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2015 World Junior Pairs, II
(Page of 4)

Part one is here.

Anam Tebha and I sat down at the start of the second day of the Junior Pairs in Opatija, Croatia hoping for a big game to counterbalance our lackluster first day. Unfortunately, we went in the opposite direction. A light opening bid on the first board propelled us into a poor slam, which failed. On the second board, Anam held:

South
K5
KJ105
Q6
KQ964
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
?

She guessed to discreetly pass, rather than overcall 2. The opponents ended in 1NT, down four, but it was our hand for 3NT. West had opened on a 10-count and I had a useful 10-count. Not a disaster, but solidly average-minus. Then:

North
J5
764
A42
KQ975
South
AKQ73
AK95
63
42
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

I dealt and opened a strong 1. Anam responded 1, showing 8-11 HCP and any distribution, but not five spades. The rest of the auction was natural. Anam's call over 2 is not clear. She elected to show her honor-doubleton in spades, and when she failed to bid notrump, I placed the contract in 4.

4 is by no means a poor contract, and it will often outscore 3NT, but today our luck was out: Clubs were 5-1 and the opponents started by taking their ruff. I was able to draw two rounds of trumps ending in dummy and discard my losing diamond, but with hearts 4-2 I lost four tricks. I scored 1 whole matchpoint for -50, as the normal 3NT contract is untouchable—the hand with the A has only three diamonds.

The rest of the session was rather mundane, although we notched a nice system win by being able to stop in 3 on this combination:

North
K9543
5
AK62
AQ2
South
102
AJ109632
94
53

Anam opened the North hand 1 (strong), and I jumped to 3 to show an invitational hand with seven hearts—the prototype is honor-honor-seventh with nothing outside—which ended the auction. No game makes, so +140 scooped most of the matchpoints.

Although we had had our fair share of bad luck, it would be disingenuous to conceal this deal, where our opponents received a bottom when they deserved a top:

West
107
KQ74
108764
K7
North
AQ64
AJ8
5
A10652
East
J9
1096532
3
QJ98
South
K8532
AKQJ92
43
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
7N
P
P
P
D
7NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

When South discovered three keycards and the Q opposite, he could count 13 tricks, or so he thought. Knowing the A was on my left and that I was holding a surprise in diamonds, I underled my K, knowing declarer wouldn't finesse at trick one. I would have looked like a hero if dummy had held the QJ, but on the actual deal all I got was a puzzled look from my partner and a disgusted look from my opponent when he learned about the 5-1 diamond split. Only two other pairs reached 7NT, so the caprice of the diamond division swung 88% of the matchpoints.

Our best session thus far further improved with this defensive triumph (click NEXT to follow the play):

West
J9
KQJ5
KQ106
1072
North
K53
763
AJ87
KJ6
East
Q876
A982
54
Q94
South
A1042
104
932
A853
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
X
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
3
2
4
0
0
1
10
6
4
A
3
1
1
2
9
3
6
0
1
2
7
K
9
3
1
2
2
K
7
4
J
1
3
2
5
8
A
6
3
4
2
2
Q
7
4
0
4
3
5
6
A
10
2
4
4
Q
10
10
7
2
4
5
9

I led the K against 2, on which Anam played the 2, suit preference for clubs. Whether that is the correct signal to send with her hand, it worked beautifully on the actual layout. I shifted to the 10, which declarer won in hand with the A. Then he ducked a spade, so I continued with a second club. Declarer flew K, cashed the K, and guessed to play a spade to his ace. When he led a diamond, I split, and declarer ducked, so I crossed to Anam's A. She drew trumps, and we cashed two more hearts and a club. We had to concede the A at trick 13, but that was down three: +150 was a top across the field.

After the eighth session, Julie Arbit-Sean Gannon had fallen from second to third, and Alex Hudson-Christian had rallied from tenth to fourth. After the ninth, Alex-Christian continued to charge into third, and Julie-Sean now lay fifth. Anam and I were still solidly middling.

A common refrain is how unprepared Americans are to play against foreign obstructive methods, such as two-suited preempts. Would you have done better here?

South
KQ873
94
K10532
2
W
N
E
S
2
2NT
3
?

What is your plan?

 

Would you believe that you need to get to 4? It's true. This was the full deal:

West
109542
K7
4
KQ963
North
AJ6
AQJ8
AQ8
J108
East
106532
J976
A754
South
KQ873
94
K10532
2
W
N
E
S
2
2NT
3
3NT
P
P
4
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
4X East
NS: 0 EW: 0

West will score two trump tricks by tapping the South hand twice, but along with the A, those are the only tricks the defense can take. We collected 500 against 4 doubled, but we matchpointed poorly on a traveler littered with 600s, 620s, 650s, 690s, 720s, and even one 1880 (6NT redoubled, making seven).

Our luck on the 7NT hand on page 2 should have been canceled out somewhat by this deal, but it wasn't:

North
KJ762
Q963
9
AK10
South
A
A
Q876432
J742

With the opponents silent, what contract would you like to reach on these cards?

 

If you said a diamond partscore, I agree with you, and Anam and I reached one. This was our action:

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
P
P

1 showed 2+ diamonds and could be very light. 2 was an artificial game-force, but I decided after 3 that the hands probably would not mesh well, so I passed.

Right! 3NT needs a ton of luck. By my reckoning, it requires AK-tight, the opponents not to be able to take four heart tricks, and the J to be an entry to the long diamonds, but it was all there. Talk about bad luck!

But when I checked the scores, I saw that we had earned 76% on this board. Several pairs had gotten overboard in diamonds, and of the 11 declarers in 3NT, only three had made their contract. I suppose this is another illustration of how important going plus is at matchpoints.

Speaking of matchpoint anomalies, here's another. We've all had the experience of bringing off some exotic squeeze or coup only to realize that the overtrick gained was worth one measly IMP—or less. That's why some people prefer matchpoints. But how many times have you had that experience at matchpoints? Adam Kaplan did here:

West
J95
Q86
AJ109
AK5
North
K76
A92
K7
108732
East
Q842
43
Q32
QJ94
South
A103
KJ1075
8654
6
W
N
E
S
 
P
1N
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
2
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
2
4
6
0
0
1
5
6
Q
A
3
1
1
4
A
7
3
0
1
2
9
K
2
5
1
2
2
3
9
5
5
3
3
2
5
10
2
Q
1
4
2
7
J
7
A
3
5
2
8
J
A
2
1
6
2
8

Adam balanced over the 1NT opening and found himself in 3. West led the A and shifted to a spade: 6, Q, A. Adam played a diamond, which West won with the ace to return a diamond. Now Adam ruffed a club, ruffed a diamond, ruffed a club, and ruffed a diamond with the A, leaving:

West
J9
Q86
North
K7
9
108
East
84
43
Q
South
103
KJ10
W
N
E
S
 
P
1N
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
2
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Adam ruffed a club with the 10, catching West in an unusual squeeze. If he pitched a spade, Adam would cash the K and play another spade, forcing West to ruff and lead away from the Q. If he overruffed, he would have to return a trump, because he can't play spades. That would allow Adam to draw trumps, cross to the K, and enjoy the long club. If he underruffed, Adam would cash the K and exit with a heart to endplay West in spades.

+170 on such a pretty line must be worth most of the matchpoints, right? Wrong—it was only 41%, because many North-South pairs were +200 or more defending against notrump. Oh well. To quote Jon Matthew Farber's terrific character, the Doctor (perhaps my favorite bridge character; see the June 2012 Bridge World): "Sometimes, virtuosity is its own reward."

(To be continued.)

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