The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Every year the ACBL holds a national championship called the Grand National Teams. This is a grassroots event where each of the ACBL's 25 districts sends teams to vie for a national title. There are four events for players of varying experience, which are called Superflight, Flight A, Flight B, and Flight C. I've represented District 21 (Northern California) as a Flight B contestant in 1998 in Chicago, and in 2001 in Toronto.

Last weekend my GNT team practiced by entering the San Mateo Sectional knockout. This is an event with an interesting history: It started in the mid-90's, when the San Mateo Sectional was played in San Bruno, and while I won only one of the three times I entered, I did win all finals that were played! The first time the event was held, I think in February 1996, we lost in the semifinals. The team that won the other semifinal had a pair who was not allowed to play their system, and they withdrew in protest. In the summer of that year we were all set to contest the final when the power went out -- for everyone between Washington and the Mexican border. Early in 1997 we did play all the way and win.

The event was then cancelled for a few years, and only resumed recently. We defended our title against six other teams when the knockout was resumed -- this time at the San Mateo Expo Center, with the first round at the San Mateo Bridge Club in Burlingame. Then last year we entered the event and won -- as did another team. The turnout was larger than the eight teams that could be handled in three rounds, so they "bracketed" the event by experience and we were in the bottom bracket.

Last weekend 21 teams showed up, but we managed to sneak into the top bracket. Our first match on Friday night was not too tough and we won by 20-some imps. Sherry watched me play with my friend Scott, and she got to see some very distributional hands, all involving long clubs.

At none vulnerable I held SJ HA DKTxxx CAQJTxx and my RHO opened 1C! I chose to bid 1D, though I wasn't sure how I was going to get my club suit in; if partner bid a major suit a club bid from me would sound like strong support. But LHO and partner passed, and RHO reopened 1N (18-19 balanced). I was able to bid 2C and play it there. Partner provided IMG SRC="spade.gif" ALT="S">Qxx HKxxxx Dxx C987 and I made five for +150. I figured this would be a push or a small pickup.

In fact, we got a game swing! The player holding my cards at the other table passed, my teammate responded 1S holding six spades to the T9 and a two-count, and after 2N apparently his choices were to pass or to be in game, so he shot out six spades and rolled it.

A little later at all red I held:

SQ Hx DAQxx CAKQJxx. RHO meanly opened 3H, so I shot out 5C and everyone passed. Partner had very little, something like SKJ9xxx Hxxx Dxx C9x and I went down one for a push.

Next at all white I held this very similar hand:

SJ HDKxxxx CAKQJTxx. I opened 5C and caught this dummy:

SKQxx HJxxx DQx C932.

LHO led a heart, which I blew up. I pulled a round of trumps and found them 2-1. It seems natural to pull trumps and lead the jack of spades. Then I knock out the ace of diamonds and ruff one diamond in dummy; two more diamonds go on high spades.

But what if someone ducked the spade jack? I would have only one entry to dummy and the spades would not be set up. While I would not lose a spade, I could lose two diamonds if the suit broke badly.

I solved this problem by leading the jack of spades before pulling trumps. Now if the ace of spades is held up I can cross to the C9 to lead a second high spade. Diamonds were 6-0 so caution was necessary.

Saturday afternoon I played with two partners. Eric was otherwise occupied on Friday evening, so Brian played with Mike and I played Caroline Club with Scott. Scott was busy Saturday morning, so when play started at 12:30 I was playing with Eric and Brian with Mike.

We were playing a good team and I had a rocky start. On the first hand I was in 3N and chose the wrong line, going down when I could have made. The next hand was also a 3N, and I had no play after my LHO made a nice defensive play. Also I needlessly went down an extra undertrick vulnerable. After that we didn't make any mistakes, and I made some aggressive bids that paid off. For instance, I held SAKJ9 HJx Dxx C987xx at all vul. LHO opened a 15-17 notrump, RHO transferred to hearts, and LHO's 2H rolled around to me. I balanced with 2S and made +140.

Even so I didn't like our first half. The opponents seemed to have done everything right. I figured we were stuck somewhere between 10 and 30. Imagine my surprise when we scored our boards and were +8! Our teammates had had a very good set.

For the second half I was back in harness with Scott, and Brian and Eric played together. Again we were solid, and we scored another 7 imps to win by 15. Meanwhile in the other semifinal, the more experienced team had had a bad day and lost.

We went to Inya Lake for an early dinner that couldn't be beat (come to me, "Inya Lake San Bruno" Google searches!), and returned for the final at 6 p.m. Brian and I had not sat out, so Mike and Eric paired up while I played with Scott. There weren't too many exciting boards, and we had a 10-imp lead at the half. I went home while Brian played with Scott, and they added another nine imps for the victory.



Interesting hands and congratulations from your father. I'll being playing in a knockout at the Indy Spring Sectional April 2. I'll be playing with my "new" tournament partner, Batuk Romalia, bidding "Alley Oop." Incidentally, what are the rules for allocating plays when a knockout team has 5 or 6 members?

Finally, I'm having my Life Master party on April 9. I've chosen a team format, and will have three-quarters of the team with which I won my needed gold.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:22 PM  

Post a Comment