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NAP Flight A Qualifiers
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Yesterday I played with my regular partner Kevin Schoenfeld in the District 21 Flight A qualifier, a two-day event with a cut after the first day. The fact that I'm writing this today means that we didn't do well! That being said, it was, in my opinion, an incredible field, way better than any A/X sectional event... approaching that of a National open pairs event. So, regardless of outcome, it lived up to its promise of being a good day of bridge against really good players.

In the first round, I picked up:

South
1096
AK95
K10
10843

My partner opened the bidding 1, I responded 1, and he splintered into spades. After a diamond cuebid he asked for keycards, and we found ourselves in 6. I got the lead of the 7. Both hands and the auction are shown below.

North
7
Q876
A54
AKQJ9
South
1096
AK95
K10
10843
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Plan the play before reading on.

North
7
Q876
A54
AKQJ9
South
1096
AK95
K10
10843
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Looking at my hand and at dummy, I realized that I could either ruff a spade in dummy OR ruff a diamond in hand to make my contract, assuming that hearts split favorably. For whatever reason, I decided to make dummy the master hand, and after pulling trump, I would need to ruff a diamond in hand. Child's play!

I decided to winthe K in hand, after which I played the A. Lefty followed with the 10, and righty with the 2. This wasn't looking too good, although lefty still could have the J10, or be giving a high-low. (Although not needed on this hand, in retrospect, I probablyshould have won the A on the board as a matter of good technique, preserving the Kfor additional transportation to hand for flexibility.)

I played low towards the board, and lefty showed out, as I feared. I won the Q, righty following, and I stopped to reconsider my plan. I could no longer afford to ruff in hand, as in that case I could not pull trump. Time for plan B! Now I would need to ruff a spade in dummy, and I could pitch the remaining spade on a club. Transportation was tricky, but fortunately I held the 10.

I played a spade, righty (the guy with all the trumps) winning with the Q. He shot back the expected diamond, which I won in dummy. (A club return would have made it even easier.) I returned to my hand with a club, and ruffed a spade, everyone following. I now played the 8 (righty playing low) and overtook with the 9 (thank goodness for good spots!). I played the K pulling his remaining trump, pitching a diamond from the board. All the clubs were now good, making!

This hand was interesting in that it illustrated how important some basic concepts are to good play: make a plan before starting play, use good technique during the play to allow you to cope with the unexpected, and stop to reconsider the plan once something unexpected happens. It was a good board because not everyone was in slam, and not everyone made six.

Post-publication article update: The full deal is shown below:

West
AJ54
10
Q9872
765
North
7
Q876
A54
AKQJ9
East
KQ832
J432
J63
2
South
1096
AK95
K10
10843
D

We had another interesting hand come up in the second session that led to an unusual result.

The bidding proceeded as follows:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
X
P
3NT
P
P
X
P
P
P

What's going on?

My opponent was on lead. She held the following hand:

KT852 J964 QT2 3

Before reading on, what would you lead?

With the doubler silent throughout the auction, and dummy having implicitly bid hearts with the negative double, I thought it likely that the doubler had a strong heart holding. As it turned out, he did, and declarer had a void. The opening leader, however, chose to lead a spade. That being said, even a heart lead wouldn't have set the contract, it would have held us to only five. With the spade lead partner had 12 top tricks, and ultimately wound up taking 13 for +950, almost a top.

The full deal is shown below:

West
K10852
J964
Q102
3
North
Q74
Q1083
A743
102
East
J9
AK752
9865
87
South
A63
KJ
AKQJ9654
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
X
P
3NT
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
3NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0

We did come away from the day frustrated about some of our bidding agreements, which we've since revised. We bid two slams that we probably shouldn't have, in part because I am very optimistic, but in part because our agreements aren't completely spelled out.

For a while, we were usingMinorwoodto ask for keycards for minor-suit slams, but we ran into a number of issues with it, so we switched to Redwood (bidding the suit above the minor suit to ask forkeycards). A simple switch still didn't compensate for the fact that we hadn't clearly specified when it was on or off, and we had several bidding misunderstandings yesterday along those lines. So for now, we've gone back to usingRKCBlackwood(1430) for all suits, major or minor.

I'd be interested in hearing about what others have agreed upon for bidding minor-suit slams, and how it's working for them, as well as what your complete slam-bidding agreements are. I suspect that even for major-suit slams, we need more refinement in our agreements to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. I, for one, still tend to be way too much of an optimist and am too aggressive in seeking out the 24-point slams. Perhaps it's better to err on the conservative side, especially in matchpoints?

Although we had two below-average sessions, it was still an excellent day of bridge. The competition was fantastic, worthy of a national, so any good or bad result was earned. Hopefully we'll be able to incorporate what we learned yesterday in time for the upcoming NAP Flight B qualifier.

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