District 25 News for July 2007
Buzz from the Summer Regional in Sturbridge MA
District 25 held its Summer Regional in Sturbridge MA this year, during the five days Wednesday June 20 to Sunday June 24. By my count, attendence was up from last year's event in Marlborough - 1450 table sessions compared to 2006's 1109, with 1022 players winning 7186+ masterpoints, compared to 847 winning 5088 last year. I assume that financially this regional was also an improvement. It wasn't me - I could only play the final Sunday in Sturbridge, while I played almost all of Marlborough. Nor was there an influx of out-of-district players. The customary New Yorkers and Canadians turned up, and old friend and national/international star Bart Bramley came all the way from Texas, but most of the increase was due to better attendence among District 25 members themselves.
In my view, high attendance isn't the only metric for judging how well the district's regionals are doing. In past columns, I've argued that our less populous and less central districts ought to host occasional regionals. I've also supported events that are good for the game, like the higher flights in the Grand National Teams, even though they're tiny and elitist. Nevertheless, it's interesting to speculate whether this year's rachet upward has a cause other than random fluctuation. Besides the excellent work of the tournament's management, I think Sturbridge's popularity was due to the centrality and quality of the site, and innovations in the schedule of events.
Senior events began at 10AM and 3PM, while open games were held at 1 and 7. There were several new and different team games. Both pair and team events featured extensive flighting, seeding, and bracketing. Our I/N attendance was also good. Humans are creatures of habit, however, and a few players complained, preferring the old format. It's harder for our directors to hold novel events at staggered times. Nevertheless, attendance speaks for itself, and Sturbridge mimicked some of the country's most famously large regionals. I doubt New England could ever create a Gatlinburg - we're not central enough. But if I'm guessing correctly, Sturbridge demonstrated that we know how to improve attendence, if that's what we choose to do.
OK, so you showed up. But how was your bridge? Mine scored better than it deserved. I'd wandered into what was called Sunday's "bracketed Swiss," although it was a round-robin, not a Swiss movement at all. My favorite partner, my teammates, and my opponents were all battle-hardened (and battle-fatigued!) from several days play, while I was fresh off the street. With neither vul, holding S-8 H-AJ2 D-A5 C-AKJ10874, I heard my RHO open 1S. This hand is too much for a 2C overcall in our style, so I doubled. I had several creative continuations in mind depending on how the auction went, but it didn't. It was my lead to one spade doubled. I once read in a book that when partner passes your takeout double, you should lead trumps, so I mindlessly put the S8 on the table. Put not your faith in books! This lead turned out to be an awful choice:
. North S- West H-Q10654 East S-8 D-J9642 S-AJ9763 H-AJ2 C-632 H-97 D-A5 D-K1073 C-AKJ10874 South C-5 S-KQ10542 H-K83 D-Q8 C-Q9My trump lead squelched my diamond overruff threat, gave declarer a free finesse he could never take for himself, and failed to show my partner my unusual distribution. The upshot was that declarer got out for 300, when we could have made 400 in 5C or 460 in 3NT. If instead of leading that silly trump, I had started by cashing my two top clubs, partner would discard the H9. HA, heart ruff, DA, heart ruff, DK, D, and no matter whether declarer ruffs up with S10 or ruffs low and gets overruffed, he can't escape 800. However, at the other table, my counterpart settled for a heavy 2C overcall and scored 150 for 11 tricks, so we won 4 imps despite my horrid lead.
On a similar note, I opened a forcing club with S-KQ6 H-KJ93 D-A753 C-AK, and the auction proceeded (vul against not) :
North East South West 1C 2H 2S Pass 3S Pass 4H Pass 4NT Pass 5H Pass 5NT Pass 6D Pass ?When partner cue-bid the HA, I launched into keycard 1430. 5H showed the major aces. My 5NT indicated grand slam interest, promised our side possessed all five key cards and the SQ, and asked for lowest specific king. The 6D bid was quite encouraging. Not being able to count enough tricks for seven, my choices were 6S (partner could still bid a grand if he held extra trumps or another source of tricks), or a more pushy last-train 6H, asking for seven if partner held, for example, the DQ. I settled for the cowardly 6S.
. North S-KQ6 West H-KJ93 East S-72 D-A753 S-1054 H-42 C-AK H-Q108765 D-J92 D-1086 C-Q108642 South C-J S-AJ983 H-A D-KQ4 C-9753Partner won HA, SA, SK, and then decided a minor-suit squeeze against West or a diamond break was a better chance than a club ruff in dummy. Our 1460 left me kicking myself for lack of enterprise. But at the other table, my hand opened 2NT and arrived in 6S without opposing bidding. Here, declarer, probably selecting the percentage play, tried for a club ruff in the North hand, holding himself to 1430, for one imp to us. The whole day went like that - I kept missing opportunities, and kept winning small numbers of imps instead of large ones. We won our bracket by one victory point, so all my sins were washed away.
How good was the bridge during the earlier days at Sturbridge? Take a quiz from the toughest event, the Flight A Knockout that started Friday night (thanks to Yiji Starr for eight interesting situations from this event). The scoring of this quiz will be in imps. Keep a scorecard and see if you won or lost.
1. During Friday night's first round, with neither side vulnerable, you, East, deal yourself S-xx H-xx D-xxx C-KQJxxx, and hear East South West North Pass 1S Double Pass 2C 2H 3D 4H 5D 5H 6D 6H ? Do you bid, pass, or double? 2. During Saturday morning's second round, vul against not, you, East, deal yourself S-AQ10x H-x D-AQxx C-AKxx, and hear East South West North 1D 1H Pass 1NT Double 2C 2S Pass ? What's your call? 3. During Saturday afternoon's semifinal, vul against not, you, West, are dealt S-A953 H-1062 D-K73 C-Q95, and hear East South West North Pass 1H Pass 2H Pass 3C Pass 4C Pass 4H Pass Pass Pass You lead the H2, and see: North S-74 West H-A98 S-A853 D-J964 H-1062 C-A863 D-K73 C-Q95 First trick : H2, H8, H3, H4. Second trick: C3, C2, CJ, CQ. How do you defend? 4. You make Saturday night's finals. As West, not vul against vul, you're dealt S-QJ63 H-AJ2 D-A74 C-Q103 in third chair. The auction goes East South West North Pass 1D Double 1H Pass 1NT Pass Pass Pass You lead the S3 and see North S-K872 West H-10984 S-QJ63 D-6 H-AJ2 C-K765 D-A74 C-Q103 First trick : S3, S2, S9, S10 (ouch!) Second trick: HK, ? How do you defend? 5. With your opponents vul, you, West are dealt S-J96542 H-J63 D-Q84 C-A. The bidding goes: North East South West 1C Pass 1H Pass 2NT Pass 4H Pass Pass Pass What do you lead? 6. With nobody vul, you, West in fourth seat, hold S-6 H-932 D-AKJ10872 C-Q10. The auction: North East South West Pass Pass 1S 3D Pass 3H 4C 4H 4S 5D Double Pass Pass Pass North leads SQ. West East S-6 S-843 H-932 H-AKJ108 D-AKJ10872 D-Q54 C-Q10 C-87 First trick: SQ, S3, S2, S6. Second trick: C2, C7, CK, CQ. Third trick: SK, D10, S5, S4. To your surprise, your feeble falsecard in clubs has succeded in strong company. Fourth trick: DA, D3, D4, D9. Fifth trick: D2, D6, DQ, C3. Sixth trick: HA, H4, H2, H5. Seventh trick: S8, SK, D7, S7. Eighth trick, H3, H6, ? Do you finesse or play for the drop? 7. Vul against not, you, West, deal yourself S-52 H-J102 D-KQ8742 C-84. Would you open a weak 2D, despite the unfavorable vulnerability, or would you pass? 8. With both vul, you, West, deal yourself S-542 H-K108763 D-5 C-863. The auction: West North East South Pass Pass 1C Pass 1H Pass 2NT Pass 3C* Pass 3D* Pass 3H* Pass 4H Pass Pass Pass Your 3C demanded 3D, making your 3H a signoff (an immediate 3H over 2NT would be forcing in your methods). But partner went to game anyway. North leads D3. West East S-542 S-AQJ H-K108763 H-Q92 D-5 D-K8 C-863 C-AQJ94 South tops dummy's DK with DA and returns D4. You ruff. Plan the play. Now for the answers. I don't like contrived problems. Winning real life Imp matches sometimes requires brilliancies, but more often involves not blowing lots of bread-and-butter decisions. So I like to record hands from actual New England matches. Before showing the deals, let me issue the caveat that I wasn't there, and inaccuracy may have crept into my report in several ways. But here's what I think happened. 1. If you doubled 6H, as the actual East did, you score +300 and lose 5 Imps. Otherwise, push for +500 at 7H doubled. If you pass, your partner won't have trouble trying for 1440 when the alternative is a measly penalty, and North-South won't let your side play a minor suit grand slam no matter how you bid it. North S-xx West H-Axxxxx East S-Axx D-xx S-xx H- C-xxx H-xx D-AKQxxxx D-xxx C-Axx South C-KQJxxx S-KQJxxx H-KQJxx D-x C-x 2. If you drove to 4S, as the actual East did, +620, winning 10 imps. Otherwise, push at 170. Your expert partner will accept no invitations, signing off in 3S over a 3C or 3H cue bid. He has dredged up a free 2S bid on garbage, and will do no more. You already know that, because he passed over 1H, not trying 1S or a negative double. Never pussyfoot about vulnerable games at Imp scoring. West won't go down, even against repeated trump leads, because the diamond finesse works, and he'll score 6 trumps and your four minor suit winners. North S-Jxxx West H-Kx East S-K9xx D-KJ10x S-AQ10x H-J9xxx C-xxx H-x D-xx D-AQxx C-xx South C-AKxx S-x H-AQ10xx D-xxx C-QJ10x 3. If, upon winning the CQ, you returned a club, or a low spade, or continued a heart as one West did, -420, losing 10 Imps. If you switched to a diamond, or cashed the spade ace, saw partner's deuce, and switched to a diamond, as John Malley did at the other table, push for +50. North S-74 West H-A98 East S-A853 D-J964 S-10962 H-1062 C-A863 H-53 D-K73 D-AQ82 C-Q95 South C-1072 S-KQJ H-KQJ64 D-105 C-KJ4 4. Partner has passed throughout, although you know he has 5-8 points. The only sensible explanation is that his values are in diamonds, opener's suit. So, after the unfortunate opening lead, you have to do two things to beat 1NT - duck the first heart, and win the next heart and switch to diamonds. It makes no difference whether you cash your other heart (partner will work it out), or whether you attack diamonds by leading low or ace and another. If you ducked and played diamonds, +100, win 5 Imps. If you continued spades, -90 for a push. If you switched to clubs, -120 to lose an imp. If you won the first heart and played diamonds, as Yiji Starr did, you get squeezed horribly when partner runs his diamonds, -90 for a push. North S-K872 West H-10984 East S-QJ63 D-6 S-94 H-AJ2 C-K765 H-653 D-A74 D-KQJ52 C-Q103 South C-984 S-A105 H-KQ7 D-10973 C-AJ2 5. If you led the club ace, you'll find the shift to spades and get two ruffs for +200, win 3 imps. If you led anything else, -620, lose 13. Don't tell me partner will win your spade lead and play a club to beat the hand. The one thing he'll never play you for is singleton ace of clubs, the lead that hits you in the face. Shame on you if you talked yourself out of the obvious defense because this was a quiz. North S-K8 West H-AQ East S-J96542 D-A872 S-AQ10 H-J63 C-KQ972 H-102 D-Q84 D-10953 C-A South C-J853 S-73 H-K98754 D-KJ C-1064 6. If you finessed, -300, lose 8 imps, as your teammates were -50 in spades. If you dropped the HQ as Yiji Starr did, +550, win 11. Yes, a priori the finesse is a better play, but the bidding tips the odds a little the other way. Your opponents, who goofed in an easy cashout position, have only themselves to blame. North S-QJ75 West H-965 East S-6 D-63 S-843 H-932 C-J942 H-AKJ108 D-AKJ10872 D-Q54 C-Q10 South C-87 S-AK1092 H-Q4 D-9 C-AK653 7. If you opened 2D, +50 for a push. If you passed, -420, lose 10 imps. Even if, after passing, you lead three rounds of diamonds (best) against 4H, declarer will guess right, ruffing in hand and crossing to dummy in clubs to play your partner for Ax in trumps. If, however, you open 2D, your opponents will either wander into 5C down 1 (as happened when Dan Colatosti opened 2D at the other table), or, if they reach 4H, play you for the doubleton ace of trumps, for the same down 1. It's a random decision, but that's bridge, mister. North S-6 West H-Q65 East S-52 D-109 S-Q10987 H-J102 C-AKQJ976 H-A4 D-KQ8742 D-A65 C-84 South C-1032 S-AKJ42 H-K9873 D-J3 C-5 8. If after ruffing the diamond, you played a trump, +620 for a push. If you talked yourself into a club finesse, as one declarer did, South wins and returns the suit, getting a ruff whenever North wins his HA, down one and -100, lose 13. North S-K7 H-AJ West D-Q107632 East S-542 C-1075 S-AQJ H-K108763 H-Q92 D-5 South D-K8 C-863 S-109863 C-AQJ94 H-54 D-AJ94 C-K2The scoring's pretty simple - you won, you lost, or you tied.
District 25's next tournament will be the Fiesta Regional August 29 through September 3 at the Connecticut Grand Hotel in Waterbury CT. Sturbridge's schedule innovations will apply in Waterbury. The flyer can be found on the August and September calendar pages. See you there.