Squeezing The Dummy

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

San Antonio: Part 1

The San Antonio regional started today. I flew in a few hours early and my partner, Patty Lozano, picked me up. The first session of the knockout was scheduled to start at 7:00 PM. It then continues for 3 sessions on Wednesday if we keep winning our matches.

As we were on a 6-person team we didn't know if we were going to play the first set of 12 boards or not. As I used to live in San Antonio I was eager to catch up with people. We got to the playing area an hour early and were able to mingle and scout the competition. We found our teammates and it was decided Patty and I would play the first set with Derrell Childs and Nagy Kamel.

The first match was a round robin meaning we played two 12-board matches and could advance even if we lost a match. As I pulled the cards for the first board I totally went into a different world. There is something about pulling the cards from the board and touching them that really makes me change. The opponents are no longer friends or people; they are an obstacle in my way of winning.

The first opponents were fairly inexperienced players and I was worried when they had a very strange auction to reach a reasonable vulnerable slam that made. I knew it would be very tough for our teammates to bid, and expected a 13-imp loss. Combine this with the fact that we were giving them a handicap of 8.5 imps, and we had a lot of ground to make up. The rest of the match went well, including going +110 on a hand where they had a vulnerable game, and I was expecting to be stuck a little.

The second match was against familiar opponents that I knew would be tougher than the first. There was action again on the very first board. I picked up: AJ 5 AQ532 AQT84. With nobody vulnerable my RHO opened 2. What should I bid? I saw three options; double, 3, or 4N. Each had glaring flaws.

Double could get us to a notrump contract successfully, or enable us to find spades. The downside is if LHO bids something, we haven't described anything about our shape yet. We must bid diamonds and then clubs or things may get very confusing. If partner bids spades, it is even harder to know what to do. We may miss a club fit with this plan, or be forced into a tough guess later.

3 has safety on its side, we will probably never go for a number. We are also well placed if LHO bids 3 as we can bid 4. If partner bids spades or notrump, we will know she means it rather than having been forced to take a call because of a X. The downside is that this is a distinct underbid and may cause us to miss a game or lose the club suit.

4N will always get us to the right minor suit, but it may simply be too high. Worse, we may get doubled and go for a big number.

When all was said and done I decided on 4N, partially because I felt bad about bidding 3 after a 1-minute pause, and partially because I felt the need to get to the correct minor to be very strong. I rejected a X because the hand is just too complicated to start with a X. It could easily be the winning bid though.

Partner had 52 AJ43 J984 972. A 3 bid would get passed out for +110. 4N gets you -100 in 5. Double would get you Lebensohl, then you would bid 3 and it would be hard for partner to ever stop short of game, so call it -100 as well. -100 was a push.

We had solid results on all of the boards, and had made up the handicap (and the 13-imp loss) in the first match and were up 16 in the second. We sat out while our teammates Ellen and Ira Hessel played, and ended up advancing. They won the first match and lost the second. The second round will be another round robin, and then heads up play for the semi-finals and finals. Hopefully I will be able to wake up to play at 9:00 AM.

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