Squeezing The Dummy

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Nightmare Set Conclusion

After trouncing us 55-0 in 8 boards, Italy was down just 41 imps with 8 to go. If they could complete their comeback, it would likely be the greatest in the history of international bridge.

On board 9 our opponents bid to a 19 point 5. The contract needed a finesse and a 2-1 break and made. I thought it was likely our teammates would find the game as well, and sure enough they did. They also got doubled as their auction made it sound like they were saving. Something strange happened in the play though. Joe Grue with a club suit of AKT975 opposite 8432 led low to the seven! Joe felt from the tempo that clubs were 3-0. He was wrong this time, but what makes him so great is his courage to back his judgment and buck the percentages. Nine times out of ten he is right. This time we lost 11 imps.

Italy 66 USA 0

Thankfully for us at this point there were 5 flat boards where we were outscored 3-1. There was a game that both tables went down in that was makeable, but both declarers took the correct percentage line.

Italy 69 USA 1

On board 15 I picked up 7 AJ3 KQJ86 T875. Ari opened 1 and RHO bid 1. I had numerous options here. I could bid 2 to show a good club raise, or 3 to show a game forcing club raise with spade shortness. My club support seemed very weak for both of those actions though as partner may have a 3 card suit, and diamonds might well be our best spot. I could bid a simple 2 to be followed by a club bid, but I was worried that the opponents with a big spade fit may preempt to a high level and leave us guessing. I decided to make a fit jump with 3 to show diamonds and clubs and invitational or better values. This gave Ari a difficult problem with AK4 42 9732 AK94. With such weak hearts, 3N was out. Would 3 show spade values and heart weakness? Similarly, would 3 show the same thing? We were not on firm ground, and Ari's prime values argued for suit play anyways. He bid 4 and I raised him to 5. That went down with 3N cold. I knew this was a very poor result, and it ended up being a 10 imp loss when our counterparts found 3N. In retrospect, I think my hand was not pure enough for a fit jump and I should have just taken my chances with a 2 bid.

Italy 79 USA 1

On the final board of the set, I held KT2 9 AKQJT92 54. Ari opened 1, I forced to game with 2, and LHO came in with 3. Now Ari bid 3N. This brings up an interesting theoretical question, should 3N show extras or just a double stopper? If it showed extras then with a minimum you can pass and bid 3N if partner Xs. However, if it shows a double stopper then passing and bidding 3N would show a single stopper. Theory didn't matter much to me at the table though, I had to make a bid. I had a great hand, but not good enough to force it to slam (especially if partner just had a minimum). I didn't want to risk any spade ruffs playing diamonds, so I bid a quantitative 4N. Ari, who thought he hadn't shown extras, drove it to slam with AQ AQ752 86 QJ98. The AK of clubs was on lead and doubled us for -200. At the other table the Italians got to 6. Now the AK of clubs was not on lead, and the contract can actually make with a spade lead via a strip squeeze! John found a heart lead, which broke the communications for the squeeze and held our loss on the board to 3 imps. Had he led a spade we would have lost 17 imps on the board, and won the event by a single imp!

Final Score: Italy 82 USA 1

Wow! We had held on to win by just 15 imps. Let's analyze how the Italians had managed to pick up so many imps in the last set.

There were 4 major swings, 4 medium swings, and 3 minor swings their way. There was only 1 minor swing in our favor.

The major swings were caused by a different lead against a slam, a marginal overcall being made at one table and not at the other, a different guess in the trump suit, and a different game being reached. These swings amounted to 53 imps.

The medium swings were caused by better judgment on a partscore hand, better judgment in high level competition, a different partscore being reached due to systemic differences, and a double made at one table but not the other. These swings amounted to 23 imps.

The minor swings were a couple of overtricks and a double made at one table and not the other. These swings amounted to 6 imps. Our minor swing was only 1 imp.

The Italians were NOT swinging, doing anything wildly anti-percentage, or anything else that could be classified as crazy. They simply played good aggressive bridge, and did it much better than us in that set. We made some mistakes and they made very few.

To me the lesson that can be learned from this amazing set is that no matter how many imps you are down, you should just keep playing normal bridge. This is what Bob Hamman has been trying to tell me for years, but I had to learn the hard way. Who could have guessed that he knew what he was talking about this whole time?



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