2016 Grand National Teams
I last reported a New England Grand National Teams district final in 2012, but stopped writing them up because I found it was too much work. However this year we used computer deals with hand records in Sunday's knockout rounds, easing the task, so I'll try again. 2016's event drew a substantial field of 11 teams in the championship flight, 5 in Flight A, 16 in B, and 32 in C. In the top flight, GROSSACK (Adam and Zach Grossack, Frank Merblum and Doug Doub) and TSYPKIN (Anton Tsypkin and Walter Lee, Jim Rasmussen and Pam Miller) finished first and second in Saturday's qualifier, and then won convincing semifinal victories, TSYPKIN over GAMMERMAN (Gammerman-McCaw, Gladyszak-Bi) and GROSSACK alas over BRAUCHER (Braucher-Binder, ODonnell-Watson).
There can be no question that the two finalist teams had played the best bridge of all the contestants in the top flight. Their final match would be 28 boards with no carryover, the winner to represent New England in Washington DC this summer. All four pairs play natural systems, but with various gadgets, styles, and notrump ranges. I'll use first names throughout, because I have to for the Grossack brothers to avoid confusion.
. Board 1 None vul North N deals ♠J76 ♥AQ9874 West ♦74 East ♠K984 ♣J2 ♠AQ10 ♥10 ♥J52 ♦K85 South ♦A2 ♣AK1075 ♠532 ♣Q9864 ♥K63 ♦QJ10963 ♣3 South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton - - 2♥ P 3♥ Double P 5♣ P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam - - 2♥ P 4♣ 5♣ P 6♣ P P Double P P P
Even nonvul, neither Adam nor Anton could stomach a three-level overcall as East. Doug's simple 3♥ raise caught a seam in the Lee-Tsypkin methods and they missed a very good slam. Perhaps Anton should cuebid 4♥, planning to pull 4♠ to 5♣ to show a better hand. Or perhaps Walter should raise 5♣ to 6♣ anyway, since Anton has to have two aces with such a ragged club suit.
Jim's 4♣ was ace-asking, a sort of comic Gerber. Zach jammed the responses by interposing 5♣. Adam, I predict not for the last time, stared at an improbable collection on the auction, then bid six. Not in on the joke, Pam doubled the slam. Given the other table's result, this only cost an imp, but if Walter and Anton had reached six, the double would cost five imps. 420 vs. 1090 meant 12 imps to GROSSACK.
. Board 2 NS vul North E deals ♠AJ10652 ♥754 West ♦975 East ♠Q94 ♣4 ♠K ♥K8 ♥A1032 ♦AKJ84 South ♦1063 ♣Q105 ♠873 ♣AKJ87 ♥QJ96 ♦Q2 ♣9632 South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton - - - 1♣ P 1♦ 2♠ Double P 3♠ P 4♦ P 4♠ P 5♦ P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam - - - 1NT P 4♠ Double P P 5♦ P P P
The best play of this East-West diamond suit for no losers (high, then run the ten) is just over 50%, and 6♦ is effectively a coin flip. 6♣ is slightly better, since in some cases, declarer can avoid the diamond finesse.
Anton opened naturally in clubs, made a takeout double, and then scorned Walter's furious slam tries. Adam saw a potential rebid problem and so opened an offshape notrump. Zach's 4♠ showed a slam try in high cards. Like Anton, Adam refused to go on. I'm unfamiliar with this method, but perhaps Adam could try 5♣ over the double. Anyway a push at 420.
. Board 3 EW vul North S deals ♠K9874 ♥98 West ♦KQ10 East ♠QJ2 ♣KQ5 ♠1053 ♥1076 ♥KQ32 ♦J93 South ♦A42 ♣J1094 ♠A6 ♣876 ♥AJ54 ♦8765 ♣A32 South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton 1NT P 2♥ P 2♠ P 3NT P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam 1♦ P 1♠ P 1NT P 2♦ P 2♥ P 2NT P 3NT P P P
Our North-South pairs employed artificial machinery to the normal spot. Clubs were led, a spade was lost, and a heart shift went to the queen and ace. Declarer knocked out the ♦A, and ducked the heart return to the ten playing safe for contract. Push at 400.
. Board 4 Both vul North W deals ♠976 ♥1098 West ♦AJ5 East ♠AQ83 ♣9754 ♠1054 ♥4 ♥AQ53 ♦K9872 South ♦Q4 ♣KJ3 ♠KJ2 ♣A1082 ♥KJ762 ♦1063 ♣Q6 South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton - 1♦ P 1♥ P 2♣ P 2♠ P 2NT P 3♣ P 3NT P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam - 1♠ P 1NT P 2♦ P 4♠ P P P
These auctions aren't misprints, although they appear strange to me. Maybe the game has passed me by. Anyway neither East-West pair arrived in the best game, 3NT by East, and so both faced a nasty heart lead from North. Yet both contracts could still have been made. Walter finessed in hearts, ducked the second heart, won the third, discarding two spades, and called for dummy's ♦Q. Frank saw that ducking would be a bad move, so he won and led a spade to the king and ace. If Frank had a fourth heart, he could beat 3NT by cashing it no matter what Walter did in clubs, so declarer correctly presumed the opening lead was from three. Walter was afraid to play his ♦K because South might have the jack, or North might brilliantly unblock it. He needed three tricks in both minors to get to nine, and wanted to lead the second diamond from dummy and duck it. So he ran the ♣J to the queen and the defense cashed out for down two.
On the heart lead, Zach would soon get tapped. To make 4♠, he had to rise ♥A, finesse in spades, ruff out diamonds, and find the ♣Q, to lose only two trumps and a diamond. He didn't manage all that, and went down two for a push.
. Board 5 NS vul North N deals ♠6 ♥AK10876 West ♦Q84 East ♠K92 ♣A86 ♠AJ83 ♥Q43 ♥J92 ♦AKJ93 South ♦- ♣52 ♠Q10754 ♣KQJ973 ♥5 ♦107652 ♣104 South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton - - 1♥ 2♣ P 3NT P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam - - 1♥ 2♣ P 2♥ Double P P 3NT P P P
Yes, West has the points for 3NT over partner's 2♣ overcall, but unfortunately they're the wrong points, none in clubs, and a tenuous two points in hearts. At least Zach temporized, but then did nothing with the discouraging information he got. Had he bid only 2NT after the double, Adam might bid 3♣ and go plus. No, Zach ignored the warning signs and crashed into the same iceberg as Walter. Both Norths led hearts for a push at down 2.
. Board 6 EW vul North E deals ♠Q86 ♥1064 West ♦863 East ♠K1095 ♣A1074 ♠A2 ♥QJ8 ♥A952 ♦Q752 South ♦A109 ♣Q3 ♠J743 ♣KJ98 ♥K73 ♦KJ4 ♣652 South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton - - - 1NT P 3♣ P 3♦ P 3♥ P 3NT P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam - - - 1NT P 3NT P P P
Walter showed four spades, but Zach chose not to bother and won an imp for 630 vs. 600, because Jim led a spade while Frank led a heart and gave nothing away.
. Board 7 Both vul North S deals ♠Q8 ♥964 West ♦1076 East ♠K9643 ♣A9875 ♠J7 ♥J ♥A732 ♦AQJ9 South ♦K854 ♣632 ♠A1052 ♣KQ4 ♥KQ1085 ♦32 ♣J10 South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton P 1♠ P 2NT P 3♦ P 3NT P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam P 1♠ P 2♣ P 2♦ P 2NT P 3NT P P P
Now I know the game has passed me by. I'd pass those West cards, then bid spades, and then make an invitation in diamonds, which East ought to decline, scoring 130. Both our Wests opened that cheese, got forced to a hopeless game, duly defeated by a high heart lead. Both Norths unblocked the ♥9, and both declarers won the third round. Adam escaped for down one to win 3 imps, because he crossed to dummy twice in diamonds to lead clubs, and Pam ducked twice and lost her ace. Frank hopped up on the first club to play a spade for down two.
. Board 8 None vul North W deals ♠Q1073 ♥K2 West ♦Q864 East ♠J98 ♣953 ♠42 ♥1093 ♥AQ864 ♦A9 South ♦KJ5 ♣KJ864 ♠AK65 ♣1072 ♥J75 ♦10732 ♣AQ South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton - P P 1♥ P 2♣ P 2♥ 2♠ 3♣ P 3♥ P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam - P P 1♥ Double 2♥ 2♠ P P 3♣ P P P
A competitive partscore battle led to different partials East-West. With the clubs favorably placed, neither was in jeopardy. 130 vs. 140 for a push.
. Board 9 EW vul North N deals ♠A105 ♥A West ♦Q96532 East ♠QJ62 ♣J65 ♠4 ♥Q6 ♥K10987432 ♦A87 South ♦J ♣AQ43 ♠K9873 ♣872 ♥J5 ♦K104 ♣K109 South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton - - 1♦ 3♥ 3♠ P 4♠ P P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam - - 1♦ 3♥ Double P 4♦ P P 4♥ P P P
To me, those North cards look more like a weak 2♦ than a one bid. At unfavorable vulnerability, 3♥ is enough with the East cards over 1♦. I think West must go on to 4♥ and double any save. It takes the right opening lead to get 300 on defense - the ♦A against 4♠, a club against 5♦, but any reasonable lead beats either save one trick doubled for 100. Thus in these auctions, both the Grossacks and Merblum-Doub beat par, and won 11 imps for +620 and -50. I doubt either Doug or Frank knew they were saving. I find it hard to blame Rasmussen-Miller for not saving, as they both had some defense. Even if Pam had opened a weak two, the save still might be a phantom from Jim's point of view. Through nine boards, everything had gone GROSSACK's way and they were pitching a 27-0 shutout.
. Board 10 Both vul North E deals ♠K5 ♥A75 West ♦AQ873 East ♠AQ98 ♣872 ♠J762 ♥J62 ♥KQ9 ♦95 South ♦42 ♣AQ94 ♠1043 ♣K1063 ♥10843 ♦KJ106 ♣J5 South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton - - - P P 1♣ 1♦ 1♠ 3♦ P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam - - - P P 1♠ 2♦ 2NT 4♦ 4♠ P P P
TSYPKIN got off the schneider when GROSSACK went -100 at both tables, making the match score 27-5. Doug's jump raise was preemptive. Adam's 2NT showed a limit raise of spades. Jim was out there, but got away with nudging Zach overboard, which is usually unnecessary since Zach jumps overboard on his own.
. Board 11 None vul North S deals ♠53 ♥QJ1053 West ♦QJ6 East ♠A876 ♣A52 ♠K ♥AK642 ♥87 ♦K1085 South ♦A743 ♣- ♠QJ10942 ♣K109864 ♥9 ♦92 ♣QJ73 South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton 3♠ 4♥ P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam 2♠ 3♥ P P P
GROSSACK got the five imps right back when, despite the bad split, both Wests took nine tricks at hearts. While I agree with West going 3♥ over 2♠, I'm not so sure about bidding four over three. 3♠ is going down two or three, so missing a nonvul game isn't so bad, and you need to buy a useful dummy to have a play.
. Board 12 NS vul North W deals ♠QJ106 ♥Q2 West ♦KQ986 East ♠92 ♣J4 ♠AK754 ♥A53 ♥J10986 ♦43 South ♦A ♣1096532 ♠83 ♣A7 ♥K74 ♦J10752 ♣KQ8 South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton - P P 1♠ P 1NT P 2♥ P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam - 3♣ P 3♠ P P P
As Adam and Anton demonstrated, East can take nine tricks at spades and ten at hearts. 140 vs. 170 meant one imp to TSYPKIN, making the score 32-6. That East hand is quite powerful, but tough to bid to a nonvul heart game, particularly opposite Zach.
. Board 13 Both vul North N deals ♠AJ432 ♥J754 West ♦106 East ♠Q95 ♣Q4 ♠K1076 ♥K ♥1093 ♦AJ4 South ♦K952 ♣K108652 ♠8 ♣A9 ♥AQ862 ♦Q873 ♣J73 South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton - - P P P 1♣ P 1♠ P 2♣ P P Double 2♠ P 3♣ P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam - - P P P 1NT P 2♣ P 2♦ P 3NT P P P
Suppose you were a freshman at Tufts, a good bridge player, and in fourth seat with the West cards after three passes. Would you want to have some boring auction to the par partial of 130, as Anton and Walter did? No, you'd try to perpetrate Grand Larceny with an offshape understrength notrump. If your opponents led hearts, there would be no story, so you get a low spade lead, which runs to your hand. Now, the only legit play is to drop the ♣QJ, a remote chance. Throw that one back. Well, I'm too old to be in this position, but if I were still young, I hope I'd play a club to the nine. Just look what this would do to South. Your play suggests ♣K10xxx with no 8. South doesn't know who has the ♠A yet. He knows he has to switch to hearts. He reaches for the ace and stops. Suppose partner has the doubleton king - then only a low heart will set you. I don't know if I'd pull off Grand Larceny, but I'd only be risking a third undertrick, turning an 8 imp loss into a 10 imp loss, or into a 10 imp gain. In actual play, Zach went down two to lose 8 imps. Down three would impress me more.
. Board 14 None vul North E deals ♠AK96 ♥AKQJ3 West ♦K106 East ♠QJ542 ♣Q ♠107 ♥1085 ♥974 ♦- South ♦J983 ♣J10865 ♠83 ♣AK92 ♥62 ♦AQ7542 ♣743 South West North East Doug Walter Frank Anton - - - P P 2♠ Double P 3♦ P 3♥ P 3♠ P 5NT P 6♦ P P P South West North East Jim Zach Pam Adam - - - P 2♦ P 2♥ P 3♦ P 4NT P 5♣ Double 6♦ P P P
The quarter ended with a push when a better than 90% slam went down at both tables on a 4-0 split. The auctions to the best contract are instructive. Frank's 5NT was pick-a-slam. The score stood at 32-14. All the players changed seats, and both teams knew TSYPKIN needed 18 imps or more with 14 boards to play.
. Board 15 NS vul North S deals ♠AQ5 ♥J87 West ♦A9863 East ♠743 ♣J6 ♠9 ♥32 ♥KQ10965 ♦KJ105 South ♦42 ♣AKQ3 ♠KJ10862 ♣9872 ♥A4 ♦Q7 ♣1054 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug 2♠ P 3♠ 4♥ P P P South West North East Zach Pam Adam Jim 1♠ P 2♦ 3♥ P P 4♠ P P P
The Grossacks bounced into a hopeless 4♠ and lost the four obvious tricks. Walter and Anton took their chances defending 4♥. Walter led a spade and Anton played two rounds. Doug ruffed and finessed the ♦J, losing to the ace. When Anton played a third spade, Doug ruffed, led a club to dummy, a heart to the king, smoothly ducked by Walter, a diamond to the king, and a heart to the ten, to make four hearts. That final play was no guess. How could Anton have three aces and the ♠Q, yet make no try for a vulnerable spade game down 18 imps?
Go back to the opening lead. A club lead defeats the contract, so long as South ducks the first heart. Declarer can't avoid a club ruff no matter how he plays.
Now try it with the actual spade lead, but a club shift, and a duck of the first heart. To make his game, Doug has to guess hearts immediately, either by hooking the ten on the first round, or by leading to the king and guessing to continue with a low one, and he must make his trump play with somewhat less information. I've seen Doug in action for years, and I think he'd get it right, but nonetheless, I like the club shift.
+420 and -100 yielded 8 imps to GROSSACK.
. Board 16 EW vul North W deals ♠105 ♥1083 West ♦QJ East ♠J32 ♣QJ10542 ♠KQ764 ♥KJ9762 ♥A4 ♦32 South ♦109865 ♣A9 ♠A98 ♣3 ♥Q5 ♦AK74 ♣K876 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug - 2♥ P P Double P 2NT 3♥ P P 4♣ P P P South West North East Zach Pam Adam Jim - 2♥ P P 2NT P P 3♥ P P P
Pam made her 3♥, as she should on any defense. Frank and Doug perpetrated a rare misdefense to let Anton make 4♣ and lose 7 imps. I think Frank, after winning the second heart, shifted to a diamond instead of a spade. Note Zach's 2NT. He was going down at least three, four on a spade lead. And if he were to win that spade and try a club, the defenders can hold him to two tricks.
. Board 17 None vul North N deals ♠8742 ♥QJ65 West ♦K87 East ♠KQ653 ♣K4 ♠A9 ♥AK1092 ♥87 ♦32 South ♦AQJ954 ♣6 ♠J10 ♣875 ♥43 ♦106 ♣AQJ10932 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug Zach Pam Adam Jim - - P 1♦ 4♣ 4♥ P P P
I rarely see duplicated auctions in championship matches. The only issue is what West should do over 4♣. It turns out to matter little, as East-West can make game in hearts, spades, or diamonds, or take 500 off 4♣ doubled. Push at 420.
. Board 18 NS vul North E deals ♠432 ♥AKJ West ♦AJ95 East ♠AJ98 ♣863 ♠KQ105 ♥97532 ♥6 ♦732 South ♦Q104 ♣2 ♠76 ♣AKJ75 ♥Q1084 ♦K86 ♣Q1094 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug - - - 1♣ P 1♥ P 1♠ P 2♠ P P P South West North East Zach Pam Adam Jim - - - 1♣ P 1♥ P 1♠ P 2♠ P 4♠ P P P
I'm surprised at Doug and Jim's drastic difference in hand evaluation. To me, the East cards are a game invitation. If the defenders lead two rounds of hearts, declarer can cash two clubs and then make all eight of his trumps separately. However, both Zach and Walter led trumps (best). Doug won in dummy, cashed his top clubs, ruffed a club, and came off dummy with a diamond. Anton rose and led a second trump, as good as anything. Doug won in hand, ruffed another club with dummy's last trump, and led another diamond from dummy to his ten, for ten tricks, perhaps demonstrating that his playing judgement is better than his bidding judgement.
Jim won the trump in dummy and took an immediate club finesse, for down one, perhaps demonstrating that his bidding judgement is better than his playing judgement. This was an important deal - 7 imps to GROSSACK instead of 10 imps to TSYPKIN, making the match score 47-21 instead of 40-31, a 26 imp spread instead of 9 with ten boards to go.
. Board 19 EW vul North S deals ♠K ♥10964 West ♦AK854 East ♠QJ97 ♣1032 ♠10864 ♥QJ32 ♥K85 ♦Q96 South ♦103 ♣95 ♠A532 ♣KQJ8 ♥A7 ♦J72 ♣A764 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug 1♣ P 1♦ P 1♠ P 1NT P 2♦ P P P South West North East Zach Pam Adam Jim 1♣ P 1♥ P 1♠ P 1NT P P P
A push for 110 vs. 120. As the play went, Anton could have made 130 for all the matchpoints and no imps.
. Board 20 Both vul North W deals ♠AK10983 ♥J82 West ♦K7 East ♠QJ764 ♣K4 ♠2 ♥AK96 ♥1075 ♦J106 South ♦A952 ♣5 ♠5 ♣Q10962 ♥Q43 ♦Q843 ♣AJ873 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug Zach Pam Adam Jim - 1♠ P 1NT P 2♥ P P P
Just suppose you were to pass (horrors!) the West cards. Your opponents would bid to 2♠ by North. Either your partner would lead a club, or he'd lead a heart to your king and you'd shift to a club. Declarer would come off the dummy with a trump, but he wouldn't finesse the ten, the double dummy way to make the contract. He'd play his trumps from the top, lose six tricks, and you'd go +100.
That was a fantasy. In real life, everybody opens the West hand and winds up in an ugly 2♥. There's no way this should make. Both our Norths led the ♥2, and both our Souths ducked, hoping to overruff dummy later. Both declarers won cheaply and led the ♦J to trick two, and now the play diverged. Adam covered with the king, while Anton didn't.
After Adam covered, Pam won dummy's ace and led a spade to the jack and king, won the trump return, and tried to ruff a spade. Zach overruffed, cashed his ♦Q, and gave Adam a ruff, severing dummy. All Pam got was four hearts, a diamond and a spade at the end, for down two.
At the other table, Walter won his ♦Q at trick two, and played a second trump. Frank gave up on a spade ruff, drew trumps with a third round, and exited a club. Anton won the king and led a second club, covered and ruffed. Frank led the ♦10 to the king and ace, and forced out Walter's club stop. Walter led a spade, Frank split, and with nothing but spades left, Anton could only cash his tops and give Frank the third round. Frank led his last diamond to dummy's nine and cashed a club for a spectacular eight tricks. +110 and +200 yielded 7 imps.
. Board 21 NS vul North N deals ♠Q52 ♥J7 West ♦QJ1052 East ♠A74 ♣QJ5 ♠K983 ♥AK65 ♥Q842 ♦984 South ♦7 ♣942 ♠J106 ♣K1063 ♥1093 ♦AK63 ♣A87 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug - - P P 1♦ P 2♦ Double P 2♥ 3♦ P P P South West North East Zach Pam Adam Jim - - P P 1♦ P 2♦ P P P
Doug's passed hand takeout double wouldn't occur to many players, but bids like it have worked like a charm for him over the years. As it happens, both 2♦ and 2♥ are cold, but 3♦ falls short. +90 and +100 yielded 5 imps, so the GROSSACK team led 59-21, or 38 imps at the three quarter turn.
. Board 22 EW vul North E deals ♠873 ♥K9 West ♦K7 East ♠KJ1054 ♣1076543 ♠A962 ♥AJ1062 ♥- ♦10 South ♦AQJ98 ♣AQ ♠Q ♣KJ82 ♥Q87543 ♦65432 ♣9 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug - - - 1♦ P 1♠ P 3♥ P 4NT P 5♥ P 6♠ P P P South West North East Zach Pam Adam Jim - - - 1♦ 4♥ Double P P P
Without interference, Frank and Doug bid effortlessly to the best imp spot. Anton led a crafty ♦7. Frank called for dummy's ace and led a spade to the queen and king, drew trumps ending in dummy, and ran the ♦Q for 1430. He could actually have afforded one diamond ruff before taking this finesse, and would have been rewarded with 1460 had he done so.
It is a badge of notoriety to get verbed. People say they Blackwooded into slam. Here, we say Pam got Zached, or was subjected to a Zach attack. Double-dummy you could set 4♥ 7 tricks if you led ace and a low trump, but Pam of course led the ♦10 as would you or I. Now the only way back for trump plays was a black suit, and whichever Jim chose, Zach could shorten himself by ruffing the same suit off dummy, and escape for down 6 on a trump endplay. 1400 vs. 1430 meant one imp to GROSSACK.
. Board 23 Both vul North S deals ♠9642 ♥9 West ♦KJ1097 East ♠10853 ♣743 ♠QJ7 ♥K1063 ♥AQJ74 ♦A2 South ♦Q5 ♣A52 ♠AK ♣KJ10 ♥852 ♦8643 ♣Q986 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug P 1NT P 2♦ P 2♥ P 3NT P 4♥ P P P South West North East Zach Pam Adam Jim P P P 1NT P 2♣ P 2♥ P 4♥ P P P
A breather. All roads lead to 4♥, and on this lie of the cards there is no sequence of defensive plays that forces declarer to guess clubs. Pushing 620's.
. Board 24 None vul North W deals ♠KQ103 ♥K96 West ♦K1087 East ♠A4 ♣97 ♠97652 ♥A32 ♥J85 ♦QJ42 South ♦63 ♣A1052 ♠J8 ♣J86 ♥Q1074 ♦A95 ♣KQ43 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug - 1♦ P P 1♥ P 2♦ P 2♥ P P P South West North East Zach Pam Adam Jim - 1NT P 2♥ Double P 2NT P 3NT P 4♥ P P P
East-West can make nothing, and are in worse trouble the higher they go. It was hard for Walter to penalize 1♦, but Adam could have got a shot at 2♠ if he passed Zach's double of 2♥, and with normal play he'd have scored 500 if he had gone that route. It was also hard for North-South to reach the only making game, 3NT by South - a club lead would defeat Adam playing it from North. I don't know if Jim would find that, but even if he didn't, Adam would have to guess the whole hand, including the HJ. The actual heart contracts are held to nine tricks if East-West just play trumps and more trumps. In fact, Frank led a Rusinow ♦J, letting Walter score 170. Adam also got a diamond lead, but he was playing from the other side, and couldn't find a way home, going -100. 7 imps to TSYPKIN.
. Board 25 EW vul North N deals ♠9 ♥AQJ West ♦KJ108543 East ♠1083 ♣K3 ♠AQJ752 ♥109632 ♥K8 ♦- South ♦Q96 ♣AJ865 ♠K64 ♣Q10 ♥754 ♦A72 ♣9742 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug - - 1♦ 1♠ 1NT 2♠ 3♦ 3♠ P P 4♦ P P P South West North East Zach Pam Adam Jim - - 1♦ 2♠ P 4♠ 5♦ P P Double P P P
Voids are strange values - sometimes they are worthless, other times they are gems. Because he had only three trumps for Doug, Frank didn't upgrade his hand from its point count. Pam took the opposite view over Jim's intermediate jump overcall, and was right this time - Jim should make 4♠ on this lie, no matter the defense. Thus Adam did well to sacrifice. Anton guessed trumps to make his 4♦, while Adam, who had been doubled on his right, misguessed trumps just as I would. 130 and 300 meant 10 imps to TSYPKIN, now down 60-38 with 3 boards to play.
. Board 26 Both vul North E deals ♠KQ109 ♥J7 West ♦953 East ♠A76 ♣Q874 ♠J8542 ♥95 ♥KQ1063 ♦A10842 South ♦K7 ♣953 ♠3 ♣10 ♥A842 ♦QJ6 ♣AKJ64 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug - - - P 1♣ P 1♠ 2♥ P P Double P 4♣ P P P South West North East Zach Pam Adam Jim - - - P 1♣ P 1♠ P 2♣ P P P
I'm surprised Walter didn't pass 2♥ doubled at the state of the match. As a passed hand, Doug had been stepping into auctions with dubious values, so here was a chance to get something back. 2♥ is easily held to 7 tricks, either with repeated club plays or with a spade lead and then clubs if declarer ducks to North.
These club contracts can be held to eight tricks with a diamond ruff, but both Wests led a heart. Now declarer could get to nine tricks by cashing even one trump before leading a spade up, but both declarers led a spade up immediately, and the defenders took their five tricks. 200 and 90 meant 7 imps to GROSSACK.
. Board 27 None vul North S deals ♠K963 ♥J104 West ♦AQ53 East ♠1087 ♣64 ♠A ♥K7652 ♥AQ9 ♦9874 South ♦J10 ♣3 ♠QJ542 ♣AKQJ1098 ♥83 ♦K62 ♣752 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug P P 1♦ Double 1♠ 2♥ 2♠ 4♥ 4♠ P P 5♣ P 5♥ P P P South West North East Zach Pam Adam Jim P P P 2♣ P 2♦ P 3♣ P 3♥ P 4♥ P P P
Pam's 2♦ response denied two controls, and her 3♥ promised five or more hearts and a king at most, not necessarily in hearts. It would have been desperate, but at the state of the match, perhaps Jim should jump to 6♣ over 3♥, putting Zach to the test. Instead he went quietly into the night. Neither North led diamonds against hearts, as they might against a slam, so the board was pushed at 510.
. Board 28 NS vul North W deals ♠KQ95 ♥KJ983 West ♦9 East ♠7 ♣Q85 ♠10832 ♥A102 ♥764 ♦KJ8654 South ♦Q103 ♣A32 ♠AJ64 ♣J104 ♥Q5 ♦A72 ♣K976 South West North East Walter Frank Anton Doug - 1♦ 1♥ P 2NT P 3♠ P 4♠ P P P South West North East Zach Pam Adam Jim - 1♦ Double P 2♦ P 2♥ P 2♠ P 3♠ P 4♠ P P P
On the last board, both our North-Souths bid well to the best game. Pam led a trump, after which Zach made five. Doug led diamonds and Frank relentlessly pounded diamonds, eventually earning Doug a trump trick to hold it to four. An imp to GROSSACK, convincing winners by 68-38, if I counted right.
Good luck to Adam, Zach, Frank, and Doug in Washington DC, and good luck to the New England representatives in the other flights. Since the A and B flights played the same boards in the last match as the top flight, they get to compare their results against the district's best. And I hope general readers enjoyed this exciting match as much as I did.