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Phoenix Nationals, Days 7-8: North American Swiss
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We entered the North American Swiss with our four-person team of Kevin Schoenfeld, Michael Fleisher, Melinda Foos, and me.  (This had also been our GNT Flight A team from this past year.)  It would have been nice to have another pair, but we hoped to do well in the event with only four.

After paying our entry fee, we were assigned team 52, an auspicious number.  Hopefully we’d be playing with a full deck for the entire competition…We faced stiff competition the first day, playing against pro team after pro team.  As we were doing pretty well in the beginnnig, it finally dawned on me  (being the slow learner that I am) that the clients were playing in the first half as well, which probably explained some of our early successes. 

In the first match we sat down against Mel Colchimiro's team.  Mel was at our table, and I'd met him once before (but I’m sure he didn’t remember me).  I happened to have a copy of his book in my bag, so I got him to autograph it while we were there.  A clever ploy to put him off guard?  Who knows… We managed to eke out a small win against his team, an auspicious start.  That win was followed by a 1-IMP loss and two more wins in the first half to put us at 55 VPs by dinner time.  We were again feeling pretty good (note to self: stop feeling good…).

After dinner we started to get our comeuppance.  We lost our next two matches, each loss hinging on a single board that caused a big swing.  We won the next match when Kevin and I didn't have the tools to get to an unmakeable slam that we should have been in, so we were in five making, and the opponents were in 6, down 1 (sorry!).   Qualifying for the semifinals came down to the last match which we needed to lose by no more than 7 IMPs to Q. Fortunately, we had our biggest win of the day to qualify comfortably for day 2 in 40th place, better than we'd done last year. 

Day 2 was rawer.  We lost our first three matches, and blitzed our fourth match which brought us back to above average.  After dinner we suffered a crushing loss to John Adams/Sylvia Shi’s team (chapeau!), and then won our next one by 20.   We had a tough loss in match 7.  By the last match we realized that we were still mathematically in the running: we needed to blitz our last match to qualify.  It was a tall order, but one which we’d also faced and conquered last year.

Blitzing a match requires a number of factors, many of which are out of your control:  you need the right opponents and the right boards, and you need to play well.  The cards certainly cooperated: there were three slam deals in a row in our seven-board match.   There were also several competitive auctions where both sides had good fits. 

I picked up the hand below when I heard my partner open 2 in first seat, all vulnerable.

North
864
Jx
KQ109xxxx
W
N
E
S
2

The auction continued:

North
864
Jx
KQ109xxxx
W
N
E
S
2
X
P
3
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
?

What now?

North
864
Jx
KQ109xxxx
W
N
E
S
2
X
P
3
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
?

I had to count on my partner for something, given that he'd preempted in first seat vulnerable.  So I risked a Lightner double, hoping he'd clue in to me having a void in his suit, since anything else would make no sense.  He dutifully led a low spade and dummy came down:

West
AQ
KQJxx
AKQxx
8
North
864
Jx
KQ109xxxx
W
N
E
S
 
2
X
P
3
P
4N
P
5
P
6
X
P
P
P

Declarer thought and thought and thought... and went up with the A, which I ruffed.  I peered at the board.  Since declarer had taken so long to make his plan, I'd pretty much forgotten about my partner's low spade lead.  I knew declarer was off one keycard, so a club return was the only thing that made any sense at all, fortunately.  (If partner had a trump keycard, any return would be fine.)  I led back the K, which partner overtook with the A, playing another spade for me to ruff for down 2.   At the other table, our partners were in the same contract, but their auction was a bit different because the person in Kevin's seat opened 3 (holding 7 spades).  However, North didn't double, and his partner led the A instead and then switched to a spade, and they were only down 1 undoubled, gaining us 9 IMPs on that board.
 
The next board was a slam hand that both sides were in but neither made.  We gained 2 IMPs when I went down 1 and our teammates set them by 2.  On the next board we bid our way to a solid 6 slam, while at the other table, our opponents went to seven off the trump Ace (doubled). +15. And so it went... it was a swinging match, and we ended up blitzing handily, garnering all 20 VPs.  I let out a loud whoop with excitement, and then quickly shut up when I realized people were still playing… sorry everyone!  

At 129 VPs, we were sure we’d Q’d.  The directors thought we’d Q’d.   But when all was said and done, we were in 47th place, losing out on qualifying by .1 VP.  We had a mixture of emotions... sadness, because we wouldn't be playing in the finals the next day, and happiness because we could go home earlier and play more relaxing regional A/X Swiss. We'd done really well all in all, and 47th place was nothing to be ashamed about.

Stay tuned for the final day!

 

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