enough offense to enter the auction vulnerable. I had poor support for him but a great hand otherwise. Perhaps he had KJ10xxxx x xx xxx? Opposite that we had five losers and 2 was high enough. Meanwhile I had five potential tricks on defense: two possible heart tricks, a diamond holding that just required stiff Q from partner to produce a trick, and two possible club tricks. It felt like too much defense to speculatively venture on offense.

So after a long thought I passed, and LHO bid 3NT. RHO corrected to 4 and I saw even less reason to bid (LHO had suggested notrump!), so I passed and this ended the auction.

The full layout was:

Me
9x
AQx
J10x
AKxxx
North
AQxx
Jxxx
Axx
xx
Partner
KJ10xxx
x
x
J109xx
South
x
K109xx
KQxxxx
Q
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
2
3
P
3NT
P
4
P
P
P
D
13
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

There wasn't much to the play. 4 was cold but so was 4. Honestly I didn't consider raising spades directly; I thought perhaps I should have bid 4 with my hand, getting us to 5 which was down 1. They were never going to let us play 4 anyways, so the important decision was whether I bid, not what I bid.

In retrospect I think I should have worked out that RHO probably had a stiff club, and that partner probably had at least 4 clubs. With just KJ10xxx x xx J10xx I think partner would not have bid, so from there I was close to working out that he had 11 cards in the blacks. Also I should not be dreaming about the Q on defense -- both because opponents were already bidding a lot with meager values, and also because partner had suggested offense with his own meager values.

This was a tough hand, but a good learning hand, I think.

At the other table North passed the 11 count and East opened 2. West inquired 2NT and East showed a minimum and 3 became the final contract. This made 4 so we lost 13 IMPs.

We gained most of it back on the next deal. 

East
Kxxx
Kxxxx
Q97x
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
2
3
4NT
P
5
P
7
P
P
P

Partner passed and RHO opened 1. I bid 1 and LHO bid 2. Partner made a preemptive raise to 3 and RHO bid 4NT RKC. LHO responded 5 and RHO (who was on my side of the screen) took one look at me and bid 7!  What would you do?

I passed and hoped that either partner would lead a diamond or that declarer wouldn't / couldn't handle a 4-1 club break. Alex found a diamond lead (thank you!) so we set the contract 1. The full layout was (rotated for convenience):

Partner
Jxxx
QJxx
xxxx
x
North
Axx
x
AKQxxx
Axx
Me
Kxxx
Kxxxx
Q97x
South
Qx
Axx
Jxx
KJ10xx
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
2
3
4NT
P
5
P
7
P
P
P
D
7 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Nobody asked me, but I did not approve of this bidding. If RHO thought the Q rated to be onside he was right, but why couldn't I have QJ of clubs, or Q109x? I wonder why experts gamble so much in matches where they were the clear favorites? I hope that some day I will win a match on such a swing.

Note that a Lightner double on this hand would be a terrible idea -- they could run to 7 or 7NT. Our teammates were in game on this hand but that was still 11 IMPs to us.

We then got jabbed to death:

We misdefended a vulnerable 3 a trick to beat it only one for +100, but teammates were -300 (3NT?). Lose 5.

LHO opened 2 on a 5-card suit and I balanced 2 with Q98xx Ax Qxxx KQ. I played there in a 5-1 fit for -150. Should partner correct to clubs with 10 xxxx 109 AJ10xxx? 3 might not end the auction; here it would do better than 2 but it was going down anyways. This was lose 6.

Non-vulnerable, we stopped in a part score with the following:

North
AKxx
108xx
10xx
Qx
South
xx
Kx
KJ9x
AK10xx

Opponents at the other table bid the same cards to 3NT after an invitational notrump auction. They got a friendly lead (clubs) and cards were friendly all around so 3NT made. Lose 7.

The next two looked like jabs on the scoresheet but felt like uppercuts at the table.

Red on white, I picked up x K108xx AJ10x AQx in second chair. I opened 1 and partner responded 1NT. RHO butted in with 2 Michaels.

This was frustrating! I had a good hand for this auction and I wanted to bid but I had no bid! If RHO had bid 2 I would have doubled for takeout. Over 2, however, double by me showed hearts and 2 would be an ambiguous game force. Bidding 3 would suggest a 2-suiter, not a 3-suiter. Are there better methods for this auction?

All bids seemed like a distortion so I passed; maybe I could double back in later (would that clearly be takeout?). Well, LHO bid 4 passed to me. That was too high for me so I passed.

Here is the full deal (rotated for convenience):

Partner
Axx
xx
Qx
K10xxxx
North
KJxxx
98xxxx
xx
Me
x
K108xx
AJ10x
AQx
South
Q109x
AQJxxx
K
Jx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
3
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

4 had 4 top losers, but partner led a heart so the club losers went away. After that start we still could have beaten the contract, but we made a couple more mistakes and that was -420.

I don't know how the auction went at the other table, but our counterparts bid to 5 which was cold double dummy. On a spade lead, however, declarer had options and not unreasonably he took the diamond finesse, and "the roof caved in." Teammates got the K, A, a heart ruff, and a diamond ruff for down 2, +200 for us, but still a 6-IMP loss.

Another "jabbercut": all red, I picked up AK10xx QJx AJx xx in first chair and opened 1NT. This was passed to RHO who doubled for penalty. Your thoughts?

I don't remember ever getting out alive on these auctions, so if anyone has better tactics, I'm all ears. Passing first seemed normal -- maybe LHO would run. This time he didn't and partner bid 2, showing clubs and a higher. RHO passed and my options were: (1) pass because they hadn't doubled, (2) bid 2 to find at least a 4-3 fit, or (3) bid 2 immediately.

Option 1 seemed ridiculous -- I couldn't risk playing in a 4-2 fit vulnerable even if I were not doubled, so the choice was between (2) and (3). This is where I always choose (2) and it never seems to work. I bid 2, passed to RHO who doubled... should I bid 2 now? I passed and 2x was the final contract.

Here is the layout:

West
Jxx
xxx
Kxxx
Kxx
Partner
xx
10xx
Q10xx
9xxx
East
Qxx
AKxx
xx
AQ10x
Me
AK10xx
QJx
AJx
Jx
W
N
E
S
 
1N
P
P
X
P
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
4
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0

The lead was a diamond and I won the 10 in dummy to lead a heart up. RHO won the king (I unblocked) to lead a diamond. I finessed the jack which lost to the king, and a diamond came back. I was surprised when RHO showed out on the third diamond -- turned out the double was takeout. I won the ace perforce, then played the J and RHO ducked and that was pretty much the end of the hand. They took 1 diamond, 2 hearts, and 4 clubs, for down 2 and -500.

Had I run to 2, I might not have been doubled, and I likely would have gone down only one.

We picked up 3 undertrick IMPs when our opponent misguessed a KJ combination in a game bid at both tables. We then picked up 5 IMPs by setting part scores at both tables. Then, the following defensive problem:

You
AQ10x
10xxx
109
Kxx
Dummy
xx
Jx
KQxx
AQJxx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

LHO opens 1 and RHO responds 1. LHO rebid 1NT and RHO bid 3 (game forcing), which LHO raises to 4. You lead the 10 and it goes king, ace, small. Partner returns a high spade (attitude), on which declare plays the king and you win the ace. Plan your defense.

Here is the full layout:

You
AQ10x
10xxx
109
Kxx
North
xx
Jx
KQxx
AQJxx
East
Jxxx
x
AJxxx
xxx
South
Kxx
AKQxxx
xx
xx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
7
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

The winning defense is to cash the Q and continue a third spade. This locks declarer in dummy and he cannot avoid losing to the 10. Their team found this defense while we did not, so that was 12 IMPs for them.

On the last board all white I held xx xxx AJ10x 10xxx. LHO opened 1 and partner doubled. RHO bid 1 and I passed. LHO bid 1 and partner bid 1NT. RHO bid 2 which I doubled for penalty but this was defined takeout in our notes (note to self: fix notes). Partner bid 2 and I bid 2NT only and that ended the auction. 2x was 800 territory and 3NT was a good contract, but we were +180 versus -400 at the other table so that was 6 IMPs to them.

We lost the first quarter 62-21, so we were down 41.

Second Quarter. We sat against Weinstein and Grabel, with Hamman and Weichsel at the other table. This set was a low-scoring affair that wasn't particularly interesting, only 5 swings larger than 3 IMPs.

On one board we bid to a marginal slam. The lead was friendly and the contract was makeable but we went down. The other table played in game and that was 11 IMPs to them.

We had some bad luck. Our teammates bid to a white 4 contract on this collection after LHO opened 1:

North
Axxx
10xx
AJx
xxx
South
KJ10
AQxxxx
K
Qxx

Game had decent chances, but trumps were KJx offside, so our teammates went down 1. Opponents at our table stopped in 3 making, for 5 IMPs to them.

Teammates bid another white game on a finesse, down 1, to lose 5 more IMPs.

They made a 1NT that our side went down in, so we lost 5 more.

Our teammates played a 2 contract well and made it, while the same contract went down at our table. Win 5.

 

The final swing hand was an interesting play hand, faced by our opponents (rotated for convenience):

North
AJx
AKxx
x
A10xxx
South
1098xx
xx
A10xx
Qx
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

The auction was artificial, but it was equivalent to the following. North opened 1 and East overcalled 1. South bid 1 and North reversed into 2. South bid 2 and North bid 3, and South finished in 4.

LHO led a trump. Declarer played low and RHO won with the queen. RHO switched to the K. Declarer won the ace and LHO played a high spot, udca. How would you continue?

Declarer continued a heart to the ace and led a low club. RHO flew the king and continued the J, ruffed in dummy. What now?

North
A
Kxx
A10xx
South
1098x
x
10x
Q
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

North
A
Kxx
A10xx
South
1098x
x
10x
Q
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

At the table declarer played a club to the queen, ruffed a diamond with the ace, and tried to cash the A. LHO ruffed this so he was down 1, 6 IMPs to us. It seemed better to lead a club to the queen and then a spade to the ace. If both followed small, declarer could hope for clubs 3-3 or long trumps with long clubs. In practice RHO's K would fall under declarer's ace so then declarer could ruff a club high, draw trumps, and claim an overtrick.

The full deal was:

West
xxx
QJ10xx
xxx
xx
North
AJx
AKxx
x
A10xxx
East
KQ
xx
KQJxx
KJxx
South
1098xx
xx
A10xx
Qx
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
10
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

We lost the second quarter 30-17, and the margin was at 54.

 

Third quarter. For the third quarter we completed the cycle by playing Hamman and Weichsel, with Glubok and Lee at the other table.

I was excited to play against Bob Hamman and I introduced myself to him before the play started. He unassumingly extended his hand and said, "I'm Bob." I told him my wife took a picture with him last year and he asked me about my profession. It was a pleasant exchange with a legend.

On board 1 all white, partner opened the bidding 1 in first chair and I responded 1 with 108xxx 10xx Kxxx x. Partner rebid 1NT and I continued 2, all pass. LHO led the Q and dummy was a beauty: Ax KJx xxx Kxxxx. We had a combined 14 HCP and I was playing in 2 non-vulnerable spades undoubled -- we had stolen from Bob Hamman! I quietly went down two tricks. Teammates made 10 tricks in 3NT so we gained 8 IMPs.

 

On board 3 you get to laugh at the idiot; I'd join you if I weren't the idiot. White on red I picked up AK A109xx A10xx KJ. This is a familiar hand type: do you treat this as a balanced hand or a 2-suiter?

These days, it seems fashionable to treat all these hands as notrump hands. Our 2NT opening was 20-21 HCP and this hand only had 19 HCP, but value-wise I was comfortable opening that 2NT. But this hand was so suit oriented I preferred to open 1. Partner responded 1 and I bid 2 Gazzilli, natural or 17+ HCP. Partner continued 2 which was artificial and showed 8 or more HCP.

At this point I started worrying about pinpointing a club lead, so I rebid 2NT instead of showing diamonds. This was almost certainly a mistake since partner wasn't even limited. Partner bid 3 (showing five) and I bid 3NT, ending the auction.

LHO led a club and I saw the following:

North
Q10xxx
Q
QJxxx
Qx
South
AK
A109xx
A10xx
KJ

Let's not mention that 6 is a better contract than 3NT. How would you play?

"Obviously," your best chance is to play LHO for the A and RHO for the K. You should play the Q in dummy hoping it holds, then you take the diamond finesse and hope it succeeds so you can cash at least 10 tricks.

The other table was also in this ignominious contract. Declarer played as described. When RHO clubbed the Q with the A and the K did not drop singleton, he was down 1.

I brilliantly played low on the first club, and RHO played the ace! This gave me access to dummy for the diamond finesse. How did I know to do that? The answer is I didn't -- on the ace I played the jack!

So I managed to push the board.

This hand illustrates the importance of timing. To make the hand, you need to be asleep when you play a card from dummy, but wake up before you play a card from your hand.

Two boards later I picked up a balanced hand with 20 HCP and four spades. Partner opened 1, and I bid 3, the forcing 4-card raise in our methods. Partner then made an artificial response which purportedly showed 6 spades, singleton heart, and extra values. At this point I figured I must have messed up system but I couldn't figure out in what way... I tried RKC and found out we had all the keycards, so what else could I do but to bid grand? It turned out I did not mess up system, and everyone was amused when I put down this monster as dummy. Partner soon claimed 20 tricks and this board was of course a push.

We played in a normal 2 with 22 combined HCP and an 8-card fit, to pick up a surprising 9 IMPs when opponents at the other table overbid to 4 and got doubled for 300.

All red, we competed to 3 and went down a trick, which looked like a decent result because opponents could make 4. Teammates did bid 4 but their opponents sacrificed over it and teammates bid on to 5, which went down 1, so we lost 5 IMPs.

After that missed opportunity, the floodgates opened. I will gloss over the details to avoid some embarrassments. Smile

It started with an amusing misdefense. Against 3NT, I got too creative and switched to the Q from Qxx at trick 2, with dummy having A98. The lead did two good things and two bad things. Good: it didn't cost a trick double dummy and it fooled declarer. Bad: it wasn't necessary to beat the contract and it fooled partner. The bad canceled the good and we subsequently let the contract make, to lose 12 IMPs.

Our side missed a vulnerable game on a finesse that was onside. Lose 10.

We played in 2 on these cards: Qxx Kxx J98 Axxx opposite A10x 108xxxx AKx x. This looked normal, but hearts broke 2-2, four cards were onside (A, K, Q10), and the natural lead was a doubleton diamond, so we were +200. Our opponents bid to game and we lost 6.

More bad luck: we were vulnerable and LHO opened 1. We subsequently bid to a decent 5, needing to pick up trumps missing 4 to the queen, and needing opponent's hearts to split 5-2 instead of 6-1 so that there was no ruff. Diamond queen was singleton in opener's hand, but hearts were 6-1, so we went down. Lose 6.

Our teammates had a takeout double / penalty double misunderstanding: lose 11.

We bid to a no-play game. Lose 5.

In case you were counting that was 50 IMPs in 6 boards. Our teammates did have one success with some help from Lady Luck:

North
Axxx
Q
AJxx
10xxx
South
x
AK987x
xx
AKQx

What contract would you want to be in?

It seems you want to be in 6 here -- you make if clubs and hearts break normally. You can pick up singleton J and normal heart break. This already gets you up to 64%. If clubs are 3-2 you can also pick up singleton heart honor on either side for an extra 3%.

At our table, our opponents stopped in 4 for 450. Our teammates got the level right but not the strain, stopping in 6. 6 was not ideal, usually needing both hearts and clubs to come in. However, it was the perfect contract on the actual layout: hearts were J10 doubleton, clubs were 4-1 with the guarded jack, but the KQ of diamonds were onside (and was led). This was 13 lucky IMPs, making up for some of the bad luck we were suffering in games.

We lost the quarter 32-56 and were down 78 after 3 quarters. After the comparison most of us were exhausted, so we withdrew to post-mortem and have ice cream.

 

Final thoughts. After careful analysis (not), I concluded that they played better than us. Bridge is a game of mistakes and they certainly made fewer mistakes. As good teams are apt to do, they also gave us many tough decisions and more opportunities to make mistakes.

Even though luck didn't determine the result of the match, it did seem to run against us. We bid 3 decent games that the other table didn't bid and they all went down, while they seemingly bid 2 games out of nowhere that made with with friendly layouts. We got some luck back toward the end when we bid to the wrong slam that happened to make.

Fatigue almost certainly played a factor in our results. We were playing 4-handed and all of us were on at least the 6th straight day of playing in a national event (Frank was in the GNT so this was Day 8 for him). Unlike the previous day, our errors didn't correlate as well with the time of day, but we still seemed to have made the most errors during the final quarter.

HAMMAN went on to upset NICKELL in the round of 16, before losing to a team of European stars in the quarterfinals. GRUE, whom we played in the first round, also made it to the quarterfinals before losing to LAVAZZA by 1 single IMP -- ouch! I was rooting for one of them to win. If GRUE had won should we have demanded a rematch? Nah, I think I would have left things as is. Smile

Finally, I want to give special thanks to Roger Lee, who "discovered" the Spingold writeups on my blog and encouraged me to publish them on Bridge Winners.  I thank Bridge Winners for providing a great community to discuss anything about bridge, and Eugene Hung in particular for providing helpful guidelines and feedback.  Most of all, thank you all for reading and for your feedback which has been very positive!

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