Jenn and I tuned up for our planned foray into the IMP Pairs in Memphis with a 2-session IMP Pairs in the Santa Clara regional. We finshed fifth overall, so we feel we are ready for the big show.
IMP Pairs is an event where you need to be aggressive to win. You are not only playing against one team, but a whole field, so to stand out you have to make games and slams that many pairs would not bid. In addition, if your risky adventures don't work out well, you don't have to answer to teammates!
Here are three hands from the event. In two of them we won a lot of IMPs for being aggressive. In the third we lost IMPs when we weren't aggressive enough. All three hands are from the evening session.
Hand 1 - Board 25
In fourth seat with your side vulnerable, you hold
Partner opens 1 Heart in second seat, you bid 1 Spade, and partner jumps to 4 Spades. She has to have a great hand for this bid, probably with 5 losers. It looks too good to pass. Although it has 8 losers, the two aces, with the queen in trumps make this really only a 7 loser hand. I decided that a slam try was in order, so I cuebid 5 diamonds, showing the ace and inviting slam if partner had a club control. She duly bid 6 Hearts and a club was led.
I put up the club queen, losing to the ace. Now, while RHO was considering his defense, I was evaluating my chances. I had to set up dummy's hearts and deal with its club loser while avoiding any problems with trumps. The hand would essentially be a dummy reversal. I thought it needed either 3-3 hearts or somehow finessing or dropping the club Jack. After a moment, RHO produced the Jack of clubs! Eureka! Now the slam was nearly cold, and duly came home. 11 precious IMPs our way. (RHO had AJ tight of clubs, 3 hearts and 2 spades, so everything was friendly.)
Hand 2 - board 31
In second seat, with the opponents vulnerable, you hold
I opened 1 heart with this nice collection, and it went pass, 1 Spade by Jenn, pass back to me. I counted 5 losers, with a side ace and no queens, so it becomes 4.5 losers for evaluation purposes. Normally, LTC requires a fit. But I believe that if you have a self-sufficient suit, which I define as one that can play for at most one loser opposite a void, that this is as good as having a fit. I decided that this hand had to play in game, so I bid 4 Hearts. Jenn, looking at
felt she had to take some forward-going action with all these values opposite a jump to game. She had many choices. Jenn decided that there was no way that I could justify a jump to 4 Hearts unless I had very good trumps, so she bid 4NT, RKC, and when I showed 2 keycards and the queen of hearts, she bid 6 Hearts.
I got a low diamond lead. It looked like the slam depended on either the diamond or spade finesse plus a 4-2 or better heart split. I finessed the jack (not the best play) which was covered, so ultimately the slam needed the spade finesse, which worked--so the slam made for another 7 IMPs. As the cards lay, I could have made it without a finesse, since RHO had Q93 of diamonds. If I had won the first diamond in my hand, I could have drawn trumps, then played ace and another diamond, ruffing. The queen would have been ruffed out, and I could have pitched my losing spade on the jack. In retrospect this was the better play since LHO was unlikely to lead away from the queen against this powerful auction.
Hand 3 - board 29
This is one where Jenn and I both had the opportunity to take the aggressive path, but neither of us did. So we missed a vulnerable game and lost 5 IMPs instead of winning 6, a big 11-IMP swing. Worse, it came against the pair that ended up 3rd, so if we had bid it we would have passed them in the standings.
Jenn's RHO opened 1 Heart with both vulnerable. She held:
She passed, and next hand bid 2 Hearts, announced as a constructive raise. I held:
I decided to be brave and bid 2 spades because the opponents had already found a fit so were unlikely to stop and double me. Now it went pass to Jenn. She might have taken the really aggressive route and bid 4 Spades, but with her 8 1/2 losers she chose to invite with 3 Spades. I felt I had done enough just getting into the auction, so I passed. Looking at both hands, we would have wanted to be in game. It makes with trumps 2-2 or if either opponent had the singleon king or queen and they couldn't maneuver an uppercut with K9x or Q9x, which is clearly good enough IMP odds to bid a vulnerable game.
Next stop, Memphis. Good luck!