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San Mateo Sectional
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This past weekend, I played at the San Mateo Sectional with one of my regular partners, Kurt Siedenburg. Saturday, we played in a two-session pairs event, in which neither of us acquitted ourselves particularly well. We were both tired -- my partner had the misfortune of being woken up in the wee hours of the morning with a support call, and I simply didn't sleep well. Tired doesn't make for the best bridge.

It started out badly when I played the first two hands of the first session against two excellent players about as poorly as I've ever played two hands. Embarassingly poorly. I'm getting better about forgetting bad results, and we recovered, finishing at about 52% for the session (but think of how well we could have done!). I've resolved to work on improving the play of the first boards of a session -- I did the same thing at Nationals in the 1500 LM final match; it seems to happen when I'm tired and there is a lot of commotion going on. So it's a good goal to work on for the rest of the year!

Yesterday, we teamed with Andrew Van Wye and Nathan Wilmes in the bracketed Swiss at the same event. We opted to play in the top bracket to face the best competition possible. And the competition didn't disappoint -- everyone we played against was challenging. As such, we only won our last two matches, but we also only got blitzed once, finishing with 57 VPs. Because there were more than 8 teams in the top bracket, this put us in second in X. Unfortunately, X only paid one placing, and our own Andrew Gumperz' team snatched that one up.

However, there were several interesting play and bidding problems that came up during the match, as there often are.

The first one came in Match 4. I was dealt an opening hand, with 16 HCPs and five hearts, which I opted to open in fourth seat as 1NT. My partner thentransferred me to spades and then bid 3N. With three spades, I opted for the major-suit game and we ended in a contract of 4. The bidding was the same at the other table. However, it wasn't so clear how to play it.

The hands are shown below, and the lead was a low diamond (3rd-best at our table; 4th-best at the other table):

North
AJ984
3
K85
J985
South
KQ2
KJ1084
A3
K32
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
4
P
P
P

Before reading on, plan the play of the hand.

The question in my mind on this hand was which hand to make the master hand, and which suit to go after for tricks: hearts or clubs? Looking at my hand, I had no spade losers, likely two heart losers (at least), no diamond losers, and possibly two or three club losers. Looking at dummy, I had no spade losers, one heart loser, one diamond loser, and probably two club losers. No matter which hand I made the master, I was going to have to establish clubs for at most two losers. It was easy to see how to get rid of the diamond loser with the dummy as master, so I decided to make dummy the master hand and work on clubs immediately.

I won the opening lead in hand, pulled one round of trump, both following. I then played a diamond, and ruffed a diamond with the king of spades. I finished pulling trump, which split 2-3, ending in dummy. I then played the J, which brought out the Q, covered by my K, and won by A to my left. Lefty shot back a diamond, which was ruffed in dummy. I then played the T, which was won by righty with the A. He shot back a low heart which I won with my K, dumping a club. I then played a low club towards the 98 on the board, and inserted the 9, which held. In the final analysis, I lost two clubs and the A to make my contract.

At the other table, declarer decided to try to establish his heart suit for club pitches. But he ran into the problems I'd anticipated, in that it's impossible to pull trump AND get back to your hand. Plus, you still have to do something with those clubs, and just don't have the timing to establish the hearts for enoughclub pitches AND pull trump. So our teammates defeated the contract by one for a ten-IMP gain. (I should mention that I then proceeded to misplay the next hand and gave it all back!)

The full hand is here:

West
65
9762
Q974
A106
North
AJ984
3
K85
J985
East
1073
AQ5
J1062
Q74
South
KQ2
KJ1084
A3
K32
D

The next two interesting hands were bidding problems from our last match. I'm interested in opinions on what others would do and how to best bid these two hands.

You hold the following hand:

North
KJ87632
10
A
AQ97

You decide to open it 1 in third seat. Your partner responds 1NT, which you play as semiforcing. Opponents are silent. Decide on your rebid before moving to the next page.

Our full auction was as shown, along with the South hand.

North
KJ87632
10
A
AQ97
South
4
A54
J9854
K643
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P

My partner wrapped up six. At the other table, the North hand decided to open 4, and they played in their very makeable game. The questions are: is there a better rebid for the North hand? Should South make another move over the 2 rebid, given that South is showing a full opener? Or was the bidding fine and it's just bad luck?

The final hand was in the same match. This time we had a competitive auction.

North
K1093
A9876
J102
Q
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
P
?

What do you bid with the North hand?

At our table, North bid 2 and East passed. Both hands are shown below

North
K1093
A9876
J102
Q
South
AQ752
Q
AK7
10862
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
P
2
P
?

What do you now bid with the South hand?

I passed, figuring my hand wasn't good enough to make game opposite a simple raise. I wrapped up six. At the other table, they also were not in game, so we wound up winning 1 IMP on the board, when the other declarer only made 5.

But is this a game we can get to? Should North bid something else? Should South make another move after a simple raise? It's admittedly challenging, because having length in opponents' bid suit isn't appealing, nor is a stiff honor in that suit. But the hands fit together magically.

Regardless of the outcome, it was a great day of bridge, playing with an excellent partner and teammates against good teams!

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