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China - Day 2

Today didn't provide nearly as many interesting hands and/or play problems as yesterday, but I did face a few interesting bidding decisions which I will share below. Before I go into today's hands, I want to go back to a very interesting hand that I omitted from yesterday's edition... Zach and I bid to 6 on this hand, and I had a somewhat difficult play problem because dummy held the beer card.

I've rotated the hands 180 degrees for ease of viewing:

Zach Brescoll
A754
A
AQ9743
AJ
Adam Kaplan
8
KJ1096
K10
K10953
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
6
P
P
P

I've included explanations of our relay auction, and at the point where he placed the contract, Zach knew we were missing 5 AKQ points, meaning that a grand almost certainly was not odds on. He could have asked with 5, but my response would have been 6 showing 1 or 3 top heart honours, 1 or 3 top club honours, 1 or 3 top diamond honours, no singleton spade honour, and no jack of hearts. He would have been unable to then sign off in 6, since it'd now be a spiral scan continuation asking about the jack of clubs etc... He judged well to bid 6 over 4N, and my LHO led the T after some thought. Plan the play before reading on.

At first glance, the contract looks quite good... I could try to set up one of my round suits for pitches, or I could try to ruff a couple spades in my hand. Either way, entries to my hand were quite scarce, so timing was important. After dealing with my spade losers, I still have to tackle the trump suit. If trumps are 3-2 all is well, but what if they are 4-1? If I try to draw trumps too soon, I could wind up being left with spade losers in dummy while they ruff in with their long trump. If I don't draw trumps initially, I face the problem of possible overruffs, and could even go down when trumps were 3-2 all along. Finally, since my diamond spots in dummy are quite good, I can survive 4-1 diamonds when I ruff twice in my hand as long as someone has a stiff 8 or stiff J. If there is a small stiff diamond, I could try to ruff twice in dummy and play for a trump endplay, but that risks overruffs once again.

I decided to plan to ruff two spades in my hand and not ruff anything in dummy, making as long as diamonds are 3-2 or 4-1 with the stiff J or stiff 8. When I led a spade from dummy and ruffed in hand, LHO played the king, and when I crossed to the A and ruffed another spade with the K, LHO showed out. I was very glad I chose this line now, since RHO is likely to hold (relative) shortness in the round suits. After ruffing the second spade, I crossed to the A, and played the A with RHO playing the 8. When I played the Q RHO showed out, but now I could play the 9 driving out the J, win the return (since West is known to have no more spades at this point), and draw the last trump with my 7 in dummy.

The other table also reached 6, but they received a trump lead picking up the Jxxx, making it a trivial process to draw trumps and build a heart trick to make 7. The full deal was:

West
K10
Q874
J652
Q64
Zach Brescoll
A754
A
AQ9743
AJ
East
QJ9632
532
8
872
Adam Kaplan
8
KJ1096
K10
K10953
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4N
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Onto today's matches, we started with a match against USA2 (Burke Snowden - Ben Kristensen, David Soukup - Hakan Berk, Murphy Green - Arjun Dhir). Arjun and Murphy sat out the match, and Zach and I played Burke and Ben. After a few active first boards,I was faced with a very interesting problem:

Adam Kaplan
AKQ8753
AJ63
A6
W
N
E
S
1
3
X
5
?

After opening a strong club, the auction got out of hand very fast. I'm used to bidding my suits for the first time at a high level, but this auction was a bit extreme. I didn't feel that 6 did my hand justice, and 7 seemed like a bit of a position at this point, so I decided to try 6, planning on bidding 6 over the expected 6. If partner bid 7 I'd obviously correct to 7, and I tried not to think about my plan over 6. After passing the tray, I started wondering about my choice over 6... What sort of values does partner have? If they have a diamond card a grand could be in serious danger, but otherwise we look to be a heavy favourite to make. When the tray returned with 6, I continued agonizing for several minutes longer, considering whether it was possible that we had done well to even reach slam, or whether it was possible that partner had the wrong hand etc... I finally decided we were too likely to be making a grand, so I bumped to 7 which Zach claimed at trick one. He had Jxxx x x KQTxxxx, and made a very nice 6 bid (although ironically today my decision would have been easier over 7).

We continued a good run against USA2, and I faced one last fun problem on the last board of the match:

Adam Kaplan
3
J103
KQJ763
1093
W
N
E
S
5
P
6
P
P
?

If I trust the vulnerable opponents, saving looks like it could possibly be a winnner. Partner almost certainly has either a club void or a stiff club, and the opponents have a lot of shape between them. I was going back and forth for quite a while on my decision, but then something occurred to me: If I passed, I would then have to make an opening lead! If partner has the A I need to lead a spade to score a ruff, but if they have something else, I might need to lead a diamond to build a diamond trick before it disappears. Instead of dealing with the miserable lead problem, I decided to bid 6. At least I'd be able to see dummy before making a play then!

The full deal was:

West
A6
92
10
AKJ86542
Adam Kaplan
3
J103
KQJ763
1093
East
KJ94
A874
A82
Q7
South
Q108752
KQ65
954
W
N
E
S
5
P
6
P
P
6
X
P
P
P
D
6X North
NS: 0 EW: 0

The values weren't distributed how I had expected, but the opponents did in fact have 12 top tricks. After a fairly severemisdefense I escaped for down 2 to win 11 IMPs against 6X down 4 at the other table on a very different auction. It was an odd position to save in, but in the end I just didn't want to be on opening lead.

We won our match against USA2 by 68 to blitz them, but then had two relatively uneventful and unfortunate matches against England and France, losing by 9 and 17 respectively. After day 2 we have 92 VPs and are in 6th place... We plan to keep it going tomorrow!

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