The Buzz for September 2011
New England held its Fiesta Regional August 29 through September 4, 2011 at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick RI. This tournament was beset with troubles, but our nimble tournament manager Helen Pawlowski coped admirably, and I would rate Warwick 2011 a success, considering the circumstances.
In past years, this Labor Day regional has been held in Springfield MA, Waterbury CT, and for the last couple of years, Nashua NH. This year, however, the Nashua site was unavailable, and Helen negotiated a two-year deal with the Crowne Plaza, despite short notice. Unfortunately, in 2011 the excellent ballroom had already been booked for the final weekend, so after playing indoors through Friday, the players decamped to the Pavilion, a huge four-pole white tent out back. The summer weather made the Pavilion practicable and the lighting was OK, although a few players with limited vision needed table lights. The temperature varied due to the use of fans to circulate air - next to the fans was cool and breezy, but in its corners the Pavilion was warm during daylight hours. I found the chief problem was noise, both from the blowing fans and from the nearby highway, but it wasn't outrageous.
Then on the Sunday before the regional, Hurricane Irene hit Rhode Island. A tree fell on a power substation and the hotel lost power and light. After the storm, Helen drove elsewhere to get on the internet, and posted a notice on the home page of this website canceling our scheduled Monday-Tuesday Knockout teams. We had an excellent low room rate, but there were numerous cancellations. Power was still out Monday afternoon, and Helen planned a revised and attenuated schedule of just Daylight Pairs played next to windows for Tuesday. However, power came back around 11 PM Monday night, so Helen posted a new notice here, informing everybody we'd play a full schedule, and many players rebooked. The hotel was quite cooperative despite the Act of God, and attendance was OK although not as big as we'd originally hoped. Hopefully next year, we'll have better luck in Warwick!
As to the bridge, mostly the memorable deals were the slams. I was only able to play Friday-Saturday-Sunday, so my partner and I planned to play the Friday Compact KO as an appetizer, the premier Friday-to-Sunday Knockout for the main course, and then for dessert, unless we reached the KO final, the bracketed Swiss. It didn't quite work out that way. In the Friday Compacts, we missed two slams, and even when we were on the good side of a slam swing, I didn't like it:
. Board 6 EW vul North E deals ♠ ♥AK4 West ♦Q1053 East ♠QJ864 ♣A108654 ♠K9732 ♥106 ♥9852 ♦K74 South ♦9862 ♣Q76 ♠A105 ♣ ♥QJ73 ♦AJ ♣KJ92
My partner played 6♣ on a spade lead. He won the ace and played the ♣K, picked up trumps for 920, and won 13 imps. Good? No, he should hang his head in shame! If West had been the one with the void, our slam would have been at the mercies of the diamond finesse. The hand is basically cold - ruff the spade, ♣A, ♣K unless West shows out, ♠A pitching ♦, ♠ ruff, hearts. If West ruffs a heart, he's endplayed, forced to lead into the ♦AJ or give a ruff-sluff. If he doesn't ruff, you toss him in with his ♣Q.
The upshot is we didn't get to the final four in the Compact, and so played the one-session Swiss Friday afternoon. Things went better there - we stayed out of a bad slam, bid a good 6NT, and we even picked up on a grand slam here:
. Board 16 EW vul North W deals ♠K109 ♥54 West ♦AKQJ9 East ♠ ♣1032 ♠ ♥ ♥ ♦ South ♦ ♣ ♠A5 ♣ ♥A97 ♦642 ♣AKQJ7 South West North East - Pass 1♦ Pass 3♣ Pass 3♦ Pass 4♥ Pass 5♦ Pass 5♥ Pass 5♠ Pass 7NT Pass Pass Pass
Partner's 4♥ bid was keycard for diamonds, so he knew I had ♦AKQ when I responded 5♦. 5♥ asked for specific kings, 5♠ showed the king, and he could count thirteen probable tricks. I never saw the East-West cards because partner won the heart lead, played a diamond, and claimed when West followed. For some reason, this easy combination wasn't bid to 7 at the other table, and the upshot was, we easily won this minor event.
Were we ready for the big Knockout? Well, not exactly. As usual the main KO was seeded and featured New England's finest teams, but there were numerous dangerous lower seeds lurking in the draw. The winners aren't as predictable as in some other districts - upsets are common in our D25 Flight A knockout events. Warwick was no exception - the 2 through 5 seeds all lost Friday night!
We had a six-person team, and my partner and I only played the first half of a three-way match. In one match, nothing much happened, except that the same normal slam was bid and defeated at both tables on rotten splits. In the other match, our opponents stayed out of two close slams, both of which might be bid and would certainly have been made if they were, but they were pushes at 680 and 490, and at both tables, the following embarassment occurred:
. Board 12 NS vul North W deals ♠A52 ♥J7 West ♦KQJ7 East ♠QJ108743 ♣AJ85 ♠K6 ♥Q ♥843 ♦A10642 South ♦983 ♣ ♠9 ♣Q10973 ♥AK109652 ♦5 ♣K642 South West North East - 4♠ Pass Pass Pass
After identical auctions, both Norths led an unfortunate ♦K. Declarer won and played trumps for a push at down one and plus 50. I was North. If I had doubled, I know my partner would have driven to 6♥ with the South cards. Similarly, after my pass, if he had summoned up the courage to bid five vulnerable hearts in the passout seat, I would have given him six. If they'd let us play our slam, I think partner would find the ♥Q for 1430 and 16 imps. More likely, East would have saved at 6♠. But on that auction, I'd double and lead the ♥J for 800, which is still 13 imps. The four North-South players felt like chickens, but red pockets make cowards of us all.
I went home, but our team had a bad second half, including this:
. Board 7 Both vul North S deals ♠765 ♥AK2 West ♦K65 East ♠J109842 ♣K753 ♠3 ♥QJ94 ♥10865 ♦A South ♦932 ♣106 ♠AKQ ♣QJ942 ♥73 ♦QJ10874 ♣A8 Table one auction: South West North East 1♦ 2♠ 3♣ Pass 3NT Pass Pass Pass Table two auction: South West North East 1♦ 2♠ 3♠ Pass 4♣ Pass 4♥ Pass 4♠ Pass 5♥ Pass 5♠ Pass 5NT Pass 6NT Pass 7♦ Pass Pass Dbl Pass Pass Pass
Over 2♠, North has 3 choices: double, 3♣, or 3♠. All are slight distortions, getting the strength across, but overstating the case in hearts, clubs, or diamonds, respectively. The 3♣ bidder for our opponents at table one never came close to slam. Declarer won the lead and knocked out the ♦A for 690.
At table two, our team's North's 3♠ bid implied a diamond fit, and South liked his hand. By his lights, he started cuebidding with 4♣. North took this for a minor two-suiter, and after several more cue-bids, asked South to pick a slam by bidding 5NT, expecting South to choose between his minors. However, South wisely saw big danger of a spade ruff and veered into 6NT. Obviously, if North had passed this, he would have won 13 imps, but he hadn't planned on a notrump contract and decided to pick a minor himself! West unsportingly doubled, led a spade, won the trump ace, and gave East a ruff for 500 and 15 imps. We were out of the knockouts early.
There was nothing for it but to play the Saturday pairs. Having played the Daylight stratified at Sturbridge, this time we decided to play in a smaller, tougher field - the Flight A/X pairs at 1PM/7PM. We did all right in the first half, but in pair games, we're just as much at the mercy of our opponents as anybody else. First, we had the misfortune of playing Board 12 against the X pair of Dawei Qi and Sheng Li:
. Board 12 NS vul North W deals ♠AK752 ♥A7 West ♦A72 East ♠J4 ♣AK6 ♠10963 ♥1083 ♥K95 ♦QJ9653 South ♦108 ♣108 ♠Q8 ♣Q932 ♥QJ642 ♦K4 ♣J754 South West North East - Pass 2♣ Pass 2♦ Pass 2NT Pass 3♦ Pass 3♥ Pass 4♣ Pass 4♦ Pass 4NT Pass 5♠ Pass 5NT Pass 6♥ Pass Pass
North promoted his prime 22 points to a 2♣ opening. South transferred to hearts, showed his clubs, and bid a quantitative 4NT over North's 4♦ cue. 5NT was pick a slam, and North made the winning choice. No slam is great, but 6♠ is surely down with a trump loser. I was East - had North tried 6NT, I'm sure I would have broken up the looming black suit squeeze with a spade play. But just try to beat 6♥ on this layout! Declarer could win any lead, drive trumps, and ruff the spades good with plenty of entries. Minus 1430 was a zero for us, and things didn't get better when we sat down against Walter Lee and Alex Perlin, the pair game's eventual winners:
. Board 23 Both vul North S deals ♠A97 ♥4 West ♦AKQ65 East ♠Q10654 ♣Q963 ♠82 ♥97 ♥QJ108652 ♦J98 South ♦72 ♣J102 ♠KJ3 ♣74 ♥AK3 ♦1043 ♣AK85 South West North East 1♣ Pass 1♦ Pass 2NT Pass 3♠ Pass 4♣ Pass 4NT Pass 5♣ Pass 5♦ Pass 5♥ Pass 5♠ Pass 6♣ Pass 7♣ Pass Pass Pass
3♠ showed a slam try in clubs, and 4♣/5♣ were keycard. South then invited a grand, and North liked his ♦Q. Even in the A/X pairs, there's little field protection against grand slams, and we only scored one matchpoint for -2140.
The semifinals of the Knockouts were also contested in the Pavilion that Saturday night. One match I rated pick 'em - Gladyszak-Borgschulte-Kadis-Kadis vs. Hanlon-Savko-Hacker-Sharpsteen. On one deal I heard about from this match, Grand Master Steve Gladyszak picked up:
♠ ♥AQJ1087 ♦AKQJ97 ♣A
The problem with these cards is finding the ♥K. No amount of judgement or ability will substitute for a relevant agreement. Steve opened 6♥. He and Ann Borgschulte had agreed that opening six-bids are to be raised to seven only with the ace or king of trumps. This way of dealing with the problem has advantages - it's clear, and it makes it hard for the opponents to find a sacrifice. You give up on the case where partner has short hearts and a big diamond fit. In practice, Ann had four small hearts. She passed, and the opponent's ♥K turned out to be unassailable, so Steve made six.
At the other table, the auction began 2♣-2♦-2♥-3♥. With voids, control responses to 2♣ don't work, and neither does keycard if partner shows one key. Exclusion Blackwood, or a souped-up Grand Slam Force might work, but the 2♣ bidder, who had no such agreements, guessed to try a grand slam which failed. Grand slams on finesses are anti-imp-odds ventures, and this is rather worse than a finesse since you need an unbiddable ♦10 as a dummy entry to avoid playing for a low percentage singleton ♥K. The Gladyszak team went on to win.
However, the talk of the tournament was the other semifinal, in which the top seed of Doub-Starr-Applebaum-Merblum opposed Rasmussen-Miller-Sessler-Lieberman. After 14 boards, the Doub team led 56-2. After the second half, Doub-Starr brought back 11 plus scores including a slam. Not good enough! At the other table, Rasmussen-Miller were plus on all 14 deals, and made three slams, to gain 58 imps and nip the favorites by 4 imps. One slam pickup was this:
. North ♠J10963 ♥108 West ♦10983 East ♠Q2 ♣53 ♠A75 ♥K6 ♥AQ743 ♦KQJ75 South ♦A642 ♣KJ108 ♠K84 ♣Q ♥J952 ♦ ♣A97642 South West North East - - Pass 1♥ Pass 2♦ Pass 4♣ Dbl Pass Pass 4♦ Pass 4♥ Pass 4♠ Pass 5♥ Pass 6♦ Pass Pass Pass
4♣ was a splinter, 4♦ was keycard, and 4♠ asked for the ♦Q. 5♥ showed ♦Q and ♥K. 6♦ is a high-percentage slam, and quickly made when North led a club. It would have been a bit more interesting on the lead of the ♠J. Declarer would play ♠A, ♦K, planning to claim if all followed. The 4-0 trump break would then put the contract at risk. Declarer could draw trumps in four rounds, discard ♠Q on the third heart, and, when hearts didn't break, try the ♣Q. Surely South would duck, and West, with only his fifth trump remaining as an entry, would have to overtake the ♣Q and hope the ♣9 would fall in three rounds. It would! You see, on the first three trumps, South could discard a spade and two clubs, but on the last, he's squeezed in three suits. I'm not sure of my squeeze nomenclature here, and don't know what you'd call this. The other pickup was:
. North ♠ ♥ West ♦ East ♠753 ♣ ♠AK82 ♥AKQ64 ♥3 ♦KQ8 South ♦A94 ♣64 ♠ ♣KQJ73 ♥ ♦ ♣ South West North East - 1♥ Pass 2♣ Pass 2♦ Pass 2NT Pass 3NT Pass 4NT Pass 6NT Pass Pass Pass
2♣ was either a game force with clubs or a temporizing call, 2♦ was waiting, and 2NT showed the former. 4NT was quantitative and pushy. The slam is around 44%, needing clubs 3-3 or doubleton ace onside, or a very unlikely squeeze. Still, a reasonable venture down 54 imps. Clubs broke 3-3 and the final would be Rasmussen vs. Gladyszak. I'm sorry, I have no deals from this final - all I know is that Rasmussen led by 17 imps at the half, but Gladyszak came back to win. Congratulations to Steve, Ann Borgschulte, and Ken and Elaine Kadis for a big win.
My excuse for reportorial dereliction with regards to Sunday's KO final is that I was involved in a dogfight in the Flight A Swiss, an event consisting of 7 8-board matches scored with victory points. In the very first round, my team faced Doub-Starr-Applebaum-Merblum. Perhaps still thinking of their semifinal loss from the day before, they stretched to a slam which needed a finesse plus a bit more. They got the bit more, but not the finesse, and we won by 14. During the second match, our opponents stopped in 6♠ with the following two hands, and were pleased to see that spades didn't break. However, we had the following auction:
. Board 27 None vul North S deals ♠AK943 ♥AKQ2 West ♦6 East ♠ ♣Q94 ♠ ♥ ♥ ♦ South ♦ ♣ ♠Q82 ♣ ♥5 ♦AK104 ♣AK1063 South West North East 1♣ Pass 1NT Pass 2♠ Pass 2NT Pass 3♥ Pass 3♠ Pass 4♠ Pass 4NT Pass 5♠ Pass 5NT Pass 6♣ Pass 7NT Pass Pass Pass
I was North. We play a strong club system, and 1NT is our superpositive response, 15+ points, any shape, which takes control of the auction. 2♠ indicated some sort of minor suit holding, and 3♥ showed both minors and short hearts. Spades were bid and raised, and 4NT was keycard. When partner showed his ♣K, I judged that 7NT would make if either black suit behaved. So it proved, the spades didn't break but the clubs did. We won 11 imps and the match. After winning our first four matches, we led the field, but I noticed that the Doub team lurked among the teams chasing us. However, in the fifth match:
. North ♠ ♥ West ♦ East ♠7 ♣ ♠Q73 ♥AKQJ9872 ♥3 ♦542 South ♦AK6 ♣6 ♠ ♣AK10854 ♥ ♦ ♣ South West North East - 4♣ Pass 4♦ Pass 4♥ Pass 4♠ Pass 5♥ Pass 6♥ Pass Pass Pass
At the other table, West opened 4♥ ending the auction. My partner's 4♣ was Namyats - a better 4♥ bid, and 4♠ was keycard. I gambled on the spades, won my 13-imp gamble, and our team blitzed. With two matches to go, our team had accumulated 86 of a possible 100 Victory Points. The Doub team also blitzed, and now had 77.
In the sixth match, we played opponents I didn't know. The boards were flat, and they had the better of them until the last deal:
. Board 16 EW vul North W deals ♠AQ9 ♥ West ♦AK7653 East ♠1052 ♣A1065 ♠KJ864 ♥KQ10 ♥J9862 ♦10984 South ♦Q ♣Q72 ♠73 ♣J4 ♥A7543 ♦J2 ♣K983 South West North East - Pass 1♣ Pass 1♠ Pass 2♦ Pass 2♥ Pass 3♣ Pass 4♣ Pass 4♠ Pass 4NT Pass 5♦ Pass 5♥ Dbl 6♣ Pass Pass Pass
My 1♣ opening bid was strong and partner's 1♠ was our stronger semi-positive, about 8-9 points. The next four bids were natural. When partner raised clubs, I cuebid 4♠, suggesting a club slam. Partner's 4NT was 'Last Train', too good for a 5♣ signoff. Dreaming of ♠K and ♣KQ, I made a piggish grand slam try of 5♦, but the ace of hearts wasn't the card of my dreams, so I retreated to 6♣. This needed clubs 3-2 and either diamonds to break or the spade finesse. It all worked like a charm, with the ♦Q dropping. I had just enough hand entries to set up diamonds and lost only a trump. The club slam would be defeated by a spade lead if played by South. In fact, it's hard to make game except in clubs on this layout. 3NT can be made, but might not be. The other table's 5♦ contract lost a club, a diamond, and a spade for down one. 920 and 50 meant 14 imps, to win the match by 8. We had 100 victory points out of a possible 120 with one match to play. Enough to keep the wolf from the door? No! The Doub team blitzed, and had 97! The wolf was present, and the rest of the field was playing for third place.
For the last match, we drew strong opponents - Maine Grand Master Dick Budd, and the ever clever Mark 'the Shark' Aquino. The match started badly for us:
. Board 21 NS vul North N deals ♠9 ♥K9653 West ♦J10873 East ♠Q862 ♣74 ♠AKJ4 ♥Q7 ♥A104 ♦6 South ♦AKQ2 ♣1098632 ♠10753 ♣AK ♥J82 ♦954 ♣QJ5 South West North East - - Pass 2♣ Pass 2♦ Pass 2♥ Pass 2♠ Pass 2NT Pass 3♣ Pass 3♠ Pass 4♣ Pass 4♦ Pass 4♠ Pass 6♠ Pass Pass Pass
Dick's 2♥ was Kokish, showing either hearts or a balanced game force, 2♠ asked, and 2NT showed the latter. Stayman found spades, and Mark Aquino, who is used to doing battle on slim values, made a slam try with only a pair of queens. I led ♦J and dummy won. ♠AK revealed the trump position, the ♣AK followed. When Mark called for dummy's ♠4, partner failed to put up the ♠10. Mark finessed the ♠8 and conceded a club to make his slam with the ♠Q for reentry to the clubs. Suppose partner had played his ♠10 on the third round, denying the second entry (since dummy's ♠J would be higher than declarer's ♠8). Mark would trump the third club in dummy, and, since the ♠8 would now be high, might try a heart towards the ♥Q, trying to get back to his hand. That line would fail. However, I suspect Mark would have made his slam, by playing three rounds of diamonds ruffing, then exitting with a good club. South would have to ruff and break hearts in a two-card ending, and Mark would have to guess him for the ♥J instead of the ♥K to make. Still, that would be a better way to die. The teammates stopped in 3NT, so we lost 11 imps. Things got better here:
. Board 18 NS vul North E deals ♠4 ♥AQJ4 West ♦10652 East ♠KJ96 ♣A853 ♠87532 ♥5 ♥10986 ♦AJ9 South ♦8 ♣QJ1074 ♠AQ10 ♣K92 ♥K732 ♦KQ743 ♣6 South West North East - - - Pass 1♦ 1♠ Dbl 4♠ Dbl Pass 5♦ Pass Pass Pass
Mark the Shark was in there with a four-card overcall of 1♠, and we never sniffed at slam. I was unwilling to settle for 300 or so from 4♠ doubled. 5♦ was easy, losing only two trumps. At the other table, North-South bid these cards to 6♥ doubled, down 2, and we won 15 imps. Slam is much better in diamonds, although it wouldn't make on this layout. Finally:
. Board 20 Both vul North W deals ♠73 ♥Q65 West ♦AQJ East ♠8 ♣AJ1094 ♠AQ54 ♥A1083 ♥9 ♦9743 South ♦10862 ♣Q862 ♠KJ10962 ♣K753 ♥KJ742 ♦K5 ♣ South West North East - Pass 1NT Pass 2♥ Pass 2♠ Pass 3♥ Pass 3NT Pass 4♠ Pass Pass Pass
I want to thank Mark's teammates for bidding the North-South cards to 6♥ down 2 (this one needs a revoke to make), thus keeping my slam theme alive for the crucial deal. My 1NT was 12-15 and 2♥ was a transfer. Dick led his singleton heart, got a ruff, and exitted with a diamond. I won and led a spade up, and Dick played low. There's no hope if West has the ♠A, nor if trumps were 5-0. The crucial trump holdings for Dick are Axx, Axxx, and AQxx. After agonizing, I guessed wrong, putting up the king, for down one. I'm still not sure whether I made the percentage play - it's hard to figure. The teammates returned, we compared, and found we had won the match by 10 imps, 14 victory points. Not good enough! Doub blitzed again, and we lost the event 117-114 (third place was 86).
Had I finessed the ♠J, we would have won 13 imps on the last board in Warwick instead of 3, to win 18 victory points instead of 14, to win the Swiss 118-117. Mea culpa.
I hope you can see why I will remember the slams of Warwick. Bid and make some slams of your own at the North American Pairs in Sturbridge MA October 15-16, or come to our last regional of the year in Mansfield MA in November. Hope to see you in six.