Thursday, January 2, 2020

Classic Rewind from 2007

Here are a couple of gems from the knockouts at the Sacramento Regional. The first hand was from the semifinals.

Both Vul. As dealer I opened 1 diamond and heard 3 hearts on my left. Pass, pass to me.

Ax
x
AJ98x
AKJxx

Think about your next call before reading on.

I thought briefly about 4 then decided I was too strong and reached for the stop card: 5. Frank studied his hand and raised me to 6!

He had the "fitting cards" as he likes to say. He banked on my being short in hearts and figured his DK and clubs were golden.

10xx
Jxx
Kx
Q1098x

Ax
x
AJ98x
AKJxx

Now all I had to do was to make it.

The K lead was overtaken by the A. I ruffed the continuation and studied the hand. The key was clearly the diamond suit. I started trumps and LHO showed out. Hmm...that gave him more room for diamonds. The bidding and play strongly suggested he had 7H. Probably didn't have too many spades. How many diamonds did he have? I had to get the diamonds right to pitch my spade losers from the board and ruff my spade.

I drew trumps in 3 rounds and led a D to the K. A diamond back to my hand and did not see the Q or the 10. It was decision time. Play the Ace or finesse the J? I knew the match was close and this hand would likely win or lose it.

After a couple of minutes of thinking I played the ace and when I led another D to ruff, the Q came up on my left! Diamonds were 3-3! I returned to my hand and pitched my spades on my good diamonds. Making 6 felt like a very good score with these cards.

Sure enough when we compared scores we said: "plus 1370" and our teammates said "minus 150!" The person with my hand only rebid 4 and played there. Win 15. We went on to win the match by 1 imp.

The Finals

A tough match against a tough team which included Mike Lawrence and Harvey Brody. We had beaten them the first evening in the quarter finals but they survived and now we faced them again.

The match seemed to be going our way. We were practicing what we preach: bidding and making our games and beating theirs! Then I picked up a nice but rather innocuous looking hand:

xxx
xxx
Kx
AKQJx

We were vul and they were not. The bidding got off to a normal start and then quickly spiraled out of control. 1 by me, 1 on my left, 4S by Frank (what the heck is that...a splinter?), 4N on my right! I'm not sure what anyone is doing but I do have good clubs so I venture a 5 call. It goes Pass and Frank bids 6!

It doesn't stop there. RHO goes into the tank and pulls out the 6 card! 3 passes to Frank who starts thinking. He thinks for a long time. Finally he makes his bid: 7! The opponents pass slowly and I can't wait to see this...

Mike L. leads the A and I see the following:

Void
AJx
AJxxx
109xxx

xxx
xxx
Kx
AKQJx

I think to myself: "Maybe he should have doubled instead of bidding 7!" But now I have to see if there is a way to make the darned thing. At least we're not down off the top.

Does something look familiar? It's virtually the same diamond suit as the club small slam from the semifinals! (see above)

I ruff the A and play a round of trumps, both following. Good...I need to do a lot of ruffing and didn't want to see another 3-0 trump break. I pull the last trump and pause to consider the play. If I can bring in the D suit I can throw my H losers from my hand and maybe make this improbable grand slam.

(Meanwhile Frank left the room after bidding 7 and a well-known player was turning the dummy. I don't think he could stand the suspense! )

I played the K and the 10 came up on my right. Hmm...what is his D holding? I led a D to dummy, thought a few moments and played the Ace. The Q dropped on my right! Could it be? I pitched a H on the J, ruffed a D to my hand, returned to the HA and pitched my last H on the good D. I showed my hand and claimed. The opponents looked sick. Frank had returned and looked happy. I was amused and delighted.

We compared scores: "Plus 2140" we said, "minus 300" said our teammates. Win 18 imps.

We didn't win the match but this hand was certainly the high point.

It is only as I finish writing up these hands that I notice another striking similarity: Each of these slams was bid with only 23 high card points.

I'll have to have a talk with Frank about how many points he needs to bid a slam...:-)

Stay tuned for hands from the California Capital Swiss in which we placed third.

See you at the table!

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