Squeezing The Dummy

Thursday, April 27, 2006

What Could Have Been....

The spring nationals were held recently in my hometown, Dallas. I had high hopes for the tournament given my home field advantage. The event that I really wanted to do well in was the main event, the Vanderbilt.

The Vanderbilt is a knockout held at every spring NABC that attracts the best teams in the world. It is thought by many to be a tougher event than the Bermuda Bowl mainly because of the depth of the field. Just making it into the round of 8 is a huge achievement. You need a good team to do well, obviously, but I felt that my team was particularly dangerous and capable of multiple upsets. I was playing with my father as well as John Kranyak, Melanie Tucker, Agustin Madala, and Guido Ferarro. Half of our team was made up of juniors, and also included an Italian world champion and 2 national champions.

As the 27 seed, we got a bye into the round of 64. Our whole team played well and we were able to defeat a team that included Barry Rigal and Jeff Aker along with some tough Israelis. In the round of 32 we drew the 6 seed. Their team was Steve Robinson, Peter Boyd, Kit Woolsey, and Fred Stewart. This was a great team but I really felt like we had a shot.

After the first 32 boards, we trailed by 1 imp. The third quarter was a disaster, and we lost about 50 imps. Our opponents were flawless, and the amazingly aggressive preempting style that Woolsey and Stewart are known for was really paying off in the other room. They put our teammates into some impossible positions.

Now the question, what is your strategy going to be down 50 imps to such a great team with 16 boards to play? Our team talked about it, and the general consensus was just to play normal bridge and to pick our spots. Nothing crazy because that usually leads to digging yourself into a bigger hole.

The first board out we bid a non vulnerable 3N with 23 high cards and made it with no play. The second board was uneventful. Then the critical third board...

I picked up AQ AKT62 AJT963 -- with everyone vulnerable. My first thought was that this was a great hand to hold when you need a swing. There was certain to be fireworks on this board. I opened 1 which just showed 16+ points. LHO, Kit Woolsey, bid 3. So far every single time we had opened a strong club, Woolsey or Stewart had bid. Partner Xed which showed a game force with no good suit to bid. I bid 3 and partner bid 3N. The implication here was that his clubs were not great; probably not a double stopper or he would have bid 3N directly. What should I bid now?

The correct technical bid is probably 5, showing this shape and telling partner to pick a slam. I decided to hedge with 4 to keep the auction low. Partner could now show real diamond support, suggest a major to play with 4, or perhaps retreat to 4N. He bid 4 and I decided to take a shot on 7. If it was on a hook, I wanted to be there. I felt that if we were to come back from this deficit we would need a little luck. A grand between 40-60 % would be just the luck we were hoping for. Besides, it may be cold.

LHO led a very quick A and I found myself in 7 with:

J942 QJ K87 Q932
AQ AKT62 AJT963 --

I have caught a minimum but very suitable red suit holdings. What are your thoughts, would you like to be in 7 if you were me?

I was very happy with this dummy and my contract. I thought Boyd and Robinson would play in 6, so we had a chance to pick up some much needed imps. There was still the matter of making this though.
I ruffed the club and played the jack of diamonds to the king (you never know) and led a diamond. RHO followed.

This was a very tough decision. Clearly RHO rated to have Qxx of diamonds given LHO's length in clubs, but if he did I would need a spade finesse as well. If diamonds were 2-2 I could simply pitch the spades from dummy and ruff a spade. I decided LHO would bid 3 with any hand that contained AK sixth. He could have 7, but not 7-4, and he could have the spade king. RHO also would not raise frequently with 3 from what I had seen. If LHO was 2326, 3226, 2227, 4126, or an unlikely 1426, I would need to go up. If he had 3316, 4216, 2416, 3217 or 2317 without the spade king I would need to hook. Overall, it looked like going up was the percentage play. Unfortunately RHO had Qxx of diamonds and the spade king. The rest of the match had some exciting deals but we never had much of a chance after this board.

The funny thing is, at the other table they were in four hearts! No one criticized my play, but my bidding came very much under attack. I contended that I had no way of knowing that a top pair would play in game, and that if I had made this the momentum would have been with us. I thought it was right to take a chance on a hand like this, and that bidding 6 was not the way to win the match. Even though this was a gamble, it was by no means a crazy contract. We ended up gaining 10 imps or so for the set, but losing the match. Our opponents went on to win the next day.

Reflecting on it, I still would like to be in 7 diamonds on this hand unless I knew my counterparts would be in game.

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