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WBF U26 Online Championship Round 5: USA vs. Canada
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The WBF is running an online championship for juniors. The format is 7 rounds of 14 board matches to qualify 8 teams (4 from each group) for a knockout. Through 4 rounds, Canada had a narrow lead on the USA for first in their group, so the USA vs. Canada round 5 match up was sure to be exciting! 

Nathan Finkle and I sat E/W for the USA, and our teammates Hakan Berk and David Soukup were N/S at the other table. 

Cindy Zhang and Max Cheng played N/S for Canada, Martin Zhao and John Dong were E/W. 

Let's jump right in with board 1: 

My partner, Nathan, had a decision to make in the bidding. What would you do in this situation? 

West
K8
QJ9875
A95
A4
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
P
1NT
P
?
The hand is control heavy, and with partner showing a diamond stopper, the ace of diamonds may be well placed for a finesse against opener, so it could be worth a 3 invite. However, we open aggressively and partner is a passed hand, so he has at most 10 HCP, and since partner did not raise hearts, you know you are not getting 3 card support. Nathan judged to bid 2H and everyone passed. 

 Here is the full hand: 

http://tinyurl.com/y2mwxmx3 I am sorry I could not get any of the hands to export from BBO :(

When dummy came down, it looked like 4 might make, but with the 4-1 diamond split, there is no entry to dummy to ruff out a diamond and enjoy a 4th diamond winner, so 3 was the limit. 

At the other table, Hakan, sitting north, decided to double west's 1 overcall for takeout so they got to 2 and were allowed to play there. 2 made 3 for +140 and a 7 imp pickup for USA. 

Board 2:

This time, I was the one who needed to decide whether to go low or high.

East
A7432
A765
8
J62
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
?

The stiff diamond is not carrying full weight when partner is likely to have 5 diamonds, and we open light, especially in 3rd seat, so inviting seems marginal. Nonetheless, since partner is probably 5-4 in spades and diamonds, there is a decent chance he has a stiff in either hearts or clubs, and either would be useful. It is easy to imagine partner with something like KXXX X AQJXX JXX, where partner has a minimum with lots of wasteage, but game is still a good bet. I decided to bid 2NT which asks partner to further describe his hand. Partner responded 3, showing a minimum 3 card raise, and I signed off in 3, regretting that I had pushed us a level higher.

Plan the play on the lead of the 4H.

West
J105
QJ108
Q10942
A
East
A7432
A765
8
J62

If the 4 is a singleton, then we have 1 heart loser, one diamond loser, and two spade losers for sure, and still have to ruff out two clubs from hand. If it is a doubleton, then we have more flexibility. I think the best line is to cash the ace of clubs and then give up a diamond. Then you can ruff a diamond, ruff a club, play a spade to the ace, and ruff another club. Then play the J, and bet that if hearts are 4-1, the oppenent with the short heart has the long spades.

On the actual hand, I erred by playing a diamond before cashing the ace of clubs. Now another diamond could kill a crucial entry to my hand before I can ruff clubs. Fortunately, north returned a heart and I was pleased to see them split 3-2. I cashed the A, played a spade to the ace, ruffed a club, and ruffed a diamond. Having lost just 1 trick, I could afford to keep playing hearts, and let the opponents take 3 trump tricks for making 3.

The full hand: http://tinyurl.com/y3ea9445

Our counterparts at the other table were off 1 in 4, so we collected another 5 imps.

Board 3: http://tinyurl.com/y5evbh3x

Our teammates, Hakan and David had a transfer auction that right-sided 4 and allowed them to make 6. At our table, it was declared by north and the lead of the Q held declarer to 10 tricks. 2 imps for USA, and a 16-0 lead after 3 boards. 

Board 4: 

My partner found himself declaring 3NT after this auction: 

West
A96
KJ94
J43
K102
East
J10
72
AQ765
AQ95
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
 

The lead was the 4, and it went 10, Q, A. Your contract looks safe with normal splits, but what is the best way to play diamond to maximize your chances? In the abstract, cashing the ace or low to the jack both allow you to pick up king singleton offsides. Taking the finesse would seriously risk your contract on that layout, since you will have only 2 diamonds, at best 4 clubs, 2 spades, and chances in hearts but you would require the ace to be with north since otherwise south will run spades. North is marked with 3 spades from the opening lead, so if he has the king singleton of diamonds he certainly does not have the A or he would've raised spades. Nathan therefore decided to play it safe with a diamond to the jack. With KX onsides, he easily came to 10 tricks. 

Here is the full deal: http://tinyurl.com/y4apcavl

At the other table, on an uncontested auction, declarer did choose to take the diamond finesse, then cashed the ace, dropping the king, and was rewarded with 11 tricks and an imp. 

Boards 5, 6, and 7 saw 2 imps swing each way, so USA was leading 16-3 at the halfway point. Board 8 presented Hakan with an unusual lead problem. 

What do you lead?

North
98
Q975432
Q72
9
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
4
P
4
P
5
P
5NT
P
7
X
P
P
P
 

A club would've found partner with the ace, and gotten a ruff for down 2. Hakan led a spade which was good enough to set the contract 1. The double turned out to be worth 2 imps, as Nathan and I were down 1 in 6 at the other table. 

The full hand: http://tinyurl.com/yxzvnxav

Board 9: What would you do in David's position here? 

South
AQJ1032
K643
A85
W
N
E
S
P
2
?
He selected an aggressive 3 call. Now head over to the other side of the table and see how you would respond. 
North
984
8753
AQ1072
Q
W
N
E
S
P
2
3
P
?
Having seen both hands, you might find a way to slam. Hakan, however, did not have the benefit of seeing his partner's cards, so he went low with 4

Here is the full hand, which presented a somewhat interesting declarer problem, even if only overtricks were at stake: 

http://tinyurl.com/y3ea9445

Thinking the spade finesse was likely offsides, David played it safe to ruff two clubs by crossing with the ace of spades to take a second ruff. If he had crossed with a diamond, he could have taken the spade finesse, but the risk is that if the finesse is offsides and diamonds are 3-1, you will lose to the king of spades and a ruff as well. Note that David's play will make seven when king is singleton either way. What is the percentage play given the 2H preempt? 

We led a spade at my table, so declarer had no trouble wrapping up all 13 tricks and an imp for Canada. 

Board 10: 

Stick around in David's seat. What would you do after 5 here? 

South
K65
8
A6
AQ106432
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
3
3
5
5
P
P
?
 

If you doubled like David did, you won't be happy to find declarer with 5-7-1-0 shape. Declarer ended up taking 12 tricks for +1050 and a 9 imp swing for Canada.

Here is the full hand: http://tinyurl.com/y6y2gcdv

USA picked up an imp on board 11, and board 12 was a push. With two boards to play, the score was USA 19 Canada 13. 

On board 13, I was faced with an interesting hand to play. 

West
10642
J942
1053
103
East
KQ5
AQ53
Q9
AJ74
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P
 

Trick one went K 3 8 A. Plan the play from there. 

It seems like if you can get to the board twice and the the spade ace is onsides, you can hold your losers to 5 (1 spade, 1 club, 2 diamonds and a heart). 

I decided to cash the ace of hearts, with the hope of developing the jack of hearts as an entry to the board. 

The trick went A 6 2 K. Dropping the king of hearts was good news, but it meant I had a 4-1 heart split to deal with. 

I decided to setup a club trick to try to force south to ruff, so that I could overruff on the board. 

Trick 3 went 4 9 10 Q, and north returned the 7. I won the Q and ruffed the 7 (having not noticed it was promoted!), south pitching a spade. I then played a spade from the board, north won the ace and played a spade back, south ruffing with the 7. South cashed the ace of diamonds, and played a diamond to north's king. North returned the J, and this was the 4 card ending: 

West
10
J9
10
East
Q53
J
 

I ruffed with the Q and played the J. South has no winning option. If he ruffs, dummy overtrumps and cashes the J, leaving a winning trump in declarer's hand. If he pitches, dummy pitches as well, and the marked heart finesse means the dummy is good. 

Here is the full deal: http://tinyurl.com/y277rqln

At the other table, David led the 6 and declarer stuck in the 9, so he went down 1. 5 imps to the USA, and 24-13 with one board to play. 

Stay in my seat for the last board, and see if you can avoid the disaster I caused. What's your call at this stage of the auction?

W
N
E
S
1
2
P
3
X
P
3
4
?
 

I doubled, a bad bid, since my double of 3 had already shown my hand. It was not a success, as 4X made 5. To add insult to injury, had I passed, partner would have bid 4, which makes. 

Here is the full hand: http://tinyurl.com/y6ffuzsy

Fortunately, our teammates made 5X, so we lost only 1 imp on the board. 

The final score was 24-14 USA. It was a hard fought match, and we hope we'll have the chance to face off against Canada again in the knockout phase of the competition! 

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