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Board 60 of Vanderbilt final

While board 58 was the sexy freak board of the final set that got Nickell back to a tie, I found board 60 far more interesting from a high-level bridge perspective. There are some aspects of the game where I feel I can duke it out with the big boys on a semi-equal footing, but high-level poker like this board is not one of them. So I'm hoping I can generate a little master class from the broader community with this board as the subject. First, the open room ...

West
543
QJ
974
AQ1074
North
AQ96
8
KQJ862
J2
East
1097532
A103
K863
South
KJ10872
AK64
5
95
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
1
X
4
5
5
6
X
P
P
P
D
6X East
NS: 0 EW: 0

This auction seems mostly normal to me. The value of the snapdragon double is illustrated in how west can get his club suit in with fair safety in case the hands are a misfit. The one bid I am not sure I would have made is Helgemo's last 6 bid. Not because I am a super genius who can see through the backs of the cards that 5 is going down, but rather because I don't know I would have the confidence to pass 6, and I'm not happy about sacrificing in 7 in that it looks like it could go for 800+. Why not sit tight and see if they bid 6 voluntarily?

Note that declarer is ticketed for -3, as drawing trump early can be countered by ducking a heart, denying him eventual use of the set-up suit.

Now for the closed room ...

West
543
QJ
974
AQ1074
North
AQ96
8
KQJ862
J2
East
1097532
A103
K863
South
KJ10872
AK64
5
95
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
2
2
X
4
5
5
5
5
5N
X
P
P
XX
P
6
X
P
P
P
D
6X East
NS: 0 EW: 0

As a side note, have you ever seen every five-level bid in order like this with no passes in between? I can't remember any such example.

This auction is similar up to the 5 bid, with the exception that Meckstroth jumped to 2 rather than simply overcall 1. I suppose I would choose to jump, albeit without much conviction. Where the auction gets crazy is after 5. Let's take each bid in turn.

1) 5. Now I will start with the caveat that different pairs have different agreements about these situations, but this strikes me as one where general principles should drive everyone to the same understandings. If I bid a side suit at the five-level in a competitive auction, I am telling partner where I live, either for slam evaluation or to judge whether to defend or bid on. In this context I don't understand 5.  Looking at the North hand, I would have expected South to have both the A and the A, and I would have bid 6. Clearly Fantoni did not expect that (else he would have bid six), but it's hard for me to see the use of a 5 bid that shows a small singleton here when I have two small in the opponents suit.

2) 5. This seems to me like gilding the lily. In it's favor, you haven't shown both the queen and jack of hearts, but you have no extra distribution. I suppose tactically you are also removing a 5 cuebid, but I am not sure that has much value. Against that it seems you might induce partner to sac inappropriately at the seven level.

3) 5. Like I said, I would have bid six after the 5 bid.

4) 5N. Seems normal after the 5 bid, especially with the spade void. West's 5 bid must be inviting me to sac at the six level.

5) XX. I suppose the crux of the matter here is whether East can have three clubs (I don't think so) and whether West can have three hearts (does 5 show three hearts and six clubs?) If so, I can see throwing this back. If West can only have a doubleton heart, I think East has to insist on clubs. If West had three hearts and five clubs, he would already have bid 6 rather than passing the double back around.

6) 6. This seems to me to make sense only if West is expecting hearts as good as KT9xxx. Perhaps from West's perspective this is likely given the 5N bid and the redouble. There's a good chance of bad breaks and the nine-card fit is much safer if so.

Of course, had Meckwell sacrificed in 6, they would have pushed the board and lost the Vanderbilt. So it came down to Nunes' lead. Had he started a spade, getting the tap going, he would have beat it four and won. On his diamond lead he lost a tempo, and the six-one break kept them from cashing diamonds before one went away on the long club. So, it only went down two and the five IMPs were crucial to the Nickell win. It was clearly a long week and both teams had played exceptionally well, so some of this may have simply been fatigue. None of the above is meant as criticism; I can only dream of being in a position to win the Vanderbilt by exercising my judgment on a hand like this. Nonetheless, I look forward to hearing comments, especially the ones telling me the things I am missing about the situation.

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