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Captain's Diary, Day 2: Lebanon, Poland, Monaco
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After our slow start on Day 1, we were ready to hit the ground running on Day 2, perhaps our toughest on the schedule:LEBANON—the team from Group C switched with IRELAND to even out the groups—POLAND, and MONACO. However,LEBANONhad a successful first day, including a narrow win overENGLAND.

When we pulled up to the playing site, however, it was pouring. It made me grateful for our team hoodies and laminated convention cards as we sprinted for the doorway. Hopefully that wasn't an omen, but based on our performance yesterday—a very pleasant day—maybe a turn in the weather would be a good sign for us.

TheLEBANON match started with a lose 3 for declaring game down one at both tables, usually a winning proposition, but sometimes a small loss. The second board was a lose 10 on a deal where a diamond preempt over a 1 opening pushed many North-South pairs into a game with a balanced 13 opposite a 4=5=2=2 10-count. Diamond-Platnick were unlucky that their nebulous 1 opening forestalled the enemy preempt so they stopped in a cozy 2 making four.

On Board 19 the Americans did better than their opponents in both the bidding and the play, scoring 12 IMPs for 4x down two vs. 3 making. There were lots of swings on Board 20:

West
Q52
AKQ94
104
K42
North
10743
1085
9873
Q6
East
A986
J763
Q5
A107
South
KJ
2
AKJ62
J9853
D
20

ENGLAND vs.POLAND was featured in the Vugraph theater. It was good TV: a hard-fought match ending in a 15-15 tie. In the Open Room, East-West started 1 - (pass) - 4 [balanced game-raise], and Robson,South, barged in with 4NT—"It's junior bridge in here," according to one of my friends—but Robsonwas right. 4 rated to succeed on the spade guess, and 5 was down two or three. Sure enough, the English declarer scored up 620 for a win 3 against South's 5x down two.

4 didn't succeed at every table, however. InISRAEL vs.ITALY, Di Franco, North forITALY, led the Q against 1NT - 2 - 2 - 4. Can you blame declarer for finessing the 10? Down one, 12 IMPs toITALY.

There was a variation on that swing inMONACO-LATVIA: the Q lead suckered the Monagesque West into the finesse while his teammate went three down in 5x. That board was par for the course, andLATVIA achieved a massive 55-11 upset.

InUSA vs.LEBANON, Hampson made 4 on a diamond lead while his Lebanese counterpart failed: that was 12 IMPs to the good guys, and we forged into the lead. We continued to roll, winning 78-22 for 19.69VPs. We were just above average.

We were on Vugraph againstPOLAND, although not in the theater—they were very reasonably showingFRANCE vs.ITALY. We had to wait for our match vs.MONACO to be on the big screen.

The match began as a nip-and-tuck affair: an overtrick IMP toUSA, two pushes in game, and then (Board 4):

West
94
J72
KJ
Q108765
North
AJ1075
5
Q1095
J43
East
KQ86
AK864
87
A9
South
32
Q1093
A6432
K2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
2
2
X
P
P
P
D
4
2X North
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
3
7
5
2
0
1
7
2
K
9
0
0
2
2
5
4
9
1
1
2
Q
8
3
J
1
2
2
4
A
2
5
2
2
3
9
K
6
3
3
3
3
2
4
J
Q
2
3
4
K
10
J
7
1
4
4
J
6
4
7
2
4
5
6
Q
9
10
1
5
5
10
8
6
8
2
5
6
7 tricks claimed
N/S -200
11

In the Open Room, Greco, East, opened a strong club and eventually declared 3 after a 1 overcall by North. The spade lead went to the ace, and North shifted to his singleton heart. Grecowon the A and played A, club to South's king. A low diamond now would have put declarer to a guess, and sticking in the J would have led to down one. South played the Q, ruffed, and North returned a spade. Declarer won the K, cashed the Q for a diamond pitch, and ruffed a spade to dummy. Running trumps squeezed South in the red suits: +130.

In the Closed Room, Lall's spade overcall came at the 2-level, and Nowsadzki doubled for penalty. He led the A and shifted to a diamond. At double-dummy, Lall needed to win the ace to hold the damage to down one, butLall ducked to Kalita's king. The heart return put the defense on track for down two: Lall ruffed, cashed the Q, and led a club. Nowasadzki took the A, and tapping declarer with the K now would have netted seven tricks for the defense, but East returned his second club. Declarer led a spade to the jack and queen, and East belatedly played the K, ruffed. Lall advanced the J, and East ruffed with the 6 and continued with a fourth heart, ruffed with the 9 and overruffed with the 10. The layout was an open book, and Lall had no trouble tapping East with a diamond while dummy's 3 was intact to protect declarer from the fifth round of hearts. All that took us back to double-dummy par: -200 and 2 IMPs toPOLAND, ahead 2-1.

The lead flip-flopped a couple more times, and there were several interesting deals. I would recommend taking a look at Boards 5, 8, and 9 on the Vugraph archive. Then, put yourself in Greco's seat:

Greco
J5
AQ94
7
A98654

With neither side vulnerable, you deal and open 2 (10-15 HCP, 6+ clubs), and partner bids 3, showing an invitational-plus hand with six or more spades. You accept the invite with 4, and partner bids Blackwood. You show two keycards without the Q, and partner bids 6, offering a choice of slams: what's your pleasure?

After long thought (the other table bid and played a grand-slam deal in the time it took him to make his call), Greco chose 6. The full deal:

West
KQ9863
J
AK102
K2
North
A72
87652
943
Q10
East
J5
AQ94
7
A98654
South
104
K103
QJ865
J73
D
14

6 has a clear advantage over 6: it's not down off the top. Both tables played 6 in the East on the lead of a diamond honor. Greco had far less information than his Polish counterpart, who had heard a diamond overcall from South, but he judged the play correctly: he won trick one, ruffed a diamond in hand, led the J, ducked, crossed to the K and knocked out the A. He flew ace on the heart return and ran winners, pulverizing the South hand for a flat +980.

I mentioned a grand slam, didn't I? Well this was Board 15:

West
KQ62
QJ10863
J94
North
A93
KQJ876
94
85
East
J108754
952
75
75
South
A1043
AK2
AKQ1063
W
N
E
S
 
1
1
X
P
5N
P
7
7
P
P
7N
P
P
P
D
15
7NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

How often do you see a player decline to show a suit at the 1-level, then sacrifice in that suit at the 7-level with no encouragement from partner? Not often, but Greco's save would certainly have been profitable—but only if he were allowed to play it there. 7NT depended on running clubs, but when they did, that was +2220 and a pushed board. The final result was a 23-14 win forPOLAND.

Our match againstMONACO started great for us, and we jumped out to a 26-2 lead about halfway through the match. Unfortunately, the tide started to turn and the opponents won a few swings to close to 26-25. On the last board of the match, Helgemo-Helness were in 3NT making seven (the defense could have cashed an ace-king to hold declarer to 11 tricks), while Greco-Hampson reached 5. That contract could have been beaten, but the defense went wrong and declarer emerged with +600 and only a 3-IMP loss.

After six matches, we stood 10th, but we had played many of the strongest teams, so we were still in good shape.POLAND leads our group, followed byICELANDandJAPAN, withENGLAND andARGENTINArounding out the qualifying spots.

Group A has run to form withITALY,FRANCE, andISRAEL on top, but Group C has had some surprising results.AUSTRIA has taken over the lead in that group, withSPAIN second.HUNGARY,IRELAND, andDENMARK are third through fifth, with group favoritesSWEDEN andTHE NETHERLANDS hovering in sixth and seventh.

In Women's Group A,CHINA has a sizableead overTHE NETHERLANDS andNORWAY. Alas, the American women have fallen to third in Group B, overtaken byFRANCE andGERMANY.

TheUSA Senior Team has a narrow lead overCHINA, with the rest of the field a ways back.AUSTRALIA,POLAND, andTHE NETHERLANDS lead the Mixed Teams, withUSA sitting 11th out of 23.

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