District 25 News for July 2008

Buzz from Sturbridge

District 25 held its Summer Regional in Sturbridge MA over the five days June 18-22, 2008. See the Results page for scores and winners. Not only was attendance excellent, but local contestants had the opportunity to compete against nationally ranked experts, which won't happen again until the Boston NABC this November. For example, the final match of the Wednesday-Thursday Knockout Teams pitted Meltzer (Meltzer, Larsen, Sontag, Bates, Bramley) vs. Lynch (Lynch, Sutherlin, Schermer, Chambers, Berkowitz, Lair), a likely pairing late in a national team event. What was going on? Has New England become the new Bridge Mecca? No, the explanation was more prosaic. Starting on the Monday prior to our tournament, the ACBL held its senior team trials at our site, the winners to represent the USA in Beijing. After competing in the trials, several of these nationally known professional teams elected to enter events in our regional. While this situation made the events tougher, I think it also advertised District 25. Perhaps teams of touring pros will attend our regionals in the future.

While I only competed in the Flight A Knockout Friday to Sunday, a number of contestants told me about deals from other events. One such deal which decided a Compact KO match featured interesting play and an interesting ruling:

 West      H-x       East
 S-Axx     D-Q9xxx   S-Q987
 H-QJ10x   C-Jxx     H-9xxx
 D-xx                D-Jx
 C-Qxxx    South     C-A10x

 South    West       North    East
 2NT      P          3C       P
 3H       P          3NT      P
 P        P
Both declarers let West's HQ win the first trick, then won the HJ with the HK. When the declarers overtook the D10 in dummy to lead a spade to the jack, one West won the trick, after which there's no defense. The other West thoughtfully let the SJ win. Declarer ran diamonds to pitch a heart, but when he tried a club from dummy, East rose and played spades, giving the defense five tricks. However, North-South protested that West's duck had been TOO thoughtful, marking the position so that East had no problem finding the winning defense. The score was corrected to 3NT making for a push.

West's play is not a sure thing - give declarer QJx AKxx AK10x Kx, for example, and winning the trick is necessary. It seems to me that slow ducks can lead to quack rulings. Doesn't East have enough information to get this right without the hesitation? If declarer had, say, AKJ Kxxx AK10x Kx, why not cash nine tricks once the spade finesse wins? Notice, meanwhile, that if declarer wins the first trick and plays the same way, there's no defense. After West wins the first trick, however, he can defeat the contract not only by continuing hearts and then ducking the SJ, but also, one way or another, by shifting to any other suit at trick 2.

A small strong field entered the weekend Flight A Knockout, winnowed to four teams Friday night and Saturday afternoon. I can't report Saturday night's semifinals better than Dave Metcalf did in the following piece he wrote for Sunday morning's Bulletin:

Giant Killers of New England

Several teams from the Senior Trials stayed to play for part or all of our Regional. It was very exciting to have some of our country's best players here. One such team was the powerful Lou Ann O'Rourke team, including Mark Jacobus, Mike Passell, Gaylor Kasle, Ron Smith, and Garey Hayden. Many teams would be intimidated to draw them in the semifinals of the Flight A Knockout, but not the Watson team (Alan Watson, David Becher, Rick Binder, Bill Braucher, Glenn McIntyre, and Kevin O'Donnell). They beat them by 55! A large chunk of the lead came on this hand:


Rick Binder found himself playing 6C on this hand. He won the spade lead, shed a spade from dummy on the diamond ace, and turned his attention to the trump suit. While at first it may seem a guess (do you play West for Ax or Qx?), Rick worked out the best play: leading the jack from hand worked when the suit was AQ/92, Q9/A2, Q2/A9, or AQ2/9 (4 possibilities), but leading low towards the king worked when the suit was AQ/92, A9/Q2, A2/Q9, Q/A92, or A92/Q (5 possibilities), and was the better play. The gods smiled - East had the singleton queen, and the slam made, thanks to Binder's thoughtful play.

Meanwhile in the other semifinal, the powerful Doub team (Doug Doub, Frank Merblum, Sheila Gabay, Victor King), frequent winners of New England events, had their hands full with another upstart team - Neil Montague, Bob Gorsey, Larry Lau, and Brett Adler. The match was very close, and in the end another giant fell, when the Montague team prevailed by 2 imps! This hand won their side 12 imps:

 West      H-K       East
 S-Q       D-K7xx    S-K643
 H-109xxxx C-Qxxx    H-AQxx
 D-10xx              D-9x
 C-Kxx     South     C-Jxx
Both tables bid four spades, and both received the heart ten lead, won by East with the ace. At one table, East returned a trump, ducked to West's queen. West played another heart, trumped in dummy. Declarer ran the spade jack, getting the bad news about the break, and turned his attention to the other suits: he played a diamond to hand, and led a club toward dummy's queen, won by West's king. The position was now:
 West      H-        East
 S-        D-K7x     S-K6
 H-9xx     C-Qxx     H-Qx
 D-10x               D-9
 C-xx      South     C-Jx
West got out another heart, which declarer trumped with dummy's last trump, pitching a diamond but leaving him unable to take the trump finesse again. No matter: he cashed another diamond, then the ace and queen of clubs leaving himself in dummy. He led dummy's last club, and East had no answer: if he trumped, declarer could overtrump, draw the least trump, and win his diamond. When East discarded, declarer threw his diamond, and East was caught in a trump coup.

At the other table, when East won the heart ace, he returned the diamond nine. Declarer won in dummy and took a trump finesse losing to West's singleton queen. West played the diamond ten, won perforce by declarer in hand. Now declarer had no way to get to dummy to repeat the trump finesse - when he tried to lead a club toward the queen, West rose with the king and gave his partner a diamond ruff. Easts' diamond return doomed the contract. Well done at both tables!

The Knockout Final

Thanks Dave, for letting me use your account. I'll finish the story. The first half of Sunday's final was nip and tuck. At our table, we stole 10 imps when our opponents misjudged a game-level auction, and won 4 by getting doubled in a cold 5C by conducting an auction which sounded like we were saving, but then we gave back 13 by misguessing the opening lead against a vulnerable 3NT. Our teammates won 11 by bidding a fair nonvulnerable slam, but then gave back 10 by misguessing the trump suit in a normal 4H contract. And there was this deal (neither vul, North deals):

 West       H-AK64    East
 S-632      D-1052    S-A104
 H-J2       C-96      H-Q1085
 D-K                  D-J873
 C-AK108732 South     C-QJ

 South    West       North    East
 Lau      Watson     Adler    Becher
 -        -          P        P
 1D       2C         Double   2NT
 P        3NT        P        P

 Braucher Montague   Binder   Gorsey
 -        -          P        P
 1D       3C         Double   P
 P        P
Dave Becher was +400 when South led his fourth best diamond. Since a spade lead would beat him, that looked like a plus position. At the other table, where I took my chances in 3CX, Rick led the HK and switched to the S9. On winning my SQ, I mistakenly thought declarer held the SJ and Rick the DK, so I underled in diamonds for -570, to lose 5 imps! A spade continuation would have meant +11.

All that left us leading 34 to 33 at the half, and the match remained close the rest of the way. Rick and I started by avoiding two dubious games, both bid at the other table. One made so we lost 7, the other didn't so we won back 6. Rick and I picked up 11 imps by bidding a pushy 6H here:

 West       H-AQ10    East
 S-xx       D-109xx   S-K10xxx
 H-xxxx     C-Jxx     H-
 D-xx                 D-KJ8x
 C-K10xxx   South     C-Q9xx
West led a club (third and fifth) to East's C9 and my CA. Prospects dimmed when East discarded on the first trump, but the spade and diamond finesses both worked, and I ran my trumps for a strip squeeze. Ordinarily, a player in East's position can improve his chances by discarding deceptively, but not here, as I would play him for 5044 no matter what he does, given the opening lead. When he came down to K10 of spades and the boss diamond, he got tossed in with the latter.

Both teams missed a chance when Gorsey and McIntyre, after spirited auctions, declared 4Sx on this layout:

 West       H-        East
 S-         D-AQJx    S-QJ10x
 H-A98xx    C-QJxxxx  H-KJx 
 D-Kxx                D-10xxxx
 C-AK9xx    South     C-x
After West starts proceedings with CK and a low heart (as good as anything), 4Sx could have been made by trumping in dummy, ruffing a club to hand, taking a diamond finesse, ruffing out the king, and catching East in a sort of trump coup. Neither declarer came close, and the board was pushed at down 2, -300.

Both teams missed a chance to beat a normal 3NT when they chose to lead the SQ from AQJx into a 2NT opening, giving declarer the only likely ninth trick. The Montague team gained ten imps with both vulnerable here:

 West       H-Kx      East
 S-KQxx     D-xx      S-
 H-xxxx     C-Jx      H-Q10xx 
 D-Jx                 D-AKQxx
 C-Axx      South     C-KQxx
Rick opened the North cards 2S, East doubled, and West, who was playing lebensohl and had no natural 2NT bid, jumped to 3NT. The diamonds split and the clubs didn't, +600. At the other table, North opened 3S, and our team's West elected to pass East's double for +200.

The killing blow:

 West       H-AQ64    East
 S-Q1097532 D-J752    S-A8
 H-J        C-962     H-K7532
 D-983                D-Q104
 C-AQ       South     C-K73

 South    West       North    East
 Braucher Montague   Binder   Gorsey
 -        -          -        1H
 P        1S         P        1NT
 P        4S         P        P
At the other table, our teammates stopped at a spade partial, reasonably enough. Against 4S, Rick led the third-best D5, to the D10, DK, and D3. This was clever play by Neil Montague. Had he played low from dummy, I would now cash my DA, and Rick would give me a suit-preference DJ, telling me his ace was in hearts. As it was, I thought it possible declarer's spades were solid, but he had misguessed trick one, holding D-873. In that case, I could only beat him if I guessed which ace Rick held right now at trick two. I tried a club. Curtains! Away went declarer's HJ on dummy's CK, lose 10 imps and the match by 12. Had I returned my H10, I would have won the event. Congratulations to Montague, Gorsey, Lau, and Adler on an impressive victory.

Earn victories of your own by coming to our Fiesta Regional, to be held at the Radisson in Nashua NH from August 27 to September 1. Due to the nationals coming to Boston in November, the Fiesta will be District 25's last regional of 2008.