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Spring NABC Final Day and Wrap-up
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Having failed to qualify for the second day of the Jacoby Open Swiss, the team of myself, Kevin Schoenfeld, Michael Bodell, and Yuan Shen entered the regional A/X Swiss. This meant getting up in time to play at 10 AM, which was tough. I didn't sleep well, but oddly enough, I felt more alert than the day before. Hopefully I'd play better.

The weather was awful. We walked across the street in the snail (soft, snow-like hail), and entered the event. The final-day Swiss is usually a relatively small event,as many people are still playing in the National Swiss, and other people have gone home by then. This Swiss was small, but still respectable.

Our first match started out well. There were two interesting boards in this match. I picked up a nice 3-2-5-3 13-count. In first seat, my LHO opened the bidding 2, and my partner doubled. RHO bid 3, and at this point I had to decide what to do. We belonged in game, but with just a doubleton heart, hearts were the wrong strain. Although I had a spade stopper,my hand looked to be more suit-oriented, so I jumped to 5. My partner raised me to six. Partner put down a dummy with a stiff spade, a six-card heart suit, and 3-3 in the minors. 6 was cold, as was 6. At the other table, our teammates didn't interfere, and the opponents were able to find their heart fit, which cost us 2 IMPs. Still I was pleased we'd found A slam in spite of the interference.

On the next hand, I picked up AJ8743 3 AKJ762 void in third seat. My partner opened the bidding 1. I bid 1, and he responded 2. I now bid 2 to establish a game force. He bid 3, patterning out. At this point, I should have shown my diamond suit. (Arguably, my first bid should have been 2 to establish the game force.) Instead, I bid 3, and he raised me to 4. After asking for key cards, I found out we were off two, so I signed off in 5. We made exactly five. At the other table, they had a shorter auction (1 - 1 - 1NT - 6) to arrive inan excellent 6 contract. Lose 10 IMPs. Both hands are shown below:

North
Q
AKJ74
Q95
Q953
South
AJ8763
3
AKJ762

We had some significant gains on three other boards in the same match, and wound up winning by 17 for 27 VPs (on a 30-point scale). The day was certainly starting out better than yesterday!

In the second match, I picked up a beautiful hand in fourth seat, red versus white:

AQTx ATx AQxxxx

My LHO opened the bidding 1, partner passed, and RHO bid 1. What do you do with my hand?

I decided to pass, coming in later if need be. LHO raised to 2, and it passed around to me. Now what? Partner didn't rate to have much, but the auction also made it likely that we had at least a 4-3 spade fit, so I bid 2 as it all passed out. Partner put down an excellent dummy:

876 Qx x KJ10xxxx

Knowing that most of the HCP were on my left made the hand easy to play. A heart lead away from the K established two heart tricks. I was able to establish a diamond pitch by leading towards the K, knowing that LHO had the A. I ruffed a heart and a couple of diamonds, and ultimately wound up making 3. As it turned out, the same result was achieved at the other table, but I was still happy I'd found my way there.

Later in the match I picked up the following hand in fourth seat, white versus red:

South
AKQx
AQJx
AK
10xx

Three passes to me, and I opened the bidding a strong 2. Bidding continued:

W
N
E
S
P
P
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

On the lead of the 2, dummy came down.

North
10x
9x
QJxxxx
J9x
South
AKQx
AQJx
AK
10xx

I put up the 9 which held. Plan the play from here.

North
10x
9x
QJxxxx
J9x
South
AKQx
AQJx
AK
10xx

The heart lead was certainly fortuitous. So K10xx was on my left, and hearts split 4-4-3-2. I could count only three spades, three hearts, once I knocked out the K, andtwo diamonds. So it looked like I was booked for down 1 unless I could pull a rabbit out of the hat. I went through all the options I could think of. Play a low diamond to the AK, and throw them in with a heart, hoping they led a diamond. Bad plan. Unblock my AK and play low to the 10, hoping that LHO has the J and ducks. Seems unlikely. I considered other things, but none of them seemed all that likely to work. I thought back to a play my partner did a little while ago, the bamboozle, and decided it would be my best shot on this hand.

I led a low club towards the 10 in my hand, hoping that they might think I was either trying to establishan entry to dummy, or a club suit. More importantly, I was hoping it would discourage them from attacking clubs themselves, as it was my weak spot. At this point, the only thing they knew was that I had some heart honors, since the 9 had won. But they knew nothing much else about my hand, so it was important to try this early on before they could figure out my hand. RHO played low, I inserted the 10, and LHO played low. Score! I didn't actually expect to win a club trick, so this was a definite bonus.

I now unblocked the AK andplayed the Q, which LHO captured. LHO returned a spade to the 10 - J - A, but now I could claim: three spade tricks, three heart tricks, two diamond tricks and a club, making! At the other table they were down two, so we won 11 IMPs on the board.

All four hands are shown below:

West
xx
K1032
9xx
AKxx
North
10x
9x
QJxxxx
J9x
East
J9xxx
87x
10x
Qxx
South
AKQx
AQJx
AK
10xx
D

Unfortunately, there were a few bad boards in this match, so ultimately, we lost the match by 10.

The next match was played against my roommate Hansa'steam. Shewas sitting in my seat, and her "boys" (a team of Indian pros) made up the rest of the team. Things started out very well at our table. The boys bid their way into a sketchy game, and we set them two for +7 IMPs.

On the next hand, partner passed as dealer, RHO opened 1, and I doubled withSKQ10x x KQJxx AKx, intending to bid diamonds at my next turn. LHO now bid 2, alerted as a transfer to hearts. My partner bid 3. I now bid 3NT, figuring he would hold one heart honor. In retrospect, this was probably a foolhardy move. I should have bid 3 to further describe my hand, and we would have ended up in an excellent minor-suit contract.

However, the double and bidding 3NT led my RHO to mistrust his partner's bid. The opening spade lead was won by RHO with the A, and I dropped the Q, hoping they'd think I had KQ and would continue spades. Dummy was something like: x Jxx Axx Q10xxx, so we were wide open in hearts. After a long think, RHO switched to a low diamond, almost certainly because he'd placed me with four hearts and decided that his partner had forgotten their agreements. That being said, any return other than a heart would allow me to wrap up 6, which I did. At the other table, our opponents were in the sensible minor-suit contract, making five. So we won a few IMPs on that board.

The next few boards were flat. We bid a game that didn't make. Same result at the other table. They bid a game that made five. So did our teammates. I was down in a game that they didn't bid at the other table. Lose 5. Opponents bid and made a game at our table, and so did our teammates.

On the last board, I picked up a nice 8-count:

Qxx Kxxxx Kxx xx

The bidding started out on my right with a pass, I passed, and the bidding proceeded:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1NT
2
P
3
P
?

What do you bid next with my hand?

I thought about the bidding, and looked at the opponents' convention card. A response to a 1 opener promises 8-10 HCPs. Given that fact, I decided that even with a light third-seat opener, we didn't have the values for game, so I passed. Sadly, my partner had an 18 or 19 count, and we were cold for six. LHO had psyched his 1 opening with 6 HCP, and both me and my partner were taken in by the psyche. At the other table, our teammates opened 3 with the West hand, over which our opponents had no problem finding their excellent game. We lost 10 IMPs on the board, and as a result lost the matchby 5 IMPs. Someone later told me that I should feel honored that they psyched, as it was somehow a sign of respect. It really didn't make me feel better though; I still felt stupid for having been so gullible.

However, we were able to put the psyche to good use. In the very next match, I picked up a nice opening hand with four hearts, and my partner opened 2 in second seat, red versus white. Our auction was simple:

W
N
E
S
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

Partner had a nice hand with a spotty heart suit, and we were able to make six, vulnerable.

At the other table, the person holding Kevin's hand decided not to preempt his hand. So their auction was a little bit different:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
XX
1
P
P
2
P
P
P

Taking a page out of the Indian team's book, Michaelhad psyched his 1 opening. Yuan, not being in on the joke, didn't want them to play 1, so he balanced to 2. The player in my seat reflected on the bidding, and decided his partner must have nothing, and opted to defend. Our teammates were down 1 for -50. We won 12 IMPs on that board, and won the match handily.
We won our fourth match and lost our fifth. We were still in contention for a placing in the last match, but a bad board at our table was too much to overcome, so we wound up losing the match by a little, and were out of the money.
Nevertheless, it was gratifying to have played relatively well all day, especially given how badly I'd played the day before. I was really pleased to have found the bamboozle, and to have learned something from the psyche. So it was a good day all around.
All in all it's been a good tournament:
  • Made it to day 2 of an NABC+ pairs event, the Lebhar IMP pairs, meeting one of my goals for the year
  • Won a one-session A/X Swiss (winning the A/X was another year's goal, but I think it should be a two-session event to count)
  • Finished 3rd in a large two-session regional pairs event where we were leading after round 1
  • Finished 16th in the Bean Red Ribbon pairs, my best showing in an NABC event to date
  • Got 3.25 more platinum towards my 22-point goal
  • Got published in print. One of my articles, Beer on Tap, was published in the Daily Bulletin

Stamina over the long haul still seems to be a problem for me, so I'll continue to work on it throughout the year. Either that, or I'll try to play fewer events at the next Nationals.

It's still snowing here in St. Louis, but hopefully I'll be home in the nice weather later today!

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