District 25 News for March 2009
The Grand National Teams district finals in the Championship Flight were held Sunday, March 1, 2009 at the Hartford Bridge Club in West Hartford CT. The contestants, as always a "Who's Who" of New England bridge, were the Weiss team of (left to right in the picture)
Walter Fontaine, Jim Greer, Bob Virgile, and Richard Weiss, and the Merblum team of
Sheila Gabay, Lloyd Arvedon, Frank Merblum, John Stiefel, Victor King, and Doug Doub.
Merblum-Doub, Gabay-King, and Arvedon-Stiefel have all played together for years. Virgile-Weiss and Fontaine-Greer have played quite a bit lately, but aren't longstanding pairs. Although outnumbered, Weiss started the match with a 25 imp carryover from way back in the round robin stage. All five partnerships employ a standard framework, but with variations in style and gadgetry. Merblum-Doub use 12-14 notrumps, everybody else 15-17.
Board 1 (none vul, N deals):
. North S-9765 West H-103 East S-QJ D-K103 S-K43 H-9642 C-AJ32 H-AKQ75 D-AQ8 D-92 C-KQ98 South C-1076 S-A1082 H-J8 D-J7654 C-54 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer - - P 1H P 2NT P 4H P P P
At both tables, 2NT was a game raise of hearts. The minor suit cards are all offside for this normal contract, but North is in danger of being endplayed. In fact, the game can always be made if West declares, but that's impossible to do in most systems. Virgile led a killing diamond against Stiefel, who finessed the queen. When he got in, declarer drew trumps, knocked out the SA, and eliminated the pointed suits, but these moves were transparent to Weiss, who ducked when Stiefel led a club to the king, since he'd be endplayed if he won the trick. Down one.
At the other table, Doub led a club against Greer, after which four hearts couldn't be defeated if Jim guesses the position. No matter whether Merblum ducks the first trick or wins it, when Doub gets in with his spade ace after trumps are drawn, another club lets Greer establish a long club in time for a diamond discard, while a diamond shift allows declarer to endplay North by declining to finesse, instead rising with dummy's ace, pitching the D8 on the third spade, and exiting with the diamond queen. However, when presented with the diamond finesse, Greer took it, for down one and a push. Board 2 (NS vul, East deals):
. North S-KJ86 West H-108 East S-10973 D-AQ104 S-42 H-AKQ5 C-AK2 H-9742 D-953 D-J82 C-J3 South C-Q1076 S-AQ5 H-J63 D-K76 C-9854 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - - - P P 1H P P P Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer - - - P P P 1D P 2C P 3C P 3D P 3S P 4C P 5C P P P
At most tables in a pair game, this auction would be three passes, followed by 1NT-3NT, and the field would divide between North-South +600 on a heart lead or +630 on a club lead. I can't criticize Virgile-Weiss for not finding 3NT with no heart stopper after Arvedon's tactical third seat opening. However, North can also make four spades - if the defense leads three rounds of hearts, declarer just pitches his club loser. Weiss took a deep position by passing the North cards. Against 1H, he led the CK, SK, S to SA, trying to get Virgile to play a diamond. But Bob returned a passive heart. Arvedon drew trumps and knocked out the CA. Weiss didn't find a diamond shift either, so Arvedon pitched diamonds on clubs and scored 80, a seemingly good result.
However, the ugly Merblum-Doub auction (remember, they play 12-14 notrumps) resulted in a poor five club contract down 2 for 200, for three imps to Weiss and a 28-0 lead after counting the 25-imp carryover.
Board 3 (EW vul, South deals):
. North S-1062 West H-87643 East S-AKJ4 D-4 S-Q98 H-J9 C-9654 H-KQ D-J965 D-Q872 C-K82 South C-QJ103 S-753 H-A1052 D-AK103 C-A7 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel 1NT P 2D P 2H P P P Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer 1D P P P
East-West can make three diamonds by guessing the diamond ten. However, if Stiefel had balanced with a double over 2H, surely Arvedon would try 2S, and Weiss could defeat that contract by leading his singleton diamond and getting two ruffs. However, I think Virgile would have taken the push to 3H when 2S was passed back to him. Anyway, Stiefel sold out to 2H, and all the defense could get was three spades, a trump and a club for minus 110.
For the second board in a row, Merblum-Doub got snookered by their notrump range. Fontaine-Greer didn't get all 9 of their tricks on defense against 1D, allowing Doub to escape for down 2, but 100 was still worth 5 imps and a 33-0 lead. Board 4 (Both vul, West deals):
. North S-KJ9 West H-AJ East S-Q62 D-A1054 S-A10543 H-864 C-K532 H-K973 D-732 D-Q96 C-J764 South C-Q S-87 H-Q1052 D-KJ8 C-A1098 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - P 1NT P 2C P 2D P 3NT P P P Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer - P 1D 1S Double P 1NT P 3NT P P P
Weiss won Stiefel's spade lead, led a club to dummy's ace, and passed the C10, more for avoidance than because of restricted choice. When Stiefel got in with his HK, he could see that Weiss had at least ten tricks, possibly eleven on a squeeze, so he tried laying down the SA. Weiss claimed 660.
At the other table, Greer tried a fanciful opening lead of his singleton CQ. Fooled, Merblum won his CK, and led a club to dummy's ace to take a losing heart finesse. Greer returned a heart to the ace and Merblum dislodged Fontaine's CJ. Fontaine led a low spade, and Merblum finessed the S9, losing to Greer's S10. Merblum won the heart return and cashed a heart and a club. Greer came down to the SA and D-Qxx, so a spade exit would have avoided the diamond guess, but Merblum didn't know this, and finessed Fontaine for the DQ, to go down one for 13 imps to Weiss, now with a useful 46-0 lead. Board 5 (NS vul, North deals):
. North S-KQ87 West H-10542 East S-A5432 D-97 S- H-AQ6 C-K92 H-973 D-A85 D-KQ3 C-A7 South C-QJ106543 S-J1096 H-KJ8 D-J10642 C-8 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer - - P 3C P 3NT P P P
Neither of these Easts, indeed none of our six contestants, is given to wild preempts, but they know that preempts are effective in jamming opponents into inaccurate contracts, so when dealt modest defense and enough tricks to avoid going for numbers, they will open three-bids with mildly aberrent holdings like East's here. That's reasonable - passing in second seat isn't likely to result in East getting a good chance to describe his playing strength. Given all that, what would you respond to partner's non-vul 3C preempt, holding the West cards? Arvedon and Fontaine produced matching 3NT calls. The defenses led spades. The declarers ducked for a while, eventually won, and, since they couldn't afford a club finesse, played CA, club, scoring 400 when spades broke 4-4. Five clubs is a better game and would have won an imp, while the near 70% 6C would have won eleven. That's easier to compute looking at East's holding than it is looking only at West's - opposite many preempts, the slam would be a straight finesse or depend on the lead. Nevertheless, with all the aces, chances for additional tricks in both majors, and 3NT no sure thing, I think West should make a move. Part of the problem, however, is what move to make. The Wests had control-asking bids available, but they knew the necessary controls were present. West just doesn't know whether the partnership has enough tricks. If the three-bid were in a major, say 3H, West could bid a new suit (forcing), then raise 4H to 5H to get his message across. Over three of a minor, however, that auction isn't clearly a slam try without discussion, since four of a minor isn't game. In long imp matches, the importance of accuracy on potential slam deals is magnified, and machinery can help. For example, if the partnership plays 3C-4D as kickback 1430 for clubs, that frees up 4NT for "I'm raising to 5C and inviting 6C. We have the controls, but do we have the tricks?" But slam bidding in New England's Superflight is not particularly modern, gadget-ridden, or effective, which may help explain why our teams haven't often done well at the nationals. The push left the score 46-0. Board 6 (EW vul, East deals):
. North S-QJ54 West H-A East S-A7 D-87532 S-K109632 H-J842 C-J83 H-KQ D-J106 D-KQ C-A975 South C-Q102 S-8 H-1097653 D-A94 C-K64 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - - - 1S P 1NT P 2S P 3S P 3NT P P P Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer - - - 1S P 1NT P 2S P P P
Both 3NT and 4S are marginal games East-West, below 50% vulnerable at imps. Fontaine's conservatism proved justified in spades, as Doub led the H10 and later got in with his DA to give Merblum a ruff to hold the contract to 140.
Against Arvedon's 3NT, Weiss led a diamond and dummy's DK was allowed to hold. Arvedon took his SA and successfully finessed dummy's S9, Weiss not splitting. The HK went to Weiss's HA, and the defense played DA and a diamond to Arvedon's DJ. At this point, Arvedon could have made 10 tricks by means of a club to dummy's ten - 3 clubs, 3 spades, 2 hearts, 2 diamonds. Instead, he crossed in hearts to lead the CQ. Virgile covered, Weiss next won his CJ, and cashed two diamonds for down one and 100, six more imps to Weiss, now up 52-0. Board 7 (Both vul, South deals):
. North S-KQ West H-954 East S-32 D-543 S-8754 H-A872 C-K10732 H-QJ106 D-Q876 D-102 C-984 South C-Q65 S-AJ1096 H-K3 D-AKJ9 C-AJ South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel 1S P 1NT P 3D P 3S P 4S P P P Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer 1S P 1NT P 3D P 3S P 3NT P P P
I'm surprised at these 1S openings with 21 points and a fine suit, which had the effect of wrongsiding notrump. 3NT by South is 100%, and is surely best. In fact, if South were in 6NT, he could make it by employing the percentage play in clubs. As it was, Doub had to let Merblum play 3NT against a heart lead. The contract scraggled in because hearts broke 4-4. Hating putting his hand down as dummy, Virgile elected to declare 4 spades instead and won an imp when the D10 came down for his tenth trick, putting Weiss up 53-0. Board 8 (Neither vul, West deals):
. North S-J65 West H-AK8 East S-974 D-10 S-K10 H-76 C-J97532 H-Q109432 D-AKQ85 D-7642 C-K86 South C-A S-AQ832 H-J5 D-J93 C-Q104 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - 1D P 1H P 1NT 2C 2H 2S P P 3D P P 3S P P P Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer - 1D P 1H P 2D P 4D P 4NT P 5D P P P
The Weiss pairs bid too much here. In 5D, Fontaine lost 2 in each major for -100. Arvedon led a heart against 3S. Virgile won the HA in dummy and tried a club. Stiefel won and played back the HQ to dummy's king. Virgile took a spade finesse. If he drew trumps, the defenders would cash three diamonds when they won their CK, so he tried another club, hoping for a 2-2 split. Arvedon won and gave Stiefel a club ruff. Stiefel's heart return was ruffed with the S8 and overruffed with the S9. Two rounds of diamonds tapped dummy. Declarer could have drawn the last trump and cashed a club for a diamond pitch and down one, but instead led a club that got ruffed with the S7 for down two and minus 100, 5 imps to Merblum, getting off the schneider at 53-5. Board 9 (EW vul, North deals):
. North S-AKQJ9 West H-AQ East S-10764 D-K S-82 H-102 C-Q9853 H-9653 D-AJ85 D-7642 C-K102 South C-J76 S-53 H-KJ874 D-Q1093 C-A4 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - - 1S P 2H P 3C P 3NT P 4C P 4S P 4NT P 5C P 6S P P P Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer - - 1S P 2H P 3C P 3NT P 4NT P P P
There was no misinterpretation of 4NT at either table. Merblum's was quantitative, Weiss's was 1430 for spades. West led a small diamond against Doub's 4NT. Declarer won dummy's DK, unblocked his hearts, and ran 12 tricks for 490. I really like Weiss's 6S bid. He knows the defenders may have a hard time finding the club lead he fears. Even if he is off CAK, dummy might have the red suit strength to throw four clubs away. Stiefel led a diamond. Arvedon won his ace and could have put Weiss to the test by means of a spectacular shift to the CK, but why should he do that? After all, Weiss's chunky blocking hearts were concealed, and the hand might be on a losing club finesse if Weiss's hand were, say, S-AKQJxx H-A D-K C-QJxxx. Arvedon played a passive trump, and Weiss, like Doub, powered across the goal line.
Suppose the defense did attack clubs. How would the various slams fare? 6NT by North can be defeated by any club lead, but 12 tricks are available in 6NT by South against any of West's opening lead choices except a spectacular club king! (The spectacular CK switch after cashing the DA fails to defeat 6NT double dummy. Declarer can win the CA, cash the DQ to pitch a club, and run five spades for a non-simultaneous double squeeze with clubs the anchor suit. Work it out. The opening CK lead is necessary to both block the hearts and break up the squeeze. If declarer wins to play a diamond, West wins and returns the club deuce. So long as East clutches his four hearts forever, declarer will come up short.) The same squeeze would be available in 6S if Arvedon had found the CK shift at trick 2.
Even on a club lead, North's 6S can be made, because declarer can rise the CA, draw trumps, overtake in hearts to pitch his diamond, and, when hearts don't break, play for clubs 3-3 with the king onside. I'm not sure Weiss would have played it that way, but he might have. And yes, 6H can also be made against any defense, but only if played by South as the cards lie. 980, ten imps, and 63-5. Board 10 (Both vul, East deals):
. North S-A4 West H-AJ East S-KQ76 D-K109853 S-9852 H-8752 C-KJ5 H-K103 D-Q2 D-76 C-AQ6 South C-8732 S-J103 H-Q964 D-AJ4 C-1094 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - - - P P 1C 1NT P 2NT P 3NT P P P Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer - - - P P 1C 1NT P 3NT P P P
Both Easts led clubs, so neither North was tested in 3NT. A spade lead would require declarer to use his diamond entry to play clubs himself - a heart finesse instead loses the game. I think the Norths would get this right if they had to. Weiss wound up with 660, Merblum 630. An imp to Weiss, and 64-5. Board 11 (Neither vul, South deals):
. North S-QJ64 West H-K75 East S-AK852 D-97 S-3 H-1093 C-AK92 H-AQJ86 D-AJ65 D-K1032 C-8 South C-J43 S-1097 H-42 D-Q84 C-Q10765 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer P 1S P 2H P 4H P P P P
Everybody's 4H was cold. Stiefel snagged an overtrick to win an imp over Greer and trail 64-6.
Board 12 (NS vul, West deals):
. North S-94 West H-Q105 East S-J62 D-KQ762 S-K853 H-76 C-1063 H-AK98 D-A10943 D- C-K82 South C-AQJ54 S-AQ107 H-J432 D-J85 C-97 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - P P 1C P 1D P 1H P 1NT P 2S P 3NT P P P Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer - P P 1C P 1D P 1H P 1NT P 2S P 3C P 3NT P P P
North can defeat 3NT with a low diamond lead and pinpoint defense thereafter. If declarer doesn't duck twice in diamonds, South can use his two spade entries to set up three diamond tricks in time. If declarer ducks twice in diamonds, dummy must find painful pitches. The clubs have to stay, and if either discard is a heart, any heart switch is effective. If dummy parts with two spades, keeping all four hearts, North needs to switch carefully to a heart honor. Dummy has to win, and when declarer crosses to his CK, if he doesn't cash the DA, he won't get it, but if he does cash it, dummy is squeezed.
In practice, however, West's 1D response talked both Norths into leading from shortness. Weiss led the S9, and Virgile won the SQ to switch to an unblocking D8 to the D9 and DQ. A second spade to the SA gave declarer ten tricks. Even if Weiss had returned a diamond instead of the second spade, I think Arvedon would get it right, ducking the second diamond, winning the third, and knocking out the other spade for nine tricks. Still, that would be a better way to die. Tell me why so few partners can read plays like Virgile's D8, which is necessary with this holding to avoid blocking the suit? At the other table, Merblum led a sporty HQ, so Fontaine set up his ninth trick in that suit. An imp to Merblum, 64-7. Board 13 (Both vul, North deals):
. North S-K6 West H-AJ1063 East S-AQ10 D-A97 S-92 H-7 C-AQ4 H-Q954 D-KQ82 D-J1043 C-108752 South C-K93 S-J87543 H-K82 D-65 C-J6 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - - 1H P 2H P 4H P P P P Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer - - 1H P 2H Double Redouble 3D P P Double P P P
Stiefel led a pedestrian DJ against 4H, and Weiss had to lose a trick in each suit. Doub led the CJ against 3D doubled, ducked to Greer's CK. Merblum won the next club to put the HJ through, and in due course, Greer lost two clubs, a heart, a diamond, and a spade for down one. 200 and 100 meant 7 imps to Merblum, 64-14. Board 14 (Neither vul, East deals):
. North S-J9 West H-K98 East S-K1085 D-Q63 S-A64 H-732 C-109642 H-104 D-AKJ9 D-1042 C-Q7 South C-AKJ83 S-Q732 H-AQJ65 D-875 C-5 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - - - 1C 1H Double 2H P P Double P 2S P P P Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer - - - 1C 1H Double 2H P P Double P 2S P 4S P P P
Despite his full 13 points opposite Stiefel's opening bid, Arvedon made the remarkable decision to pass 2S. Right he was! Eight tricks proved to be the limit at both tables, on a nasty lie of cards. 110 and 100 meant 5 imps to Merblum, 64-19. Board 15 (NS vul, South deals):
. North S-Q52 West H-Q1063 East S-A7 D-QJ3 S-964 H-K9854 C-K74 H-AJ D-A D-9764 C-J8653 South C-Q1092 S-KJ1083 H-72 D-K10852 C-A South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel 1S 2H 2S Double 3S 4C P P P Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer 1S P 2S P P P
Arvedon's 4C was cold on a crossruffing line. He lost only a spade and two trumps. Fontaine could have held Doub to 8 tricks after DA, club to CA, by rising SA and switching to hearts. He didn't find this, however, and Doub got to draw trump and pitch a heart on the CK. 130 and 170 gave 7 imps to Merblum, 64-26. Board 16 (EW vul, West deals):
. North S-94 West H-AJ87 East S-Q10762 D-987 S-J53 H-Q C-A972 H-1065432 D-KQJ10 D-A5 C-1054 South C-86 S-AK8 H-K9 D-6432 C-KQJ3 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - P P P 1NT P 2C P 2D P 2NT P 3NT P P P Doub Fontaine Merblum Greer - P P P 1C 1S Double P 1NT P 3NT P P P
The defenses ran their 4 diamonds, but when the HQ dropped, the declarers scored pushing 400's. The teams compared and agreed that Weiss had won the first quarter 39-26 for a 64-26 lead. For the second quarter, Gabay-King replaced Merblum-Doub. Board 17 (Neither vul, North deals):
. North S-KJ875 West H-10 East S-AQ3 D-Q109 S-962 H-K432 C-K1093 H-QJ76 D-AK42 D-753 C-52 South C-J86 S-104 H-A985 D-J86 C-AQ74 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - - P P 1C Double 1S P 1NT P 2C 2H P P 3C P P P King Fontaine Gabay Greer - - P P 1C Double 1S P 1NT Double 2S P P P
With everything nicely located, Virgile's 3C was cold for 130. Greer led the HQ against 2S. Fontaine could have used his entries to lead little hearts and hold 2S to nine tricks, but instead he switched to diamonds and Gabay scored 170 to win an imp, making the score 64-27. Board 18 (NS vul, East deals):
. North S-1053 West H-Q432 East S-QJ98 D-J3 S-64 H-J6 C-AQ85 H-A10987 D-K8642 D-Q109 C-76 South C-K92 S-AK72 H-K5 D-A75 C-J1043 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel King Fontaine Gabay Greer - - - P 1NT P 2C P 2D P 2NT P P P
Diamond, diamond, diamond to the ace. Losing club finesse, spade shift. Virgile set up a heart, but was a trick short. King managed to go two down and lose 3 imps, making the score 67-27. Board 19 (EW vul, South deals):
. North S-J West H-KQJ10654 East S-KQ3 D-95 S-A109842 H-A82 C-A105 H-9 D-10864 D-K2 C-K84 South C-Q732 S-765 H-73 D-AQJ73 C-J96 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel P 1D 4H 4S P P P King Fontaine Gabay Greer 2D P 2H 2S P 3S 4H P P 4S P P Double P P P
With the DK on, 4H by North is cold, so the East-Wests were correct to bid 4S. King's dubious double worked, as Gabay-King scored 2 clubs and 2 diamonds for plus 200. At the other table, Stiefel won the heart lead with dummy's ace and led a club down at trick 2. Weiss fell from grace and rose his ace for -620 and 13 imps to Merblum, making the score 67-40. Board 20 (Both vul, West deals):
. North S-Q8 West H-976 East S-J97 D-965 S-AK62 H-KQJ3 C-Q10832 H-A542 D-AK82 D-J73 C-A4 South C-65 S-10543 H-108 D-Q104 C-KJ97 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - 1D P 1H P 4H P 4S P 5H P P P King Fontaine Gabay Greer - 1D P 1H P 4H P P P
Both Wests stretched a bit to game-raise hearts. Although Stiefel's slam try got him dangerously high, I agree with it. A club was led, but one of the queens dropped and declarer scored 650. Greer was safe in 4H, but after winning the club lead and drawing trumps, he played three rounds of diamonds. South cashed a club and on the spade shift, declarer misguessed, putting up the jack for a mere 620 to lose an imp, for 67-41.
Board 21 (NS vul, North deals):
. North S-K72 West H-AK103 East S-Q84 D-QJ62 S-10653 H-QJ C-76 H-542 D-A974 D-K5 C-KQ109 South C-8532 S-AJ9 H-9876 D-1083 C-AJ4 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - - 1D P 1H Double 2H P P P King Fontaine Gabay Greer - - 1D P 1H P 2H P P P
When Arvedon's CK opening lead held, he switched to a low diamond and the defense found its ruff for -140 to win an imp against 170 at the other table and make the score 67-42. Board 22 (EW vul, East deals):
. North S-KQ7 West H-J East S-AJ83 D-Q42 S-1065 H-K432 C-AK10972 H-10765 D-10873 D-J9 C-3 South C-QJ86 S-942 H-AQ98 D-AK65 C-54 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - - - P 1D Double 2C P 2NT P 3NT P P P King Fontaine Gabay Greer - - - P 1D P 2C P 2H P 3C P P P
Virgile won Arvedon's spade lead with dummy's king, cashed the two top clubs, getting the bad news, and took a losing heart finesse. He scored 2 spades, 2 clubs, 2 hearts, and 3 diamonds, for plus 400.
The other North-South had a misunderstanding, Gabay thinking 3C forcing, King not. +130 lost 7 imps to make the score 74-42. Board 23 (Both vul, South deals):
. North S-AKQ86 West H-A86 East S-942 D-A83 S-J753 H-K3 C-J9 H-J10542 D-K97642 D-J10 C-72 South C-K5 S-10 H-Q97 D-Q5 C-AQ108643 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel 3C P 4NT P 5C P P P King Fontaine Gabay Greer P P 1S P 2NT P 3NT P P P
Pretty chicken bidding by the Norths, if you ask me. Compare Board 23 with Board 5. Again, I suspect inadequate agreements played a role. Weiss's 4NT was 1430 for clubs. Presumably, he discounted any possibility of a no-keys vulnerable 3C, and was only bidding slam if Virgile had C-AK. West led a diamond, and Virgile hopped dummy's ace, picked up trumps, and trumped spades good to take all the tricks, +640.
King thought his hand too good for a preempt, even vulnerable. Over third hand major suit openings, Gabay-King play 2C as Drury and 2NT as showing clubs. I wonder what follow-ups were available to Gabay - perhaps here too the machinery was inadequate. King ducked the same diamond lead to his queen and also took all the tricks. +720 was worth 2 imps, to make the score 74-44. South's red queens make 6C a substantial favorite played from either side, but it depends how you figure the opening lead. Board 24 (Neither vul, West deals):
. North S-954 West H-Q32 East S-AQJ8632 D-K10964 S-K7 H-A4 C-J10 H-J9865 D-2 D-A5 C-AQ6 South C-9874 S-10 H-K107 D-QJ873 C-K532 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel King Fontaine Gabay Greer - 1S P 1NT P 4S P P P
Weiss led the D10, and Arvedon made 450 by taking the club finesse. Gabay led the CJ, so Fontaine could draw trumps and establish a long club for 480 to win an imp and make the score 75-44. Board 25 (EW vul, North deals):
. North S-A West H-AQJ73 East S-KQJ72 D-Q854 S-10983 H-84 C-K102 H-952 D-J107 D-A63 C-Q83 South C-AJ5 S-654 H-K106 D-K92 C-9764 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - - 1H P 2H P 3D P 4H P P P King Fontaine Gabay Greer - - 1H P 2H P 2S P 3H P P P
Both Norths made game tries after a single raise. Weiss's 3D was help suit, causing Virgile to take a rosy view. Gabay's artificial 2S asked South for an assessment, and King indicated a minimum. The Easts led spades, and nine tricks are the limit. Even that requires guessing to lead the C9 from dummy and going right in the suit thereafter, which neither declarer did. So Gabay was off one against Weiss's down two, 2 imps to Merblum, making the score 75-46. Board 26 (Both vul, East deals):
. North S-A943 West H-985 East S-K10 D-8764 S-J8765 H-AQ102 C-87 H-KJ63 D-KQJ D-53 C-AQ43 South C-52 S-Q2 H-74 D-A1092 C-KJ1096 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - - - P P 2NT P 3C Double 3H P 4H P P P King Fontaine Gabay Greer - - - P P 2NT P 3C Double 3D P 4D P 4H P P P
Fontaine-Greer had a puppet Stayman auction. Arvedon won the club lead, played two rounds of trumps ending in dummy, and finessed the S10. Later when the SQ dropped, he got rid of a club on the SJ for 650. Fontaine didn't manage all that and settled for 620, an imp to Merblum, 75-47. Board 27 (Neither vul, South deals):
. North S-KQ4 West H-AQ87542 East S-AJ983 D-5 S-76 H-9 C-K9 H-K103 D-J97 D-KQ102 C-J873 South C-A652 S-1052 H-J6 D-A8643 C-Q106 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel King Fontaine Gabay Greer P P 1H P 1NT P 3H P 4H P P P
This 4H contract won't be made against any good defense. For example, a spade lead ducked dooms declarer to losing two aces, the HK, and a ruff. In practice, both Easts led the DK to dummy's ace. If declarer had used this entry to lead up in spades, the same duck by West defeats the hand the same way. However, both declarers tried a heart finesse. Gabay ran the HJ to the HK, ruffed the next diamond, drew trumps, and led the CK. East won the CA and continued clubs. When Gabay led a spade from dummy, Fontaine ducked, and declarer had to lose two spades in the end for -50.
At the other table, Weiss won the DA and led the H6 to the HQ, a better percentage play of this combination, since it picks up singleton HK in the slot. By letting the HQ win, Stiefel could have denied any further entry to dummy if he guessed declarer's shape, but he took his king to play a trump back. When Weiss now tried a spade, Arvedon flew his ace, and 4H was made for 420. Had Arvedon ducked, the defense could still have succeeded. Declarer would draw trumps and might play the CK. Stiefel could duck, win the next club, and get out a diamond to beat 4H. Alternatively, if declarer tried a small club on the first round, Stiefel would have to fly ace. The Weiss team earned ten imps on this deal through more careful cardplay. 85-47. Board 28 (NS vul, West deals):
. North S-Q98 West H-A7532 East S-K1062 D-853 S-53 H-6 C-Q4 H-94 D-K7 D-QJ9642 C-AJ9862 South C-K107 S-AJ74 H-KQJ108 D-A10 C-53 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - 1C P 1D Double 1S 2H P 3H P 4H P P P King Fontaine Gabay Greer - 1C P 1D 1H 1S 2H P P P
Against King, Fontaine led his DK, and after drawing trumps, declarer took a spade finesse and the defense cashed its four tricks. 140 looked like a plus position, as 4C can be made the other way.
Stiefel led the S5 against Weiss's 4H, ducked in dummy. Arvedon won the SK and returned the suit. Oops. Away went a club for minus 620. 10 imps more to Weiss, now up 95-47. Board 29 (Both vul, North deals):
. North S-KJ2 West H-Q6532 East S-108 D-32 S-9765 H-104 C-A83 H-KJ7 D-AQ10976 D-54 C-742 South C-KJ95 S-AQ43 H-A98 D-KJ8 C-Q106 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel King Fontaine Gabay Greer - - P P 1NT P 2D P 2H P 3NT P 4H P P P
North-South have 26 points and a 5-3 heart fit, yet no game is good or makeable. Arvedon led a club, ducked to the king. Three rounds of diamonds followed for down two. Fontaine led the S10. After HA, heart to dummy's HQ and Greer's HK, and a diamond to the jack and queen, Fontaine could no longer make 5 tricks. If he cashed his diamond, the defensive club trick would disappear, but if he didn't, he'd lose it. Down only one meant 3 imps to Merblum, down 95-50. Board 30 (Neither vul, East deals):
. North S-643 West H-A3 East S-AQJ98 D-K632 S-52 H-J9642 C-9842 H-Q105 D-8 D-A74 C-K6 South C-A10753 S-K107 H-K87 D-QJ1095 C-QJ South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - - - P P 1S P 1NT 2D 2H P 3H P P P King Fontaine Gabay Greer - - - P P 1S P 1NT P 2H P 2NT P 3H P 4H P P P
Both declarers took spade finesses and knocked out heart honors, scoring 11 tricks. Thus Fontaine-Greer gained 6 imps for bidding this thin but excellent non-vul game. 101-50. Board 31 (NS vul, South deals):
. North S-6 West H-93 East S-A5 D-Q954 S-K10843 H-KQJ842 C-KQ10864 H-10765 D-KJ32 D-A6 C-3 South C-J7 S-QJ972 H-A D-1087 C-A952 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel 1S 2H Double 3H P 4H P P P King Fontaine Gabay Greer 1S 2H P 3H P 4H P P P
The Norths led their singleton spades and got their ruffs, but that was still -420 for a push. I wonder whether the East-Wests would have found their diamond ruff to beat an adverse-vulnerability sacrifice of 5C two tricks instead of one. 500 would lose 2 imps, but 200 would gain 6. And there's always the chance that pressured opponents will take the push to 5H and go down. Board 32 (EW vul, West deals):
. North S-KJ West H-K108653 East S-8542 D-K S-AQ96 H-AJ4 C-J1094 H-Q9 D-10753 D-AJ86 C-K7 South C-Q63 S-1073 H-72 D-Q942 C-A852 South West North East Virgile Arvedon Weiss Stiefel - P P 1NT P 2C 2H 2S P P p King Fontaine Gabay Greer - P 1H Double P 1S 2H 2S 3H 3S P P P
The half ended with pushing 140's in spade partials reached on competitive auctions. The declarers lost a trick in each suit, just as they were supposed to. The Weiss team had won the second quarter by another 13, 37-24, to lead by 51, 101-50. For the third quarter, Merblum-Doub replaced Arvedon-Stiefel. Board 33 (none vul, N deals):
. North S-QJ10643 West H-95 East S-5 D-KJ6 S-872 H-KJ732 C-74 H-A86 D-Q8 D-10975 C-A10983 South C-652 S-AK9 H-Q104 D-A432 C-KQJ South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub - - P P 1C 1H 1S P 2NT P 4S P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer - - 2S P 4S P P P
The third quarter began with pushing 420's in a normal game. Had the boards turned sleepy? Board 34 (NS vul, East deals):
. North S-QJ102 West H-K7 East S-A3 D-A8 S-K654 H-A106542 C-KQJ96 H-QJ D-953 D-KJ64 C-A8 South C-1054 S-987 H-983 D-Q1072 C-732 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub - - - P P 1H 1NT Double 2D P P Double P P Redouble P 2H Double 3C P P Double P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer - - - P P 1H Double Redouble 2D 2H P P P
Our Norths were going to be safe enough in 1S or 2C until the Souths inserted voluntary but unwelcome 2D bids, at which point there was risk of -500. King escaped when Fontaine elected to declare hearts for 140. In fact, in this entire 64 board match, the Merblum team never played any doubled contract.
Weiss went down only one on bad defense. I wasn't kibitzing that table, and have differing accounts of how it happened, but finding either a spade ruff by West or a trump promotion on the third round of hearts by East should have done a trick better. 200 was still 2 imps to Merblum, 101-52. Board 35 (EW vul, South deals):
. North S-1065 West H-A5 East S-K32 D-Q654 S-AJ9874 H-42 C-KJ86 H-KQ10 D-972 D-1083 C-75432 South C-A S-Q H-J98763 D-AKJ C-Q109 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub 1H P 2C 2S P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer 1H P 1NT 2S P P Double P 3H P P P
Both Merblum declarers made 9 tricks, as many as they could, for 140 at each table and 7 imps. 101-59. Board 36 (Both vul, West deals):
. North S-Q9754 West H-874 East S-82 D-A S-K10 H-A92 C-9652 H-K65 D-KQJ843 D-7652 C-87 South C-QJ103 S-AJ63 H-QJ103 D-109 C-AK4 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub - P P P 1NT P 2H P 2S P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer - 2D P P Double P 2S P P P
Both North-Souths eschewed a thin but making vulnerable game. Does Virgile have enough to rebid 3S over the transfer? Does King have enough to bid 3S in response to a balancing double by an unpassed hand? Push for 170. Board 37 (NS vul, North deals):
. North S-QJ5 West H-KJ62 East S-8 D-AKQ102 S-A107432 H-AQ4 C-Q H-83 D-J765 D-4 C-J8643 South C-K1075 S-K96 H-10975 D-963 C-A92 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub - - 1D 2S P P Double P 3D P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer - - 1D 2S Double P 4H P P P
Against 4H, Greer led his singleton diamond. King crossed in clubs for a trump down. Fontaine rose HA, shifted to a spade, and the defense took three quick ruffs for 200. In 3D, Weiss lost two hearts, a spade, and a trump. I can't find any way to beat him, and neither could Merblum-Doub. +110 meant 7 imps to Weiss, up 108-59. Board 38 (EW vul, East deals):
. North S-AQ109762 West H-K102 East S-K D-10 S-53 H-J864 C-J5 H-73 D-J643 D-A98752 C-10863 South C-Q94 S-J84 H-AQ95 D-KQ C-AK72 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub - - - P 1C P 1S P 2NT P 3S P 4S P 4NT P 5H P 5S P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer - - - P 1C P 1S P 2NT P 3S P 4C P 4NT P 5H P 5S P P P
Now that just about all superflight players have modernized to keycard Blackwood, slams on a trump finesse aren't swingy any more. Desperate, Doub underled his ace of diamonds and so didn't get it. 710 vs. 680, an imp to Weiss, 109-59. Board 39 (Both vul, South deals):
. North S-J54 West H-QJ843 East S-Q10862 D-3 S-K73 H-K765 C-A643 H-A10 D-7 D-KJ95 C-1052 South C-KQ98 S-A9 H-92 D-AQ108642 C-J7 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub 1D P 1H 1NT 2D 2S P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer 1D P 1H P 2D P P P
Weiss led his singleton diamond against 2S, and the defense scored three aces and a ruff, so Merblum made 140. Fontaine could have beaten 2D by leading a club, but he chose an unfortunate low spade. Gabay took Greer's king with her ace, and led a spade right back, setting up dummy's jack for a club discard. That meant 90 and 6 imps to Merblum, now down 109-65. Board 40 (Neither vul, West deals):
. North S-AQ7652 West H-QJ8 East S-1084 D-A83 S- H-A642 C-A H-10743 D-K1095 D-Q642 C-J4 South C-Q8765 S-KJ93 H-K9 D-J7 C-K10932 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub - P 1S P 3S P 6S P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer - P 1S P 2C P 2S P 4S P P P
One-three-six can be a very effective auction. All eyes turned to Doub's opening lead. I think this is a classic lead problem, worthy of the Bridge World's Master Solvers Club. Doub chose a heart, for -980, lose 11. Only a diamond defeats the slam to win 11. Weiss now led 120-65. Board 41 (EW vul, North deals):
. North S-J West H-1054 East S-742 D-K10876 S-AKQ105 H-AQJ983 C-J985 H- D-95 D-AQ3 C-K4 South C-A10763 S-9863 H-K762 D-J42 C-Q2 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub - - P 1S P 2H P 3C P 3S P 4D P 4S P 6S P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer - - P 1S P 2H P 3C P 4S P 6S P P P
Gabay led a diamond, and Jim Greer made short work of his slam - three rounds of diamonds for a ruff, HA, HQ pitching clubs, get back in and draw trumps, cross to the CK to ditch the last club on the HJ for 1430.
Virgile led a more testing trump (best) to the jack and ace. 6S can still be made: SA, CK, diamond finesse and three rounds for a ruff, draw trumps, low club endplaying South to lead into dummy's AQ of hearts. (It does South no good to put up his CQ on the first round of the suit - the details of that esoteric variant are left to the student as an exercise.) Doub didn't find this obscure winning line, which might work just as well if clubs were 3-3 or South had the doubleton jack, as North can't afford to overtake with the CQ. Instead, he tried three rounds of clubs. This line wasn't destined to work - Virgile ruffed up with the S8 as dummy discarded a diamond. Virgile didn't want to play another spade, giving dummy an entry with the S7 (although that entry doesn't turn out to be crucial), and also didn't want to lead a diamond into a possible tenace. Virgile decided Doub had been dealt a heart and didn't know spades weren't splitting, so he decided to put him to the test with a heart switch. Doub gratefully finessed and then crossruffed for 1430 and a push. Board 42 (Both vul, East deals):
. North S-A53 West H-A8 East S-Q974 D-KJ109 S-86 H-J10974 C-AK84 H-K3 D-863 D-Q7542 C-6 South C-9753 S-KJ102 H-Q652 D-A C-QJ102 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub - - - P 1C P 1D P 1H P 6C P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer - - - P 1C P 2C P 2NT P 4NT P 6C P P P
Fontaine led the HJ, ducked to Greer's king. Greer's trump return ran to dummy's C8. Gabay cashed DA, SA, DK, SK, and tried to pitch a spade on the HQ - if it lived, she could claim on a high crossruff. But Greer ruffed for down one.
Merblum led the S7 which ran to declarer's SJ. Virgile attempted to ruff two of dummy's diamonds but ran afoul of the 4-1 trumps. There weren't enough entries because he couldn't afford to overtake in trumps. Push for down one. A ruffing finesse in diamonds by either declarer would make the slam, but that's only easy looking at the full deal. Board 43 (Neither vul, South deals):
. North S-J92 West H-7 East S-AK763 D-KJ42 S-Q1054 H-10865 C-AKJ102 H-AJ4 D-1065 D-A97 C-5 South C-976 S-8 H-KQ932 D-Q63 C-Q843 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub P P 1C P 2H P 2NT P 3C P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer P P 1C P 1H 1S P 2C Double 2S 3C 3S 4C P P P
Lose three aces, push at 130. Board 44 (NS vul, West deals):
. North S-J West H-J832 East S-4 D-K10943 S-AQ10532 H-K7 C-1093 H-Q D-AQJ86 D-752 C-KQ742 South C-A86 S-K9876 H-A109654 D- C-J5 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub - 1D P 1S P 2C P 2H Double 3C P 3S P 3NT P 4D P 4H P 5C P 5D P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer - 1D P 1S P 2C P 3S P 4S P P Double P P P
27 points, but no game makes due to foul splits. Both pairs reached game contracts that would come home more than half the time. Both declarers lost three trumps and the heart ace, for pushing minus 100's. Board 45 (Both vul, North deals):
. North S-KJ West H-Q1082 East S-1094 D-10852 S-AQ87 H-4 C-753 H-AJ975 D-AK3 D-J9 C-AQJ864 South C-109 S-6532 H-K63 D-Q764 C-K2 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub - - P 1H P 2C P 2H P 3D P 3NT P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer - - P 1H P 2C P 2S P 2NT P 3NT P P P
Perhaps chastened by their lousy experience on 44, both East-Wests turned turtle on 45. The Norths led low diamonds. Merblum guessed to play the D9 from dummy, and won the DQ with his DA. Black suit finesses all worked, and he scored 720. Fontaine misguessed at trick one, playing dummy's DJ. Now fearful of losing his last entry to the clubs, he played very safely: a low club to South's king, win the diamond return, run clubs, disdain any spade finesse, for a 600 that lost three imps. 120-68. A 6C slam isn't an unreasonable gamble on the East-West cards. Board 46 (Neither vul, East deals):
. North S-QJ9854 West H-KQJ8 East S-103 D- S-K76 H-A10763 C-QJ9 H-952 D-63 D-Q75 C-A1052 South C-K743 S-A2 H-4 D-AKJ109842 C-86 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub - - - P 1D P 1S P 3D P 3H P 5D P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer - - - P 1D P 1S P 2D P 2H P 3D P 3S P 5D P P P
Neither North-South could stop despite the obvious misfit. The defenses cashed their three winners and later got a trump trick. Push for down two. 3NT and 4S would also fail. Board 47 (NS vul, South deals):
. North S-Q74 West H-10986 East S-A98652 D-Q1096 S-KJ10 H-K743 C-32 H-A2 D-K D-A73 C-AK South C-J8764 S-3 H-QJ5 D-J8542 C-Q1095 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub P 1S P 2C P 2H P 2S P 3C P 3D P 4C P 4H P 4NT P 5C P 5D Double 5S P 6S P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer P 1S P 2C P 2H P 2S P 4NT P 5D P 5H P 5S P P P
Neither declarer picked up the trump queen, but they both still made twelve tricks, so Fontaine-Greer lost eleven imps for their ineffective auction. Bidding sequences like these depend on agreements, style, and partnership experience and rapport. It's hard for a less habituated kibitzer to say why Merblum-Doub got this one right while Fontaine-Greer got it wrong. No doubt they'll discuss it! The score: 120-79. Board 48 (EW vul, West deals):
. North S-AJ53 West H-63 East S-1064 D-764 S-Q82 H-K98 C-J862 H-QJ54 D-Q10852 D-KJ3 C-Q5 South C-AK7 S-K97 H-A1072 D-A9 C-10943 South West North East Virgile Merblum Weiss Doub - P P 1C P 1D P 1NT P P P Gabay Fontaine King Greer - P P 1NT P P P
Doub made 180 when North-South never found their spades. Greer settled for the 120 he was entitled to. Two imps to Merblum, and the third quarter ended with the score 120-81.
The Merblum team won the third quarter 31-19. The boards had been swingy, although the score didn't really reflect this. Doub's opening lead on Board 40 alone swung 22 imps, and the Merblum team missed other slam swing chances. 39 imps is not an insuperable lead to overcome in 16 boards, but time was running out. Merblum could not afford to let any more chances slip by in the fourth quarter.
Both Virgile-Weiss and Fontaine-Greer had made more mistakes in the third quarter than in the prior two. I heard one Weiss player say, "Thank goodness we lost only 12 imps!" Victory was in sight, but was fatigue becoming a factor? For those who don't play 64 board knockout matches, this format can be gruelling, and the Weiss team was only four-handed. Tired bridge might let the match slip away. For the last quarter, Arvedon-Stiefel replaced Gabay-King. Board 49 (Neither vul, North deals):
. North S-J874 West H-95432 East S-AK1062 D-10 S-Q53 H-76 C-QJ4 H-AQ10 D-KJ62 D-AQ83 C-A8 South C-K75 S-9 H-KJ8 D-9754 C-109632 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile - - P 1NT P 3S P 4NT P 5D P 5NT P 6D P 7S P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub - - P 1D P 2S P 3S P 4D P 4NT P 5C P 5H P 6D P 6H P 7D P P P
7D by East would receive top score in a single-dummy bidding contest, since it will make around 70% of the time. All Doub really needed was for spades to come in for five tricks. Fontaine led the C10. Doub played it correctly, I think: CA, DK, DA (noting the bad but not fatal trump split), CK, C ruff, DJ, SQ, DQ pitching a heart from dummy, spade up. Rats! Heart discard by Fontaine. North had sluffed three hearts on the second, third, and fourth trumps. It was pretty clear that North started with 4513 distribution, so had Doub been in only 6D, he could make it by just ducking this trick to North. Perhaps he should have done that anyway for down one, but there was a chance North's hearts had been headed by the KJ and he had been squeezed down to KJ bare, or that South had just erred and discarded from H-Jxx. So Doub took a heart finesse, but Fontaine won and cashed two annoying clubs for down 3.
The Virgile-Weiss 7S has much less to recommend it, being about 35%. In fact, not even 6S can be made on this foul lie of cards. Down 2 meant two undeserved imps to Weiss, 122-81. They had dodged a bullet. Board 50 (NS vul, East deals):
. North S-KQJ743 West H-KQ3 East S-A1095 D-J109 S-862 H-AJ109 C-2 H-72 D-6 D-A87432 C-A1063 South C-Q9 S- H-8654 D-KQ5 C-KJ8754 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile - - - P P 1C 1S P 1NT P 2S P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub - - - P P 2D P P P
Merblum's 2D opening bid indicated a minimum three-suiter with the short suit unknown. Neither of these partials can be made. Merblum was -50 on a spade lead, Arvedon -200 on a heart lead. 6 imps to Weiss, 128-81. Board 51 (EW vul, South deals):
. North S-AK86 West H-10542 East S-Q32 D-A10 S-1074 H-Q83 C-J75 H-KJ7 D-983 D-QJ64 C-A832 South C-Q109 S-J95 H-A96 D-K752 C-K64 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile P P 1C P 1D P 1NT P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub P P 1C P 1D P 1H P 1S P P P
Both Souths made allowances for possible light third-hand openings, and were rewarded with plus scores. Arvedon made only 90 when he misguessed in clubs at trick 12. Fontaine struggled in with 110 after a heart lead. An imp to Weiss, 129-81. Board 52 (Both vul, West deals):
. North S-98763 West H-AKJ3 East S- D-105 S-AJ42 H-10654 C-82 H-82 D-AKQJ963 D- C-76 South C-AKJ10543 S-KQ105 H-Q97 D-8742 C-Q9 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile - 3NT P 4C P 4D P 5C P 5D P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub - 1D P 2C P 2D P 2S P 3D P 4C P 5D P P P
Both Easts suggested making clubs trumps, where game can be made, but the Wests were having none of it. Our Norths led high hearts, and in response to encouraging signals, continued the suit for three rounds. Of course, neither South unblocked their HQ, so both contracts escaped for down one. Weiss made an interesting comment - East should realize West will never agree to play anywhere but diamonds, and so give up and pass 4D. However, against that contract, perhaps a clever South might find the unblock in hearts for the same down one. Board 53 (NS vul, North deals):
. North S-Q2 West H-K73 East S-K1076 D-109732 S-AJ4 H-85 C-965 H-QJ104 D-J85 D-K4 C-A842 South C-QJ103 S-9853 H-A962 D-AQ6 C-K7 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile - - P 1C Double 3C P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub - - P 1NT P P P
Virgile took a club finesse and worked on the red suits. He lost two hearts and two diamonds for 110. Fontaine took out North's only entry with a heart opening lead, and Doub went about his business for +150 to win an imp, 129-82. Board 54 (EW vul, East deals):
. North S-K107 West H-KQ102 East S-QJ54 D-J763 S-A963 H-654 C-J3 H-983 D-108 D-Q95 C-Q1076 South C-A54 S-82 H-AJ7 D-AK42 C-K982 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile - - - P 1NT P 2C P 2D P 3NT P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub - - - P 1NT P 2C P 2D P 2NT P P P
Our Wests led low spades. Stiefel eventually got in with a spade and tried to drop the DQ. No luck. He conceded a diamond, and the defense scored three spades, a diamond, and a club for down one. However, Fontaine didn't make 2NT, which he can against any defense if he guesses how to play it, and the board was a push at -50. Board 55 (Both vul, South deals):
. North S-K1042 West H-74 East S-AQ963 D-10986 S-J85 H-865 C-1082 H-AKJ932 D-KQ7 D-A2 C-A7 South C-J4 S-7 H-Q10 D-J543 C-KQ9653 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile P 1S P 2H P 3D P 4S P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub P 1S P 2H P 4H P P P
Slam is reasonable in hearts, but nobody got close. The defenses led clubs. Both declarers took their pitch on the diamonds and played trumps. 680 for Doub, 650 for Weiss, an imp to Merblum, 129-83. With time running out, this was a chance missed for Merblum-Doub. Board 56 (Neither vul, West deals):
. North S-3 West H-AK85 East S-10984 D-AK97 S-KJ5 H-10943 C-AQ87 H-Q72 D-Q3 D-106542 C-1053 South C-J6 S-AQ762 H-J6 D-J8 C-K942 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile - P 1D P 1S P 2H P 2NT P 3NT P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub - P 1D P 1S P 2H P 3C P 3NT P P P
6C is not terrible. By my calculations, it's about 32%, and it makes today, no matter which way you try to set up the spades. Both pairs settled for 3NT, however. West led a heart, ducked to the queen, and Stiefel eventually took a spade finesse for 460. Doub tried a sexy SJ, and held Greer to 430 to win an imp, 129-84. Given the state of the score, this was a chance missed for Stiefel-Arvedon. Board 57 (EW vul, North deals):
. North S-10654 West H-653 East S-A9832 D-A105 S-7 H-A74 C-AJ4 H-KJ9 D-73 D-J862 C-K63 South C-98752 S-KQJ H-Q1082 D-KQ94 C-Q10 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile - - P P 1NT P 2C P 2H P 2NT P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub - - P P 1NT P 2C P 2H P 2S P 2NT P P P
Both Wests led spades. Upon seeing dummy, I bet Stiefel wished he'd gone game with his minimum aceless picture gallery. With the club finesse working, South can always unblock everything and make at least nine tricks. Stiefel got up to ten, Fontaine only eight. 180 vs. 120 meant 2 imps to Merblum, 129-86 with seven boards to go. Board 58 (Both vul, East deals):
. North S-AKQ102 West H-K72 East S-9765 D-5 S-J3 H-J65 C-KQ82 H-1093 D-763 D-AK10842 C-A94 South C-105 S-84 H-AQ84 D-QJ9 C-J763 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile - - - 2D P P Double P 2H P 2S P 3NT P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub - - - P P P 1S 2D Double P 3C P 3NT P P P
Both Easts got diamond bids in. The Wests led the D3. Virgile ducked this, while Doub played DK, low D. Fontaine won, cashed the HK and SA, and then ran four hearts and five spades for 630. Stiefel looked more deeply into the hand - East had shown up with 3 hearts to go with his presumed six diamonds. Surely West was likely to have four or five spades. He finessed the S10, and went down 2 (Virgile had pitched a diamond on the fourth heart), to lose 13 imps, 142-86. After this result, the match was out of reach for the Merblum team. Board 59 (Neither vul, South deals):
. North S-1073 West H-98753 East S-954 D-J2 S-KJ62 H-K4 C-943 H-AQJ102 D-10964 D-K73 C-8652 South C-7 S-AQ8 H-6 D-AQ85 C-AKQJ10 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile 2C P 2D 2H 3C P 3NT P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub 2C P 2D 2H 3C P P P
I suppose South's 3C is technically forcing in most styles. Arvedon held his nose and followed the system. Weiss overtook the first heart, so declarer had a fifth-round stopper, but dummy had to make painful discards. Arvedon eventually endplayed Virgile for down one, minus 50. Greer passed 3C in fright. He should have been rewarded. After ruffing the second heart, declarer can make up to ten tricks by leaving the trumps outstanding and playing on diamonds, eventually ruffing the fourth round with dummy's C9 to take a spade finesse. Even ruffing the third diamond would score nine tricks. However, Fontaine drew too many trumps and lost control to go down one for a push. Board 60 (NS vul, West deals):
. North S-Q84 West H-AQ9 East S-107 D-97642 S-KJ95 H-K10763 C-63 H-542 D-AKJ5 D-108 C-K8 South C-QJ52 S-A632 H-J8 D-Q3 C-A10974 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile - 1H P 2H P 3H P 4H P P Double P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub - 1H P 2H P P P
Greer led a club, after which it seems Merblum might have made his 2H by guessing spades, but he went down one. At the other table, with the match safely tucked away, Virgile-Weiss committed an unprovoked atrocity, punished by Arvedon's noteworthy double. North led a diamond, and eventually South overruffed dummy. In the end, Weiss had to guess spades to go down three, holding the carnage to 500 and a loss of ten imps, 142-96. Board 61 (Both vul, North deals):
. North S-762 West H-K2 East S-8 D-QJ42 S-AQ10953 H-AJ65 C-K962 H-10973 D-AK987 D-10 C-875 South C-43 S-KJ4 H-Q84 D-653 C-AQJ10 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile - - P P 1C 1D 1NT 2S P P 3C P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub - - P 2S P P P
Do you ever open a weak 2S when holding four hearts? Doub does sometimes. 2S is tough to beat with no auction - South must cash two clubs and switch to hearts. If declarer rises, he has six losers, but if he ducks, North gets a ruff. In practice, Fontaine led the D3, and Doub scored 140. Virgile passed, but it didn't help find the cold 2H contract. At this table, a club would be a possible lead, getting the defense off to the best start. However, Arvedon competed. The play didn't go well for Stiefel, as the defenders scored their 4 tops plus three ruffs before he ever got in. -300 meant 4 imps to Weiss, 146-96. Board 62 (Neither vul, East deals):
. North S-1073 West H-973 East S-J2 D-J864 S-K9854 H-AQJ102 C-Q32 H-K6 D-73 D-A1092 C-J1095 South C-AK S-AQ6 H-854 D-KQ5 C-8764 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile - - - 1S P 1NT P 2NT P 4H P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub - - - 1S P 1NT P 2D P 2H P 3H P 4H P P P
A routine push at 420. 3NT would also make. Board 63 (NS vul, South deals):
. North S-AJ9543 West H-2 East S-Q872 D-AKJ7 S-106 H-AJ1098 C-Q10 H-K53 D-10985 D-42 C- South C-AJ9543 S-K H-Q764 D-Q63 C-K8762 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile P P 1S P 1NT 2H 3D P 3NT P 4S P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub P P 1S 3C P P P
Doub stole the pot for 3C. Fontaine led the SK, and declarer went down four, -200.
Against Arvedon's 4S, Virgile led H3. Weiss won cheaply and returned a heart. Arvedon ruffed and led a spade to the king. How to get off dummy? Ruffing a third round of hearts is no good - declarer loses control. A diamond would make the game, but declarer tried a club. That would be the winner if West had the club ace and East S-Qxxx, but as it was Weiss ruffed, and so the game went down one. Minus 100 meant 7 imps to Weiss, where 620 would have meant 9 imps to Merblum. 153-96. Board 64 (EW vul, West deals):
. North S-KQ653 West H-J43 East S-J82 D-A5 S-1097 H-Q92 C-873 H-A10865 D-K10943 D-Q87 C-AJ South C-K9 S-A4 H-K7 D-J62 C-Q106542 South West North East Stiefel Weiss Arvedon Virgile - P P P P Fontaine Merblum Greer Doub - P P P P
Everybody threw in the last board, ending the match with a whimper. A partscore duel would probably have resulted in North-South making around 110 in clubs or spades.
The Weiss team won the 64 boards by 32 points, 128-96, which with the 25 imp carryover, made the margin 57, 153-96. This keeps intact my streak - no GNT match I have kibitzed has ever been decided by the carryover. The 2009 Superflight Final was an impressive display by Richard Weiss, Bob Virgile, Walter Fontaine, and Jim Greer. None of them was perfect, but they played steady bridge and clearly outbid and outplayed their opponents.
Playing four-handed through the round-robin plus two tiring 64-board knockout matches convinced the winners to augment their team to six for the nationals. In the tradition of excellent New England sportsmanship, they asked Merblum-Doub to join their team, and the offer was accepted. I wish all six of them luck in Washington DC this summer. I would like to thank the players for letting me watch, and also those who helped fix errata in the first draft. Remaining errors are mine.