The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Tuesday, February 18, 2003


Sports update part 3: My wife and I spent all weekend playing in a knockout with my friends Eric and Brian. Knockout events are "bracketed" -- that is, the teams are separated by experience level. The Saturday/Sunday knockout that we entered had four brackets. The top bracket had the most experienced teams, including Rose Meltzer's world championship team (with Weichsel, Sontag, Larsen, Martel, Stansby). The second bracket had some decent local players. We had 2300 masterpoints (I provided half the team's total) and were in the third bracket.

50 teams entered the knockout, which was held in a conference room that was maybe 40 by 80 feet. It was good to see a big turnout after the disappointingly small crowds in San Bernardino. But the room was crowded and noisy. We got started with a three-way match (two advancing) and crushed both teams by a combined score of 125-12.

In the evening we played head to head. Sherry and I had a solid first half. On one hand our vulnerable opponents bid to 3N on the following auction:

1H 1N
2H 3D
3N

I had SQx Hx DAJTxx CKT9xx. I had diamonds locked up and Sherry probably had a heart stack, so I doubled. +800 and win 12.

At the half we were up 24. But the second half was a lot tougher for us. Here is the most interesting declarer play problem of the tournament:

















Both Vul
Dealer: North

Sherry

S K T 9 4
H K J 8 x x
D x
C K T x
Lead:Sx
  [W - E]
 
Floyd

S Q J x
H A 9 x
D A J x x x
C Q x





West
(LHO)


1 S
Pass
Pass

North
(Sherry)

Pass
2 H
3N

East
(RHO)

Pass
Pass
Pass

South
(Floyd)

1 D
2N
Pass



I bid 2N because I was worried about spade ruffs in a heart contract. When dummy came down I saw that I was right; 4H goes down after ace of spades and a spade ruff, ace of clubs and a second ruff. Now all I had to do was make 3N.

I won the spade lead in hand -- RHO followed -- and played the ace of hearts and a heart to the jack. LHO played the ten on the second round; RHO won the queen and shifted to DT. I ducked and LHO won the king and played another spade.

I thought for a long time about what to do. If LHO had DKQ, I could cash the ace of diamonds and take two tricks in that suit. But what would I pitch from dummy on the ace of diamonds if LHO showed out? My spades were needed as stoppers and so were my clubs; I had to knock out two black aces and I needed the ten of clubs as a stopper if LHO led that suit.

I finally decided to play LHO for the club jack. I led a club to the queen, LHO fired a club back, I put in the ten and it lost to the jack. Down one. LHO had DKQ so cashing the ace of diamonds would have worked.

A few minutes later I realized what I should have done: Cash the ace of diamonds and if the queen does not appear, pitch a heart winner! Now I have kept the black suit stoppers I need and can go about my business, hoping for CJ onside. On the actual hand I can pitch clubs from dummy on the ace and jack of diamonds and knock out the spade ace: Four hearts, three spades, two diamonds makes nine.

Here is the full hand:


















Both Vul
Dealer: North

Sherry

S K T 9 4
H K J 8 x x
D x
C K T x
Lead:Sx

LHO

S A x x x x
H T x
D K Q
C A x x x x
[W - E]
RHO

S x
H Q x x
D T 9 8 x x x
C J x x
 
Floyd

S Q J x
H A 9 x
D A J x x x
C Q x


We did have one good board, though at the time I was not sure if it would be win 13, lose 13, or a push. Sherry held SAxxx HDQTxxx CK9xx. We were vulnerable and I opened 2N. Sherry bid 3C Stayman, and when I bid 3D bid 4D. I had a huge hand for diamonds -- SKx HATx DAKJx CAQTx -- and we were soon in a small slam, making seven. I hoped that the other table had not bid the grand. They did not; in fact they signed off in 3N over 3D!

The last board was a difficult bidding problem. Sherry opened 1H holding SA98x HAQxxx DQTx Cx. My hand was SKJx HTx DAKJxx C98x. We arrived in 3N after a confused auction that I won't repeat, and I had the pleasure of watching the opponents cash the first five club tricks.

Here is my suggested auction to arrive at 5D:

1H 2D
2H 2S
3S 3N
4D 5D

Opener must rebid 2H as 3D would be game forcing. Responder tries 2S as a probe for notrump. Opener's raise is obvious.

Now responder must back out of the 4-3 spade fit. Opener should reason that responder does not have four spades and that 2S was a stopper, not a suit. But if responder really had spades and clubs stopped, he would rebid notrump. So responder is hoping that opener can deliver some help in the club suit, and opener must pull out of 3N to diamonds.

After all these bad boards I was afraid that we had blown the match. We compared and there were lots of swings. We had totalled up the six-board quarters but had not added them together. Brian and I looked at the wreckage and said, "We lost by one." Eric said, "No, I think we won by one." We did the math and found out he was right.

The next day we had an easier time of it. One of our opponents was a 95-year-old lady who had driven up from Santa Barbara. She was crabby and not a good player; in fact on the first board I opened 1D on SKT8 HAKxx DJT97 CTx, and when my hand came down as dummy she called the director on me! She complained that this was not a diamond opener; the director, whom I have played against a lot, said that he saw no problem. (For him, the hand has extras!)

We had a solid first half. On the last board of our first quarter great-grandma held SQx HAx DCAKJxxxxxx and opened 5C. This was passed out; dummy appeared with SAKxxxx Hxxx DAJxx C— and declarer made seven when the clubs broke 2-2. Our teammates got to 7C after a confused auction. This was win 14.

We won the first half 53-16, and tacked on 23 more imps to advance to the final. We headed to an Indian restaurant in Sunnyvale for a delicious dinner.

In the final we faced one of the teams that we had crushed in the opening round three-way. They played much better in the final. In the first half my input was limited. Sherry declared seven hands and I played none. Sherry did well on the hands that she declared, but there was one soft result when I opened 1C and my LHO jumped to 2S. We do not play negative doubles and could not find our heart game. That was lose 9. We also lost 9 when Brian and Eric went for 500 against our +100, and 11 when they tried for a slam and went down.

However I can't complain about our teammates when they bring back boards like this: As dealer, favorable, I held SKx HK9xxx Dxxx Cxxx. I passed, LHO bid 3D, and Sherry overcalled 3S. Everyone passed and a diamond was led. Sherry blew it up, played a spade to the king, and a spade down. The preemptor showed out. Sherry rose with the spade ace and worked on hearts from her HQJTx. The preemptor showed out on the first round! The defense slipped a trick and Sherry made an overtrick. I assumed that the preemptor had five little clubs and didn't think much about the board.

So we compared results. "Plus 200." "Minus 100, win 3." "Minus 150." "Plus 110, lose 1." "Plus 170."

"Plus 1540, win 17!"

The preemptor's hand was Sx H&151; DKJ9xxxx CKQJxx! Eric opened 2N -- minors with less than opening strength -- and when Brian showed diamond support Eric competed to the six level. The opening lead was a heart and Eric's spade loser vanished.

When the dust settled we were up four. We reshuffled and played the last 12 boards, and once again Sherry was in the spotlight. She played four deals in a row and did well on three of them. But she went down in a tough game and I figured that was lose 10. We also failed to beat a white game they bid; lose 10 more.

There were some good hands for us. On the first board we played Sherry and I dummy locked declarer and beat a red 3N. I guessed well in two partials to make my contracts. We stayed out of a slam that would make if Sherry's clubs were CT9x instead of C9xx , and on the last board declarer was a lock to make 3S and hacked the play.

Our first six boards we lost 7 to 12. We did lose 10 on the game we let them make, and a partial that I played well was defended very well by Brian and Eric for a 7-imp win. (Unfortunately our well-defended 3N was a push.) As for the last quarter, we lost 10 on the hand Sherry failed to make, and won 13 on the board we stayed out of slam -- the opponents bid to a grand. We won this set 17-12, so the second half was a wash and we held on to win by four imps. That was worth 15 masterpoints; Sherry now has more than 50 masterpoints and is a "sectional master."

I had to edit this post about five times to make the auction come out right on the 3N play problem. At least my hit count is going up.


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