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Setting the Tone

You arrive at the game, pay your card fees, chit-chat a bit, and take your place at the table. You pull out the cards. Game time. To me, that first board of a match (or set) is very important. I want to set the tone. It not only helps get me in the zone, but also affects 3 other people at the table. The best thing I can do for our side is get my partner feeling good and on a roll.

Now look at it from your opponents' perspective. Anything that is good for you is bad for them. Think about how you have felt after having a disaster on the first board of a match. Did you show some emotion? Did you keep thinking about it? How did the rest of that set go? Recovering from an initial disaster is an important skill, but you are still fighting to get back to even. Wouldn't you rather be the one poised to feed off of your opponents' mistake and have the chance to pound them further?

Step into my shoes on this hand...

You sit back down to play the second half of the finals of the San Diego Regional KO up 5 imps at the half. Across the table is our resident San Diego bridge phraseologist Rick Roeder , with Meck on your right and Rodwell on your left. The first hand out of the box you pick up:

K
AKQ6
AK987
KJ2

You have a tasty 23 count, red against white and are last to act. Are you ready?.

The auction proceeds, P P a precision 1 and you double.

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1NT
2
P
?

As expected partner bids your singleton after Rodwell showed clubs. What do you bid now?

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South
K
AKQ6
AK987
KJ2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1NT
2
P
3NT
P
P
X
?

You are too strong for 2NT. You could stall with 3, but it looks like you are headed for 3NT, so you might as well bid it and not give any extra information to the opponents. You are ready for Rodwell to lead after it goes pass pass, but Meckstroth surprises you with a double. Do you pass quietly?
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If you think pass was the answer I was looking for, go back and re-read the introduction. This looks like a perfect chance to step on the gas and go for the throat by turning the cube. Even though you have 23 HCP and partner bid freely there is certainly no guarantee that you will make 3NT. But, if partner has anything for his red/white bid then you are probably a favorite, plus the psychological edge of scoring up plus 1000 or 1400 (for an overtrick) on the first board out of the box makes this clear in my opinion.

Rodwell decides to run to 4, which partner doubles ending the auction. Partner leads the 4 and you see:

West
North
Dummy
AQ92
J1095
QJ1065
South
K
AKQ6
AK987
KJ2
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
X
1N
2
P
3N
P
P
X
XX
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X West
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
1

So, time to do some trick one thinking. What card do you want to win the trick with? Sometimes you want to show high cards, other times you want to conceal them. Here you want declarer to think partner has the K, and since you have already shown a big hand you don't want Declarer to place any extra high cards with your partner. Therefore you win the Q while declarer follows with the 3. What do you play now?


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West
North
Dummy
AQ92
J1095
QJ1065
South
K
AKQ6
AK987
KJ2
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
X
1N
2
P
3N
P
P
X
XX
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X West
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
1

From the opening lead partner could have 1, 2, 3, or 4 hearts. If partner has 4 and 5 he may have bid 2 instead of 2, so you decide to play the A, to clarify the position and get a count on the hand.

Declarer trumps this card (so much for your logic) and leads the 10, partner plays low and you win with the J. Now what?
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You know partner started with 5+ and 4 . Partner probably has 3 clubs as Rodwell most likely would have preempted with 8 clubs to the A or Q white/red. You lay down the A (partner's spot confirms it is a singleton) and play another , which partner ruffs with the A and leads back a low spade. Unfortunately Rodwell goes up with the A dropping your king. He ruffs a heart back to hand, plays a trump and claims down 4 when you both follow (you get your other trump and a spade).

Here is the full deal:

You can follow the play by clicking next.

West
765
3
32
10987654
North
J10843
8742
4
AQ3
East
AQ92
J1095
QJ1065
South
K
AKQ6
AK987
KJ2
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
X
1N
2
P
3N
P
P
X
XX
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X West
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
J
K
3
3
1
0
A
4
2
5
0
1
1
10
3
5
J
3
2
1
A
2
4
6
3
3
1
7
3
A
10
1
4
1
4
A
K
5
2
4
2
9
Q
2
2
3
5
2
6 tricks claimed
E/W -800
7

How would 3NT have done? It makes as it did at the other table. Had I guessed that partner had 4, and shifted to diamonds or spades to set up our ruffs we could have gotten this another one. Nevertheless, forcing them to run from 3NTxx and collecting 800 on the first board still gave us the mojo. After this the cards just flowed and we felt invincible for the next 11 boards. Coincidence? Not to me. To me it is a phenomenon in the same realm as a poker rush.

So when you sit down for that first board: be alert, ready to pounce, and take control by setting the tone.

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