Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A (doubled) grand old time in Toronto

I just got back to the States from the Canadian Nationals (also known as the Toronto Regional).  My partner and I had a great time, and a bit of success - two Blue Ribbon quals is a good tournament. in one knockout, we played a round-robin and these two hands came up:

In a forgettable auction, we got to 6NT from the North side after East had bid hearts. This was viciously doubled by East. I have a rule... if the person on lead against 6NT thinks you're going down, he's probably right, and often VERY right. (I get to some baaaad slams.)

I pulled to 7♣, which got doubled in a rage on my right. My LHO was a very ethical player, though... he took inferences only from the auction and not from his partner's table action. So he read this as a Lightner double, and led dummy's suit (spades). I tucked in the nine which brought down the queen. A 3-2 club split later, I racked up 1630 for 7♣X nonvulnerable!

East here made two huge mistakes. First, he was on lead against 6NT with a solid six-card suit. This should be a situation that you dream about... but he got very greedy. He wanted to turn +250 into +1100. Then he regretted his decision so much that he forgot what a double of a slam means when you're not on lead.

Let's look at the IMP math here. His teammates were in 4♠ just making for +420. Adding 250 to that gets us 670, or win 12 IMPs. Adding 1100 would make it 1520, or 17 IMPs. So he was trying to gain 5 IMPs, at his great risk. The actual +1630 gave us 15 IMPs - so he lost 27 due to the double. Even if his partner had led his suit, we would have gone down 300 in 7♣X... for the same 12 IMPs! Not a very good trade...

Later in the session, this hand came up:


I know some very fine players who would open the South hand 1♡. I strongly disagree, but when you pay your entry fee, you can bid whatever you want! It was a fun auction:

I decided not to defend with my 8-5 hand. As it turns out, I could have doubled 6♠ for a fine score - +1400. But that would have lost an IMP! At the other table, my friend Ranald was in 6H just in for 1430. I decided that I didn't need much to make 7♢ a good contract, so I just up and bid it. My LHO doubled and led the ace of clubs. I ruffed in hand, and could see that a successful heart finesse would bring it home. The trouble with finesses, though, is that they sometimes lose. So I looked for a better way to go about it.

The diamond spots looked nice - with a good trump break I'd have three entries in the diamond suit. So I led the king of diamonds to the ace (showing off a bit), and they broke 1-1. Nice! I ruffed a club, went back to the board with the seven of diamonds, ruffed another club, and went to the board with the eight of diamonds. These cards were left:
I cashed the king of clubs, hoping the queen would fall for my 13th trick. Sadly, my RHO showed out, so clubs were 5-3. Hmm... my LHO had 5 clubs and overcalled 1♠. He must be 5215 or 6115! He'd pitched a heart on one of the diamond leads, so he had at most one heart left. I pitched a heart on the ace of spades, cashed the king of hearts, and led a heart to the jack, knowing it would win. +2330, for win 14!

Finesses only work 50% of the time. They should be your last resort.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bermuda Regional 2010, Part Two: KO

The Myers team, accepting the Knockout trophy from new ACBL President Richard DeMartino

The main event at the Bermuda Regional is the four-session Knockout that's held Monday through Thursday across the afternoons. This is a truly international event - this year's KO featured teams from the USA, Canada, Bermuda, England, and Austria!

Our toughest competition came from the Hansen team, all from Austria. They had a great showing in the North American Swiss Teams at the Honolulu NABC a few years ago, so they showed up for the KO wearing their lucky Hawaiian shirts!

Andreas Babsch played this hand fabulously against me:

Bill Souster started with the king of clubs. I played the discouraging / suit preference / whatever three of clubs, and Bill dutifully led a diamond, which I ruffed. I attempted to cash the ace of clubs, but Babsch ruffed with the king. He now led a spade to the ten, holding, then overtook the king of diamonds with the ace! He pushed the ten of diamonds through Bill, ruffing on the table when covered, then came back to the ace of spades. He led winning diamonds through Bill, and eventually he took his one trump trick and conceded. Well done! My teammate Ian Harvey played the hand along similar lines, but was playing from the North side - so didn't have to deal with the diamonds ruff. Well played Andreas - tough way to lose an IMP!

On the final board of the last match against the American-Bermudian Petty team (Vera Petty and Roman Smolski, Bermuda, Margie Sullivan and Steve Rzewski, Massachusetts, and  Burt Newman and Ed White, Michigan) the match was no longer in danger (but we didn't know it at the time). So tensions were very high when Bill was declaring 4S:

I gave Bill a very pushy limit raise, and he had an easy raise to 4S. Margie led the king of hearts. Bill saw that it would be easy with a winning trump finesse, but that lost.  He ruffed the heart return, drew trump, cashed the ace of diamonds, and led toward the king of diamonds. He was hoping to find a 3-3 diamond split for a club loser... but Margie's discard dashed that hope as well. He saw one chance, and took it: he won the king of diamonds, ruffed the last heart from the dummy (eliminating that suit from both hands), and led a low club toward the jack. Margie was stuck - she won the queen of clubs and had to either lead away from the king of clubs or give Bill a ruff and discard. Way to go!

A well earned celebratory drink after the big win
Left to right: Joe Wakefield, Jean Johnson, Alan Douglas, Ian Harvey, Bill Souster, McKenzie Myers

Thanks to Barry Rigal for some of the pictures.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bermuda Regional 2010, Part One

I just returned from the fabulous Bermuda Regional. It was a successful week - my team won two of the three main events - but more importantly it was an incredible amount of fun. I played with Jean Johnson, one of Bermuda's top players, and Bill Souster, a former Bermudian now living in Wales. Both of my partners played admirably.

The Bermuda Regional has a schedule unique to the ACBL: what's known as a "horizontal" schedule. This means that the midweek championship events go day-to-day rather than in the same day. Bermuda is also a Saturday to Friday regional, also (I think) unique in the ACBL. The main events in Bermuda are:

  • Saturday Evening Charity Pairs
  • Sunday Afternoon - Evening Swiss
  • Monday - Thursday Afternoon KO
  • Monday - Tuesday Evening Pairs
  • Wednesday - Thursday Evening Pairs
  • Friday Afternoon - Evening Swiss
I played the pair events with Jean and platooned the team events with Jean and Bill. The tournament started well with Jean and I coming in third in the Charity Pairs.

In the Sunday Swiss, we weren't quite finding the groove yet, but we did get this hand right:

I played this hand with Bill in our first match together. He showed great restraint in not forcing to slam after my one-level overcall. He was very surprised that I wasn't even cold for five...

The opponents led two rounds of clubs. I pitched a heart, went to the king of diamonds, and finessed the ten of diamonds on the way back, which won, lefty pitching a club. I then cashed the ace of diamonds. I was hopeful for a 3-3 spade break to pitch my second heart loser, but queen - king - ace of that suit showed a 4-2 break (LHO holding 4). My next attempt was to play a top heart, hoping RHO would win and be endplayed into leading another heart or giving me a ruff-sluff. RHO did win and conceded. As it turned out, if she had ducked, my last try would have been successful - ruffing a spade to hand and leading a heart to the ten.

More hands and results soon!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"Simple" suit combination problem

You hold:




in trumps, and you need to hold it to no losers. How do you play it?

That's a relatively simple one, you say. Cash the A. If the nine drops on your right on the first round, after cashing one round, come down to the queen and push the ten through LHO's probable J654. If RHO played the 9 from J965, he deserves his trick. (Be on the lookout for this suit combination as defender. You'll earn massive props from expert opponents and lots of imps if you learn to drop the nine smoothly from J9xx.) If no jack or nine drops on the first round, take the second top trump. You'll be able to find out if J9xx is on your right - you finesse the ten. If it turns out that J9xx is on your left, too bad - you gave it your best shot.

Is it ever right to do something different? Here's the whole hand:

West started with the ace of hearts against 4S, low all around, then the ace of diamonds, low all around again, then a diamond to East's king. East led back the queen of hearts! This ran around to the king on the board. Are you still satisfied with the suit combination solution from above?

My partner thought for quite a while (which is more than most would) about the problem, but decided that any other play would be too anti-percentage. It turned out, though, that the reason that West went with the "granny-defense" of cashing his aces and the king of diamonds was that he had a sure trump trick - J965. Was pard right in going with the odds, or was the ace-cashing enough to tip him off to the winning play (low to the queen, then push the ten through planning on later finessing against the nine)?

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