Join Bridge Winners
Road to the GNT Final Four R8 Q2
(Page of 7)

Where we left off, our District 6 team (Shore/Gill, Pettis/Lo, Shi/Palmer) led District 7 (Marks/Helms, Wilson/Hubert, Boyd-Bowman/Hudson) 52-32 in the Quarterfinal of the Open GNT in Toronto. We kept our rotation the same as the previous day's match and Noble and I stayed in, this time playing East-West against Wilson/Hubert. 

As seemed to happen every quarter so far this match, the first board was a swing as our opponent faced this decision:

North
KQJ1032
J105
J1073
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
5
P
P
X
P
?

Pass or pull?

North
KQJ1032
J105
J1073
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
5
P
P
X
P
?

Partner can hardly know that you have extra offense and negative defense for your two-level overcall. Still, he didn't have to double them, and really, he shouldn't be doubling without an expectation of getting down two opposite a normal hand (probably 1 defensive trick here). I suspect it's best to pass in situations like this when it's close, for partnership harmony if nothing else, but it's not hard to imagine a layout where you would end up -750 instead of -300.

Our opponent chose to pull, and this time that was 16 IMPs worse than passing:

West
4
A82
A84
QJ10764
North
KQJ1032
J105
J1073
East
865
K6
K952
A832
South
A97
Q9743
Q6
K95
D

5-X only went for 500, but 5 was failing by a trick. Our teammates bought it in 4, undoubled and failing by two tricks, so we picked up 9 IMPs instead of the 7 we'd have dropped if our opponent had guessed better. It is worth noting that if you switch around our high cards or distribution a bit, 5 would have been cold.

After the opponents picked up an IMP on a part-score deal, we had a good bidding sequence to avoid a borderline slam:

West
AKJ94
QJ854
1064
North
Q1063
K107
QJ5
Q94
East
2
A92
A732
AKJ32
South
875
63
K98
108765
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

Normally in our strong club auctions, opener asks the questions and responder describes his shape and strength. When opener has a minimum 3-suiter, responder is the one who knows if the short suit is stopped well-enough for 3NT, so we reverse the usual arrangement. Once opener's shape was known, Noble could visualize a slam if I had weak minor suits, even if I were minimum (say, Q Kxx AKxx Axxxx or x AKx KQxx Axxxx).

After shape is shown in our system, the relayer can either ask for controls by bidding the cheapest non-3NT step or he can bid 4-of-a-minor to ask opener whether he has extra values. When both 4 and 4 are available, we play 4 as asking for either substantial extras or HCP in the short suits, so that fit perfectly. With a minimum and chunky clubs, I had an easy decline.

This is one of those slams that only has one obvious loser, but finding 12 tricks is a bit tricky. It's makeable double dummy from the West hand, but you have to guess really well, and in practice it's likely to fail. Our counterparts got to the slam after East opened and reversed, and this sent 11 IMPs our way when we made 5 at our table.

On Board 19, our opponent faced a nasty guess in a 3NT contract:

North
AQJ54
Q8
53
KQ98
South
63
KJ76
AQ72
A107
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

LHO leads the 7, 2nd/4th. You play dummy's Q losing to the K and the J comes back. It seems like you can probably make enough tricks if you can prevent the opponents from taking 3 diamonds, a heart, and a spade. What's the best way to do that?

North
AQJ54
Q8
53
KQ98
South
63
KJ76
AQ72
A107
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

It seems like playing the Q is overly committal, since if LHO holds the A, you'll be in great shape if you keep it, and it loses to some silly holdings like Kx with LHO that other plays pick up. You can either duck this trick or not, and you can play the Ace, Queen or low if RHO continues the suit (presumably with the 10). I believe each play has at least one holding it loses to that the others pick up:

  • Playing the A then covering with the Q loses to RHO's J1098
  • Win-duck or duck-win loses to either KJ109 or J109 in RHO's hand depending on whether or not you withhold the Q
  • Ducking then playing the Q loses to LHO holding any 4-card diamond holding including the K and the A

Actually finessing diamonds seems preferred, since if you score a second diamond trick you just have 9 winners, otherwise you'll need a suit to break. The only other thing I can think of is that since LHO led a 2- or 3-card spade suit, he's more likely to have length in diamonds. I've gone round and round thinking about this and can't come up with a clearly best play. Our opponent reasonably chose to win the A (LHO playing the 6 UDCA) and lead a heart to the Queen. This lost to RHO's A (because of course it did), and the 10 came back:

North
AJ54
8
5
KQ98
South
6
KJ7
Q72
A107
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

Cover or duck?

North
AJ54
8
5
KQ98
South
6
KJ7
Q72
A107
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

Covering immediately is wrong if RHO holds J1098 but necessary if RHO holds J109 or J108. Since the 4-card diamond holdings seem more likely to be in LHO's hand anyway, covering seems like the clear winner. It also alleviates yet another painful guess if you duck and RHO continues with the 9! Our opponent agreed and covered, but today, ducking was the winner:

West
972
9532
K64
J42
North
AQJ54
Q8
53
KQ98
East
K108
A104
J1098
653
South
63
KJ76
AQ72
A107
D

Our teammates scored it up on a different lead to give us another 10 IMPs and a 30-1 run to start to the set. The next three boards were part-score contracts that we rather unexpectedly won 4-2 despite the opponents scoring +150 in notrumps twice.

Then on Board 23, South faced an opening-bid decision playing a 20-21 2NT:

South
Q5
KQ1052
AKJ
A42
W
N
E
S
?

Upgrade or not?

South
Q5
KQ1052
AKJ
A42
W
N
E
S
?

I'm pretty aggressive about upgrading but I actually think I would have opened 1. The 5-card suit is nice, but being off the A makes it much less likely you're making a light 3NT. The AKJ tight and the Qx aren't pulling their full weight either. This hand feels a good bit weaker than, say Kx AKJxx AQx Q10x, even though they have the same high cards. Also, 2NT could easily be down when a heart part-score is making. Finally, upgrading into NT is more attractive when you have a 3-card major, since 5-3 fits are easier to reach after NT openings. Still, vulnerable at IMPs, aggressiveness is usually the name of the game, and I certainly don't think the upgrade is crazy.

Our opponent chose to upgrade and got raised (correctly, in my opinion) to 3NT on the Qxxxxx and out. Despite the diamonds running, this only had 7 tricks, but I slipped a trick in the defense to only beat it one. Meanwhile, our teammate chose to just open 1 and settled in 3 making 4 to bring us another 6 IMPs. 

On the next board, I had a bidding decision in a strong club auction:

East
1075
Q3
J
K1098432
W
N
E
S
1
1
?

We play double as an artificial game-force, 2 as 5+ and constructive (usually 6-7 points), and 2NT would be a transfer to clubs, showing either 0-4, or a shapely game-forcing hand that is afraid to double for fear of being passed. Your choice?

East
1075
Q3
J
K1098432
W
N
E
S
1
1
?

This hand is in some sense significantly stronger than some random hand with 5 clubs and 6 points, but doubling felt wrong. I wasn't really worried about partner passing the double holding 3 cards in spades, I just felt like it had to be better to get my suit in and see how partner reacted. If partner didn't have a club fit (or at least tolerance), my hand wasn't all that good anyway. The biggest risk in bidding 2 seemed to be that partner would pass with a balanced 17 or 18 and we would miss a game. But at least we were white, and the auction was only at 2 with 3 people left to bid, so even if partner had that hand, I thought I might get another shot.

As it happened, the auction timed out well after this:

East
1075
Q3
J
K1098432
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
3
?

It looked like partner had a singleton spade but minimal values since he couldn't find anything more than a competitive raise. I briefly entertained whether I should try for slam (x AKxx Axxxx Axx one time?), but it seemed like it required partner to hold a perfecto and he might have bid more aggressively with all those controls. Plus, I might not even make game if partner held a balanced hand with a doubleton spade and the opponents bid 3-over-3 with only an 8-card fit. As it happened 5 made on the nose, dropping an overtrick IMP when teammates let it make 6 in trying to beat it.

The next board, partner got to declare an interesting part-score contract (rotated for convenience):

Dummy
A87
9742
KQ43
K5
Declarer
KJ1064
K6
82
J964
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
P

LHO leads the 10, covered by the K and won by RHO's A. RHO switches to the 2 3rd/5th, and LHO wins the A and returns the 7 to dummy's King, RHO following with the 10. You play a heart to the 10, King, and Ace, and LHO continues with a low club. When you ruff low in dummy, RHO surprisingly overruffs with the 9 (in hindsight, maybe the club shift is somewhat unnatural). He plays the J, which LHO overtakes with the Q to play the Q. You need the rest and the position is:

Dummy
A8
97
Q43
Declarer
KJ1064
8
J
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
P

It seems like you can pick up the Q if it's at most doubleton in either hand at this point. Your choice?

Dummy
A8
97
Q43
Declarer
KJ1064
8
J
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
P

RHO has a doubleton club, so he must have either a 5-card suit or two 4-card suits. He's shown up with 6 points already, and with 8 points it seems like he would definitely have found a bid over the double, so Noble ruffed low, and when the Q fell singleton under dummy's Ace, he was able to claim. At the other table, teammates played on diamonds and were able to set up an overruff for the Q to beat the contract and gain us 5 IMPs.

We picked up another 7 IMPs on Board 26 by playing in a making semi-forcing 1NT when the 2-level part-score reached at the other table failed by two tricks vulnerable. Then 5 IMPs more came our way on Board 27 when the opponents got to an aggressive but failing 3NT contract that our teammates avoided.

On Board 28, we got to a grand slam when partner held a rare 1-loser hand:

West
A
A
AKQ103
AQ8653
North
KQ64
Q1097
9652
4
East
J93
K865
874
K107
South
108752
J432
J
J92
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
7
P
P
P
D
7 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

The bidding timed out well in our methods, but this sort of hand is a bit awkward in Standard methods so we had hopes of winning some IMPs. I did a simulation some years ago on 5-5 or better in the minors and 22+ HCP and concluded that you have to suck it up and open 2. You just get passed out in 1 of a minor too often. Here, with East holding a Standard response, even a 1 opening would survive, and the opponents bid the grand as well to push the board.

Then, we had our only substantial loss of the quarter (but it was a doozy!):

West
AKJ
Q
8642
AQJ92
North
Q10982
J65
J3
K83
East
654
A432
A97
1065
South
73
K10987
KQ105
74
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
2
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT East
NS: 0 EW: 0

Our opponent did very well to keep his hands off the heart lead, instead starting with the K. Even on that lead, the contract is a great one, needing only to win one of two finesses through the vulnerable opening bidder. When the club finesse lost, I wasn't able to cash any winners or even duck a heart before taking the spade finesse, so when that one lost as well, the opponents cashed all the red winners to set me 5, vulnerable. This marked the second time in two years in this event that, without doing anything unreasonable, I got to watch my opponents make 3NT against me as declarer, vulnerable. I would not recommend this to others.

Our teammates led a non-King heart on a different auction and it was all over to give the opponents 15 IMPs. Still, after the last board was a push making a 23-HCP 3NT, we emerged with much the best of it and a 57-19 quarter, giving us a 109-51 lead at the half.

To be continued...

11 Comments
Getting Comments... loading...
.

Bottom Home Top