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Salsomaggiore Problems
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Getting to and from Salsomaggiore Termefor the 2016 World Youth Teams presented a lot of difficulties for the US teams. Weather in Washington DC at the end of the nationals led to cancellations and missed connections affecting members of all four US teams. Some were rerouted through London Heathrow instead of flying into Milan directly or bumped to the next day's flight. Of course, lost luggage went hand in hand with the itinerary disruptions, and it was days before some players received their bags. The tournament organizers sent a strongly-worded letter to the Under-21 team informing them of serious consequences if they weren't in uniform by the next day; I suggested referring WBF to Delta.

The return trip was nearly as messy. My captain, Jim Munday, arrived at the airport to learn that his flight had been cancelled and he got to spend another night in Italy. I managed to get into the US without incident, although I was rather underwhelmed by JFK's passport control process—one would think that they would be prepared for several flights to arrive around the same time, but the "line" was just a mass of people pushing and shoving (the Appalachian State University basketball team had a bit of an edge over the rest of us).

Eventually I made it through customs and arrived at my gate for our 5:05 pm departure, but the combination of a tire change, thunderstorm-induced tarmac gridlock, and a legally mandated return to gate meant deplaning at 9:30—an hour and a half after our scheduled arrival time and still in New York. On the plus side, I got to watchDeadpool and half ofHail, Caesar! while sitting on the runway. We were just about to reboard when the terminal was evacuated because of a reported shooting that turned out to be cheering for Usain Bolt, giving me yet another reason to dislike running.

It was after midnight before they let us back into the terminal, and I had been awake for nearly 48 hours (I typically do not sleep on the last night of junior tournaments, and I am usually unable to sleep on planes). My flight to Chicago had been cancelled, and I was rebooked on a flight the next afternoon out of LaGuardia. Luckily, a friend was able to put me up for the night, and I made it to Chicago in one piece, though predictably my luggage did not and still has not (as of about 24 hours later).

Oh, you thought "Salsomaggiore Problems" referred tobridge problems? Well, there were some of those too.

Problem 1

IMPs, East-West vulnerable

North
Q8
9872
82
QJ542
South
J102
A105
AKQJ6
A10
W
N
E
S
P
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

You receive the Q lead to the 2 and 3 (upside-down). How do you play?

Despairing of legitimate chances, I took the A and tried the effect of the 10 at trick two. It held, so I switched to spades, and the defense did not work out to go back to clubs in time: +400 was worth 10 IMPs. The full deal:

West
7543
QJ64
54
K76
North
Q8
9872
82
QJ542
East
AK96
K3
10973
983
South
J102
A105
AKQJ6
A10
W
N
E
S
P
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Problem 2

IMPs, no one vulnerable

West
K1093
QJ4
A73
Q83
North
86
A53
KJ64
6542
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
1
X
P
2
2
P
P
3
P
P
3
P
P
P

You open 1 (10-15 HCP, two-plus diamonds) and eventually defend 3.

You lead the Q to dummy's ace as partner encourages. Declarer leads the 6 to the queen as partner follows and you duck in tempo. Declarer leads a diamond to the jack (partner plays an upside-down 2). Declarer plays another spade up and looks annoyed as partner discards a heart. He wins the A and exits with a low heart. The position is now:

West
K10
J4
A7
Q83
North
53
K64
6542

Do you win this trick or duck it to partner? How do you defend?

The full deal:

West
K1093
QJ4
A73
Q83
North
86
A53
KJ64
6542
East
5
K10986
10952
K107
South
AQJ742
72
Q8
AJ9
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
1
X
P
2
2
P
P
3
P
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

I took the J, cashed the A so I couldn't be endplayed with it later, and played my third heart. Declarer ruffed and couldn't avoid losing four more tricks: down two, -100. Just an extra undertrick, but I thought it was a cool position, although declarer could certainly have done better. Zach Grossack found the same defense a level lower, where the setting trick was at stake.

Problem 3

IMPs, both sides vulnerable

West
107
Q10986543
4
84
North
3
AKJ72
532
10752
W
N
E
S
3
P
P
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

Perhaps out of step at a junior tournament, you choose to open 3 (let them laugh—I was closer to openingtwo than four). That goes pass, pass to South, who leaps to 4. Not out of step at all for a junior tournament, partner gives it the axe.

You lead the 4, and dummy hits with the rest of the hearts and a sigh. Trick one goes to the2, A, and 7. Partner returns the Q to declarer's king and your ruff.What next?

The obvious danger in playing a heart is partner carelessly ruffing too low. If you are going to return a heart, you should return the queen as an alarm-clock signal that declarer is also void of hearts. I thought it was better to play a spade, which ensures there will be no ruffing accident, and in light of partner's double seemed unlikely to cost a trick in the spade suit. The full deal:

West
107
Q10986543
4
84
North
3
AKJ72
532
10752
East
QJ6
AQJ10986
KQ6
South
AK98542
K7
AJ93
W
N
E
S
3
P
P
4
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Declarer ducked the 10 so I switched to hearts, ruffed and overruffed. Declarer had to lose two clubs for -500. At the other table, 4 was not doubled, and West played a club after receiving the diamond ruff, compressing his partner's tricks, so we won 9 IMPs.

Those were a few bright spots of a disappointing round-robin performance, so you "advance" to the Board-a-Match for the next two deals.

Problem 4

BAM, spots approximate, East-West vulnerable

North
42
QJ6
K3
AQ7643
South
AQJ98
7543
A84
10
W
N
E
S
2
P
2
P
P
P

Partner opens a Precision 2 (10-15 HCP, six-plus clubs), and your nonforcing, constructive 2 ends the auction.

West leads the 9 to the queen and king. East continues with the A and the 8, which West ruffs. Next comes the Q.

How do you play?

The full deal:

West
10xx
9x
QJxxx
K8x
North
42
QJ6
K3
AQ7643
East
Kxx
AK108
10xx
Jxx
South
AQJ98
7543
A84
10
W
N
E
S
2
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

I took the Ain hand, cashed the A, ruffed a club, crossed to the K, ruffed another club low, then took a diamond ruff. A club ruff with the J lived, and I exited with the fourth heart, forcing the opponents to give me the spade finesse at trick 12. I was optimistic about our chances of winning the board, and sure enough we did, but our teammates had won it at their table too, when our counterparts tried 4 on the North-South cards—not quite as good a contract as 2.

One more for the road:

Problem 5

BAM, spots approximate,neither side vulnerable

West
K74
97
KJ6
87543
North
965
J843
A75
J92
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
P
P
P

Partner opens 1 (10-15 HCP, two-plus diamonds) in third seat, and South's 1NT overcall shuts everyone up.

Your fourth-best 4 goes to the 9, 10, and K. Declarer plays a diamond to the ace as partner gives a positive Smith signal (encouraging clubs), then leads a spade to his jack and your king.

Your move.

If partner has A10x or Q10x it is imperative that they duck the second round of the suit. It's obvious why in the latter case, but in the former, the defense does best to establish clubs while preventing the J from becoming an entry to the otherwise-dead dummy—picture declarer with AJ10x. The way to get partner to duck is to return the 8, telling partner that your clubs are weak. The full deal:

West
K74
97
KJ6
87543
North
965
J843
A75
J92
East
Qxx
AQ10x
109x
A106
South
AJ10x
Kxx
Qxxx
KQ
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

If East ducks the second club, the defense can take eight tricks. Winning the A lets declarer scramble out for down one.

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