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New Orleans Spring Nationals, Day 1: Platinum Pairs
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I was so excited to finally qualified to play in the Platinum Pairs, that I signed up really early.  So early that my partner Michael Bodell and I received entry #1. An auspicious omen on Friday the 13th?  Given that I'd bought my entry online, I showed up to the venue just before game time ready to play. It was, as you'd expect, a star-studded field.

In the second round we faced the partnership of Steve Weinstein and Roger Lee. On our first board against them (board 11), I picked up:

South
AJ864
K1087
109
Q5

Steve was dealer and passed. Partner opened a 12-14 NT. Roger doubled.

Your agreements are that pass is to play, XX is for business, and a bid of a suit shows a two-suiter with that suit plus the next higher, or a single suit with the next suit beyond that.  So for this hand 2 would show hearts and spades.

Your bid?

South
AJ864
K1087
109
Q5
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
X
?

Although I did have a nice 10 count, I was a little nervous playing against Steve and Roger, and I knew we could make a major suit part-score, whereas if they had a long minor suit to run it was conceivable (but unlkely) that they could make 1NT. I bid 2 showing a two-suiter, and partner passed, preferring hearts over spades.  I played the hand badly, and made only 2 by taking an inferior line. In any other field, I probably would have either passed the double or redoubled, and we would have had an excellent board.  I looked a gift horse in the mouth, and in this field you don't get many gifts so it's imperative to take advantage of them when they are offered.
 
The rest of our session was somewhat rocky.  In general, I found that I was a bit intimidated in the field, and was more timid than usual in bidding. Not a good thing. At the end of the first session, we were in last place. It would take a 70% game in the second session to hope to qualify for day 2... After a nice dinner at Deanies (grilled oysters!), reviewing the hands, we were ready to face the evening. 
 
The evening went much better than the first session.  We had one really bad round (-800 and -1100), but that was about it. We had quite a few boards above average, and even got several gifts which we were able to take advantage of. Our decision making got a bit better too.
 
In what turned out to be our best round of the night, we faced competitive decision-making in the first board of the round. In third seat, no one vulnerable, the following auction happens:
 
 
South
96
543
J765
A762
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
1
3
3
4
P
P
5
?
 
Your bid?
 

If you doubled, you would have had company. My partner wisely decided to pass. All four hands are shown below:

West
J1087532
A6
9
Q95
North
AKQ4
KJ2
KJ10843
East
Q10987
AKQ108432
South
96
543
J765
A762
D

The contract hinged on how the declarer played the hearts. Our declarer played for the opener to have KJ, so he picked up the suit and the contract made. This resulted in a slightly above-average board because other pairs were making their game, doubled, and I won a Diet Coke in the process from one of the opponents, who was sure we'd get over 60% of the matchpoints. Not a bad result! (I will be collecting today.)

On the second board in this round I picked up a nice 19 count in fourth seat vulnerable versus not: 
 
South
AQ93
AJ10
A10
A753
 
After two passes, RHO opened the bidding 1.  I doubled. LHO bid 1.  Partner now bid 2, and RHO doubled, showing 3-card spade support.  At this point, since we were vulnerable and they were not, it didn't seem like it would pay off to defend, so I bid 3NT and the bidding ended there.  On the lead of the Q, a surprising dummy came down:
 
North
10
9852
KQJ84
864
South
AQ93
AJ10
A10
A753
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1
2
X
3NT
P
P
P
 
Counting my tricks, I could count 1 spade, 1 heart, 5 likely diamonds, and 1 club. Eight tricks. Of course there were lots of possibilities for more, given that the opening bidder was on my right and rated to have most of the missing honors. Hearts looked like a certainty for one more trick, expecting one or both honors to be on my right. If they split 3-3 it would be an additional chance for a fourth heart trick.  But first I had to deal with clubs.
 
I ducked the first trick and LHO continued with the J, having received an encouraging signal from his partner at trick 1.  RHO now played the K, which I ducked as well.  RHO now switched to the J.  Holding the 10 and the 9, I inserted the Q. Even if the K was on my left (unlikely now from the bidding), then my 9 would be promoted into the ninth trick. However, the Q held.
 
I now played on clubs to try to get a better count on the hand. I cashed the A, and both followed. I now played the last club discarding a heart. LHO discarded a spade and RHO a diamond. So far I had taken two club tricks, and one spade trick, and could see five diamond tricks, a heart trick, and another spade trick for 10 tricks. Could I develop an 11th?
 
North
985
KQJ84
South
A93
AJ10
A10
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1
2
X
3NT
P
P
P
 
Plan the play from here.
North
985
KQJ84
South
A93
AJ10
A10
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1
2
X
3NT
P
P
P
 
Given the bidding, there were definite squeeze possibilities in spades and hearts. RHO was marked with the K, and he could very well hold both heart honors for his opening bid (although it wasn't a guarantee because he was in 3rd). I would be discarding after him.  So I played the A, then the A, and then played a diamond to the board to run the diamonds. On the last diamond, RHO pitched the K and I was able to claim 11 tricks for a good board. All four hands are shown below:
 
West
87652
643
95
QJ10
North
10
9852
KQJ84
864
East
KJ4
KQ7
7632
K92
South
AQ93
AJ10
A10
A753
D

We ended up the session below average, but way better than the first session. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to pull us out of last place overall. I felt totally outclassed, similar to the first time I ever played in an NABC event. It was privilege to play in such an outstanding field.  It was somewhat ironic that the pair that drew entry #1 finished last. :)

Today, open pairs!

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