NEBridge - Buzz: Fiesta 2013

The Buzz for September 2013

by Bill Braucher

The Flight A Knockout at District 25's 2013 Fiesta Regional, held over the Labor Day weekend, drew fourteen teams of the usual suspects. None of us would be a priori favorites against the rest. Out-of-district pairs included Steve and Betty Bloom (who teamed with locals Sheila Gabay and Victor King), and Colchamiro-Heitzman (who teamed with locals John Malley and Dan Colatosti). My own team was local: Rick Binder-Bill Braucher, playing our big club system, and Alan Watson-Kevin O'Donnell playing aggressive standard. The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick RI is, in my opinion, an excellent venue for our regionals, and the hospitality was excellent.

Unfortunately, no hand records are available for New England regional IMP matches. Why not, at $14 per player per match? I'd pay an extra buck to have them. Anyway, I'm reporting this event from memory. I had no observer, so sometimes I've guessed at or omitted details from Alan and Kevin's table. To get down to eight teams for the second round, six of the fourteen teams had to play three-way matches with two survivors, and we were among those six. 

The boards in one of our first-round 14-board matches were pretty flat, but there was this major swing:

Board #3
South dealer
East-West vulnerable
 
  North
J x
x x x
K Q 10 x x x
K x
 
West
K x
A 10 x
x x x
A J x x x
  East
 x x x x x
K x x
x
10 9 x x
  South
A Q 10 x
Q J x x
A J x
Q x
 
 
South West North East
1NT P 3NT P
P P    

I, West, led a low club to the K, 10, x. Bob Bertoni, South, ran dummy's diamonds. Rick threw a club, so I placed Bob with 4-4-3-2 with 8 to 10 points in the majors and Rick with the remaining 2 to 4. If Bob had A and KQ, I could not afford to discard any clubs, so I let go a heart, a spade, and then a heart. Bob took a spade finesse for down two. At the other table, my hand discarded two hearts and then a club. That club tipped off Alan Watson, who exited with a club. West got endplayed and lost 11 IMPs. Double-dummy, West can defeat 3NT legitimately by discarding two clubs and one heart, but I don't see how he can know enough to do that.

Our other match was much swingier, and featured a protest that never was:

Board #19
South dealer
East-West vulnerable
 
West
Q 10 x
K Q x
K Q x
K 10 x x
           East
K x x x
 ——
A J 10 x x
A Q 9 x
 
South West North East
P 1NT P 2
P 2 p 3
P 4 P 5
P 6 P P
P      

My 1NT was 12-15. The slam is roughly even money. The clubs broke 3-2, and both the ruffing finesse in hearts and the 10 finesse were working, so there was no way to go down. At the other table, our counterparts stopped in game. However, Rick's 5 bid was slow, and our opponents called the director.

Slam bidding is complex, and Rick and I have years worth of agreements and disagreements. Here, a 4 bid over 4 would be Kickback 1430. Any committee would have to listen to my explanation as to why I didn't place Rick with something like Jx AJxx AJxxx AQ, with which I think he should bid 4NT, not 5.

Fortunately, it didn't matter. There were several swings in both directions, but we won the match regardless of the Board 19 protest, on two slam deals.

Board #15
South dealer
North-South vulnerable
 
North
x
A x x
x x x x x x
K 10 x
           South
A K x
K J x
A
A Q J 9 x x

There was no opposing bidding at either table. At ours, South opened a strong 1, heard a positive natural 2 response, and rebid 3. That looks like a good start, but the auction petered out in 6. At the other table, our teammates opened a strong 2, rebid 3, and eventually bid the excellent grand slam to win 13 IMPs.

Board #20
West dealer
Both sides vulnerable
 
West
 ——
Q x x x x
10 x x x x
10 9 x
           East
A K x
A J
A K J 9 x
A Q x

At our table,  I opened a strong 1 as East. South overcalled 4 and Rick's pass was 0-5. When Rick pulled my reopening double to 4NT, I bid 6, a fine slam that actually made 7. At the other table, East's strong 2 was overcalled 3, and West doubled, a conventional negative, and passed 3NT. That was 12 IMPs more for us, and since our opponents also defeated the Bertoni team and thus qualified, neither team pursued the protest into the wee hours.

In our Saturday morning quarterfinal against Doug Doub - Yiji Starr and Larry Bausher - Glenn McIntyre, Rick and I played all 28 boards against the former. The first half went badly for us. True, we gained 5 IMPs for a pass-out . Rick and I are net plus when passing boards out. In fact, considering how we bid and play, perhaps we should throw the cards in whenever possible! However, our opponents made two good stops in 3 and 4, while our teammates overbid to vulnerable games going down two both times.

We missed a chance here:

Board #28
West dealer
North-South vulnerable
 
  North
 ——
A K Q x x x
A 10 x x
K x x
 
West
A J 10 x x x
x
Q x
x x x x
  East
K Q x x x
x x x x
x
A x x
  South
x x
J x
K J x x x x
Q J 10
 
 
South West North East
  2 Dbl 3
4 P 6 P
P P    

My 2 showed 6-9 points and an unknown 6-card major, and Rick's 3 was pass or correct. I then made the penny-wise pound-foolish decision not to bid 4♠ over 4, and we were minus 1390 when 6 would have been a cheap dive. Much the same sort of thing happened at the other table, and the board was pushed. And there was this:

Board #19
South dealer
East-West vulnerable
 
  North
A x x
Q x
J 10 x x
K x x x
 
West
Q 10 9 x x
A K J 10 x x
x
x
  East
J x x
 ——
A K Q x x x
A Q J 10
  South
K x
9 8 x x x
x x
9 8 x x
 
 
South West North East
P 2 P 3
P 3 P 3NT
P 4 P P
P      

The West cards are difficult to handle in any system I know of. Personally, I'm in the minority who pass the hand, hoping somebody opens and the auction goes slowly, so I can either Michaels or bid out my pattern without overstating the case. I cannot afford to open 1 and rebid 2 and 3, as then partner will too often drive to a hopeless slam. Rick's 2 showed 10-13 points and 5 or 6 hearts, but he too missed the ironclad contracts of 3NT or 4. Much the same thing happened at the other table, resulting in the same poor contract.

The Norths led clubs. Rick went up ace, ruffed a club, and cashed the AK, a low percentage line. The Q dropped, but he had lost control for down one. His counterpart won the A and played spades immediately, also a low percentage line, but it makes the contract here, so we lost 12 IMPs, and trailed by 23 at the half.

The second half went much better for us. True, Doub-Starr stayed out of a bad nonvulnerable slam that our teammates bid to lose 11 IMPs. But Doub, on lead against 3NT after our artificial auction, picked a bad opening lead of the queen from QJx for 12 to us. Then,

Board #22
East dealer
East-West vulnerable
 
  North
A K x x
A x
K J x x
A J x
 
West
x x x
J x x
A Q 10 9 x
x x
  East
x
K Q x x x
x
K Q 10 x x x
  South
Q J 10 x x
10 x x
x x x
x x
 
 
South West North East
      P
P P 1 4
P P Dbl P
4 P P P

Starr had to lead her A and continue for a ruff to defeat 4, but she naturally led a club for -620. At the other table Watson opened 2 as West, and North tried 3NT. Had Kevin led Alan's suit, this would make, but of course he led K, switching to a heart when the club held, and declarer was doomed to down 2, 12 IMPs more for our side. And also,

Board #24
West dealer
Neither side vulnerable
 
  North
x
A J 9 x
A 10 x
A K J x x
 
West
A J x x x
K 10 x
x x x
x x
  East
K Q x x x x
x
Q J 9
Q 10 x
  South
x
Q x x x x
K x x x
x x x
 
 
South West North East
  P 1 1
P 4 Dbl P
5 P P P

At the other table South bought the hand for 4. West cashed A and switched to a diamond to the nine and king. Watson took a heart finesse, cashed the ace, and played ace and ten of diamonds to endplay East for 420. At our table Starr should have settled for 300 against 4♠ doubled. Here, Watson's endplay would have been for down one, so she went after clubs and ended down two. 11 IMPs more. I missed a chance here:

Board #16
West dealer
East-West vulnerable
 
  North
J x x x
x
K Q x
J 10 8 x x
 
West
x x
A K 8
A 10 9 x x x
A x
  East
A K Q x
10 7 x
J x x
Q x x
  South
10 x x
Q J 9 6 x x
x
K 9 x
 
 
South West North East
      P
P 1 P 1
P 3 P 3NT
P P P  

The lead was the 6, fourth best, which ran to my 10. I played a diamond to the 9 and Q, and the J ran to the A. I cashed the A, assuring the contract if South followed, but she discarded a heart. Now I cashed dummy's A. When Doug discarded a club, I knew he started 4-1-3-5, so I could make 3NT by guessing who had the ♣K. However, I overthought the hand. Yiji hadn't opened 2 at favorable vulnerability, as she might with the K. Doug is a very good player, and he could be fooling me with KJ10xx. I talked myself into down one when I put up my Q. Sometimes good players win boards just on reputation.

I needn't have worried. At the other table, West declared 3NT. A club lead would have doomed him no matter how he played, but North led a spade to dummy and shifted to clubs upon winning the first diamond. Declarer crossed to dummy with another spade and cashed the third, so when South showed out on the diamond, declarer had no choice but to put up the Q, since the opponents had a fourth-round spade winner and thus five tricks unless the K was onside. Down three meant 5 IMPs to me for misguessing the deal. Finally,

Board #28
West dealer
North-South vulnerable
 
  North
A J x x x
x
10 x x x
A Q J
 
West
Q x x x
x x
x
K x x x x x
  East
K 10 x
A K 10 x
A K x x
x x
  South
x
Q J 9 x x x
Q J 9 x
x x
 
 
South West North East
  P 1 Dbl
P 2 P P
P      

I, East, tried a double, hoping partner wouldn't bid clubs. I lost that bet, but 2 was cold, even though my opponents found their spade ruff. It would have been interesting if South had balanced with 2. The defense would start with three rounds of diamonds for a ruff, with declarer unblocking the QJ. Rick should work out to shift to a club, beating the hand. If he plays a spade, however, South can trump coup me and make 2. At the other table, East overcalled 1NT and South did bid 2. West misjudged, trying 2NT lebensohl to a doomed 3. However, East compounded the error by going to 3NT, down 3! So we won the second half by 37 and the match by 14.

In our semifinal, Rick and I played against Dean Panagopoulos and Bob Woodard throughout, while Alan and Kevin took on Bob Gorsey and Neil Montague. The swami would probably make this match pick 'em, and for a while it was. Rick and I bid a routine 6♠ missed at the other table for 11 IMPs, and the teammates made 4 while Rick set them with some subterfuge for 10 more. However, I misdefended 1NT to lose 4, and our teammates took a 500 phantom sacrifice while our opponents didn't, and our 4♠ had to go down one to lose 12. We were up 6 IMPs going into the last board of the half:

Board #7
South dealer
Both sides vulnerable
 
West
A x x
K 10 x
A K J x
x x x
           East
K J x x
A Q x x x
x x
A K

Both Easts played 6 on a club lead with no opposing bidding. Both tried A, K, but South showed out, and North still held J9. Our teammate now tried A, spade to ♠J, and when it held, cashed K and ruffed the fourth spade, North turning up with 4-4 in the majors. 1430.

After K, our opponent took a third round with Q, took a spade finesse and tried to split the suit, and when they didn't split, took a losing diamond finesse to go down, 17 IMPs to us for a lead of 23. I like my teammate's line better, but if you do take a third trump, play a fourth, discarding a spade from the table. Win the club return, cash A and A, take your spade finesse, and cash the fifth trump discarding a diamond from dummy, coming down to Kx and a diamond in hand, KJ and a club in dummy. On this trick, if North has two spades, he can only keep one minor suit card. When you next cash the K, I bet you won't go wrong in the ending, having seen all but one of the opponents' clubs.

The second half went all our way. We won 4, 4, and 7 for making partscores, and 8 and 10 for thin games. The coup de grace:

Board #3
South dealer
East-West vulnerable
 
North
A K Q 10
 ——
A J x
A 10 x x x x
           South
x x x
K x x x
x
K J x x x

Rick, South, opened a strong 1, and my 1 response was an artificial semi-positive, about 6-7 points. When he rebid 2, natural and forcing one round, I splintered 3. Rick contented himself with bidding a cold 25-point 6. How uncharacteristically unimaginative! I think we should have gotten to the grand slam. 4 by Rick would be exclusion, and I'd show him the K. Even opposite xxxx Kxxx Kxxx, seven is a reasonable venture. Or, if he tried 3, natural over 3, I'd certainly jump to 5, trying to tell him I had five of the finest in trumps. However, during the comparison, when I sheepishly said, "Plus 940," Kevin replied, "Minus 230. Win 12."

You see, at the other table, after a natural 1-1-1 start, East was playing "XYZ methods." If you don't know what that is, at least judging by this result, you're in luck! In XYZ, a 2 bid by East is unavailable in its natural sense  it's a major suit inquiry. So, rather than overstate the case, East elected to pass 1! Our team won the match in a walk.

We played Sunday's final match all alone in the side hall. Huge noisy Swiss teams in the main ballroom could be heard only when somebody opened the door. Rick and I dueled Victor King and Sheila Gabay, while Kevin and Alan duked it out with Steve and Betty Bloom. There was action from the get-go:

Board #8
West dealer
Neither side vulnerable
 
  North
A 10 x x x
K J x x x
x x
J
 
West
J x x
A 10 9 x
Q x x
8 x x
  East
K x
x
J x
A K Q 10 x x x x
  South
Q x x
Q x x
A K x x x x
9
 
 
South West North East
  P P 1
3 Dbl P 4
P P P  

In third chair, I, East, was in a pickle. I wasn't playing gambling 3NT, and 2 natural didn't seem right, so I tried a strong club with inadequate defense. Rick's double was 6-9. I would have had to bid 3NT wide open, not in my character. +130. At the other table, my counterpart opened 3, a transfer gambling 3NT. When West's 3NT rolled around, Alan balanced with a double, North bid 4, which would be down one, and East went 5 down one. However, North had hesitated over 3NT, and the director returned the contract to 3NT making. I agree, although we thus lost 7 IMPs instead of gaining 6. True, Alan is Australian by birth and thus unfazed by the occasional -1100. I think he thinks his double automatic. True also, 3 is a skip bid. But 3NT wasn't, and North had adequate time to prepare. Contrast this with Rick's hesitant 5 in the first round, where I think his slowness didn't affect anything. Next,

Board #9
North dealer
East-West vulnerable
 
  North
K J 9 x x x
J x x
x
A x x
 
West
A 10 x x x
——
J x x x
K J 10 x
  East
Q x
A K x x x
x
Q x x x
  South
——
Q 10 9 8 x
A K Q 10 x x x
x
 
 
South West North East
    P 1
2 Dbl 2 P
3 P 3 P
4 P 5 P
P Dbl P P
P      

I succumbed to modernism and opened the East cards, but I refused to bid 3 over 2 with this garbage in an auction suggesting a club lead already. The rotten diamond position meant no game makes North-South. +100. In the other room, my hand bid out its pattern and ended in 5♣ doubled, -500 after a diamond lead and a trump shift, 12 IMPs to us.

The match turned our way. We won 7 IMPs for selling out to 2 and beating it, 11 more when our opponents missed a thin vulnerable game bid by Alan and Kevin, 7 more for bidding a nonvulnerable 4 and making it. Then the match turned against us. We overbid to 4 down one to lose 5, and lost 13 for missing this slam:

Board #4
West dealer
Both sides vulnerable
 
West
x
A K J x
A 10 x
Q J 10 x x
           East
A K x x x
Q x x
x
K x x x
 
South West North East
  1 P 1
P 2 P 2
Dbl P P 2
P 3 P 5
P P P  

The West cards are tough in big club methods. My 2 was fourth suit forcing to game, but apparently I never got my message across. Perhaps I should have tried 3 instead, as a splinter in an unknown suit? We dodged a bullet here:

Board #3
South dealer
East-West vulnerable
 
  North
8 x x x
K x x x
Q x x
A K
 
West
A Q x x
A
A x x
x x x x x
  East
J 10 9
x x x
J x
Q J 10 x x
  South
K x
Q J x x x
K 10 x x x
x
 
 
South West North East
P 1 Dbl 2NT
4 5 Dbl P
P P    

The contract was 5♣ doubled at both tables. To defeat it, North must switch to diamonds before declarer gets to dummy. Neither North found that defense, for pushing 550's. At our table Rick, North, led out his AK, ending our defense. I hate both the lead and continuation, but perhaps I misled him in the auction.

However, we recovered our poise at the end of the half, stopping in a partial to win 7, and finishing with

Board #7
South dealer
Both sides vulnerable
 
  North
Q x x
A Q 9 x x
K Q J x
x
 
West
K J
J x x x
x
A K x x x x
  East
x x
K x x
A x x
Q J 10 x x
  South
A x x x x x
10
x x x x x
x
 
 
South West North East
P 2 2 5
P P P  

I suppose I overbid – the bidding ended in a partscore at the other table. Rick won the diamond lead, ruffed a diamond, club to dummy, ruffed a diamond, club to dummy, spade to the K, J. North won her Q, but didn't find the winning exit of the Q, so we won 11 IMPs for making 5 to lead by 27 at the half.

The second half was an anticlamax. True, our teammates misdefended a vulnerable game to lose 13, but they won back 11 by beating a game we made. Meanwhile, our opponents were very unlucky:

Board #3
South dealer
East-West vulnerable
 
North
x x
K x x x x x
x x
Q J x
           South
A K x x
A Q
K x
A K x x x

They bid 6 by South, a slam missed by our teammates, needing only a 3-2 heart split and nothing awful elsewhere, but hearts were 4-1, down one.

Board #11
South dealer
Neither side vulnerable
 
West
A K x
A x x
Q x x x
A J x
           East
x x
x x x
A J 10 x x
x x x

They bid 3NT, a game Rick and I missed, needing only a diamond finesse. Unlucky, down one.

Board #14
East dealer
Neither side vulnerable
 
North
x
K Q J 8 x x
J x x x x
x
           South
K x x x
 ——
K x x x
A Q x x x

At my table, it went 1-Dbl-1-1-P-P-3-end, and we made it. My counterpart bid 4, not a bad shot down many IMPs. He got doubled and went for 300. The lie of the cards just didn't reward enterprise. On another deal, we sold out to 2 making, for -90. At the other table, our counterparts competed and gave up -500. Finally, I read off, "Passed out."

"Plus 800, win 13,"  said my teammate. We had won the event in a walk.

See you all again in Mansfield for the Master's Regional in November!