NEBridge - buzz0508


District 25 News for May 2008

The bulk of this month's news is a Grand National Teams update. The Senior Regional and other events in New England bridge are briefly covered far below.

District 25 Grand National Teams Update

The Grand National Teams district finals in the Championship Flight were held Friday, April 18, 2008 at the Hartford Bridge Club in West Hartford CT. The contestants, as always a "Who's Who" of New England bridge, were the Doub team of (left to right in the picture)

Sheila Gabay, Lloyd Arvedon, Frank Merblum, John Stiefel, Victor King, and Doug Doub, and the DeMartino team of

Steve Earl, Allan Rothenberg, Pat McDevitt, Geof Brod, Rich DeMartino, and Steve Becker. This final was nearly a replay of last year's in the top flight. The DeMartino team is the same, so I've recycled their photo from last year. This year the Doub team augmented with Arvedon, necessitating a new snapshot.

This 64-board match had proven difficult to schedule, needing a full day from the lives of a dozen players. It was played in a non-standard movement, sometimes with three tables in play, in order to shorten elapsed time. From our point of view, it will look as if player substitutions are occurring after each eight boards, but score comparisons only took place after 16, 40, and 64 boards. Apparently there was a five imp carryover in favor of Doub, but I'll ignore that in the running score, which will be something of a fiction anyway except at the three points of comparison.

 

All six partnerships employ a standard framework, but with variations in style and gadgetry. Merblum-Doub use 12-14 notrumps, everybody else 15-17, although Earl-Rothenberg's are more like 14-16. DeMartino and Becker occasionally open four card majors.

 

Board 1 (none vul, N deals):

 

North
           S-987 
 West      H-874     East
 S-KJ54    D-94      S-632
 H-Q6      C-AJ975   H-KJ109
 D-AQ75              D-J632
 C-K42     South     C-108
           S-AQ10
           H-A532
           D-K108
           C-Q63

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Becker     Arvedon  DeMartino
 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        -          P        P
 1NT      P          P        P

Both Wests led spades, and both declarers set up clubs for a push at 120. Board 2 (NS vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-K1076
 West      H-A853    East
 S-42      D-105     S-Q853
 H-J10942  C-J62     H-Q
 D-Q7                D-K984
 C-AK73    South     C-10854
           S-AJ9
           H-K76
           D-AJ632
           C-Q9

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Becker     Arvedon  DeMartino
 -        -          -        P
 1NT      P          2C       P
 2D       P          2NT      P
 P        P

 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        -          -        P
 1NT      P          2C       P
 2D       P          2NT      P
 3NT      P          P        P

The South cards are a minimum notrump, but McDevitt gambled that he could do something with his diamonds. North's holding proved unsuitable however, and 8 tricks are the limit even double-dummy. The Wests blindly led heart honors, as who would not, the HJ from Becker, the Rusinow H10 from Merblum, but even so I can't see a way to 9 tricks. Stiefel took East's HQ with his HK and played hearts right back. Later, he guessed spades and scored 3 hearts, 3 spades, a club, and a diamond for 120. McDevitt, faced with a more challenging goal, made an odd-looking duck of the HQ, hoping for a diamond shift. But Doub-Merblum played three rounds of clubs, and Pat's gambit resulted in down 2, -200, 8 imps to Doub. Board 3 (EW vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-Q108762
 West      H-AKQJ8   East
 S-9       D-6       S-K543
 H-532     C-J       H-64
 D-QJ1073            D-A984
 C-A1085   South     C-764
           S-AJ
           H-1097
           D-K52
           C-KQ932

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Becker     Arvedon  DeMartino
 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 1C       P          1S       P
 1NT      P          3H       P
 4H       P          P        P

Doub led a crafty D8. Brod didn't put up dummy's king, but he had enough firepower to eventually score 420 anyway. Becker ducked DeMartino's club lead to Arvedon's jack, and the upshot was 480. 2 imps to Doub, who led 10-0. Board 4 (Both vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-
 West      H-AKJ9    East
 S-J10942  D-AQ54    S-A864
 H-1053    C-109432  H-872
 D-K72               D-J863
 C-KJ      South     C-A6
           S-KQ73
           H-Q64
           D-109
           C-Q875

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Becker     Arvedon  DeMartino
 -        P          1D       P
 1S       P          2C       P
 3C       P          3NT      P
 P        P

 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        -          1D       P
 1S       P          2C       P
 3C       P          3H       P
 3NT      P          P        P

With trumps 2-2 and the diamond right, North would surely make 5C, and he could also keep control and make 4H on this lie of cards. However, both pairs veered into notrump. DeMartino led the D3 and the lie of the spots meant declarer had no time for clubs before the defense had 2 diamonds, 2 clubs, and a spade. Merblum led a low spade, and Doub played SA and S8 to McDevitt's SK, dummy pitching clubs. Here too declarer had no time for clubs. However, Pat's hand was concealed, and when he went to dummy in hearts to lead a club down, Doub erred by ducking. Now Merblum's entry was gone, and McDevitt could make 3NT by ducking the next spade. However the spade carding had fooled him into thinking the spades were 6-3, so he won hoping to make even if Doub had two more club winners. When Doub won the second club, the defenders cashed two spades. Push at -100. Board 5 (NS vul, North deals):

 

 

North
           S-AK97
 West      H-KJ3     East
 S-54      D-AQ107   S-J8632
 H-952     C-86      H-106
 D-J652              D-43
 C-QJ95    South     C-K432
           S-Q10
           H-AQ874
           D-K98
           C-A107

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Becker     Arvedon  DeMartino
 -        -          1NT      P
 2D       P          3H       P
 6H       P          P        P

 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        -          1NT      P
 2D       P          3H       P
 4C       P          4D       P
 5H       P          6H       P
 P        P

With 12 top tricks and chances for a thirteenth in spades or diamonds, the North-South cards are a reasonable grand slam venture. On a passive trump lead, you should make seven on a non-simultaneous double squeeze (for example, 4 rounds of hearts pitching a club from dummy, 3 spades pitching a diamond from hand, DK, fifth trump squeezing West, ditching a diamond when he throws a club honor, diamonds squeezing East). It's not normal, however, to bid a grand slam with two balanced hands with only 32 points between them, no matter the fit, controls, and good body cards. With a prime maximum, both Norths super-accepted the transfer despite only a 3-card fit. Against 6, DeMartino led a club breaking up the cute squeeze. Arvedon, not peeking, lost a trick in the end. Doub led a spade, and when the S10 held, declarer had all the tricks, an imp to DeMartino, off the schneider at 10-1. Board 6 (EW vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-654
 West      H-K8      East
 S-1098    D-AJ64    S-KJ7
 H-AJ1093  C-J986    H-Q642
 D-10                D-9853
 C-AQ107   South     C-K2
           S-AQ32
           H-75
           D-KQ72
           C-543

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Becker     Arvedon  DeMartino
 -        -          -        P
 1D       1H         1NT      2H
 P        P          3D       3H
 P        P          P

 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        -          -        P
 1D       1H         1NT      2D
 P        3C         P        4H
 P        P          P

Both defenses scored the inevitable 4 tricks - a heart, a diamond, and 2 spades. A priori, this vulnerable game is near 75%, but North's 1NT dooms the heart finesse, and the SQ is more likely to be with the opening bidder, so I don't know whether to say that Merblum-Doub were unlucky or that Becker-DeMartino showed superior judgement. Anyway, 6 imps to DeMartino, now down 10-7. Board 7 (Both vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-J9
 West      H-J108762 East
 S-652     D-A76     S-KQ104
 H-K4      C-J5      H-AQ3
 D-10952             D-K84
 C-A764    South     C-K108
           S-A873
           H-95
           D-QJ3
           C-Q932

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Becker     Arvedon  DeMartino
 P        P          P        1NT
 P        P          P

 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 P        P          P        1C
 P        1NT        P        P
 P

Stiefel led a club. DeMartino topped Arvedon's CJ with his CK and led the suit right back, eventually ending up with 8 tricks. Merblum got a passive heart lead, and although there are routes to 8 tricks, Frank scored only 7, another imp to DeMartino, now down 10-8. Board 8 (Neither vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-A10
 West      H-K72     East
 S-K864    D-975     S-9732
 H-QJ3     C-Q9532   H-65
 D-J6                D-AKQ102
 C-AJ106   South     C-87
           S-QJ5
           H-A10984
           D-843
           C-K4

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Becker     Arvedon  DeMartino
 -        P          P        2D
 P        P          3C       P
 P        P

 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        P          P        1D
 1H       Double     2D       P
 2H       2NT        P        3D
 3H       P          P        P

North-South make 8 tricks at hearts. Law of Total Tricks fans will tell you McDevitt got what he deserved, going -50 when 3D wasn't making. In fact, best defense defeats even DeMartino's 2D despite best declarer play: SQ ducked, SA, HA, S ruff, club before the HK is dislodged. Arvedon thought he was being stolen from (correct), but didn't want to double with such poor majors. Do you think Becker should give 3C a whack? And if he does, can Stiefel ride to the rescue with 3H? Arvedon went down 3, -150, 3 imps to DeMartino, up 11-10 after one eighth. Earl-Rothenberg replaced Becker-DeMartino for the second eighth. Board 9 (EW vul, North deals):

 

 

North
           S-K1072
 West      H-A5      East
 S-96      D-A86     S-AJ3
 H-Q9642   C-AKQJ    H-1083
 D-10432             D-QJ975
 C-103     South     C-86
           S-Q854
           H-KJ7
           D-K
           C-97542

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 -        -          2NT      P
 3C       P          3S       P
 4S       P          P        P

 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        -          2C       P
 2D       P          2NT      P
 3C       P          3S       P
 4D       P          4H       P
 4S       P          4NT      P
 5D       P          5H       P
 6S       P          P        P

With a bit extra, McDevitt manufactured a slam try of 4D over 3S. The prime North hand excited Brod, but that pesky SJ is the key to the city. Using Blackwood 1430 Brod could only inquire about the queen. Perhaps for that reason a 5S bid over 4S, if understood to ask about trump quality, would put the issue in better focus for McDevitt than 4NT did for Brod. With the trump knave in enemy hands, any slam is well under 50% because of the dangers of a ruff or a bad spade break. Both declarers played trumps correctly, low to the queen and finesse coming back. Deep Finesse makes slam in clubs, spades, or notrump by taking a lower percentage backward finesse. Would somebody please pull the plug on that mechanical cheater? 450 vs. 50 meant 11 imps to Doub, up 21-11. Board 10 (Both vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-J5
 West      H-54      East
 S-AK87    D-A102    S-4
 H-J973    C-KJ10854 H-K1086
 D-Q76               D-KJ9853
 C-72      South     C-Q3
           S-Q109632
           H-AQ2
           D-4
           C-A96

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        -          -        P
 1S       P          1NT      2D
 2S       3D         3S       P
 P        P

Both North-Souths eschewed a fair vulnerable game. The declarers got tapped with diamonds, and thus were in danger even in three, but the CQ dropped for a push at +200 for two overtricks. Board 11 (Neither vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-A10
 West      H-9       East
 S-Q85     D-AJ1072  S-K964
 H-KQ8     C-KJ532   H-A1076543
 D-KQ83              D-5
 C-1074    South     C-9
           S-J732
           H-J2
           D-964
           C-AQ86

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 P        P          1D       1H
 Double   2D         3C       4H
 P        P          Double   P
 P        P

 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 P        P          1D       1H
 Double   2D         3C       4H
 P        P          P

East will play North for the doubleton ace of spades, so no defense can beat 4H. South is supposed to save in 5C doubled down 1, but neither did, so Arvedon lost 5 imps for doubling, 590 vs. 420, halving the Doub lead to 21-16.

 

Board 12 (NS vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-Q8742
 West      H-K95     East
 S-        D-A103    S-KJ5
 H-Q64     C-93      H-A87
 D-8642              D-J95
 C-AJ10865 South     C-Q742
           S-A10963
           H-J1032
           D-KQ7
           C-K

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 -        3C         P        4C
 P        P          P

 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        3C         P        P
 Double   P          4S       P
 P        P

Personally, I'd bid 3NT over 3C with the East cards, intending to run if doubled, but perhaps that's too cute for high level competition, and explains why I'm on the sidelines. Earl's straightforward 4C did the job. Stiefel or Arvedon may have suspected robbery, but the four level was just too rich at adverse vulnerability. Faced with a blind and tough opening lead, Arvedon tried a spade, and dummy's jack forced the ace, so Rothenberg finished down one.

 

Doug Doub has an Olympiad Bronze Medal at teams, and just won the National Imp Pairs at the 2008 Detroit NABC, so I'm surprised he took a rosy view of the East-West defensive prospects here. His campaign of silence failed - Brod's thin 4S made after best play in both majors as suggested by the auction. 620 vs. 50 sent 11 imps to DeMartino, now ahead 27-21. Board 13 (Both vul, North deals):

 

North
           S-103
 West      H-Q954   East
 S-98762   D-94      S-AJ4
 H-J10     C-AJ764   H-K32
 D-AQ6               D-J853
 C-KQ10    South     C-853
           S-KQ5
           H-A876
           D-K1072
           C-92

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 -        -          P        P
 1D       1S         Double   2S
 P        P          3C       P
 3H       P          P        P

 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        -          P        P
 1D       1S         Double   2S
 3H       P          P        P

3H lost the obvious 5 tricks at both tables, -100 for a push. The East-West 2S can be defeated if North ducks West's CK or CQ whenever South puts the C9 through. Board 14 (Neither vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-1092
 West      H-987     East
 S-J5      D-543     S-86
 H-AJ10632 C-K876    H-K5
 D-QJ2               D-AK10
 C-Q3      South     C-A109542
           S-AKQ743
           H-Q4
           D-9876
           C-J

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 -        -          -        1C
 1S       2H         P        3C
 P        3H         P        4H
 P        P          P

 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        -          -        1C
 1S       2H         P        2S
 3S       P          P        4C
 P        4D         P        4H
 P        P          P

Both Norths led the S2 to South's SQ. The Souths cashed a second spade and exited in diamonds. Where McDevitt had bid twice, it seemed right to play him for all the oustanding high cards, so Merblum picked up the trumps but not the clubs, for 420. Stiefel only bid once, apparently with S-AKQxxx, so Rothenberg decided North had something, probably H-Qxx. He feared entry troubles, so won the diamond in dummy and tried to clear a path back to hand by leading a small club from the table, but North won and gave South a club ruff for down one. I think Rothenberg's play is a mistake. If he's going to play North for the HQ, Allan should just win the DQ and run the HJ. When this lost, he could win the next diamond, overtake the HK to draw trumps, and then play North for the CK instead of the HQ. Anyway, 10 imps to Doub, back in the lead 31-27. Board 15 (NS vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-53
 West      H-1065      East
 S-1096    D-1054      S-AQ2
 H-9874    C-J8632     H-AQ32
 D-Q2                  D-AKJ87
 C-A1074   South       C-Q
           S-KJ874
           H-KJ
           D-963
           C-K95

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 P        P          P        1D
 1S       Double     P        2S
 P        3C         P        4H
 P        P          P

 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 P        P          P        1D
 1S       Double     P        4H
 P        P          P

Earl got a spade lead into his tenace and guessed the trumps for 480 vs. Doub's 450 after a club lead, an imp to DeMartino, now down 31-28. Board 16 (EW vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-A2
 West      H-876       East
 S-KQJ8    D-K87654    S-10965
 H-J92     C-Q7        H-K1053
 D-1092                D-J
 C-A86     South       C-J952
           S-743
           H-AQ4
           D-AQ3
           C-K1043

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 -        P          P        P
 1NT      P          3NT      P
 P        P

 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        P          2D       P
 2NT      P          3S       P
 3NT      P          P        P

The Wests led spades and the declarers won the second round. At first glance, it seems that a club play, which loses to 5-3 spades (or 6-2 with the 6-card spade suit having the CA), is a lower percentage than a heart finesse, but it's close. On the run of the diamonds, it's hard for East-West to discard so as to fool declarer into the wrong play, particularly as here when either works! Push at 400. The teams compared and agreed that Doub had won the first quarter by 3 imps. Board 17 (Neither vul, North deals):

 

 

North
           S-K10763
 West      H-872     East
 S-AJ      D-74      S-9852
 H-KQ9     C-J76     H-J5
 D-AKJ853            D-Q109
 C-Q5      South     C-A932
           S-Q4
           H-A10643
           D-62
           C-K1084

 South      West      North   East
 Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl    Stiefel
 -          -         P       P
 P          2NT       P       3C
 P          3D        P       3NT
 P          P         P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 -          -         P       P
 P          2C        P       2D
 P          2NT       P       3C
 P          3D        P       3H
 P          3NT       P       P
 P

Becker-DeMartino play puppet Stayman. Both Norths led spades. DeMartino made 4, Arvedon 5 on misdefense, an imp to Doub, ahead 32-28. Board 18 (NS vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-Q9863
 West      H-AQ9876  East
 S-K       D-109     S-10742
 H-K3      C-        H-J104
 D-AQJ762            D-
 C-10862   South     C-AK9543
           S-AJ5
           H-52
           D-K8543
           C-QJ7

 South      West      North   East
 Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl    Stiefel
 -          -         -       P
 P          1D        2D      3C
 3S         5C        P       P
 P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 -          -         -       P
 P          1D        2D      P
 3S         P         4S      P
 P          P

Stiefel's 5C needed favorable lies of cards in both hearts and clubs, but it got neither. Rothenberg led the H5, and declarer escaped for down 1 when Earl played three rounds of the suit. When Rothenberg ruffed up, Stiefel discarded dummy's SK.

 

DeMartino led the C2 against King's 4S. Victor pitched a diamond from dummy. Becker won a revealing CK and switched to a trump. King considered rising the SA, which makes the hand, but he played low. SK, another club, another diamond pitch, CA, another trump. King finessed hearts and trumped them good, but had to lose to Becker's S10. Down one. 100 plus 50 meant 4 imps to DeMartino, tying the match at 32-32. Board 19 (EW vul, South deals):

 

North
            S-Q102
 West       H-AKJ3    East
 S-63       D-K4      S-A9854
 H-6542     C-KQ75    H-Q9
 D-A752               D-QJ83
 C-J103     South     C-92
            S-KJ7
            H-1087
            D-1096
            C-A864

 South      West      North   East
 Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl    Stiefel
 P          P         1C      P
 1NT        P         2NT     P
 3NT        P         P       P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 P          P         1C      P
 1NT        P         3NT     P
 P          P

Both Wests led a revealing H6, and both declarers dropped the HQ for 460. Note that after a less revealing H2, a losing finesse at trick one would result in down one if East shifts to a diamond. Other leads don't beat 3NT - if West leads the D2 and dummy's king holds, declarer will knock out the SA for 400. A spade opening doesn't work - declarer can then safely lose a finesse in hearts and have nine tricks. Board 20 (Both vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-A109
 West      H-J10532  East
 S-J53     D-843     S-KQ864
 H-AQ864   C-52      H-K
 D-KJ10              D-AQ652
 C-103     South     C-KQ
           S-72
           H-97
           D-97
           C-AJ98764

 South      West      North   East
 Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl    Stiefel
 -          P         P       1S
 P          2C        P       2D
 P          2H        P       3D
 P          4S        P       P
 P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 -          1H        P       1S
 P          1NT       P       2C
 Double     2S        P       4NT
 P          5C        P       5S
 P          P         P

Arvedon passed as dealer, so after Drury Stiefel needed two aces and the DK for slam to be good. Arvedon denied that perfecta. Once partner opens and confesses to three spades, Becker's Blackwood seems automatic, so DeMartino's light opening got his side a trifle high, but the cards were friendly. Push at 650.

 

Board 21 (NS vul, North deals):

 

North
           S-K1062
 West      H-Q8754   East
 S-AQ3     D-Q       S-975
 H-A       C-A97     H-K32
 D-K9853             D-A7642
 C-10854   South     C-J6
           S-J84
           H-J1096
           D-J10
           C-KQ32

 South      West      North   East
 Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl    Stiefel
 -          -         P       P
 P          1D        Double  2D
 2H         3D        3H      3D
 P          4D        P       P
 P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 -          -         P       P
 P          1D        P       2D
 P          P         Double  P
 2H         3D        P       P
 P

Game is 40% or so, subpar not vulnerable, so the East-Wests did right by stopping for 130 and a push. Board 22 (EW vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-1065
 West      H-A       East
 S-AQJ3    D-J8743   S-K8742
 H-KJ73    C-AK94    H-Q42
 D-Q2                D-K106
 C-1053    South     C-J7
           S-9
           H-109865
           D-A95
           C-Q862

 South      West      North   East
 Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl    Stiefel
 -          -         -       P
 P          1C        1D      1S
 2D         2S        3D      3H
 P          3S        P       P
 P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 -          -         -       P
 P          1H        Double  2H
 P          P         P

One defense found a heart ruff to beat 3S, the other two spade ruffs to beat 2H. Push at -100. Not bad scores, though, as King would make at least three clubs by setting up diamonds on the side, and Earl would probably make three diamonds, the killing trump lead being so unappealing from Stiefel's K10x. Board 23 (Both vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-KQ8
 West      H-Q1083   East
 S-A105432 D-KJ105   S-J6
 H-J42     C-K8      H-K95
 D-4                 D-832
 C-AJ2     South     C-Q10974
           S-97
           H-A76
           D-AQ976
           C-653

 South      West      North   East
 Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl    Stiefel
 P          P         1NT     P
 3NT        P         P       P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 P          2S        P       P
 Double     P         3NT     P
 P          P

A difference of opinion as to whether the West cards constitute a weak 2S with both vul caused a major swing. Arvedon thought no, and Stiefel led his normal C10, giving 3NT no play. DeMartino thought yes, but he talked Becker into leading his SJ, after which Gabay carefully brought home her contract. 12 imps to Doub to lead 44-32. Board 24 (Neither vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-J9854
 West      H-852     East
 S-A1072   D-9732    S-Q3
 H-J3      C-9       H-Q7
 D-1086              D-AKJ4
 C-J853    South     C-AKQ64
           S-K6
           H-AK10964
           D-Q5
           C-1072

 South      West      North   East
 Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl    Stiefel
 -          P         P       2NT
 P          3C        P       3D
 P          3NT       P       P
 P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 -          P         P       2NT
 P          3C        P       3D
 P          3H        P       3NT
 P          P         P

If the East hand is a textbook 2NT opening bid, I'm a monkey's uncle. After the customary Stayman dances ended in 3NT, the Souths promptly rattled off six hearts for down 2 and a push at -100.

 

Suppose East opens a natural 1C. Whether South mentions hearts or not, the auction will highlight the suit and avoid notrump. In clubs, East makes four. Say South cashes his hearts and exits in trumps. If declarer plays for the drop in diamonds, that's ten tricks. If instead declarer plays for the diamond finesse, he'll cash two trumps and the DA, cross to dummy in trumps, and finesse. It loses, but South is endplayed. That's still ten tricks. Board 25 (EW vul, North deals):

 

North
           S-9643
 West      H-Q64     East
 S-KQ5     D-AJ1085  S-AJ1087
 H-A10875  C-7       H-2
 D-3                 D-K76
 C-AQ85    South     C-K963
           S-2
           H-KJ93
           D-Q942
           C-J1042

 South      West      North   East
 McDevitt   Merblum   Brod    Doub
 -          -         2D      2S
 5D         5S        P       P
 P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 -          -         P       P
 P          1H        P       1S
 P          2C        P       4C
 P          4S        P       P
 P

Push at 650. Although 6C or 6S won't make without peeking on this lie of cards, they're not terrible propositions, although perhaps not at the first table, where the foul distribution would come as no surprise. Board 26 (Both vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-AQ
 West      H-Q74     East
 S-K97     D-A4      S-654
 H-J62     C-Q107643 H-K1093
 D-Q65               D-J108
 C-KJ98     South    C-A52
           S-J10832
           H-A85
           D-K9732
           C-

 South      West      North   East
 McDevitt   Merblum   Brod    Doub
 -          -         -       P
 P          P         1C      P
 1S         P         2C      P
 2D         P         2S      P
 P          P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 -          -         -       P
 P          P         1C      P
 1S         P         2C      P
 P          P         P

McDevitt ran from 2C and improved the contract considerably. In fact, with both diamonds and spades 3-3, he could have made 4 if he played for control. Understandably, he won the heart lead and played on crossruff lines, ending with 9 tricks for 140. When King passed 2C at the other table, Becker led a passive DJ. Gabay did the best she could, losing 4 trumps and two hearts for -100, 6 imps to DeMartino, who trailed 44-38. Board 27 (Neither vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-J75
 West      H-1064    East
 S-KQ3     D-AJ83    S-A9
 H-A       C-964     H-KQJ982
 D-Q109754           D-
 C-832     South     C-AKQJ5
           S-108642
           H-753
           D-K62
           C-107

 South      West      North   East
 McDevitt   Merblum   Brod    Doub
 P          P         P       2C
 P          2H        P       3H
 P          4D        P       6C
 P          P         P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 P          1D        P       1H
 P          2D        P       3C
 P          3NT       P       6C
 P          P         P

Grand slams are system tests - smoke 'em if ya got 'em. If East, with his two-loser hand, discovered West had 3 controls, and could find out which ones they were, he could be pretty accurate. Opposite DAK, he'd stop in 5 because slam is probably no better than a finesse, and may be hopeless. Opposite the HA or SK, he'd want to be in six, and oposite both, in seven. If he can't find out which controls West has, six is the best gamble. Merblum-Doub are fairly scientific in approach, but their methods weren't adequate here. 2H was an artificial positive, and the rest was natural. Merblum considered bidding 7C over 6C, but it would have been a stab. Becker-DeMartino, who are less scientific, didn't find out much - Becker knew DeMartino had a spade stop for notrump, but for all he knew, DeMartino had two aces and 7NT was a claim, or QJx xx AKQxxx xx, opposite which any slam is poor. Push at 940. Not very impressive at this level of competition, but I suspect few partnerships could get to seven and know what they were doing even in a World Championship final. Board 28 (NS vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-75
 West      H-Q2      East
 S-A1093   D-10743   S-J62
 H-AJ8543  C-KQ1063  H-9
 D-86                D-AK52
 C-2       South     C-AJ984
           S-KQ84
           H-K1076
           D-QJ9
           C-75

 South      West      North   East
 McDevitt   Merblum   Brod    Doub
 -          1H        P       2C
 P          2H        P       2NT
 P          3H        P       4H
 P          P         P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 -          1H        P       2C
 P          2H        P       3D
 P          3H        P       4H
 P          P         P

Both Wests opened a doubtful hand and wound up overboard on a misfit. Both Norths led friendly spade sevens, but no lead matters and the declarers pushed at down one, -50. Board 29 (Both vul, North deals):

 

 

North
           S-986
 West      H-8       East
 S-KQ7     D-K976542 S-10432
 H-K10962  C-K10     H-A54
 D-83                D-QJ10
 C-AQ6     South     C-742
           S-AJ5
           H-QJ73
           D-A
           C-J9853

 South      West      North   East
 McDevitt   Merblum   Brod    Doub
 -          -         3D      P
 P          Double    P       P
 P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 -          -         2D      P
 P          Double    P       2S
 P          P         P

Brod stretched to open 3D. Doub passed Merblum's takeout double because he had nowhere he wanted to go, and careful defense held declarer to 8 tricks. Gabay didn't stretch to open 2D, and so she defended 2S. King led a club and Becker wound up down 2. 200 and 200 meant 9 imps to Doub, up 53-38. Board 30 (Neither vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-QJ10
 West      H-AJ52    East
 S-K986    D-K109843 S-A2
 H-Q9      C-        H-K104
 D-A6                D-QJ75
 C-109732  South     C-AK85
           S-7543
           H-8763
           D-2
           C-QJ64

 South      West      North   East
 McDevitt   Merblum   Brod    Doub
 -          -         -       1D
 P          1S        P       1NT
 P          2NT       P       3NT
 P          P         P

 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 -          -         -       1NT
 P          2C        P       2D
 P          3NT       P       P
 P

King led the H8. Becker tested clubs, then switched to spades and diamonds to come to 9 tricks. McDevitt led the C4. Oops! 430, and an imp to Doub, up 54-38. Board 31 (NS vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-J752
 West      H-J93       East
 S-KQ108   D-84        S-96
 H-Q1062   C-KQ86      H-K5
 D-Q2                  D-AJ109753
 C-AJ2     South       C-43
           S-A43
           H-A874
           D-K6
           C-10975

 McDevitt   Merblum   Brod    Doub
 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 P          1NT       P       3NT
 P          P         P

Interestingly, Merblum opened a 12-14 notrump with the same cards DeMartino evaluated as 15-17. Brod led the C6 to the C9 and CJ. Merblum passed the DQ to McDevitt's DK. Pat returned the C5 to the C2 and C8. Perhaps returning the C10 would have been better, but I think Brod should have played McDevitt for both major aces and got this right. Another club beats the hand, but Brod switched, for -400. At the other table, Gabay led her S2. If she'd led the S7 instead, Victor might have found the killing shift to the C10, but King played ace and another. DeMartino won his SK and led his DQ: D4, D3, D6. Rich continued D2, D8, and paused. He was well aware of Victor's reputation. But how could King be doing this, not knowing Sheila would even follow to the second diamond? Rich finessed, the DJ lost to King's king and another spade came back. King topped dummy's HK with his HA, switched to clubs, and DeMartino was down 4, -200, 12 imps to Doub, now up 66-38. I consider Victor's steely duck the most memorable card play in this match. Board 32 (EW vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-1054
 West      H-1086      East
 S-8732    D-98        S-AKQ9
 H-93      C-AKQ109    H-AKQ
 D-Q72                 D-K1063
 C-8752    South       C-43
           S-J6
           H-J7542
           D-AJ54
           C-J6

 McDevitt   Merblum   Brod    Doub
 King       DeMartino Gabay   Becker
 -          P         P       2NT
 P          P         P

Becker won the heart opening lead and immediately led a diamond. When King ducked, Steve scampered home with 120. I think it's almost impossible for Victor to get this one right. Doub won the heart lead and cashed spades first. Brod couldn't signal with the setting trick in clubs, so he discarded a heart and a diamond, which unfortunately had to be a high spot. The upshot was that McDevitt also ducked the diamond, but Doub didn't take his eight tricks! Perhaps Doug miscounted his tricks or thought he was in three. He played another diamond. Pat cashed two diamonds, on which Brod signaled desperately with the C10, and Pat finally got the message. Down 1, -100, 6 imps to DeMartino, down 66-44 at the half, but due to the funny movement, there would be no comparison till after board 40. Board 33 (none vul, N deals):

 

 

North
           S-9542
 West      H-864     East
 S-AJ86    D-A7      S-KQ1073
 H-10532   C-10852   H-KQ7
 D-94                D-86
 C-AJ4     South     C-Q73
           S-
           H-AJ9
           D-KQJ10532
           C-K96

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 -        -          P        1S
 2D       3D         Double   3S
 5D       P          P        P
 
 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        -          P        1S
 2D       3D         Double   3S
 5D       Double     P        P
 P

The East-Wests were stopping for 140, where they would lose two tricks in both red suits. They wouldn't lose a club because it goes on the fourth heart, and North-South can't attack clubs effectively. Stiefel and McDevitt could expect that East-West were out of gas once East backpedaled with 3S, so they weren't saving when they leaped to 5D. They thought it might make. They misread North's double of 3D as suggesting a bid rather than suggesting a lead they'd have found anyway. Merblum won 8 imps by doubting this contract would make. 5D went down three at both tables. 500 vs. 150 meant Doub led 74-44. Board 34 (NS vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-AQJ4
 West      H-63      East
 S-10975   D-        S-K2
 H-A104    C-AJ86432 H-KJ9872
 D-J743              D-Q862
 C-Q7      South     C-5
           S-863
           H-Q5
           D-AK1095
           C-K109

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 -        -          -        2H
 P        2NT        3C       3D
 3H       Double     3S       4H
 5C       P          6C       P
 P        P
 
 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        -          -        2H
 P        3H         4C       P
 5C       P          P        P

Brod-McDevitt reached the normal spot, which they'd bid even if Merblum-Doub had passed throughout. The defenders cashed their hearts, so 5C depended on a spade finesse which rated to work but didn't. Down one. Arvedon misinterpreted Stiefel's 3H cuebid as implying some sort of control in the suit, rather than as a hunt for 3NT as Stiefel intended. I sympathize, but alas, cuebids aren't what they used to be. Maybe a better idea for Stiefel would be to double 3D, intending to compete in clubs when the enemy retreats to hearts, but then again, that might not lead to 3NT if Arvedon had the hoped-for heart stopper. Down 2, 3 imps to DeMartino, 74-47. Board 35 (EW vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-QJ865
 West      H-1063    East
 S-K9      D-3       S-103
 H-82      C-K532    H-KQ5
 D-KQJ84             D-A752
 C-Q1097   South     C-AJ86
           S-A742
           H-AJ974
           D-1096
           C-4

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 P        P          2S       Double
 4S       Double     P        P
 P

The declarers lost a trick in each suit for -100, a plus position with the vulnerable East-West making 4NT, 5C or 5D, but a push. Board 36 (Both vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-10532
 West      H-10642   East
 S-K97     D-J84     S-QJ864
 H-QJ83    C-108     H-AK7
 D-A92               D-KQ7
 C-Q53     South     C-72
           S-A
           H-95
           D-10653
           C-AKJ964

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 -        P          P        1NT
 Double   3NT        P        P
 P
 
 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        P          P        1S
 2C       Double     P        2H
 3C       3S         P        4S
 P        P          P

Some years back I abandoned 1NT openings with a five card major, after a series of results like this one. Doub picked up trumps and claimed 4S. Stiefel's double showed any one-suited overcall. Rothenberg bid what was staring him in the face, but Stiefel led clubs from the top and Earl's 3NT had no play except for down one. 12 imps to Doub, 86-47. Board 37 (NS vul, North deals):

 

 

North
           S-10832
 West      H-AKJ107  East
 S-AJ9     D-Q32     S-Q74
 H-Q432    C-4       H-965
 D-1095              D-K7
 C-AQ5     South     C-K10873
           S-K65
           H-8
           D-AJ864
           C-J962

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 -        -          P        P
 P        1C         1H       P
 P        P
 
 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        -          P        P
 P        1NT        Double   P
 2C       P          2H       P
 P

At the table I watched, I was surprised Earl didn't compete to 2C, although that contract wouldn't make against good defense. Against 1H, the defense played two rounds of clubs. Arvedon ruffed, finessed diamonds (Rothenberg didn't make the obligatory falsecard of the D9 or D10), finessed hearts, cashed HAK, DA, C ruff, cashed DQ, and ducked a spade to West, who after taking two spades and a heart,had to give dummy's SK the last trick for 140. That was a push. At the other table, Merblum won his CA and shifted to a trump at trick two, and later Doub rose his DK in front of dummy. A spade opening lead to the jack and a club shift holds declarer to eight tricks at most. Board 38 (EW vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-AK32
 West      H-A4      East
 S-Q1074   D-AJ84    S-95
 H-K102    C-K54     H-QJ9853
 D-10763             D-Q95
 C-87      South     C-Q10
           S-J86
           H-76
           D-K2
           C-AJ9632

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 -        -          -        P
 P        P          1D       P
 1NT      P          3NT      P
 P        P
 
 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        -          -        P
 3C       P          5C       P
 P        P

6C, the best of the slams, is only about a 25% chance on a heart lead. The cards lay very favorably, however. Merblum led the S7. McDevitt ducked to his SJ, drew trumps, and ruffed out the DQ to make 7 for 440. Stiefel got a spade lead also. He managed a mere 12 tricks, but 490 was worth 2 imps to Doub, up 88-47. Board 39 (Both vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-AK83
 West      H-J10     East
 S-Q10965  D-76532   S-
 H-92      C-KQ      H-AK765
 D-Q9                D-KJ104
 C-9832    South     C-A764
           S-J742
           H-Q843
           D-A8
           C-J105

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 P        P          1D       1H
 Double   P          1S       2C
 P        P          2S       P
 P        P
 
 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 P        P          1S       2H
 2S       P          P        Double
 3S       P          P        3NT
 Double   P          P        4C
 P        P          P

Arvedon played his 2S partial very well against the nasty split, but he still had to lose 2 hearts, a diamond, a club, and two trumps for down one. Frank Merblum had 500 for the taking if he had doubled 3S. When he passed, Doub insisted on offense, not looking for a penalty once Merblum didn't seek one. McDevitt led his trump five against 4C. Doub ducked, and won the second club. When McDevitt got in with his DA, he drew two trumps with one, and all Doub scored was CA, HAK, three diamonds, and two ruffs. Down 2. With the clubs blocked, Doub could save a trick by winning the first trump and playing diamonds immediately, but I think he's still always down 1 against best defense. 200 and 100 gave 7 imps to DeMartino, 88-54. Board 40 (Neither vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-53
 West      H-9842    East
 S-Q94     D-KJ64    S-AK82
 H-AQ      C-Q98     H-KJ
 D-A52               D-Q1087
 C-AKJ43   South     C-765
           S-J1076
           H-107653
           D-93
           C-102

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon  Earl
 -        2NT        P        3C
 P        3D         P        6NT
 P        P          P
 
 McDevitt Merblum    Brod     Doub
 -        2NT        P        3S
 P        4C         P        4D
 P        6C         P        P
 P

Earl used Stayman, but finding no major, let pointcount dictate his notrump level. Merblum-Doub used more science. 3S indicated a balanced hand with slam interest, 4C showed 7 controls, 4D indicated 4+ diamonds, combined adequate controls, and further interest. 6C showed a 5 card suit. As it happens, however, both pairs were overboard because too many high cards are mushed up in the duplicated doubleton hearts. I figure these slams will make under 30% of the time - you need clubs 3-2 with the queen onside, plus a little more - a diamond guess, a spade split, a squeeze or endplay. Of course, if that all happens, 6NT gains 2 imps over 6C. However with both slams going down, the tables were turned. After the trumps were gone, Merblum led a diamond up for an easy down one, but after heart, lost club, heart, 6NT was down two at least, and Rothenberg actually went down three, 3 imps to Doub. The teams compared at the five eighths mark, and agreed the score was 91-54 not counting carryover. Board 41 (EW vul, North deals):

 

 

North
           S-KJ754
 West      H-863     East
 S-Q863    D-A96     S-109
 H-10754   C-J4      H-J92
 D-K5                D-QJ103
 C-A108    South     C-9763
           S-A2
           H-AKQ
           D-8742
           C-KQ52

 South      West       North    East
 Rothenberg Arvedon    Earl     Stiefel
 -          -          P        P
 1D         P          1S       P
 2NT        P          3C       P
 3NT        P          P        P
 
 King       DeMartino  Gabay    Becker
 -          -          P        P
 1C         P          1S       P
 2NT        P          3D       P
 3H         P          3NT      P
 P          P

Varieties of new minor forcing led to the normal spot. 4 spades, 3 hearts, 2 clubs, 1 diamond. Push at 630. Board 42 (Both vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-A105
 West      H-AK1083  East
 S-K9763   D-AQ87    S-Q
 H-54      C-Q       H-J72
 D-104               D-KJ953
 C-6532    South     C-AK108
           S-J842
           H-Q96
           D-62
           C-J974

 South      West       North    East
 Rothenberg Arvedon    Earl     Stiefel
 King       DeMartino  Gabay    Becker
 -          -          -        1D
 P          P          Double   P
 1S         P          2H       P
 P          P

West's trumps are too low to overtrump dummy, so after leading the CK and seeing dummy, East must shift to trumps to stop ten tricks at hearts. Becker did but Stiefel didn't, 170 vs. 140, an imp to DeMartino, down 91-55. Board 43 (Neither vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-8754
 West      H-K92     East
 S-6       D-        S-KJ10
 H-Q8543   C-AKQ952  H-AJ
 D-Q95               D-AK76432
 C-10874   South     C-3
           S-AQ932
           H-1076
           D-J108
           C-J6

 South      West       North    East
 Rothenberg Arvedon    Earl     Stiefel
 P          P          1C       1D
 1S         2D         4S       5D
 P          P          P
 
 King       DeMartino  Gabay    Becker
 P          P          1C       1D
 1S         2D         4S       5D
 Double     P          5S       Double
 P          P          P

The next time some nabob says "the five level belongs to the opponents", tell him that making five-level contracts at both tables produced the largest swings in all three GNT finals in New England in 2008. Here, Stiefel couldn't go down in 5D with the HK onside and South holding SAQ. An inspired heart lead by DeMartino would have nipped 5Sx a trick, but once he led a diamond, school was out - ruff, trump finesse, SA, clubs. Becker didn't ruff in to cash his heart soon enough, so Victor King wound up with an overtrick. 750 and 400 gave 15 imps to Doub, to lead 106-55. Credit Gabay, who listened to her cards shouting offense instead of to some popular catchphrase about who the five level belongs to. When they're dealt fits and voids and running suits, the five level belongs to winning players. Board 44 (NS vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-J762
 West      H-AKQ86   East
 S-KQ9     D-KJ9     S-108543
 H-J53     C-Q       H-92
 D-Q6                D-A1075
 C-86542   South     C-K7
           S-A
           H-1074
           D-8432
           C-AJ1093

 South      West       North    East
 Rothenberg Arvedon    Earl     Stiefel
 -          P          1H       P
 1NT        P          2D       P
 3H         P          4H       P
 P          P
 
 King       DeMartino  Gabay    Becker
 -          P          1H       P
 1NT        P          3H       P
 3S         P          3NT      P
 4H         P          P        P

Both Easts led spades to dummy's ace. Earl cashed CA and pitched a diamond on the CJ. Stiefel switched to ace and a diamond. Earl ruffed a spade and led the good C10 from dummy, and for some reason, discarded his SJ instead of his S7. Stiefel ruffed and continued D10 as Arvedon tossed his high spade away, so he could overruff dummy. Down one. If Steve had kept the SJ, there could be no such defense, because now the SJ would be good and he could just draw trumps. At the other table, Gabay made 650 to win 13 imps, making the Doub lead 119-55. Board 45 (Both vul, North deals):

 

 

North
           S-K103
 West      H-J865   East
 S-Q87     D-AK85    S-AJ4
 H-K1092   C-103     H-Q43
 D-J1097             D-642
 C-52      South     C-K764
           S-9652
           H-A7
           D-Q3
           C-AQJ98

 South      West       North    East
 Rothenberg Arvedon    Earl     Stiefel
 -          -          1D       P
 2C         P          2H       P
 2S         P          2NT      P
 3NT        P          P        P
 
 King       DeMartino  Gabay    Becker
 -          -          P        P
 1C         P          1H       P
 1S         P          2NT      P
 3NT        P          P        P

Stiefel led a club. Declarer continued the suit, Arvedon signalling with the H10. On winning his CK, Stiefel switched to hearts, and with the SA wrong, declarer had only eight tricks. Becker led a diamond. Here too declarer drove clubs, but she could find only eight tricks. Push at -100. Board 46 (Neither vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-109432
 West      H-4       East
 S-Q6      D-J7      S-K85
 H-KJ98    C-106432  H-1062
 D-Q864              D-AK9
 C-A85     South     C-KQ97
           S-AJ7
           H-AQ753
           D-10532
           C-J

 South      West       North    East
 Rothenberg Arvedon    Earl     Stiefel
 King       DeMartino  Gabay    Becker
 -          -          -        1NT
 P          2C         P        2D
 P          3NT        P        P
 P

The Souths led hearts, and the declarers led them right back. Rothenberg got his two aces, but King ducked a spade and got only one. 490 vs. 460, an imp to DeMartino, 119-56. Board 47 (NS vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-K632
 West      H-532       East
 S-10      D-J         S-754
 H-AJ104   C-J10532    H-KQ
 D-AK9652              D-Q743
 C-K4      South       C-A987
           S-AQJ98
           H-9876
           D-108
           C-Q6

 South      West       North    East
 Rothenberg Arvedon    Earl     Stiefel
 P          1D         P        3D
 P          5D         P        P
 P
 
 King       DeMartino  Gabay    Becker
 P          1D         P        3C
 P          3H         P        4D
 P          5D         P        P
 P

The East-West pairs both missed this near-laydown 6D. Over Stiefel's limit raise, Arvedon had a 4S splinter available. Why shouldn't he use it once he decided to forego 3NT and drive to 5D with his 6-4? If Stiefel didn't go slamming over that with four working cards, somebody should check his pulse. Similarly at the other table, where 3C was an artificial raise, once Becker decided to go past 3NT, he might cue 4C instead of just bidding 4D with apparently all the right stuff. DeMartino might then do the rest. Push at 420. These auctions were unimpressive considering that all four bidders have won national championships. Board 48 (EW vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-QJ7
 West      H-8763      East
 S-32      D-J54       S-AK9854
 H-AKJ     C-K87       H-4
 D-Q9732               D-A
 C-A52     South       C-J9643
           S-106
           H-Q10952
           D-K1086
           C-Q10

 South      West       North    East
 Rothenberg Arvedon    Earl     Stiefel
 King       DeMartino  Gabay    Becker
 -          1D         P        1S
 P          1NT        P        4S
 P          P          P

Stiefel lost a trump and two clubs for 620. King-Gabay let a trick get away and Becker made 650 to win an imp. Doub led 119-57 at the three-quarter turn, although there was no comparison. Board 49 (Neither vul, North deals):

 

 

North
           S-K6
 West      H-K765    East
 S-843     D-10952   S-AJ95
 H-J10832  C-743     H-Q
 D-AKJ7              D-Q643
 C-6       South     C-AKJ2
           S-Q1072
           H-A94
           D-8
           C-Q10985

 South    West       North     East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl
 -        -          P         1D
 P        1H         P         1S
 P        3D         P         3NT
 P        P          P

 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 -        -          P         1C
 P        1H         P         1S
 P        1NT        P         P
 P

The auctions took different tacks because the Easts opened the bidding with different minor suits. Perhaps Doub should raise to 2NT, but despite their combined 26 high card points, East-West's 3NT isn't a sure thing. However, although the spades and clubs lay badly, the H9 fell, so at least 9 tricks were inevitable once both declarers plugged away at the suit. The defense can get 2 spades and 2 hearts if they open up the spades in time, but neither defense did so. Earl made four after Stiefel led the C10. Merblum made five when McDevitt led his D10 and the subsequent defense faltered. 430 vs. 210 sent 6 imps to DeMartino, now down 119-63. Board 50 (NS vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-106
 West      H-KQ963   East
 S-AJ84    D-J2      S-Q95
 H-J742    C-K1084   H-A108
 D-AQ64              D-10875
 C-2       South     C-AQJ
           S-K732
           H-5
           D-K93
           C-97653

 South    West       North     East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl
 -        -          -         1D
 P        1H         P         1NT
 P        2S         P         3H
 P        5D         P         P
 P

 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 -        -          P         1NT
 P        2D         P         2H
 P        2S         P         2NT
 P        3S         P         3NT
 P        P          P

Merblum's sequence over the 12-14 notrump showed 4441 shape with short clubs. Brod led a spade and with everything onside, Doub soon made 460.

 

The Rothenberg-Earl 5D contract isn't recommended. Stiefel led his singleton H5. On seeing dummy, Steve Earl didn't like his chances, but he soldiered on, capturing North's HK with his HA, finessing dummy's DQ, cashing the DA, leading a heart to his H10, and exiting with a trump. Stiefel won and led the C9, and Arvedon withheld his CK. Earl won his CQ, and put the SQ on the table, covered by the SK and SA. At this point, Stiefel was doomed if he held the S10, because Earl knew he had no heart to play. However, when Earl cashed the SJ, the S10 fell. The H8 was eventually discarded on the S8. Making six! But an imp to Doub, up 120-63. Board 51 (EW vul, South deals):

 

North
            S-65
 West       H-J8764   East
 S-AKQ      D-64      S-J10942
 H-K105     C-AQ74    H-A3
 D-AJ103              D-95
 C-K53      South     C-10986
            S-873
            H-Q92
            D-KQ872
            C-J2

 South    West       North     East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl
 P        2NT        P         3H
 P        3S         P         3NT
 P        4S         P         P
 P

 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 2D       3NT        P         P
 P

Earl's transfer was necessary, as an opening lead of the CJ would defeat 4S by East via a ruff. As it was, Arvedon led trumps. Rothenberg drew three rounds while Arvedon pitched a heart. Allan crossed to dummy's HA, and called for the D9. Stiefel split, won the second diamond, and returned a third, Arvedon and dummy discarding clubs. HK, ruff a heart, pass the C10 to CQ. The next heart dislodged the last trump. But after C9-CJ-CK-CA, Arvedon's last card was the C7 and dummy's was the C8. Making four. If Arvedon had discarded a club on the third trump instead of that heart, and the play went the same, he'd have won the last trick with it. However, Arvedon would have to discard a second club on the third diamond to reach that position, and so Rothenberg wouldn't have to tap dummy to lead a club towards his hand, because with the remaining clubs 2-2, he could just play a club out of his hand away from the king and be ahead in the race for control. A heart lead originally would be more threatening, but declarer seems to have counterplays and can always make 4S.

 

McDevitt led the D6, ducked to Merblum's D10. All Merblum could do was cash his nine tricks. A heart opening lead would have been awkward, attacking dummy's entry, but at this table the bidding would suggest the answer: win HK, unblock spades, and underlead the DA to set up a later finesse for the contract. An imp to DeMartino, now down 120-64. Board 52 (Both vul, West deals):

 

North
           S-J96
 West      H-K432    East
 S-1073    D-432     S-AQ8
 H-A875    C-Q94     H-109
 D-Q95               D-KJ10876
 C-1086    South     C-K3
           S-K542
           H-QJ6
           D-A
           C-AJ752

 South    West       North     East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl
 -        P          P         1D
 Double   1H         P         2D
 Double   3D         P         P
 P

 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 -        P          P         1D
 Double   Redouble   1H        2D
 Double   P          2S        P
 P        P

With both black suits foul as expected, Earl started with only 7 tricks, but Stiefel was nearly endplayed on the go, and tried his HQ. Dummy's two entries in trumps meant that because Stiefel had only three hearts, if Earl won dummy's HA, he could always do something with the heart spots to escape for down one. However, Steve saw endplays in Stiefel's future, and so he ducked in dummy. It wouldn't help for Arvedon to overtake and put a club through, as now Earl would eventually score three heart tricks. Stiefel saw the endplays coming too, so he cashed his DA and continued his low heart. Good, but not good enough: HA, H ruff, D to dummy, S to S8 (Arvedon can't help by playing his S9). This actually forced the king, but even if it had lost to the S9, Stiefel would have to give up a trick somewhere. Down one, -100, and I don't think the defense can do better.

 

Merblum-Doub play a non-standard redouble here, which was alerted. McDevitt's scruffy 2S contract turned out to be cold. The favorable black suit lies meant Merblum-Doub were unable to find six tricks on any defense. +110 for a push.

 

Board 53 (NS vul, North deals):

 

North
           S-J102
 West      H-108     East
 S-K974    D-AK96    S-Q865
 H-97642   C-K543    H-A3
 D-Q7                D-J10832
 C-87      South     C-J9
           S-A3
           H-KQJ5
           D-54
           C-AQ1062

 South    West       North     East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl
 -        -          P         P
 1NT      P          3NT       P
 P        P

 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 -        -          P         P
 1NT      P          3C        P
 3D       P          3NT       P
 P        P

McDevitt's 3C was puppet Stayman, and 3D denied a five card major. North-South make 6C except against a spade lead. Ordinarily not a good gamble, but down sixty imps (I have experience with this, trust me), the odds get better. The opponents may be too tired, fat, and happy to find the killing lead, particularly if South cue-bids 4S during the auction. However, you'll never get close if you bury clubs with that modern notrump by South. Against 3NT, Rothenberg led a heart and Stiefel made 5. Merblum led a spade, and Doub didn't cover dummy's S10, playing Brod for Kx, so Geof made 6 to win an imp and trail 120-65. Board 54 (EW vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-Q1096
 West      H-7       East
 S-J8      D-K76543  S-52
 H-KQ86    C-K10     H-J1094
 D-10                D-AJ82
 C-AQJ765  South     C-984
           S-AK743
           H-A532
           D-Q9
           C-32

 South    West       North     East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl
 -        -          -         P
 1S       2C         4S        P
 P        P

 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 -        -          -         P
 1S       2S         4S        P
 P        P

Rothenberg led his singleton D10 and Earl gave him a ruff. The CA meant 420. Merblum led the HK. With trumps 2-2, Brod would make 5 by drawing them and then attacking diamonds, but he attacked diamonds first, and eventually gave up the same ruff. Push at 420. Board 55 (Both vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-Q2
 West      H-AQ874   East
 S-AK943   D-A973    S-876
 H-93      C-AQ      H-J6
 D-KQ8               D-J106
 C-KJ8     South     C-76542
           S-J105
           H-K1052
           D-542
           C-1093

 South    West       North     East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl
 P        1S         2H        P
 P        Double     P         2S
 P        P          3D        P
 3H       P          P         P

 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 P        1S         Double    P
 2H       P          3H        P
 P        P

Push at 140, losing 2 diamonds and 2 spades. With the club finesse working, North-South make 3NT on this lie of cards, but it looks impossible to bid. Board 56 (Neither vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-87
 West      H-Q10532  East
 S-Q63     D-Q1084   S-AKJ1054
 H-8       C-32      H-K976
 D-KJ65              D-9
 C-J9876   South     C-AK
           S-92
           H-AJ4
           D-A732
           C-Q1054

 South    West       North     East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg Arvedon   Earl
 -        P          P         1S
 P        2S         P         3H
 P        4S         P         4NT
 P        5D         P         5S
 P        P          P

 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 -        P          P         1S
 P        2S         P         4S
 P        P          P

Some single raises make slam a favorite opposite the East hand: S-Qxxx H-Ax D-xxxx C-xxx; S-Qxx H-AQx D-xxxx C-xxx; S-xxxx H-Qx D-Axxx C-xxx; S-Qxx H-Axx D-xxx C-QJxx; etc. The odds are, however, that West doesn't have one of these. I suppose our Easts' choices over 2S were (a) giving up on slam with 4S; (b) splintering 4D then backtracking; (c) making a 3H help-suit game try, then using Blackwood if West shows sufficient enthusiasm. All three plans have up and down sides. Doub chose (a), Earl (c). Fair enough, but what constitutes sufficient enthusiasm? Cards that look good for game may not look good for slam. Here, Rothenberg accepted game without cue-bidding. With the DA, perhaps he should always cue 4D, although that isn't a universally accepted theory. But would 4H be a cuebid or would it suggest a contract? Aside from its optimism, one trouble with (c) is that West is misled as to what problem East is trying to solve. I don't think Rothenberg would have gotten rambunctious if he knew Steve had visions of six.

 

The upshot was that Earl-Rothenberg got precariously high in 5S while Merblum-Doub stopped in four. Against Doub's 4S, Brod led a trump. When Doub won and led a diamond up, Brod smoothly ducked, so even 4S was in jeopardy. I think if Doug had misguessed diamonds, he'd go down, putting up the HK after winning the second trump in dummy. However, Doub guessed to put up dummy's DK, then led a heart to his king. A second trump came back, but Doub still got one ruff for his tenth trick. Doug was going down if both aces were wrong, or if McDevitt had both aces plus three trumps. I think he was about 70%.

Stiefel-Arvedon play fourth best, and Stiefel led his C4 against Earl's 5S. Consider three plans, each with both a basic chance, which I put in parentheses, and extra chances: (a) win and lead a diamond up, playing for both aces onside (25%); (b) lead a low heart immediately, playing for the HA to be less than fourth (23%); (c) win CA, cash SA, CK, SQ, club ruff, play diamond up, playing for spades 2-2 and the DA onside (20%). (a) has this extra chance: if either opponent has both aces but only one trump, Earl can still make via six spades, two clubs, a red king, and two ruffs. (For example, give Stiefel only one trump instead of the two he actually held.) (b) has this extra chance: West may have the DA and three or fewer hearts. For example, trade Stiefel's HA for Arvedon's HQ. After CA, low heart, trump, CK, H ruff, C ruff, H ruff, C ruff, draw trumps, Earl could lead a diamond up, and Stiefel couldn't stop the DK from scoring because he would have nothing but diamonds left. (c) has this extra chance: if trumps are 2-2 and clubs are 3-3 (or, less likely, Qx falls), Earl makes 5S even if all red cards are wrong, via six spades, 4 clubs, and one ruff. Note that (c) might make 5S while Doub is going down in 4S. If Earl adopted (c) and somebody showed out on the first trump (10%), he could revert to plan (a). I think all three lines are between 30% and 40%, but the calculations are probably too complicated to make at the table, or maybe even away from the table. (I'm assuming 5-1 clubs, which beat all three lines, remain about a 19% chance despite Stiefel's lead. The best line I can come up with which works against 5-1 clubs is only around 10% to take 11 tricks, very much inferior to a, b, or c.) In practice Earl chose (a) when either (b) or (c) would have worked. Since trumps hadn't been led, if Stiefel had ducked the diamond, Earl would have made 5S anyway, but Stiefel accurately rose DA to play a trump. Earl won in dummy, took a pitch on the DK, and tried a heart to his HK, but Stiefel won and produced a second trump. Down one.

Suppose Stiefel had led a trump. How would that affect Earl's choices? It wouldn't affect (a) or (c), but it would eliminate (b), since a second trump play defeats it. As the cards lie, (a) still fails, and (c) still works. So, on the actual lie of cards, if Earl is going to take line (c), is Stiefel doomed? No! I doubt this defense would ever be found, but Stiefel can defeat 5S against any line of play whatever, by cashing his DA at trick one (is that what they call a dentist's coup?), and then playing a trump!

420 and 50 gave ten imps to Doub, up 130-65 with 8 boards to play. Board 57 (EW vul, North deals):

 

North
           S-K62
 West      H-Q62     East
 S-A43     D-AQ      S-Q875
 H-A10     C-KQ842   H-943
 D-J108654           D-K97
 C-63      South     C-J109
           S-J109
           H-KJ875
           D-32
           C-A75

 South    West       North     East
 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 King     DeMartino  Gabay     Becker
 -        -          1NT       P
 2D       P          2H        P
 2NT      P          4H        P
 P        P

Once again, the transfers were effective. 4H by South would be nasty to play on a diamond lead. If South finesses, a spade shift beats him. Even if he doesn't finesse, West could put him to the test by shifting to a low spade on winning the trump ace. Nor, if South bids hearts first, can North solve the problem by bidding 3NT, because a spade lead and diamond shift dooms him. But both our Norths played 4H and could never be threatened, scoring an easy 420 for a push. Board 58 (Both vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-Q532
 West      H-873     East
 S-A97     D-Q976    S-J108
 H-4       C-93      H-AQ9652
 D-1085              D-KJ3
 C-AJ10842 South     C-6
           S-K64
           H-KJ10
           D-A42
           C-KQ75

 South    West       North     East
 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 -        -          -         1H
 1NT      Double     P         2H
 P        P          P

 King     DeMartino  Gabay     Becker
 -        -          -         1H
 1NT      Double     P         P
 P

What do you think - should East sit for 1NTx? And if he does, what should West lead? Doub's 2H was never in jeopardy - on this layout, he has to score 4 hearts, a club, two spades, and a diamond. In fact, he made three for 140. I've played 1NT doubled out to the end several ways, and most roads with good play all around end in down one. For example, West might lead hearts ducked to South, who puts the SK on the table. West resists the temptation to duck, and East signals with the SJ as West wins his SA. Declarer ducks the second spade, East plays HA, Hx, and declarer cashes two spades and plays a club to the king. West wins CA to put a diamond through. Declarer ends up with 2 spades, 2 hearts, a diamond, and a club. There are at least a dozen variations after the heart lead. However, DeMartino led the C10, another line of defense with many branches for both sides. I think it's still down one if everybody plays best, but I'm willing to be proved wrong. No prizes for perfect analyses, so don't bother cheating with one of those computer programs! King did indeed take six tricks for down 1, -200, 2 imps to DeMartino, now down 130-67. Board 59 (Neither vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-107543
 West      H-QJ8     East
 S-AKJ     D-A2      S-92
 H-K93     C-974     H-10752
 D-KQ76              D-J98543
 C-AQJ     South     C-10
           S-Q86
           H-A64
           D-10
           C-K86532

 South    West       North     East
 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 P        2C         P         2D
 P        2NT        P         3C
 P        3D         P         P
 P

 King     DeMartino  Gabay     Becker
 P        2C         P         2D
 P        2NT        P         P
 P

It was hard for the Easts to realize they were sitting on a diamond mine. I can't contruct a lie of the North-South cards with which the defenders can beat 3NT, and on this layout, they can't even stop 4NT. Doub made 130 in his 3D. Gabay led a spade to King's SQ and DeMartino's SA. When she won her DA, she switched to her C7. King couldn't read this card and put up his CK. Making five. 210 vs. 130 is 2 imps, to trail 130-69. Board 60 (NS vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-Q108
 West      H-AK109   East
 S-763     D-A87     S-A42
 H-32      C-642     H-J8654
 D-106               D-K4
 C-KQ8753  South     C-AJ9
           S-KJ95
           H-Q7
           D-QJ9532
           C-10

 South    West       North     East
 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 -        P          1D        1H
 Double   P          1NT       P
 3D       P          3S        P
 4D       P          P         P

 King     DeMartino  Gabay     Becker
 -        3C         P         3NT
 P        P          P

Brod lost a diamond and the two black aces to make his 4D for 130. Interestingly, on this layout, if Geof raised Pat's 3S to 4S, Pat could make it against any defense, because spades are 3-3 and the hand with the SA has only 3 clubs (play it out mentally on three defenses: two rounds of clubs; a low trump lead; and ace and another trump).

 

King led his DQ against Becker's 3NT. Gabay won her ace and paused to consider. Another diamond would be good enough unless Steve had DK, CA, and SAK. In that case, her only chance would be 4 heart tricks right now. If Becker held H-Jxxx, she had to put her H10 or H9 through him on the first round to avoid a blockage (she might also succeed against H-Qxxx, although Becker isn't gullible). That seemed like too small a target to hit, so she cashed her HK and watched for King's signal. Becker falsecarded and Gabay couldn't read Victor's standard attitude H7. It seemed too late for the H10 to be right, so she continued her HA. The good news was she dropped a doubleton queen, but the bad news was it wasn't Becker's. Making 3, -400, 11 imps to DeMartino, 130-80. Board 61 (Both vul, North deals):

 

North
           S-K
 West      H-Q754    East
 S-A653    D-83      S-10987
 H-A10     C-J108642 H-KJ632
 D-AJ102             D-K7
 C-A93     South     C-Q5
           S-QJ42
           H-98
           D-Q9654
           C-K7

 South    West       North     East
 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 -        -          P         P
 P        1D         P         1H
 P        1NT        P         2S
 P        4S         P         P
 P

 King     DeMartino  Gabay     Becker
 -        -          P         P
 P        1C         P         1H
 P        2NT        P         3D
 P        3S         P         4S
 P        P          P

Gabay led the C10, and DeMartino made 620. Playing from the other side, Doub got a friendly CK lead from Brod, for 650. An imp to Doub, 131-80. Board 62 (Neither vul, East deals):

 

 

North
           S-KJ1097
 West      H-J9874   East
 S-A85     D-K6      S-Q63
 H-A       C-8       H-KQ5
 D-AJ3               D-98754
 C-AK9754  South     C-Q6
           S-42
           H-10632
           D-Q102
           C-J1032

 South    West       North     East
 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 -        -          -         P
 P        1C         2C        P
 2H       Double     P         3NT
 P        P          P

 King     DeMartino  Gabay     Becker
 -        -          -         P
 P        1C         2C        P
 2H       3NT        P         P
 P

Push at 460. Board 63 (NS vul, South deals):

 

 

North
           S-AQJ108
 West      H-K1064     East
 S-654     D-3         S-9
 H-9875    C-742       H-A2
 D-Q52                 D-K109764
 C-1063    South       C-KJ98
           S-K732
           H-QJ3
           D-AJ8
           C-AQ5

 South    West       North     East
 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 1NT      P          2C        2D
 2S       P          4D        P
 4NT      P          5C        Double
 6S       P          P         P

 King     DeMartino  Gabay     Becker
 1NT      P          2C        2D
 2S       P          4S        P
 P        P

McDevitt's 4D splinter was pushy, but the slam wasn't bad, depending basically on the club finesse. Doub's interference was music to Brod's ears, particularly the double of 5C, but it looks like Geof was going to bid slam regardless. Merblum didn't cooperate. Doub wouldn't misguess diamonds on this auction, so 7Dx would have been down 5, -1100, keeping the loss to 9 imps. Letting the boys play resulted in 1430 vs. 680 and 13 imps to DeMartino, down 131-93. Board 64 (EW vul, West deals):

 

 

North
           S-QJ863
 West      H-4         East
 S-1042    D-K92       S-95
 H-AJ8     C-A1073     H-Q932
 D-J864                D-Q753
 C-J82     South       C-K54
           S-AK7
           H-K10765
           D-A10
           C-Q96

 South    West       North     East
 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt  Doub
 -        P          1S        P
 2H       P          2S        P
 3S       P          4S        P
 P        P

 King     DeMartino  Gabay     Becker
 -        P          P         P
 1H       P          1S        P
 2C       P          3C        P
 4S       P          P         P

Brod made four for 420, King five for 450, an imp to Doub, making the final match score 132-93. Add the five imp carryover if you like. Any way you slice it, Doug Doub, Frank Merblum, John Stiefel, Lloyd Arvedon, Sheila Gabay, and Victor King won the match handily. We wish them luck in Las Vegas. I would like to thank the players for letting me watch, and also those who helped fix errata in the first draft. Remaining errors are mine.

 

Buzz from the 2008 Senior Regional

This year's Senior Regional, held as always at the Seacrest Resort in North Falmouth MA, April 30-May 4, was a great success. The table count was more than 100 above 2007, which was already a good year. We sold out the hotel. Saturday evening, besides the second session of the 54-table stratified senior pairs, there were knockout finals, a sectional pairs, a regional senior side game, and a two-section 299er game going on, something like 110 tables in play.

54 entrants is an awkward number - the directors elected to run the premier pair game as three 18-table sections. This meant that only 78 of the 108 pairs got to play any particular deal, increasing the luck factor somewhat. Consider Board 29 (Both Vul, North deals), where North-South held:

 

North
  S-AJ876
  H-76
  D-2
  C-AKQ96
  
  South
  S-KQ532
  H-AKQ94
  D-A
  C-73

Typically, North opened a spade. Sooner or later, South used Blackwood to find two aces and a king, and 7S was reached for 2210. In section G, there were 7 2210s and 6 1460s; in section H, 10 2210s, 2 1460s, and 1 710; and in section I, 8 2210s, 4 1460s, and one solitary 2220 for 7NT. 7NT, which would be absurd at imps, risks -100 instead of +2210, to gain 10 more points for 2220. You have 12 top tricks, and can make a 13th if either hearts or clubs fall down, or, more elegantly, on a squeeze if one opponent guards both suits. Altogether, somewhere around 70%. Whether 7NT is a good bet depends on the field. In section H, 7NT would risk 7 1/2 to gain 4 1/2. In section G, 7NT would have risked 9 to gain 3. In section I, where somebody actually bid 7NT, it risked 8 to gain 4. If you were East-West, would you want to play this board, or not? You did if you were -710, but if you were -2220, you'd wish to be among the thirty pairs who didn't play the deal!