Spock

Hi all

Over the years I’ve shared good, funny, absurd, warm, sad and mostly true stories. But… I don’t have them anymore. My life as I knew it is in tatters. Sad but true. So please understand I don’t have the energy or room anymore to share. Maybe things in a future far, far away will change, but certainly not before this.

Anyway…

Here’s one last deal from the All Western Pairs, I was playing with Michael Bodell (with whom I had an awesome time at the SF Nationals).

North
KQJ86
QJ4
T96
AJ
West
North
East
South
 
1NT1
pass
32
pass
… 4
pass
4
a.p.
 
 
 
  1. 12-14
  2. Exactly 4-card suit GF

I agree the North hand is a tad too strong for a weak NT. The alternative of opening 1 to initiate a “15-17 balanced”-sequence, didn’t feel right either. But in pairs upgrading or downgrading is less of an issue. I still have sympathy for my own call.

The next problem arises when Michael reveals we have a 9-card fit. Suddenly the value of my hand goes through the roof. On the other hand, I know Michael’s 3 call is just GF, nothing more than that. I try to visualize a couple of hands to see if slam is on, but it just seems too far away.

Is there something else? I look at my hand again, and I feel I have an opportunity for some mischief. I really don’t like to get a lead towards my hand, I have no forks. If Michael declares, his holding is protected too. Before I know it a 4 call lies on the table. Michael stares at it for a second, shrugs and bids 4.

Yay! We have a 9-card fit, and I’ve made the shorter hand declarer. This was the full deal:

North Dealer
All Vul
North
KQJ86
QJ4
T96
AJ
West
97
K972
Q532
K75
East
T5
T86
A4
Q98632
South
A432
A53
KJ87
T4

Michael got a lead, and he had just enough tempo to set up a in his hand for ten tricks. At all the other tables 4 was declared from the North, and just a very select few got a defensive error to bring home the contract.

I guess I got lucky.

So, my dear reader, I bid you well. Live long and prosper.

Three Thrones

Hi all

The All Western Pairs went only so-so for Michael and me. The field was pretty strong, but that’s no excuse for all the ridiculous mistakes I made. I was just not on top of my game. This weekend we’ll probably start a new brew, the White House Honey Ale, to time it exactly right for election night (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_House_Honey_Ale). And… Richard Dawkins is coming to Berkeley for a talk: The Magic of Reality. I got my ticket already.

Here’s a deal from Quick Tricks a couple weeks ago. Nobody was able to defeat the common 4 contract, but the defence has a very nice opportunity. You hear the following auction.

West
North
East
South
 
1
pass
2
pass
2
pass
2NT
pass
4
a.p.
 

Partner (East) leads the 2 (3rd and low). So you have one trick, hopefully two tricks, and trump King must become the setting one. But how do you prevent declarer from finessing twice against your King?

West
KT4
AQ87
A543
65
South
75
KJ43
K9
AJT92

The solution is so clean and clear in it’s simplicity. Duck the first round! That King cannot be allowed to serve as an entry. You smoothly duck (and encourage) and declarer wins with the Ten. Declarer will look for entries to dummy, say he tries a towards dummy. Partner showing an odd number and you know it’s safe to cash both your tricks and the Ace of . A third round of declarer ruffs in his hand. In the double void? Yes sir!

Let’s move to the North seat.

North
AQJ9862
K4
 
 
 
 
South
75
K4
AJT92

You, sitting North, are annoyed by the solid defense so far. But you have another trick up your sleeve. You do have two entries to finesse against trump King if East is holding the Queen. You play the 4 to dummy and finesse against the Queen: entry # 1. Later you can overtake the King for entry # 2. Or can your cunning plan be foiled?

Let’s move to the East seat.

East
3
5
Q876
Q873
South
75
K4
K
AJT92

You’ve led your 2 and it ran around to declarer’s Jack. Then things turned a bit strange… Declarer played a towards dummy, partner cashed out three of his red suit winners and then played a in the double void. But declarer ruffed in his own hand instead of pitching a loser… Nobody has played a trump yet. And then the solution hits you. Declarer tries to get to dummy to take a hook against partner’s presumed honor.

Can East assist somehow?

Yes, by inserting the Queen at first opportunity (second hand high!). That denies declarer a second entry to dummy, and the defence gets the fourth trick they’re entitled to.

North Dealer
All Vul
North
AQJ9862
T6
JT
K4
West
KT4
AQ87
A543
65
East
3
952
Q8762
Q873
South
75
KJ43
K9
AJT92

Declarer on top of his game, and the defence prevailing in the end.
I love this game!

Philadelphia, Part 6

Hi all

Here’s me closing the Philadelphia Series, Roth Open Swiss, round 1, deal 1. Barely awake, and Michael pushes me in a skinny 3NT. Hmmm, in a testosterone infused day dream, if all those skinny & skimpy contracts I play were actually scantily clad babes… Boy!, would my bridge life be the coolest ever. Cardboard reality, such an anticlimax.

West
North
East
South
1
11
pass
2NT
pass
3NT
a.p.
 
  1. Is this a vulnerable 1 overcall?
North
K962
75
AT875
K2
South
QJ4
AJT9
K4
Q764

There’s a glimmer of hope when my LHO decides to lead a fourth best . My Ace captures the Queen. An early inventory shows I have three solid tricks, so I need to set up six more. Two in and two in are easy, the rest should come from the minors, or something favourable in . I can count my LHO for almost everything outstanding. Now what?

I started by playing the King from hand and a low one via the Queen for … Wait a minute. Can I duck this? Should I take that Queen at face value? I start a small movie in my head. If I duck and West switches back to . I can’t really be hurt with whatever he switches to. But … the timing just feels wrong.

I decide to win it with dummy’s Ace, and switch back to . West wins his King and finds a switch necessary too: to a low . I ask for the King and slowly I creep towards my nine.

North
K962
T87
2
South
QJ4
T9
Q76

From here on it’s easy. I play a to my Queen and West wins his Ace. Back comes another and I let it run to my Jack. West follows to both my high and then a to dummy reveals the 4-2 split. I place West with a fourth round of and my Queen of is number 9.

Number 9! Cloud number 9. Number 9 dream. Perfume number 9. My mind is rattling with 9s in all forms and shapes. If there had been a crowd, it would have gone wild.

West Dealer
NS Vul
North
K962
54
AT875
K2
West
AT83
K873
Q6
AJ8
East
75
Q62
J932
T953
South
QJ4
AJT9
K4
Q764

Now I’m wondering. Was my play actually correct? Did stripping West from safe exits give me a return on investment?

Philadelphia, Part 5

Hi all

I’m back after a short break. But before the Santa Clara Regional begins, I have to finish up some Philadelphia stories. Here we go:

South
AKQJ
K9
AKQJ
A84

Not too shabby! I love it when I pick up my cards and the stream of face cards just doesn’t end.

West
North
East
South
 
 
 
11
pass
12
pass
2NT3
pass
34
pass
3
pass
45
pass
… 7NT6
a.p.
 
 
 
  1. Beowulf: 15-17 balanced, or stronger any shape
  2. 6+ hcp any shape
  3. 18-19 bal, GF
  4. Transfer
  5. Splinter
  6. That should be about right

I took some artistic liberty with 2NT, as it technically shows 18-19 balanced, but all I wanted to do was to establish a game force. I could always raise to slam myself if Geoff had no more than a simple raise to game.

Geoff did surprise me a couple of times during the bidding. First his positive response made my day a bit brighter (27-counts usually make me grin like a monkey in pairing season). And then his self-splinter over 3. At that point I figured Geoff had to hold very good trumps for a slam try opposite 18-19, because I’m holding everything else. Anyway, with my significant extras I had no problem emptying my bidding box.

West Dealer
NS Vul
North
5
AQJT854
87
T53
West
T643
62
T42
KQJ2
East
9872
73
9653
976
South
AKQJ
K9
AKQJ
A84

16 tricks from top. And a fistful of IMPs when the other table closed out in small slam.

Philadelphia, Part 4

Hi all

The picture below is courtesy Antony Lee (Bo Xiao on the left). I’m actually holding a coffee, but he sure did have a knack for eternalizing me holding my phone. Really! On all the pictures he took I was either checking BBO for the latest Spingold updates, texting my lovely wife, or giving in to my WordFeud addiction. Of course only outside the playing arena.


Here’s
a story on BridgeWinners that just left me awestruck, an enlightening and inspiring insight in the mind of Peter Fredin. The inferences and help I usually get from my opponents is more of caliber “sledgehammer”, not quite as subtle as Fredin’s analysis and projections. Take this one for example (Regional Pairs, July 18th):

South
T987
AKJT4
Q975
West
North
East
South
1
2
double
31
3
5
pass
62
a.p.
 
 
 
  1. Fit showing
  2. “Choo-Choo”

When my LHO helped me out by bidding 3 it was quite obvious Michael was holding a stiff . All aboard the slam train! This was the full deal:

West Dealer
All Vul
North
5
53
K643
AKJ843
West
AQ32
976
AJ987
6
East
KJ64
Q82
JT52
T2
South
T987
AKJT4
Q975

The opponents started with two rounds of , Michael ruffed, cashed both top and entered a crossruff for twelve tricks, and almost all the matchpoints. Probably some other West was less … disciplined holding two Aces.

Philadelphia, Part 3

Hi all

So here’s a small … kink from Philadelphia. Setting: Second day of the Spingold. Let’s call my RHO “Mad Bross”. I ask his partner for their convention cards and he hands me one. I politely ask if they have a second one for my partner, where “Mad Bross” responds: “You can share, we play very vanilla.” I say that the rules require you to hand over two cc’s. At this point he spits out: “Are you f*cking kidding me?”.

Fortunately his partner smoothly defuses the situation and offers to fill out a second one if desired. I let it pass, but the dark cloud at the table does not leave.

In retrospect I didn’t handle it correctly. I should have called for the director, nobody should be subjected to profanities. One of the directors confirmed with me that “Mad Bross” would have been given a Zero Tolerance penalty just for that. After that it’s three strikes and you’re out. Even famous players have to obey the rules. My bad for missing out on an opportunity.

It wasn’t all one way traffic against team Diamond. We had some pickups and system successes too. Not enough to make the match in any way exciting, but still. Here’s one:

North
A
AK73
76
T97542
West
North
East
South
 
21
pass
2NT2
pass
3NT3
a.p.
 
  1. Exactly four card in an unbalanced hand, 8-12 hcp
  2. Natural and invitational+
  3. Accepting, bidding my minor would have been a sign off
North Dealer
All Vul
North
A
AK73
76
T97542
West
J875
T85
A84
A63
East
QT643
J94
KQT2
8
South
K92
Q62
J953
KQJ

On a passive lead Geoff set up the suit and wrapped up 11 tricks for +660. Now at the other table things were less … sophisticated. Four passes in succession and that’s 12 IMP, thank you!

Philadelphia, Part 2

Hi all

So when we qualified for the second day of the Spingold, we were seed #62. I would have loved to play Monaco, but we got matched up with team Diamond instead (Hampson & Greco, Gitelman & Moss and Diamond & Platnick). Urgh! Some heavyweights.

The first quarter I had some startup problems, defending sub-optimally, choosing to defend with a 7-5 in the Majors, and throwing the towel too early in partscore battles. It all adds up so quickly. After the first 16 boards we’re staring into a 50 IMP abyss. Sigh!

Here’s an impressive sequence to a borderline slam, Hampson and Greco showing off their tools and agreements.

West
North
East
South
 
2NT1
pass
32
pass
3
pass
43
pass
44
Double
pass5
pass
Redouble6
pass
47
pass
4NT8
pass
59
pass
6
a.p.
 
  1. 19-21
  2. Stayman
  3. Natural, slammish
  4. Keycards, are trumps
  5. “I worry about the position”
  6. “Don’t worry, I got it under control. Now show me your keycards!”
  7. One keycard
  8. Trump Queen?
  9. Yes, and the King

This was the full deal:

West Dealer
NS Vul
North
JT4
AQ63
KQ7
AK3
West
Q8762
K984
T62
4
East
93
52
AJ984
J965
South
AK5
JT7
53
QT872

As you can see 6 needs some work. Trumps splitting or the Jack onside (or stiff). King of onside and 3-3, or a squeeze against length and the Queen. Obviously Greco had no problem squeezing the life out of me. I don’t blame my team mates at all for not finding this slam.

Philadelphia, Part 1

Hi all

The Philadelphia NABC was awesome. I played lots and lots of bridge, I’d say about 50-60 deals per day for nine days straight. I did get to eat a Philly Cheese Steak, saw plenty of bronze statues around the city, the Liberty Bell, City Hall (close to the playing site), and that’s about it tourist wise. I’ve consumed some amazing food, even after being spoiled with all the great restaurants in Berkeley. And the beer… ohh… the beer. Gulden Draak 9000 from draft, I was in heaven.

I don’t have my paperwork in order yet, but I do have lots of nice deals. I had an amazing Nationals, we got to play team Diamond twice(!), more than respectable finishes in the Roth Open Swiss and the Fast Pairs, and I’ve amassed enough Platinum to play the Platinum Pairs next time. Yay! So here’s a random one where I was playing with Michael Bodell in the A/x Pairs Wednesday the 15th.

Michael has an uncanny talent for making exactly the right bid I want to hear.

South
AKT874
T654
74
8
West
North
East
South
pass
1
pass
11
2
2NT
pass
42
pass
… 5NT3
pass
6
a.p.
 
 
 
  1. No need to rush
  2. Splinter
  3. Pick a slam

My hand certainly is worth a distributional raise to 4, but I decided to take the slow route, visualizing my suit as a potential source of tricks. When Michael showed 18-19 balanced, I decided my hand was worth a slam try. Michael didn’t know what I was splintering for, but his 5NT said: “I don’t know what you’re looking for, but I’ve got it all…” This was the full deal:

West Dealer
– Vul
North
62
AKQ73
AT2
A96
West
J5
J2
K93
KQT742
East
Q93
98
QJ865
J53
South
AKT874
T654
74
8

When everything broke friendly Michael wrapped up all thirteen of them. A big fit and controls, the two main ingredients for cooking up a slam.

Philly

Hi all

In my mind I have prepared for Philly already (I’m flying tomorrow), but reality is less pretty. Instead of a packed bag I have a pile of laundry to sort through. Several Convention Cards but not the right ones. And I’m trying to figure out what to wear when it’s hot & humid outside, and bone-chilling cold in the playing arena. Wonderful!

So besides hosting the Summer NABC this year, I understand Philadelphia is known for steaks on sandwiches, something with independence and the constitution in the 1700s, brotherly love and Fairmount Park. Do share some more Philadelphia highlights when you see me. Or just drop by to say hi, I’d like that.

Not totally unprepared… In this bar they supposedly offer “Gulden Draak” from tap. Yummie!

Crows

Hi all

Some minor and Major events. Venus traveled across the sun earlier this month, appearing as a spectacular tiny black spot. Sanne and I saw The Beach Boys at the Greek Theatre, old men with Good Vibrations! The Danish brewer Mikkeller showcased some of his beers at The Trappist in Oakland. His #19 (referring to the total number of hops) is out of this world. And… finally I got to see The Avengers. Heh. Awesome!

I played with Michael Bodell in the 2 day Swiss in Sacramento (Mike Lawrence was there too). Our team had a very slow start with 0 VPs in the first round. But a collective group effort was enough to launch us into day 2 with some carry-over. I don’t know whether it was the lunch that turned our streak of wins into a downward spiral or what. But we ended with a dead average. Such sweat for nothing.

West
North
East
South
 
1
pass
1
pass
2
pass
3 (!)
pass
4
Double
a.p.
South
AK75
6
T852
AT73

So after Michael rebid his suit I was at a crossroads. The singleton calls for NT. But the hard values call for a trump contract. So I made the slight unorthodox raise to 3. Michael accepted and my RHO had his own opinion about the health and sanity of our contract.

This was the full deal.

North Dealer
NS Vul
North
Q82
AQJ973
Q73
6
West
JT9643
5
96
9854
East
KT842
AKJ4
KQJ2
South
AK75
6
T852
AT73

As dummy I witness the execution. I see the weight of two days of play resting on Michael’s shoulders already, the tumble finally stops at -1400. I can imagine my RHO standing at the bar, telling stories how he wanted to penalize 1, then in the rebound he wanted to shoot us again, but his patience paid off when we voluntarily bid game.

I hear the shrill squeal of crows. There must be some road kill for them to feast on, I think.