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:

 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
My 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.
 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

Partner 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
You lead the H2, and see:

 West      H-A98
 S-A853    D-J964
 H-1062    C-A863

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
 You lead the S3 and see

 West      H-10984
 S-QJ63    D-6
 H-AJ2     C-K765

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.

 West      H-Axxxxx   East
 S-Axx     D-xx       S-xx
 H-        C-xxx      H-xx
 D-AKQxxxx            D-xxx
 C-Axx     South      C-KQJxxx

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.

 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

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.           

 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
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.

 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
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.

 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
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.

 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

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.

 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

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.

 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
The scoring's pretty simple - you won, you lost, or you tied.

Other News

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.