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Phoenix Nationals, Day 2: LM Pairs Finals
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(Updated 12/2/2013 to include more details)

We entered Day 2 of the Nail LM Pairs in 105th place.  Having selected that we were okay sitting E/W both sessions, the directors put us at E/W for the second day.  Maybe it would be a good omen!   Our session went fairly smoothly, with a lot of the boards going our way.  Steve gave us a little bit of payback on one board where I didn't bid my hand correctly, and they wound up in a 5 contract, down 3 undoubled for a slightly below average board (against a 6/6 contract which was very hard to get to).  We missed a slam when our opponents interfered with the bidding.  Our worst score was due to bad luck when our opponents stopped on a dime in a 4NT contract which was the best-scoring contract, and slam didn't make.  But we did many many good things, and made the right competitive calls most of the time. So we had to be happy.  When all was said and done, we brought in a 51.85%, which moved us up to 78th place. 

After a delicious dinner at a Pakastani dive, the Curry Corner in Tempe Arizona, we returned to do battle sated with garlic naan and tikka masala.

We were getting a little punchy in the evening session, as you might expect after playing so many boards in high-level competition.  We still played pretty well overall, but also had a couple of lapses here and there, some which cost, others which did not.

Kevin and I have switched from using Mathe over a strong club opening, to using HeLLo, the same defense we use against an opening NT (strong or weak). However, since we only had just started playing it, it hasn't come up very often yet.  One one hand where partner was the dealer, the bidding started out with three passes, followed by a 1 opening on my left.  Kevin bid 1, at which point my RHO alerted the 1 bid.  After inquiry, it was explained that it was strong and forcing.  But Kevin had already put his bid on the table before the call was alerted.  We duly summoned the director who came and we explained what happened.  The director informed Kevin that it was okay to change his call in light of the new information.  Kevin thought for a moment, put his head in his hands, and said "I'll still bid the same thing" because in almost all defenses, spades is spades! We all had a good laugh over that.  (I'm pretty sure I would have done exactly the same thing... always a hazard when you're mentally processing what's required in a new systemic treatment AND when you're really tired.)

We got our first zero in the entire event on a board where as dealer, red versus white, I picked up:

East
J8432
852
A
6543

After two passes, my partner opened 1NT, and my RHO doubled, showing a four-card major and a longer minor.  With my hand, I bid 2, transferring partner to spades.  LHO now doubled, and my partner bid 2.  The bidding proceeded:

East
J8432
852
A
6543
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
X
2
X
2
P
P
3
X
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

What's your lead from my hand?

 

East
J8432
852
A
6543
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
X
2
X
2
P
P
3
X
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

I reasoned that since partner accepted the transfer, he had three-card spade support, a two-card heart suit, a diamond stack and was at the top of his bid. As a result I decided to lead a spade.  Dummy came down:
 

East
J8432
852
A
6543
South
76
Q1064
K1065
A82

The opening lead produced the K from partner which was won by declarer with the A.  Declarer now played a diamond, which I won with the A.  What do you shift to now? 

 

 

East
J8432
852
A
6543
South
76
Q1064
K1065
A82

At this point, I should have thought back to the bidding.  With declarer advertising a long minor and a short major, and partner doubling hearts, I should have been clued in by that point that my assumptions were all wrong.  Declarer's suit must have been spades, not hearts.  So it was imperative I shift to a heart at that point.  Still back with my original thoughts on the hand, I shifted to a club, which was really a bad move and couldn't make any sense.  But hey, I was tired too.  My partner produced the K, declarer playing low, and played back another spade, which was won by declarer in hand.  Declarer's lone heart was pitched on the A later in the play, allowing them to make an overtrick in a doubled contract for a stone-cold zero.  Keeping them to four would have netted us 6 matchpoints; otherwise, the contract was cold.  All four hands are shown below:
 

West
K10
AKJ93
72
KJ107
North
AQ95
7
QJ9843
Q9
East
J8432
852
A
6543
South
76
Q1064
K1065
A82
D

This hand was a really good lesson hand (for me).  The bidding brought up some things that we had never discussed.  Does accepting a transfer always promise three, or is it okay to accept with honor doubleton?  Does the double of the heart call show hearts or just a strong hand with a lot of defensive tricks?  And of course, it also brought up the need to always be thinking and reevaluating your assumptions during the middle of the hand to try to work out the inconsistencies that present themselves.

We both tried to put that bad board behind us, and move on, and I think we largely did as we had many a fine board following.  Our other bad board on the session was all mine, and I think it exposes a real weakness in my game (which I'll probably write a whole treatise on at some point).  I picked up the following hand in second seat, red versus white (hands rotated for ease of explanation), and we had what I thought to be an intellegent auction to land us in game:
 
South
A865
962
KQ95
Q3
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
 
The 2NT call was an inquiry asking partner about the quality of his hand and the number of trump.  The 3 answer showed a maximum with four trump, so I confidently bid game.  On the lead of the A, dummy came down:
 
North
KJ93
AKQ4
83
J104
South
A865
962
KQ95
Q3
 
Nice dummy!  It looked like I'd lose 2 clubs, 1 diamond and no hearts.  So I'd need to find the trump queen and avoid a ruff.  RHO encouraged the opening lead, and opening leader shifted to a low club which was won by East.  East now shifted to the J, which was covered by my K and won by the A.  A heart was now returned which was won on the board with the A.  
 
I decided that I didn't really have a choice as to how to play the spade suit, given that I was missing the Q and the 10.  (Suit combinations are the bane of my existence, however.)  I played a low spade to the A, RHO producing the 10 and LHO contributing the 2.
 
Now what?

 

North
KJ93
AKQ4
83
J104
South
A865
962
KQ95
Q3
 
Originally my plan had been to finesse the J, playing LHO for the Q.  However, I got sucked in by the appearance of the 10 (a rookie mistake?) and decided to play for the drop.  In retrospect, I believe the percentage play is to play for the finesse, especially since the appearance of the 10 means that it could easily have been stiff, increasing the percentage.   All four hands are shown below:
 
West
Q72
85
A42
A9872
North
KJ93
AKQ4
83
J104
East
104
J1073
J1076
K65
South
A865
962
KQ95
Q3
D
 
I also think that had I stopped to think about the opening lead, maybe I might have figured out the LHO might be more likely to have it.  He led an unsupported ace against a suit contract, so presumably he had a tough lead problem.  He also showed up with the unsupported A.  Was it not possible that he would also have the Q making a spade lead unattractive?   Regardless, I did the wrong thing and wound up down 1 for our second bad board.

In the end, we finished with a 51% in the final session. We missed out on a placing by one board, which was disappointing.  (I figure we probably finished about 58th or 60th in the event.)  Still, I was really really pleased with how well we did in a tough field, putting in four 50+% games in an NABC+ event. Even if we didn't place, I was very satisfied and felt that somehow, we had arrived.

Our BAM team fell apart, disappointingly, when one member had a family emergency.  So I am playing in a regional KO today (and hopefully tomorrow) with a pickup pair.  

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