2017 Grand National Teams Flight A Final Match
Analysis by Bill Braucher
District 25 held its 2017 Grand National Teams selection events for Flights A, B, and C in Sturbridge MA on the weekend of April 22-23, 2017. The Championship Flight was delayed a week to be held in conjunction with the Senior Regional in North Falmouth MA. Turnout at Sturbridge was excellent — 30 Flight C teams played a one-day Swiss, 20 Flight B teams played a Swiss on Saturday that qualified 8 for a complete round-robin on Sunday, and Flight A drew 14 teams, a big increase from only 5 teams in 2016. Flight A played a Saturday Swiss from which 4 teams qualified for 28-board semifinal and final matches on Sunday. One noteworthy Flight A semifinalist was Harrison Luba, age 13, but, alas, his team did not reach the final.
The finalist teams in Flight A were BRAGIN (long A, hard G), Barry Bragin - Weiling Zhao and Gary Miyashiro - Michael Hess, all from Connecticut, and RASMUSSEN, Jim Rasmussen - Pam Miller and Dean Panagopoulos - Yiji Starr, all from Massachusetts. All four of our featured pairs play standard with many gadgets. Only Panagopoulos-Starr use weak no-trumps. While there was a carryover provision in the Conditions of Contest this year (which I argued against), it turned out not to matter. Since BRAGIN and RASMUSSEN never met in the Swiss, there was no carryover to the final.
Board 1 None vul North N deals ♠10752 ♥J986 West ♦Q82 East ♠94 ♣73 ♠KJ63 ♥A103 ♥K542 ♦109743 South ♦J ♣Q54 ♠AQ8 ♣K1062 ♥Q7 ♦AK65 ♣AJ98 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen - - P P 2NT P 3♣ P 3NT P P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro - - P P 2NT P P P
Although not vul, Weiling Zhao dredged up a Puppet Stayman response to 2NT, while at the other table, Dean passed his 3 count. Against 2NT, Mike Hess led a fourth-best ♦4 to the jack and ace. Having few dummy entries, Yiji Starr tried the ♥Q, and the defense did well to let this hold. East won the second heart, but, having no more diamonds, she had to give declarer something. In fact Gary shifted to a spade, and Yiji made 120, which is the best she could do against that defense.
RASMUSSEN would have won 5 imps had they defended Barry Bragin's 3NT the same way. However, Pam Miller led the ♦10. The ten versus the four can gain and lose in several uncommon layouts of the diamond suit. Here it lost, as the first trick continued low, jack, ace. The defense also ducked the ♥Q at this table, but here Barry eventually finessed dummy's ♦8, gaining both a trick and an entry compared to Yiji. There are many roads to nine tricks from here, and double-dummy declare can make ten. 400 vs. 120 gave BRAGIN a 7-0 imp lead. The swing was caused by different close choices at similar moments in the auction and differing opening leads, two themes that would recur in this match.
Board 2 NS vul North E deals ♠J1072 ♥AJ9 West ♦KQJ853 East ♠K54 ♣ ♠9863 ♥32 ♥K85 ♦A94 South ♦1062 ♣A8632 ♠AQ ♣K54 ♥Q10764 ♦7 ♣QJ1097 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen - - - P 1♥ P 1♠ P 2♣ P 2♦ P 2♠ P 4♥ P P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro - - - P 1♥ P 2♦ P 2♥ P 4♣ P 4♥ P P P
The South cards lack the point count and honor tricks normally promised by an opening bid. The five-five shape is geared to offense, but too many of the points are in the doubleton. Both Souths opened, perhaps influenced by possession of good spots in the suits. Both Norths made slammy noises, Weiling Zhao with fourth-suit forcing, Dean Panagopoulos with a splinter, but neither pair ventured beyond the normal spot, which would almost certainly be reached even if South didn't open. However, the different paths to game may have affected the opening lead. Where spades were never bid, Mike Hess led the ♠4, which ran to Yiji's queen. She played on diamonds and came to ten tricks easily enough.
Both of her opponents having bid spades, Pam Miller chose a more testing ♥2 for her opening lead, ducked to Jim's king. He pondered his next move. Eventually he returned a second trump. Barry won the queen in hand, led a diamond to the king, and took a losing spade finesse. He won the spade return and passed the ♣Q to Jim's king, but Jim returned his third trump and Barry had to lose the ♣A for down one.
With the diamonds three-three, Barry could have made this contract by continuing diamonds to knock out the ace while he discards his ♠Q. This forces the defense to tap dummy with high clubs, lest declarer cross in trumps to run the whole diamond suit. As long as Barry doesn't ruff air if West underleads in clubs, however, he'll come to ten tricks because his clubs set up with one loser, or the defense lets him run diamonds.
Had Barry's spade finesse worked, 4♥ would make — ♠Q, ruff ♣7 with ♥A, ♠A, ♥10, clubs, and had diamonds not been 3-3, continuing the suit would have failed, as there is only one more dummy entry. A priori, the spade finesse is 50-50, and 3-3 diamonds is less. I think Barry made the right play in theory, although it lost in reality.
Can Jim beat the hand legitimately by shifting to a spade at trick two? I think not double-dummy, but the tree has many branches and some are complex. I'm pretty sure an impossible opening lead of a low club beats the contract no matter what declarer does, and Deep Finesse says it's only cold if played by North.
Anyway, +620 and +100 made the running score RASMUSSEN 12, BRAGIN 7.
Board 3 EW vul North S deals ♠A87 ♥AQ2 West ♦842 East ♠K32 ♣Q1073 ♠Q64 ♥109 ♥J8763 ♦AQ3 South ♦K976 ♣J9862 ♠J1095 ♣K ♥K54 ♦J105 ♣A54 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen P P 1♣ P 1NT P P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro P P 1NT P P P
Dean's 1NT was weak. Although they played from opposite sides of the table, both declarers received heart leads. When the ♣K popped up, both declarers took their seven tricks, for a push at 90. Match point players will note that an overtrick is available by leading spades twice towards the ace, but this play risks the contract if both spades are offside.
Board 4 Both vul North W deals ♠Q1074 ♥K92 West ♦654 East ♠KJ632 ♣986 ♠A95 ♥Q64 ♥J105 ♦9 South ♦AKQ8 ♣QJ73 ♠8 ♣542 ♥A873 ♦J10732 ♣AK10 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen - P P 1♦ P 1♠ P 1NT P P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro - P P 1♦ P 1♠ P P Dbl Rdbl P P 2♦ P P P
Barry led his ♥3 against Jim's 1NT, to the 4, 9, and J. Had Jim played a club towards dummy next, he would make the contract, probably with an overtrick. However, he hadn't seen the ♥2, and if the lead was from five, then the lack of an overcall would suggest both clubs offside, in which case the defense might run four hearts and three clubs if he let them in. So Jim tried ♠A and a spade. He looked aggrieved when Barry, playing upside down signals, discarded the ♣10. He could still make by winning the ♠K in dummy and switching to clubs, but he ducked the spade to North. The defense ran three heart tricks ending in South, then played diamonds. Surprisingly Jim could still make by playing clubs because South has both club tops and nothing but minor suit cards left, but he cashed out his diamonds first and never got the king of spades, for down two. Not Jim's finest hour as declarer.
At the other table, Gary opened in third chair and, despite a full 14 points, abruptly dropped Mike safely in 1♠, which would surely have gone plus — the worst Mike could lose would be two clubs, two hearts, and two spades, with chances for an overtrick. Yiji fought for the partial, but Gary and Mike don't jostle easily, and Dean put down a disappointing dummy. Gary won the ♠A at trick one and put a club through. In due course, Yiji lost a spade, a club, a heart, and 4 diamonds, as she lacked dummy entries to shut out Gary's ♦8. 200 at both tables meant 9 imps to BRAGUB, who now led 16-12.
Board 5 NS vul North N deals ♠AQ742 ♥J7 West ♦J7543 East ♠J63 ♣5 ♠K95 ♥9854 ♥103 ♦86 South ♦Q2 ♣Q862 ♠108 ♣AJ10743 ♥AKQ62 ♦AK109 ♣K9 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen - - P P 1♥ P 1♠ 2♣ 3♦ P 4♣ P 4♦ P 4♥ P 4♠ P 4NT P 5♦ P P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro - - P P 1♥ P 1♠ P 3♦ P 4♦ P 5♦ P P P
Bragin-Zhao agreed diamonds and asked for key cards, and conservatively subsided because they were missing one key card and the queen of trumps. Dean and Yiji bid naturally, also stopping conservatively short of slam, which depends mostly on picking up the ♦Q, and is thus roughly even money. Both Wests led clubs, the trump queen dropped, and four of dummy's spades went on the hearts and clubs. A spade lead is no better, as declarer will rise ace and the club goes away instead. Push for 620.
Board 6 EW vul North E deals ♠J976 ♥QJ1086 West ♦1082 East ♠8543 ♣4 ♠KQ ♥93 ♥K752 ♦K97 South ♦AJ653 ♣KJ75 ♠A102 ♣109 ♥A4 ♦Q4 ♣AQ8632 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen - - - 1♦ 2♣ P P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro - - - 1♦ 2♣ 2♦ P P P P
In 2♣, Barry ruffed the third diamond and played ace and another trump. He ruffed the fourth diamond high, and Miller declined to overruff. Hoping trumps were 3-3, Barry played another, but now Miller drew trumps and played a spade. When Jim got in with his spade, he cashed his fifth diamond for down 2. The lucky lie in spades meant that Barry could have escaped for down one had he played on spades instead of the third round of trump, but surely his play was more likely to work.
Starr led ace and a club against 2♦. Dean ruffed and put the ♥Q through to hold declarer to eight tricks. Push for 90 vs 100.
Board 7 Both vul North S deals ♠109876 ♥AJ965 West ♦K3 East ♠J2 ♣3 ♠AQ3 ♥K42 ♥1087 ♦A6 South ♦QJ1085 ♣K107642 ♠K54 ♣Q5 ♥Q3 ♦9742 ♣AJ98 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen P 1♣ 2♣ 2♦ 3♠ P P 3NT P 4♣ P P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro P 1♣ 1♥ P 1NT P P P
Weiling Zhao, North, risked a Michaels cue bid on slim values, but with three cards onside and all suits splitting, Barry would have made his 3♠ if he played it well. Jim couldn't stomach giving up, but all the cards were wrong for him. Pam went down 3, and a similar fate would have awaited 3NT.
Dean's lead-directing overcall lost the spade suit. Note Gary's very conservative handling of the East cards. Mike led a club to Gary's queen and Yiji's ace. Yiji could get close to making 1NT by leading the ♥Q and ducking when covered. However, she didn't play that way and went down three. 300 at both tables meant 12 imps to BRAGIN, now leading 28-12.
Board 8 None vul North W deals ♠A742 ♥A862 West ♦K7 East ♠105 ♣AQ10 ♠Q63 ♥K1075 ♥QJ3 ♦J532 South ♦AQ9 ♣K85 ♠KJ98 ♣J972 ♥94 ♦10864 ♣643 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen - P 1NT P P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro - P 1♣ P P P
Playing strong no-trumps, Zhao lost the spade fit, but could still have gone plus. A club was led to the king and ace, and she continued ♠K and ♠J, losing to the queen. Jim shifted to hearts and the contract finished down one. Zhao's play of the spade suit might have worked of course, but it was anti-percentage.
I was expecting 140 in spades from our weak no-trump pair, but Yiji passed Dean in an inelegant 1♣. Still, after Gary's ♥Q opening lead was ducked, Dean scrambled seven tricks. I don't think he can be stopped. 70 and 50 meant three imps to RASMUSSEN, now down 28-15.
Board 9 EW vul North N deals ♠5 ♥A2 West ♦K765432 East ♠A8 ♣Q63 ♠J10962 ♥J98764 ♥ ♦10 South ♦AQJ9 ♣A987 ♠KQ743 ♣J1054 ♥KQ1053 ♦8 ♣K2 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen - - 3♦ P P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro - - 3♦ P P 3♥ P 3♠ P P P
At favorable vulnerability, both Norths preempted despite a ratty suit. Pam went quietly with her shapely piece of cheese. Best defense beats this three tricks, but one got away for down two. Mike balanced, touching the void, and Gary's flight to 3♠ had to go down one. 100 at both tables meant five imps to RASMUSSEN, now trailing 28-20.
Board 10 Both vul North E deals ♠64 ♥A107 West ♦K8 East ♠AJ87 ♣AQ10872 ♠953 ♥J532 ♥KQ4 ♦A95 South ♦J102 ♣K9 ♠KQ102 ♣J643 ♥986 ♦Q7643 ♣5 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen - - - P P 1♦ 2♣ P P Dbl P 2♦ P P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro - - - P P 1♦ 2♣ P P P
Pam Miller's reopening double failed to find a home, and her 3-3 fit finished down two. Dean won Gary's ♦J with the king and played a spade to the king and ace. Had he used the dummy entry to play clubs through Mike, he would have made his 2♣ contract. However, he finessed the ♠10, and wound up down one. 100 and 200 meant 7 imps to BRAGIN, now leading 35-20.
Board 11 None vul North S deals ♠Q109 ♥J87 West ♦A76 East ♠J5 ♣AQ65 ♠AK8742 ♥AKQ ♥953 ♦Q85 South ♦109 ♣K10973 ♠63 ♣J2 ♥10642 ♦KJ432 ♣84 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen P 1NT P 4♥ P 4♠ P P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro P 1NT P 2♥ P 2♠ P P P
Is East's hand a signoff or a game bid? Or is it a game invitation? On this deal the meek inherit the earth. Pam went down two in game, while Dean never switched to diamonds and thus gave away two overtricks against the cold 2♠. 100 and 170 meant seven more imps to BRAGIN, now leading 42-20.
Board 12 NS vul North W deals ♠3 ♥632 West ♦J108 East ♠65 ♣QJ10862 ♠AQ1097 ♥KJ74 ♥Q105 ♦A96542 South ♦7 ♣5 ♠KJ842 ♣AK93 ♥A98 ♦KQ3 ♣74 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen - P P 1♠ P 1NT P 2♣ P 2♦ P P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro - P P 1♠ P 1NT P 2♣ P 2♠ P P P
Zhao led her singleton spade against Pam's 2♦. When Barry got in with a trump, he gave North a spade ruff to hold Pam to 9 tricks.
Yiji's trumps look promising in defense against 2♠, but when Gary won her ♦K lead in dummy and played three rounds of clubs, all she could score was three trumps and a heart. In fact, double-dummy, there is a way for Gary to make 4 on a trump endplay. 140 vs 110 meant one imp to BRAGIN, now leading 43-20.
Board 13 Both vul North N deals ♠10953 ♥953 West ♦J95 East ♠KQ76 ♣Q73 ♠4 ♥1084 ♥KQ2 ♦AQ106 South ♦8432 ♣J5 ♠AJ82 ♣AK1094 ♥AJ76 ♦K7 ♣862 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen - - P 1♣ P 1♠ P 1NT P 3NT P P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro - - P 1♣ P 1♠ P 1NT P 3NT P P P
Identical auctions, identical low heart leads won with dummy's ten, identical club finesses, identical 600s, push. Matchpoint hounds might make an overtrick with some guessing.
Board 14 None vul North E deals ♠Q54 ♥AK West ♦J5 East ♠A1063 ♣Q87652 ♠KJ98 ♥4 ♥986532 ♦KQ10984 South ♦A7 ♣K9 ♠72 ♣10 ♥QJ107 ♦632 ♣AJ43 South West North East Bragin Miller Zhao Rasmussen - - - P P 1♦ 2♣ Dbl 3♣ P P 3♥ P 3♠ P P South West North East Starr Hess Panagopoulos Miyashiro - - - P P 1♦ P 1♥ P 1♠ P 2♠ P P P
The half ended with conservative bidding. I realize East-West are non-vul, but "six-four, bid some more" as the saying goes. Where Gary raised only to two where some might bid three, Mike made four for 170. Pam, who might have bid her 3♠ sooner rather than later, made 5 for 200, winning an imp to trail 43-21 at the break.
Board 15 NS vul North S deals ♠A10942 ♥A1075 West ♦J East ♠J6 ♣642 ♠873 ♥J94 ♥K86 ♦Q52 South ♦K10974 ♣KQ753 ♠KQ5 ♣J10 ♥Q32 ♦A863 ♣A98 South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao 1NT P 2♣ P 2♦ P 3♣ P 3♦ P 3♥ P 4♠ P P P South West North East Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos 1NT P 2♣ P 2♦ P 2♠ P P P
If Gary's sequence was an invitation, Mike rejected it. Pam's aggressive bidding showed four hearts and longer spades. The nice lie in hearts made ten tricks a gimme. By deliberate design, the imp table favors close games much more when vulnerable. 620 versus 170 meant ten imps to RASMUSSEN, now trailing 43-31.
Board 16 EW vul North W deals ♠2 ♥QJ9 West ♦8754 East ♠J96 ♣QJ873 ♠107 ♥74 ♥A106532 ♦AQJ102 South ♦K963 ♣K92 ♠AKQ8543 ♣6 ♥K8 ♦ ♣A1054 South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao - P P 1♥ Dbl Rdbl 2♣ P 2♥ P 2NT P 4♠ P P P South West North East Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos - P P 2♥ 4♠ P P P
South's hand is so impressive, no East-West shenanigans could stop him from bidding a spade game. Both declarers lost only a heart and a club for 450 and a push.
Board 17 None vul North N deals ♠A975 ♥K863 West ♦Q43 East ♠862 ♣K3 ♠K4 ♥Q102 ♥954 ♦J765 South ♦A10982 ♣A82 ♠QJ103 ♣QJ10 ♥AJ7 ♦K ♣97654 South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao - - 1♦ P 1♠ P 2♠ P 2NT P 3♠ P P P South West North East Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos - - P P 1♣ P 1♥ P P P P
Miller and Rasmussen came close to bidding this close but making game. The ♠K and ♥Q are offside, but the ♣A is onside and the suits all split, so ten tricks in spades were always there for Rasmussen. Gary didn't open North's barren 12 count, and Mike dropped his one-level response. Gary scored the same 170 in hearts, because when Dean got in with his ♦A, he shifted to his ♠K, trying for a ruff. Push.
Board 18 NS vul North E deals ♠Q7652 ♥J3 West ♦Q7 East ♠1093 ♣KQ72 ♠AK4 ♥Q10965 ♥K74 ♦A8 South ♦K632 ♣A94 ♠J8 ♣J103 ♥A82 ♦J10954 ♣865 South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao - - - 1♦ P 1♥ P 1NT P 2♣ Dbl 2♥ P 4♥ P P P South West North East Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos - - - 1NT P 2♦ P 2♥ P P P
Playing from the East side, Dean lost two hearts, two clubs, and a spade, making his 2♥ contract. Barry played game from the West side, and received a favorable lead of the ♣K from Pam. Here I think Pam's double of 2♣ influenced both Jim and Barry's play because they placed her with more clubs than she had. Indeed double-dummy, 2♣ doubled can be made! Barry won and led a heart to the king and ace. Jim, South, returned the ♠J, an error on this lie of cards, but he feared discards on dummy's clubs. Barry won the ace and lost a trump finesse to Pam's bare jack. On the spade return he decided Jim had the ♠Q, and Pam had the last trump, so he rose with dummy's king and thus went down one after inaccurate play all around.
110 and 50 meant 4 imps to RASMUSSEN, now trailing 43-35.
Board 19 EW vul North S deals ♠J43 ♥10763 West ♦KJ5 East ♠K108 ♣A105 ♠AQ9 ♥8 ♥A4 ♦AQ1094 South ♦632 ♣7643 ♠7652 ♣KQJ98 ♥KQJ952 ♦87 ♣2 South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao 3♥ P 4♥ Dbl P 5♦ P P P South West North East Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos 2♥ P P 2NT P 3NT P P P
At matchpoints, I think it best for East to go quietly over 4♥, since the hand is flat and any action is likely to turn a plus to a minus. At imps there is too much danger of being stolen blind, so I agree with Weiling Zhao's double. This time, with both diamonds off, Zhao would have done better to let them have it for 4♥ down two. On winning the first losing diamond finesse, Miller did not find Jim's club ruff, so Barry escaped for down one. Jim had signaled for a heart continuation rather than a club shift on the first trick.
By contrast, no East would sell out to 2♥ by South, which makes. An informal poll of good players resulted in a three-way split between double, 2NT, and 3♣ (my choice). Dean's 3NT contract was so low-percentage he didn't even try to make it with a double finesse in diamonds, instead just conceding a club for down two. 200 versus 100 gave 3 imps to BRAGIN, now up 46-35.
Board 20 Both vul North W deals ♠J ♥KJ109765 West ♦Q982 East ♠K95 ♣4 ♠Q843 ♥Q3 ♥8 ♦AJ7 South ♦K10653 ♣109762 ♠A10762 ♣AJ5 ♥A42 ♦4 ♣KQ83 South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao - P 3♥ P 4♣ P 4♥ P P P South West North East Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos - P 3♥ P 4♥ P P P
Jim asked for key cards over partner's preempt, while Mike just bid his game. Declarer is supposed to make 5, but Mike mistimed himself out of an overtrick, while Weiling Zhao ducked her ace of clubs and had it ruffed out. 620 versus 680 meant two imps to RASMUSSEN, down 46-37.
Board 21 NS vul North N deals ♠1085 ♥6 West ♦AKJ4 East ♠KJ62 ♣AQ532 ♠A43 ♥85 ♥AK743 ♦Q875 South ♦1062 ♣K76 ♠Q97 ♣98 ♥QJ1092 ♦93 ♣J104 South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao - - 1♦ 1♥ P 1NT P P P South West North East Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos - - 1♦ 2♥ P P P
Pam won the first trick with her ♦K against Barry's 1NT, then shifted to a small club. Barry won, picked up spades, and cashed out for 90. Pam couldn't defeat this contract, because Jim can never get in, and, sooner or later, she has to let Barry score a minor suit trick. Had she competed to 2♣, she would have bought it and made it against any defense.
Dean tried to jostle his opponents with an offshape weak jump overcall, but jostling Gary and Mike is hard work. Mike Hess led the ♣J, and 2♥ went down three. 150 and 90 meant 6 imps to BRAGIN, now up 52-37.
Board 22 EW vul North E deals ♠Q94 ♥A63 West ♦10985 East ♠A732 ♣A32 ♠KJ65 ♥QJ87 ♥K104 ♦J32 South ♦64 ♣95 ♠108 ♣KJ87 ♥952 ♦AKQ7 ♣Q1064 South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos - - - P P P P
Had anybody opened, both teams would find 4-4 fits. North-South would make 8 tricks in diamonds, but East-West would make 8 or 9 in spades depending on the club guess. Push.
Board 23 Both vul North S deals ♠Q83 ♥A63 West ♦AJ104 East ♠107 ♣643 ♠AKJ965 ♥J74 ♥1082 ♦KQ753 South ♦8 ♣KJ8 ♠42 ♣Q95 ♥KQ95 ♦962 ♣A1072 South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao P P 1♦ 1♠ Dbl P 1NT P P P South West North East Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos P P P 2♠ P P P
After the defense cashed their hearts on the go, Dean eventually got to dummy and took a spade finesse to make his 2♠ on the nose. Zhao led her ♠A against Pam's 1NT and shifted to a heart. Pam won in dummy to play a diamond. When Barry failed to split, Pam won cheaply and ran 7 tricks to make 90. Barry lost five imps by playing second hand low, reducing BRAGIN's lead to 52-42.
Board 24 None vul North W deals ♠K3 ♥AJ10 West ♦Q764 East ♠Q62 ♣KJ86 ♠AJ10875 ♥864 ♥Q95 ♦KJ10932 South ♦5 ♣2 ♠94 ♣1053 ♥K732 ♦A8 ♣AQ974 South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao - 2♦ P P Dbl P 3♣ P P P South West North East Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos - 2♦ P P Dbl P 2NT P 3♣ P 3NT P P P
I confess I don't understand the so-called lebensohl convention, an artificial 2NT response to takeout doubles of weak two bids. Both teams were playing it, but I can't interpret either auction. What is the distinction between Gary's sequence and just bidding 3NT right away over the double? And at the other table, Jim and Pam have the agreement that 2NT is either 0-8 or 13+, with suit bids roughly 9-12. Pam must have thought her bid showed considerable values because Jim was in the balancing seat, but Jim wasn't on the same wavelength.
This convention has particularly little value over weak 2♦ openings, because with most weak holdings, responder will be bidding two of a major, perhaps even on a three card suit, so the convention gives up a valuable natural 2NT to gain two levels of club bids.
The most testing lead against 3NT would be the singleton diamond. I believe declarer's best line would be to rise dummy's ace and take a heart finesse into East. This works if the weak two bidder has 6 diamonds, or the ♥Q, or the ♠A. Today the first comes off, so you have 9 tricks.
In practice, Dean led the ♠J, giving the ninth trick immediately, and on the run of the clubs, discarded a heart since if declarer had the ace, it was only overtricks, while if Yiji had it, he had to keep enough spades to beat 3NT. Thus Gary made 5.
Pam lost a diamond and two spades for 130 against 460, losing 8. BRAGIN led 60-42 with 4 boards to go.
Board 25 EW vul North N deals ♠K6 ♥A5 West ♦KJ9743 East ♠974 ♣A106 ♠J532 ♥Q108762 ♥4 ♦82 South ♦6 ♣83 ♠AQ108 ♣KQ97542 ♥KJ93 ♦AQ105 ♣J South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao - - 1NT Dbl 2♣ P 2♦ P 3♦ P 3NT P 4♦ P 6♦ P P P South West North East Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos - - 1♦ P 1♥ P 2♦ P 4♣ P 4♥ P 4♠ P 4NT P 5♠ P 5NT P 7♦ P 7NT P P P
My interpretations of these complex slam auctions are those of an outsider to these partnerships. Jim's 3♦ showed both majors, Pam's 3NT denied any. 4♦ was natural and forcing, so Jim and Pam found their diamonds despite the off-shape no-trump and interference, but neither of them bid the cold grand slam. Declarer drew trumps and claimed.
When Mike splintered, Gary had a perfectly fitting maximum. His 5NT stated that all key cards were held, and asked South's opinion. However, for some not very good reason, he then pulled to 7NT, which is not so cold as 7♦. He won the ♣K lead with the ace, tested diamonds, and then hearts. When Dean showed out in both red suits, Gary ran all his diamonds, squeezing Dean in the blacks to make 1520, winning 12 imps to lead 72-42 with three boards to play. This was a back-breaker result, putting the match out of reach for RASMUSSEN.
Board 26 Both vul North E deals ♠AJ ♥J952 West ♦Q109 East ♠Q976 ♣KJ74 ♠108542 ♥AK104 ♥863 ♦J85 South ♦72 ♣102 ♠K3 ♣Q98 ♥Q7 ♦AK643 ♣A653 South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao - - - P 1NT P 2♣ P 2♦ P 2♠ P 3♣ P 3NT P P P South West North East Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos - - - P 1♦ P 1♥ P 2♣ P 3♣ P 3NT P P P
The declarers won the spade leads, tested diamonds, and played on clubs to make 630. Push.
Board 27 None vul North S deals ♠QJ1043 ♥1093 West ♦J84 East ♠AK5 ♣103 ♠86 ♥AK52 ♥Q876 ♦AKQ3 South ♦7 ♣Q4 ♠972 ♣AKJ865 ♥J4 ♦109652 ♣972 South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos P 2♣ P 3♣ P 4♦ P 4NT P 7NT P P P
When their partners showed a positive response in clubs, both Yiji and Barry checked for keycards and then took the bull by the horns. There were 15 tricks on top. Pushing 1520s.
Board 28 NS vul North W deals ♠Q ♥AK1075 West ♦AKJ7 East ♠J84 ♣732 ♠K1073 ♥Q9842 ♥8 ♦Q1092 South ♦84 ♣J ♠A9652 ♣A109864 ♥J3 ♦653 ♣KQ5 South West North East Rasmussen Bragin Miller Zhao - P 1♥ 2♣ 2♠ P 3♦ P 3NT P P P South West North East Hess Starr Miyashiro Panagopoulos - P 1♥ 3♣ Dbl P 3♦ P 3NT P P P
Both Wests led clubs, both declarers used their entries to take both working red finesses, and both emerged with 9 tricks for pushing 600s, leaving the final score BRAGIN 72, RASMUSSEN 42.
This match was 28 boards of quiet, conservative bridge. Not a single doubled contract was declared. There were no calls for the director. I imagine some kibitzers would say it was boring to watch, but not me. There were numerous close interesting positions in both bidding and play, and while nobody was perfect, the BRAGIN team's players got more right than the players on the RASMUSSEN team.
West Redding, CT
I thank the players for letting me kibitz and also for commenting on my first draft. I hope readers found this match as instructive as I did, and I wish the team of Barry Bragin, Weiling Zhao, Mike Hess, and Gary Miyashiro success in Toronto this summer.