NEBridge - buzz0507


District 25 News for May 2007

District 25 Grand National Teams Update

On Sunday, April 22, 2007, I kibitzed the Grand National Teams district finals for the Championship Flight, between the DeMartino team of (left to right in the picture)

Steve Earl, Allan Rothenberg, Pat McDevitt, Geoff Brod, Rich DeMartino, and Steve Becker, and the Doub team of

Sheila Gabay, Frank Merblum, Victor King, John Stiefel, and Doug Doub. Nine of these players live in Connecticut (last year, eight were from Massachusetts). Four are ACBL Grand Masters and nine are among the district's top fifty masterpoint holders. This was a tough game: counting on my fingers and toes, I lost track somewhere around two digits of national titles and six figures of masterpoints. The contestants have been partners, teammates, and opponents for decades and know each other very well. They get along and have a healthy respect for each other's talents. It's no surprise there was not a single incident, director ruling, or protest.

The 64-board match was played at the Hartford Bridge Club, and took nine hours with a short halftime break. New Englanders get few chances to play long matches. Readers who haven't played 64 should understand that in this format, you don't lose because of one or two bad results. You get lots of chances, and unless somebody gets a big lead, state of the match considerations are far less important than in shorter imp contests. As long as the Grand National Teams retains this distinct length, the Championship Flight final will remain our biggest knockout match of the year. It also pays a substantial subsidy to the nationals.

The DeMartino team subbed in and out as pairs (Becker-DeMartino, Earl-Rothenberg, Brod-McDevitt). Doub-Merblum anchored for Doub, with Stiefel-King-Gabay wheeling sitouts at the other table. DeMartino began with a 5-0 lead, a carryover from January's round-robin. For the first quarter, I kibitzed Becker-DeMartino vs. Stiefel-Gabay. Doub-Merblum faced Earl-Rothenberg at the other table. Board 1 (none vul, N deals):

 

.         North
          S-K95
 West     H-10862     East
 S-A103   D-87        S-Q64
 H-K43    C-K982      H-Q5
 D-10642              D-K9
 C-AQ4    South       C-J107653
          S-J872
          H-AJ97
          D-AQJ53
          C-

 North    East    South     West
 Merblum  Earl    Doub      Rothenberg
 P        P       2D*       P
 2H*      P       P         P

 Becker   Stiefel DeMartino Gabay
 P        P       1D        P
 1H       P       3H        P
 P        P

Doub's 2D was mini-Roman, any minimum three-suiter. Steve Earl, who leads more trumps than anybody, led an ineffective H5 for -140, but no lead could set 2H with everything onside.

 

Voids are the most volatile holdings in bridge: DeMartino's club void induced his jump raise. Had Becker ruffed Stiefel's Rusinow C10 opening lead in dummy, a spade to the king and a red finesse would have led to a push, but, reasonably, Steve pitched a spade from dummy at trick one. Gabay won and produced the S3. Had Becker put up his king, he would still push the board, no matter which red finesse he took or whether he took a spade pitch from dummy on the club king or not, but, reasonably, he played low, and was in trouble. Stiefel won his queen and returned the suit. The favorable lie of both red suits meant Becker could still get home if he won the third spade and took the heart finesse, but not if he took the diamond finesse, a close decision. However, unreasonably in my opinion, Becker unblocked his spade king under the ace. Now Gabay endplayed dummy with a third spade for down 1, and Merblum-Doub had outbid and outplayed Becker-DeMartino five imps worth, to tie the match 5-5.

Board 2 (NS vul, E deals):

.         North
          S-KJ5
 West     H-Q42       East
 S-9      D-K874      S-Q7432
 H-AKJ963 C-QJ6       H-5
 D-2                  D-AQ65
 C-107432 South       C-AK9
          S-A1086
          H-1087
          D-J1093
          C-85

 East    South     West       North
 Earl    Doub      Rothenberg Merblum
 1S      P         1NT        P
 2D      P         2H         P
 P       P

 Stiefel DeMartino Gabay      Becker
 1S      P         1NT        P
 2D      P         3H         P
 3NT     P         4H         P
 P       P

Gabay outbid Rothenberg with the West cards, and when both Norths led club queens, she outplayed him, eleven tricks to ten, winning 7 imps to put the Doub team in the lead 12-5.

 

Board 3 (EW vul, S deals):

.          North
           S-1098
 West      H-KQ       East
 S-KQ5     D-Q975     S-J7643
 H-A107632 C-KJ92     H-9
 D-32                 D-KJ1084
 C-65      South      C-103
           S-A2
           H-J854
           D-A6
           C-AQ874

 South     West       North   East
 Doub      Rothenberg Merblum Earl
 1C        1H         2H      P
 2NT       P          3NT     P
 P         P

 DeMartino Gabay      Becker  Stiefel
 1NT       2D*        Double  P
 P         2H         3NT     P
 P         P

Gabay's vul-against-not 2D was "suction": hearts or black suits. She'd be two down if doubled, but perhaps Becker-DeMartino did better not to, as Stiefel could find safety in 2S via a redouble, and simultaneously suggest a lead. As it was, Gabay led a fourth best H6, for -400. At the other table, with similar information, Rothenberg led a killing spade king to win ten imps and put DeMartino back in the lead 15-12.

 

Board 4 (Both vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-AKJ107
 West     H-Q743      East
 S-654    D-          S-93
 H-1062   C-A984      H-K98
 D-J93                D-A10742
 C-J1052  South       C-Q73
          S-Q82
          H-AJ5
          D-KQ865
          C-K6

 West       North    East    South
 Rothenberg Merblum  Earl    Doub
 P          1S       P       2D
 P          2H       P       2S
 P          3C       P       3H
 P          4S       P       P
 P
 
 Gabay      Becker   Stiefel DeMartino
 P          1S       P       2D
 P          2H       P       3S
 P          4C       P       4S
 P          P        P

Another void problem: North's lack of diamonds suggested a bad mesh. A dicey 6S would make today on either of the reasonable lines of play, but both North-South pairs sniffed the air with cue bids and then chickened out. Stiefel led C3, Earl (staying in character) S3. DeMartino lost an imp playing safely to make five where Merblum made six, so DeMartino now led 15-13.

 

Board 5 (NS vul, N deals)

.         North
          S-Q32
 West     H-          East
 S-109874 D-KJ942     S-KJ5
 H-K104   C-AK432     H-9763
 D-Q753               D-108
 C-7      South       C-9865
          S-A6
          H-AQJ852
          D-A6
          C-QJ10

 North    East    South     West
 Merblum  Earl    Doub      Rothenberg
 1D       P       2H        P
 3C       P       3H        P
 3NT      P       4NT       P
 P        P

 Becker   Stiefel DeMartino Gabay
 1D       P       1H        P
 2C       P       2S        P
 3C       P       3H        P
 3NT      P       4C        P
 5C       P       5S        P
 6C       P       P         P

Another void that doesn't help. DeMartino's slow fourth-suit auction let Becker show a minimum 5-5 or better in the minors with short hearts and a spade piece. Becker firmly rejected Rich's 5S grand slam try. Stiefel led the C8, and Becker played C10, DA, DK, D ruff (Stiefel pitched a heart), HA discarding spade, H ruff, D ruff (Stiefel threw his last heart), heart ruffed and overruffed (Stiefel does no better to pitch a spade). Since dummy's hearts were good, Stiefel's only chance was a spade. He tried the jack, but Becker ran this to his queen for 1370. Very well done by Becker-DeMartino.

 

Doub's bulky jump shift robbed Merblum of room to tell his whole story, and he never rebid clubs. Doub might have suspected this and tried 4C over 3NT. Instead, his quantitative 4NT buried clubs at sea. Merblum evaluated his cards correctly for notrump - he made six because Earl led a desperate spade king against 4NT, which he'd never do against 6NT. 12 imps to DeMartino, to lead 27-13.

 

Board 6 (EW vul, E deals):

.          North
           S-K972
 West      H-K874     East
 S-AQ86    D-96       S-J10
 H-1096532 C-QJ6      H-Q
 D-J8                 D-AQ10542
 C-3       South      C-A854
           S-543
           H-AJ
           D-K74
           C-K10972

 East    South     West       North
 Earl    Doub      Rothenberg Merblum
 1D      P         1H         P
 2D      P         P          P

 Stiefel DeMartino Gabay      Becker
 1D      2C        Double     3C
 P       P         3H         P
 P       P

Doub sat mute as South, and Earl-Rothenberg scored an easy 110 on a club lead. I think a trump lead and perfect subsequent defense can hold declarer to eight tricks. 2C over 1D is the most disruptive of simple overcalls, and DeMartino's lower requirements for the bid at favorable vulnerability paid a dividend here. Stiefel probably suspected 3D would succeed opposite known club shortness, but an immediate 3D bid might sound too strong and get him too high. He passed, hoping partner could bid diamonds, but she had only two. Perhaps Gabay should have stayed fixed and passed: sturdy defense would beat 3C a trick and hold the loss to two imps. But wasn't Stiefel's most likely hand a weak notrump with no suit of four cards except diamonds? She talked herself into competing, bought a bad dummy and bad splits, and wound up -200 to lose 7 imps. DeMartino now led 34-13.

 

Board 7 (Both vul, S deals):

.         North
          S-AJ32
 West     H-653       East
 S-Q10985 D-Q82       S-6
 H-KQ10   C-852       H-J8742
 D-AK                 D-J9643
 C-Q106   South       C-A4
          S-K74
          H-A9
          D-1075
          C-KJ973

 South     West       North   East
 Doub      Rothenberg Merblum Earl
 DeMartino Gabay      Becker  Stiefel
 P         1S         P       1NT
 P         2C         P       2H
 P         3H         P       P
 P

The identical auctions indicate a consensus that this reasonable vulnerable game can't be bid. I'm not convinced. Are you? Anyway, a not-so-routine push at 170.

 

Board 8 (None vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-2
 West     H-J6542     East
 S-K9743  D-QJ74      S-J1086
 H-7      C-QJ2       H-AQ3
 D-852                D-K96
 C-10653  South       C-K94
          S-AQ5
          H-K1098
          D-A103
          C-A87

 West       North    East    South
 Rothenberg Merblum  Earl    Doub
 P          P        1C      Double
 1S         2H       2S      4H
 P          P        P
 
 Gabay      Becker   Stiefel DeMartino
 P          P        1C      1NT
 P          2D       P       3H
 P          4H       P       P
 P

Both Souths expected finesses through East's opening bid to succeed, and so it proved. For the record, Earl led the SJ, while Gabay led the club five from the other side. Push for 420 (I think an overtrick is available double-dummy, but nobody managed it).

 

Board 9 (EW vul, N deals)

.         North
          S-K63
 West     H-KJ63      East
 S-AQJ    D-J876      S-10754
 H-Q842   C-K2        H-A1097
 D-43                 D-AK10
 C-J874   South       C-A5
          S-982
          H-5
          D-Q952
          C-Q10963

 North    East    South     West
 Merblum  Earl    Doub      Rothenberg
 Becker   Stiefel DeMartino Gabay
 P        1NT     P         2C
 P        2H      P         4H
 P        P       P

After identical Stayman auctions, the Souths led identical club nines (zero or two higher). Everybody covered: jack, king, ace. The spade finesse lost, and the Norths led club dueces to South's ten. Earl won Doub's diamond return, went to dummy, ran the HQ , which Merblum didn't cover, continued hearts as Merblum split, unblocked his spades, and ruffed back and forth with high trump spots to make his game. Stiefel won Rich's spade return and led a heart to the ten, which held, and a heart to the queen and king. Having no club, North tried a diamond. Stiefel needed Steve Becker to hold at least three spades in order to ruff his diamond, finesse in trumps, and unblock his ten tricks, and when all that came off, scored 620, for a push. Go back to trick three, when Doug and Rich won the second round of clubs. It's counter-intuitive to force declarer with the club queen because such a play would establish dummy's club eight. Nevertheless, this tapping play defeats 4H if Becker or Merblum discards a spade and defends best thereafter. You may need to play it out several times in your head to realize how devastating North's spade discard is. At least, I had to. On this layout, declarer can always make 4H if he doesn't cover the C9 with the CJ. Ducking the CA also works.

 

Board 10 (Both vul, E deals):

.         North
          S-104
 West     H-KQ832     East
 S-52     D-KQ3       S-A963
 H-J64    C-Q93       H-1075
 D-9754               D-1062
 C-AK104  South       C-865
          S-KQJ87
          H-A9
          D-AJ8
          C-J72

 East    South     West       North
 Earl    Doub      Rothenberg Merblum
 P       1S        P          2H
 P       2S        P          2NT
 P       3NT       P          P
 P

 Stiefel DeMartino Gabay      Becker
 P       1NT       P          2D
 P       2H        P          3NT
 P       P         P

Do you open South's cards 1S or 1NT? Here the choice determines which side 3NT gets played from. Gabay led C4, and Stiefel returned clubs on winning the spade ace, but clubs were 4-3 and DeMartino claimed 600. Earl led C8 from the other side, but the defense didn't set up and cash the long club, so Merblum gained an imp for an overtrick to trail 34-14.

 

Board 11 (None vul, S deals):

.           North
            S-J10
 West       H-J        East
 S-A4       D-KQ2      S-KQ976
 H-10987653 C-AKJ10742 H-AQ2
 D-A                   D-9763
 C-J65      South      C-3
            S-8532
            H-K4
            D-J10854
            C-Q9

 South     West       North   East
 Doub      Rothenberg Merblum Earl
 P         P          1C      1S
 P         2H         3C      3H
 P         4H         P       P
 P

 DeMartino Gabay      Becker  Stiefel
 P         P          1C      1S
 P         2H         3C      3H
 4C        4H         P       P
 P

Nobody saved in 5C with neither vul. Quite right, since the defense has four top tricks and it's not difficult to find a diamond ruff. In fact, if East led the king of spades, West could overtake, cash DA, and use East's two entries to get two ruffs and set 5C doubled 800. A push at 450, the declarers losing a club and the king of hearts.

 

Board 12 (NS vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-KJ9763
 West     H-J763      East
 S-Q542   D-AQ6       S-108
 H-10983  C-          H-KQ4
 D-8                  D-107
 C-AK85   South       C-QJ10732
          S-A
          H-A2
          D-KJ95432
          C-964

 West       North    East    South
 Rothenberg Merblum  Earl    Doub
 P          1S       3C      3D
 5C         5D       P       5H
 P          6C       P       7D
 P          P        P
 
 Gabay      Becker   Stiefel DeMartino
 P          1S       P       2D
 P          2S       P       3C
 P          3D       P       3H
 P          4D       P       6D
 P          P        P

Here's a void that's working hard - despite having only 23 of the 40 high card points, North-South are cold for 6D, with a fair chance at 7. With the spades blocked and not breaking, there's nothing to the play after trick one - only a diamond opening lead stops 13 tricks. Both Wests led high clubs, both declarers quickly ruffed three clubs and pitched a heart on the spade king to make seven. The Doub team won 13 imps for enterprise, to trail 34-27.

 

This is as good a place as any to explain why I don't believe in charge sheets, imps won or lost by a pair per board played, or any other numerical system of assessing the quality of individual or pair play in long knockout matches scored by imps. How many imps did Rothenberg's opening lead lose? The score sheet says 13, but that doesn't take into account the opportunity cost: he would have won 16 if he'd led trumps, for a total of 29. Indeed, Allan was "lucky" diamonds aren't a major, or it would have been 30. But how can any such number, dependent as it is on the other table's result, measure a play? If the other room made +2140 or -100, the swing would be 20. Numerical methods based on imps don't measure just the play itself, they measure something dependent on events in the other room. Call me an impressionist, but I prefer to just say that Rothenberg chose a costly and ineffective opening lead, rather than assign some pseudo-scientific quantity to just how bad the lead was.

If Allan was thinking a club might cash, the lead was sort of an insult to Doub-Merblum, given their auction. I don't believe that - Allan must have known dummy was void, and was trying to tap it. For a tap to be both necessary and effective, dummy and partner must start with the same number of trumps, and dummy must have no entry in hearts. A typical construction might be

.
         AKxxxxx
         xxx
 Qxxx    KJx      J
 109xx   -        QJ
 x                xxx
 AKxx    x        QJ10xxxx
         AKxx
         AQ10xxx
         xx

Here a trump lead doesn't work - declarer can play DA, SA, S ruff, DJ, S ruff, DK, run spades to pitch two hearts and two clubs. At first glance, a club lead prevents spade establishment, leaving declarer with a third round heart loser. But think again - you get squeezed: C ruff, DK, HA, C ruff, HK, run trumps. I'm not going to defend Allan's lead any more, because I'm not a fan. I think I see what he was thinking, but he was aiming at a vanishingly small target.

 

Board 13 (Both vul, N deals)

.         North
          S-J5
 West     H-AQ96      East
 S-K103   D-A1084     S-Q84
 H-10842  C-QJ7       H-J53
 D-Q9732              D-J5
 C-10     South       C-K8532
          S-A9762
          H-K7
          D-K6
          C-A964

 North    East    South     West
 Merblum  Earl    Doub      Rothenberg
 1NT      P       2H        P
 2S       P       3C        P
 3NT      P       P         P

 Becker   Stiefel DeMartino Gabay
 1H       P       1S        P
 1NT      P       2C        P
 3NT      P       P         P

Doub-Merblum play 12-14 notrumps. Becker-DeMartino, who occasionally open a four card major, play that a checkback 2C is at least a game invitation. None of that mattered here, as a 3NT contract was inevitable. With spades 3-3 and the clubs there to be had, both declarers made five in short order.

 

Board 14 (None vul, E deals):

.          North
           S-AK109
 West      H-76        East
 S-Q       D-QJ42      S-J2
 H-KJ83    C-862       H-952
 D-K8653               D-109
 C-J94     South       C-KQ10753
           S-876543
           H-AQ104
           D-A7
           C-A

 East    South     West       North
 Earl    Doub      Rothenberg Merblum
 Stiefel DeMartino Gabay      Becker
 P       1S        P          3S
 P       4S        P          P
 P

Neither of the team captains made any slam try with the South cards over a limit raise. Both were correct at double-dummy: the spades split, but both red finesses lose. Both made six in practice, since both Wests led the eight of hearts. Replace South's 4S bid with 5S, asking for good trumps. When North raises to 6S, would you lead red or black as West?

 

Board 15 (NS vul, S deals):

.          North
           S-Q6
 West      H-J87     East
 S-1093    D-A108532 S-AKJ52
 H-KQ10643 C-Q3      H-A
 D-QJ                D-K94
 C-A7      South     C-10542
           S-874
           H-952
           D-76
           C-KJ986

 South     West       North   East
 Doub      Rothenberg Merblum Earl
 P         1H         P       1S
 P         2H         P       3NT
 P         P          P

 DeMartino Gabay      Becker  Stiefel
 P         1H         P       1S
 P         2H         P       3C
 P         3S         P       4S
 P         P          P

In 4S, Stiefel got a diamond lead and made five. He could have made six double dummy. At the other table, Doub led the C8 against Earl's inferior 3NT. You and I can see that Doug has no entry, so ducking makes the hand. Not knowing the layout, Steve put up dummy's ace, trying to block the suit. Merblum unblocked his club queen, a good play. Earl could still make 3NT by playing for both SQ and HJ to drop, but he cashed HA and played a diamond. Merblum won and put a deadly club through for down one to win 11 imps. The Doub team thus retook the lead, 38-34.

 

Board 16 (EW vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-764
 West     H-          East
 S-J102   D-Q1087643  S-KQ853
 H-952    C-1097      H-AKJ10873
 D-AJ92               D-
 C-J53    South       C-Q
          S-A9
          H-Q64
          D-K5
          C-AK8642

 West       North    East    South
 Rothenberg Merblum  Earl    Doub
 P          P        1H      2C
 2H         P        4C      P
 4H         P        5D      P
 6D         P        6H      P
 P          P
 
 Gabay      Becker   Stiefel DeMartino
 P          P        1H      1NT
 2H         3D       4H      P
 P          5D       5H      Double
 P          P        P

The last board of the quarter was an entertaining push at 200, with voids on parade. Both West's poured gasoline on the fire by freely raising hearts. Doub's heavy 2C overcall did nothing to dampen Earl's ardor. Had Rothenberg cuebid 4D over 4C, they might have avoided the bad slam. Note that Doub, South, paid his opponents a compliment by not doubling. If Doug ever DOES double your freely bid slam when he's on lead, you're going for your lungs! Earl lost two aces and a trump for minus 200. DeMartino's offshape notrump dismissed all slam thoughts from Stiefel's mind, but it also helped Becker: when DeMartino didn't double 4H, Steve took a good save in 5D. His heart void was doing its job - if you play 5D doubled out several ways in your head, you find Becker does best to use dummy's many entries to ruff all dummy's hearts to shorten himself. You wind up in a maze of trump coups and defenses to them. I think best play all around results in minus 300, clearly a pickup compared to 620. And bidding 5D paid an even bigger dividend in practice. For all Stiefel knew, defending 5D might result in a double game swing. He took the push to 5H and discovered his diamond void was a duplicated value. DeMartino doubled 5H to stop Becker from bidding any more, for a push. Should Stiefel have bid 3S over 3D, so that he could better trust Gabay if she doubled a high diamond contract? It would still be tough to pass 5D around on such a nifty 7-5 hand. Perhaps Gabay shouldn't have raised to 2H over 1NT.

 

Doub led by a 4 imp nose at the quarter turn. For DeMartino, Brod-McDevitt came in to play against Doub-Merblum. For Doub, King replaced Gabay, to face Earl-Rothenberg. I kibitzed the latter table. Board 17 (None vul, North deals):

.         North
          S-AKJ65
 West     H-A         East
 S-Q109   D-J82       S-43
 H-J10    C-A873      H-K8632
 D-Q7653              D-K109
 C-1064   South       C-J92
          S-872
          H-Q9754
          D-A4
          C-KQ5

 North    East    South    West
 King     Earl    Stiefel  Rothenberg
 McDevitt Doub    Brod     Merblum
 1S       P       1NT      P
 2C       P       3S       P
 4S       P       P        P

Nobody sniffed at this bad but cold slam. At the table, you guess this is a push at 480, and so it proves, but it aggravates the Norths to worry about losing 10 imps to bad bidding at the other table.

 

Board 18 (NS vul, E deals):

.          North
           S-J96
 West      H-K92      East
 S-AQ2     D-Q643     S-87
 H-J54     C-975      H-10876
 D-82                 D-AJ97
 C-A10862  South      C-J43
           S-K10543
           H-AQ3
           D-K105
           C-KQ

 East    South    West       North
 Earl    Stiefel  Rothenberg King
 P       1S       P          1NT
 P       2NT      P          3S
 P       P        P

 Doub    Brod     Merblum    McDevitt
 P       1S       P          1NT
 P       2NT      P          3NT
 P       P        P

Brod-McDevitt, just entering the match, got their feet wet with a horrid vulnerable 3NT. Doub led an attitude H8, so Merblum played clubs upon winning his spade tricks. I doubt any sequence of plays could induce Doub to unblock his CJ, potentially the setting trick, so it made no difference whether Merblum played CA-Cx, or Cx-CA, or Cx-Cx. 3NT was going down one regardless. How very lucky for McDevitt - swap the defenders' C10 and CJ, and he'd be down three. Indeed, had he passed 2NT, Doub might unblock and beat him two. Perhaps Pat saved an undertrick by overbidding! Minus 100 didn't look so bad as a result on this layout.

 

Rothenberg had several chances to get a diamond ruff and beat 3S, so long as Earl reads the D8 as a doubleton rather than a singleton, which he should, on the bidding. But Allan led CA and defended passively thereafter. In due course, after all the trumps were gone, Stiefel finessed the D10 for 140, winning six imps to increase the Doub lead to 44-34.

Board 19 (EW vul, S deals):

.         North
          S-J4
 West     H-108     East
 S-KQ2    D-A54     S-109653
 H-KQ9762 C-AQJ874  H-
 D-108              D-KJ963
 C-96     South     C-1032
          S-A87
          H-AJ543
          D-Q72
          C-K5

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg King     Earl
 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt Doub
 1H       P          2C       P
 2NT      P          3NT      P
 P        P

Against every South's 3NT, Rothenberg led SK, Merblum SQ. Brod out-matchpointed Stiefel 10 tricks to 9, to win an imp and reduce the Doub lead to 44-35.

 

Board 20 (Both vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-Q642
 West     H-KQ864     East
 S-95     D-Q5        S-J1073
 H-952    C-Q6        H-73
 D-A108642            D-J9
 C-J4     South       C-K10853
          S-AK8
          H-AJ10
          D-K73
          C-A972

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

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

Both Wests led the D6, and King got the imp back, scoring 11 tricks to McDevitt's 10. Doub led 45-35.

Board 21 (NS vul, N deals)

.          North
           S-108
 West      H-QJ6     East
 S-AKQJ943 D-KJ1042  S-765
 H-93      C-J94     H-AK1085
 D-Q                 D-865
 C-KQ10    South     C-A2
           S-2
           H-742
           D-A973
           C-87653

 North    East     South      West
 King     Earl     Stiefel    Rothenberg
 McDevitt Doub     Brod       Merblum
 P        1H       P          2S
 P        3S       P          4NT
 P        5H       P          6S
 P        P        P

Both Norths led diamonds against a gimme slam, pushed at 980.

 

Board 22 (EW vul, E deals):

.         North
          S-A9743
 West     H-984     East
 S-       D-987     S-K1085
 H-K1075  C-Q7      H-J63
 D-A64              D-QJ52
 C-K96543 South     C-A2
          S-QJ62
          H-AQ2
          D-K103
          C-J108

 East    South    West       North
 Earl    Stiefel  Rothenberg King
 1D      Double   Redouble   2S
 P       P        3C         P
 3NT     P        P          P

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

Doub led the DQ against McDevitt's 3S, and Pat went down three against a nasty lie of cards, leaving Doub feeling like he should have doubled.

 

At the wheel in an airy 3NT, Earl pitched a heart from dummy on Stiefel's SQ lead, won the SK, and ducked a club to King's CQ. This was the only line for nine tricks, but when a low spade went to the eight and jack and a spade came back, Steve fell from grace and let go one of dummy's clubs. Victor smartly ducked the third spade. Earl won, cashed his CA and took a diamond finesse, but he only had eight tricks and the defenders had retained communications to King's fifth spade. Down one and 6 more imps to Doub, who now led 51-35.

 

Board 23 (Both vul, S deals):

.         North
          S-73
 West     H-764       East
 S-92     D-Q63       S-Q108
 H-K1098  C-AJ754     H-J532
 D-K74                D-1092
 C-Q1086  South       C-K32
          S-AKJ654
          H-AQ
          D-AJ85
          C-9

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg King     Earl
 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt Doub
 1S       P          1NT      P
 3D       P          3S       P
 4S       P          P        P

Rothenberg led a trump against the routine 4S and Stiefel lost only the red kings, making five. Merblum led the C8, and Brod didn't guess which finesses to take using dummy's few entries, so he wound up making only 4. An imp to Doub, now up 52-35.

 

Board 24 (None vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-AQ853
 West     H-KJ9       East
 S-K107   D-952       S-J96
 H-7642   C-72        H-8
 D-KJ                 D-Q1043
 C-K1098  South       C-AQ653
          S-42
          H-AQ1053
          D-A876
          C-J4

 West       North    East     South
 Rothenberg King     Earl     Stiefel
 Merblum    McDevitt Doub     Brod
 P          P        P        P

 

Stiefel and Brod, perhaps depriving the world of bedazzlement at their prowess as declarers in 3H, threw in their respective towels. Perhaps they feared spades.

Board 25 (EW vul, N deals)

.         North
          S-AK872
 West     H-1083     East
 S-QJ96   D-86        S-54
 H-7      C-A86       H-Q652
 D-QJ102              D-AK743
 C-QJ42   South       C-K5
          S-103
          H-AKJ94
          D-95
          C-10973

 North    East     South      West
 King     Earl     Stiefel    Rothenberg
 1S       Double   2H         P
 3H       P        P          3S
 P        P        P
 
 McDevitt Doub     Brod       Merblum
 1S       Double   2H         2NT
 3H       P        P          P

I didn't see Frank and Doug give Patrick ten tricks (Merblum led DQ, then CQ. Doub ill-advisedly unblocked his CK under dummy's ace), because I was watching Rothenberg go down 3 vulnerable tricks in a strange 3S contract at the other table. Even New England's best pairs sometimes bring back a ragged result or two in these long grinding matches. Anyway, four more imps to Doub, and a 56-35 lead.

 

Board 26 (Both vul, E deals):

.         North
          S-10
 West     H-AJ9543  East
 S-KQ642  D-876     S-AJ75
 H-Q      C-AQ3     H-K10
 D-AK10543          D-Q92
 C-7      South     C-10942
          S-983
          H-8762
          D-J
          C-KJ865

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

 Doub    Brod     Merblum    McDevitt
 P       P        1D         1H
 Double  3H       4S         P
 P       P

On different auctions, both North-Souths missed a good save. Two aces, push at 650.

 

Board 27 (None vul, S deals):

.         North
          S-10642
 West     H-KJ6     East
 S-K97    D-J85     S-Q85
 H-874    C-AK5     H-A3
 D-A1062            D-Q743
 C-1064   South     C-J972
          S-AJ3
          H-Q10952
          D-K9
          C-Q83

 South    West       North    East
 Stiefel  Rothenberg King     Earl
 1H       P          1S       P
 1NT      P          4H       P
 P        P

 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt Doub
 1H       P          2C       P
 2NT      P          3NT      P
 P        P

In 4H, Stiefel slowly set up dummy's long spade, which is the best he could do, but that was still down one. Brod's superior 3NT is cold double-dummy, even on an unlikely club opening lead. Winning the actual diamond lead, Geof knocked out the heart ace and had nine tricks, and the 4-4 diamond split meant the defense had only four tricks in time. Ten much-needed imps to DeMartino, who now trailed 56-45.

 

Board 28 (NS vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-K865
 West     H-862     East
 S-AQ107  D-4       S-J9
 H-7      C-KQ984   H-J10953
 D-K10762           D-Q85
 C-732    South     C-J65
          S-432
          H-AKQ4
          D-AJ93
          C-A10

 West       North    East     South
 Rothenberg King     Earl     Stiefel
 P          P        P        1D
 1S         1NT      P        3NT
 P          P        P

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

Merblum led C7, Earl SJ. Brod took his ten tricks, but King let one get away. An imp to DeMartino, now down 56-46.

 

Board 29 (Both vul, N deals)

.         North
          S-A
 West     H-AJ943   East
 S-J1073  D-AQ7     S-962
 H-K10    C-J765    H-Q852
 D-K852             D-J10943
 C-Q103   South     C-9
          S-KQ854
          H-76
          D-6
          C-AK842

 North    East     South      West
 King     Earl     Stiefel    Rothenberg
 1H       P        1S         P
 2C       P        2D         P
 3NT      P        4C         P
 4D       P        6C         P
 P        P
  
 McDevitt Doub     Brod       Merblum
 1H       P        1S         P
 2C       P        3D         P
 4D       P        6C         P
 P        P

King's 3NT jump over Stiefel's amorphous fourth-suit 2D implied extras, but wasn't forcing. Then Victor's cue-bid over the forcing 4C served as a booster rocket. Brod thought 3D was a splinter bid, showing good clubs and short diamonds. I think McDevitt wasn't sure about 3D, but liked his hand in any case. Brod may have been worried that he'd be taken out of clubs to diamonds and was hot after the club slam anyway, so he clarified. Well bid by the North-Souths, I think. The CQ didn't drop but the diamond finesse worked. A push for 1370.

 

Board 30 (None vul, E deals):

.          North
           S-AQJ7
 West      H-864       East
 S-85      D-KJ1083    S-963
 H-A105    C-Q         H-Q92
 D-A764                D-Q95
 C-A962    South       C-KJ85
           S-K1042
           H-KJ73
           D-2
           C-10743

 East    South    West       North
 Earl    Stiefel  Rothenberg King
 P       P        1D         1S
 P       2S       P          P
 P

 Doub    Brod     Merblum    McDevitt
 P       P        1NT        2C*
 P       2D*      P          P
 P

King-Stiefel coped with Rothenberg's diamond opening while Brod-McDevitt went astray over Merblum's weak notrump. Brod thought McDevitt's 2C showed a single suited hand. 2S made two overtricks, 2D two undertricks, and 7 imps floated to Doub, who now led 63-46.

 

Board 31 (NS vul, S deals):

.         North
          S-1097653
 West     H-J       East
 S-J4     D-Q5      S-Q2
 H-KQ1043 C-AK84    H-9872
 D-AK86             D-1042
 C-QJ     South     C-7653
          S-AK8
          H-A65
          D-J973
          C-1092

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

 Brod     Merblum    McDevitt Doub
 1D       1H         1S       P
 2S       P          4S       P
 P        P

Brod's opening bid led easily to a reasonable vulnerable game. The South cards aren't opened vulnerable in the King-Stiefel style, and Earl's silence plus Rothenberg's obstruction gave them too much to think about to recover. King's 3S was not invitational - they play that 3H is the only game try here. Stiefel might go to four anyway, as he has a super passed hand, but it sure sounded like Allan had a real two-suiter and the black suits wouldn't behave. You take inferences from opponents' bidding at your own risk, however. Everything fell down for 11 tricks and 10 imps to DeMartino, now down only six, 63-56.

 

Board 32 (EW vul, W deals):

.           North
            S-A76
 West       H-109     East
 S-KQ2      D-AKQ8753 S-108
 H-Q3       C-6       H-K765
 D-9                  D-642
 C-AQJ10984 South     C-7532
            S-J9543
            H-AJ842
            D-J10
            C-K

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

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

In a bidding contest like Challenge the Champs, North-South might do best to stop in a partscore. In the real world, our North-South's did better than that.

 

Brod-McDevitt did so by using the customary bridge skills. They bid to the best of the iffy games, 4S. Brod won the singleton diamond lead in dummy and came off with the trump 6, to the S8, S9, and SK. Merblum, who didn't know the CK was singleton, switched to a heart immediately. Brod won HA and pushed through the SJ to make six. Note that 4S can always be made - Merblum's most testing opening lead would be the HQ, which declarer must duck to make his game, but Geof would be up to that. To give declarer a losing option in that spade suit, Doub ought to go up with the ten, trying to look like a man with Q10. But Brod heard the auction and wasn't born yesterday. I doubt he'd be fooled on this deal.

King beat the Champs by playing poker with his 3NT bid, and the spotlight shone on Earl. Surely Victor is ready for clubs, thought Steve. Perhaps he has nine tricks in the minors, but is off five tricks in the majors. So Earl led the five of hearts, and King claimed nine tricks. Two imps to DeMartino, who trailed 63-58 at the half, but surely King had ticked off his opponents, and aggravated opponents might be worth more than two imps later on. Getting hornswoggled like this plays tricks with your head. Trust me, I've been there.

If you've never played at the Hartford Bridge Club, do so the next time you're in West Hartford. They have duplicates every day - see www.hartfordbridgeclub.org. Indeed, a pair game was held in the open room during the first half of this match, but wide table spacing, great acoustics, and polite players meant one hardly noticed. Some of our players went out for a sandwich at halftime, but you really didn't need to, with all the snacks at the club. I stayed and nibbled. The match was so close that I nervously transcribed enough deals so we could reshuffle if there was an overtime and not lose our hand records. I'm going to call the second half boards 33 to 64, although of course I used my second set of boards marked 1 to 32. For the third quarter, I kibitzed King-Gabay against Brod-McDevitt while Becker-DeMartino faced Doub-Merblum in the other room.

Board 33 (none vul, N deals):

 

.         North
          S-Q8632
 West     H-QJ10      East
 S-J9     D-K7        S-A107
 H-843    C-Q82       H-AK96
 D-QJ93               D-108654
 C-AJ53   South       C-4
          S-K54
          H-752
          D-A2
          C-K10976

 North    East    South     West
 Becker   Doub    DeMartino Merblum
 P        P       P         P

 King     Brod    Gabay     McDevitt
 P        1D      P         2D
 P        2H      P         3D
 P        5D      P         P
 P

Doub missed out on an easy 130 by not opening those East cards. Oops, maybe not so easy - Brod alerted McDevitt's 2D as inverted. He expected a better dummy, and thus overbid to 5D down 1. Of all the partnerships in this match, Brod-McDevitt had the least match experience as partners, and it showed here. Two imps to Doub, who led 65-58.

 

Board 34 (NS vul, E deals):

.         North
          S-10832
 West     H-A964      East
 S-7      D-6         S-K96
 H-Q10832 C-AK97      H-75
 D-Q104               D-AKJ932
 C-10543  South       C-82
          S-AQJ54
          H-KJ
          D-875
          C-QJ6

 East    South     West     North
 Doub    DeMartino Merblum  Becker
 1D      1S        P        4S
 P       P         P

 Brod    Gabay     McDevitt King
 1D      1S        P        4D
 P       4S        P        P
 P

Once East opens, the spade finesse is a big favorite, so North-South would want to be in 6S. King made a fine splinter bid, but Gabay austerely nixed. Gee, she had 14 points, all working hard, in a one-level overcall. Perhaps Victor has splintered Sheila on worse hands in the past. Note that this is a bad deal for keycard Blackwood - you won't bid 6S over a 5H response, for fear you're off two aces. Push at 680.

 

Board 35 (EW vul, S deals):

.          North
           S-J10732
 West      H-8        East
 S-98      D-A10753   S-A5
 H-KQ      C-K7       H-J976432
 D-KQ86               D-942
 C-QJ1085  South      C-4
           S-KQ64
           H-A105
           D-J
           C-A9632

 South     West     North  East
 DeMartino Merblum  Becker Doub
 1C        P        1S     P
 2S        P        4S     P
 P         P

 Gabay     McDevitt King   Brod
 1C        P        1S     P
 3S        P        4S     P
 P         P

A routine 4S. Becker made 6 to King's 5, an imp to DeMartino, trailing 65-59.

 

Board 36 (Both vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-
 West     H-109865    East
 S-K97    D-A1043     S-1086542
 H-KQ7    C-KJ74      H-
 D-K9                 D-QJ8752
 C-AQ853  South       C-6
          S-AQJ3
          H-AJ432
          D-6
          C-1092

 West     North  East  South
 Merblum  Becker Doub  DeMartino
 1C       P      1S    2H
 2NT      4H     4S    Double
 P        P      P

 McDevitt King   Brod  Gabay
 1C       P      1S    2H
 Double*  2S     4S    Double
 P        5H     P     P
 Double   P      P     P

The voids came back with a vengeance. No matter how North-South reach their 4H game, East will always save in 4S, and South will double. King mistrusted this and ran to 5H, but McDevitt cashed his CA and had to score two trump tricks for +200.

 

At the other table, Becker nervously sat for the double and pondered DeMartino's lead of the diamond six, covered by dummy's nine. What was going on? Of course, rising and giving Rich a ruff beats the hand one trick, but Steve didn't figure out that the lead was a singleton. He put in the D10 and Doub won the queen to play a trump up, intending to cover South's card. The hand was not over. Rich split with the SJ and dummy won the king, and played another spade. Rich won the queen and switched to a club through the AQ. Doug rose with the ace, a play that should have given his hand away. Doug didn't want to play another trump now, because he could see that Rich would win and tap him with a club. Then if he drew the last trump, he'd only have one left, and Becker would see Rich show out on the second round of diamonds, and know to duck his ace, leaving the lead stranded in dummy, and Doug, with only one trump, wouldn't have transportation to set up his diamonds and then run them. Note that this analysis is faulty - if Doug had gone ahead and driven out the trump ace, ruffed the club return, and drawn the last trump, his diamond spots were good enough that he could afford to jettison the DK, then drive out the DA with a trump to get in with. But, in the heat of battle, Doug didn't see this, and, leaving the third trump in dummy, called for the DK. All Steve had to do was duck his ace. Rich would ruff and draw dummy's last trump, and eventually Steve's DA would set the hand. Instead, Becker won his DA, and now Doub took a tap and drove trumps for only two losers to score +790, 11 imps to Doub, now leading 76-59.

Board 37 (NS vul, N deals)

.         North
          S-Q7432
 West     H-AJ653     East
 S-105    D-QJ        S-K6
 H-1092   C-2         H-74
 D-K642               D-A8753
 C-KJ103  South       C-AQ98
          S-AJ98
          H-KQ8
          D-109
          C-7654

 North    East    South     West
 Becker   Doub    DeMartino Merblum
 P        1D      P         1NT
 P        2C      P         3D
 P        P       P

 King     Brod    Gabay     McDevitt
 P        1D      P         1NT
 2D       P       2S        P
 P        3C      3S        P
 P        P

Gabay knew King had the majors, but he'd passed as dealer, so she made no move towards game. That's very conservative with all her working cards, but she won a swing for missing her vulnerable game, because Becker-DeMartino lost their tongues. Note that the theoretical par on the board is for East-West to take a 300 dive in 5D. As it was, 170 and 110 meant 7 imps to Doub, now leading 83-59.

 

Board 38 (EW vul, E deals):

.          North
           S-10863
 West      H-Q64      East
 S-952     D-J10432   S-KQJ7
 H-J98     C-Q        H-A52
 D-KQ96               D-8
 C-432     South      C-AJ1097
           S-A4
           H-K1073
           D-A75
           C-K865

 East    South     West     North
 Doub    DeMartino Merblum  Becker
 1C      P         1D       P
 1S      P         2C       P
 P       P

 Brod    Gabay     McDevitt King
 1C      P         1D       P
 1S      P         1NT      P
 P       P

The cards lay very well for both partials - you pick up clubs for one loser even with no entry to West's hand. So McDevitt gained an imp for making 9 tricks at notrump against Doub's 10 tricks at clubs, reducing the Doub lead to 83-60.

 

Board 39 (Both vul, S deals):

.         North
          S-A109632
 West     H-4         East
 S-754    D-A95       S-KJ8
 H-AQ98   C-J104      H-K1053
 D-J10643             D-72
 C-6      South       C-Q972
          S-Q
          H-J762
          D-KQ8
          C-AK853

 South     West     North  East
 DeMartino Merblum  Becker Doub
 1C        P        1S     P
 1NT       P        3S     P
 3NT       P        4S     P
 P         P

 Gabay     McDevitt King   Brod
 1C        P        1S     P
 2C        P        2D*    P
 3H        P        3S     P
 3NT       P        5C     P
 P         P

The Souths struggled with an ugly rebid problem over the 1S response. The Norths chased a vul game by bidding more than 2S, then pulled 3NT, which would have made because hearts were 4-4 and you can pick up the clubs. 5C was too much to handle on the D10 lead, and went helplessly down 2. Doub led a heart gainst 4S. Merblum won the HA, switched to his singleton club, and duly got his ruff for down 1. 3 imps to DeMartino, to trail 83-63.

 

Board 40 (None vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-KJ53
 West     H-K4        East
 S-A87    D-K2        S-942
 H-Q762   C-Q8765     H-AJ95
 D-J9653              D-4
 C-K      South       C-J10943
          S-Q106
          H-1083
          D-AQ1087
          C-A2

 West     North  East  South
 Merblum  Becker Doub  DeMartino
 P        1C     P     1D
 P        1S     P     2H
 P        2NT    P     3NT
 P        P      P

 McDevitt King   Brod  Gabay
 P        1C     P     2NT
 P        3NT    P     P
 P

Once the Norths opened their aceless trash, the customary thin 3NT was inevitable. Gabay's 2NT was the old-fashioned forcing variety. McDevitt led a heart and Gabay knew she was going down when Brod put his ace on dummy's king. East won the fourth heart and put a club through, and not having peeked, Sheila ducked for down 2. I think Rich DeMartino did a good thing by protecting the king of hearts in the auction, but it doesn't show up on the scoreboard because Doub led C4, Becker of course ducked in dummy, and a heart came back for the same down 2. Even if Steve had risen dummy's ace, Merblum would put a heart through when he won the spade ace. You ain't making game against this lie cards. No way, no how.

 

Board 41 (EW vul, N deals)

.           North
            S-Q973
 West       H-A       East
 S-A        D-QJ1064  S-J102
 H-KQ987532 C-J52     H-J10
 D-8                  D-A9732
 C-AQ3      South     C-874
            S-K8654
            H-64
            D-K5
            C-K1096

 North    East    South     West
 Becker   Doub    DeMartino Merblum
 P        P       2S        4H
 4S       P       P         5H
 P        P       P

 King     Brod    Gabay     McDevitt
 P        P       1S        Double
 2NT*     3D      P         4H
 4S       P       P         5H
 P        P       P

The five level belongs to the opponents, so they say. Both Souths chirped spades in third seat, both Wests bid heart games in ways indicating they were bidding to make, both Norths smartly sacrificed, both Easts wisely passed the decision to the Wests, both Wests took the push, and both North-Souths gave up. With the club finesse working, 5H pushed at 650. Note that with a good play in trumps, 5S would be a paying dive at 300. That's hard to do.

 

Board 42 (Both vul, E deals):

.         North
          S-A42
 West     H-642       East
 S-Q7     D-J96       S-J93
 H-KJ9    C-8542      H-108
 D-A7532              D-KQ84
 C-K107   South       C-AJ63
          S-K10865
          H-AQ753
          D-10
          C-Q9

 East    South     West     North
 Doub    DeMartino Merblum  Becker
 P       1S        P        2S
 P       P         P

 Brod    Gabay     McDevitt King
 P       1S        P        1NT
 P       2H        P        2S
 P       P         P

An easy club guess makes 4D, 4C, or indeed 4NT East-West, but you have to bid something to make something. The Wests capped their ineffective campaigns of silence with less than stellar leads. Merblum led H9, so DeMartino went +110. Gabay had a chance to push, because McDevitt led the SQ! But of course she won dummy's ace and took a heart finesse for -100 and 5 imps to DeMartino, now trailing 83-68.

 

Board 43 (None vul, S deals):

.           North
            S-65
 West       H-Q1053    East
 S-AK1087   D-K102     S-J9
 H-86       C-A1097    H-9742
 D-65                  D-AJ974
 C-8652     South      C-K3
            S-Q432
            H-AKJ
            D-Q83
            C-QJ4

 South     West     North  East
 DeMartino Merblum  Becker Doub
 1NT       P        2C     P
 2S        P        2NT    P
 P         P

 Gabay     McDevitt King   Brod
 1NT       P        2C     P
 2S        P        3NT    P
 P         P

Merblum led a fourth best S8 to DeMartino's queen. The club finesse lost, and the defense cashed out for down one. McDevitt led an attitude C6. Brod won his king and shifted smartly to spades for down 3, 3 imps to DeMartino, now within 12 at 83-71.

 

Board 44 (NS vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-AQJ654
 West     H-A10      East
 S-K      D-10       S-1072
 H-KQ6    C-K1095    H-953
 D-AJ9874            D-632
 C-Q74    South      C-J632
          S-983
          H-J8742
          D-KQ5
          C-A8

 West     North  East  South
 Merblum  Becker Doub  DeMartino
 1D       1S     P     2D
 P        4D     P     4S
 P        P      P

 McDevitt King   Brod  Gabay
 1D       1S     P     2D
 Double   4S     P     P
 P

The Easts led diamond deuces, and a fortunate and unlikely lie of cards let both Becker and King pick up the spade king, ruff two clubs, and pitch a heart on dummy's diamond winner for matching 680's.

 

Board 45 (Both vul, N deals)

.         North
          S-AJ76542
 West     H-K6        East
 S-Q9     D-J62       S-103
 H-Q1053  C-A         H-J9742
 D-Q94                D-K10853
 C-KJ85   South       C-4
          S-K8
          H-A8
          D-A7
          C-Q1097632

 North    East    South     West
 Becker   Doub    DeMartino Merblum
 1S       P       2C        P
 2S       P       4S        P
 P        P

 King     Brod    Gabay     McDevitt
 1S       P       2C        P
 2S       P       3S        P
 4C       P       4D        P
 4S       P       5H        P
 6S       P       P         P

Merblum led his singleton C4 against 4S, where it hardly mattered, and Becker made six. King received a heart lead from McDevitt against his fair slam. You and I can see several ways for King to take twelve tricks. It works to win dummy's HA and play ace and a diamond, then use the HK and CA to ruff your third diamond and get back to draw trumps. It also works to play on clubs. In fact, HK, SA, CA, SK, and push the CQ through, and you make 7, because dummy still has two red aces for entries. But Victor elected to play HK, CA, SK, C ruff. McDevitt overruffed and the slam was dead. McDevitt had only red cards left, any of which would take out one of dummy's aces and kill the clubs. In fact King went down 2, 13 imps to DeMartino, who had regained the lead in the match, 84-83.

 

Board 46 (None vul, E deals):

.          North
           S-AJ96
 West      H-72        East
 S-3       D-AK9       S-KQ2
 H-A954    C-A982      H-KQJ108
 D-J108752             D-Q43
 C-Q5      South       C-J7
           S-108754
           H-63
           D-6
           C-K10643

 East    South     West     North
 Doub    DeMartino Merblum  Becker
 1H      P         4H       Double
 P       4S        P        P
 P

 Brod    Gabay     McDevitt King
 1H      P         3NT*     Double
 4H      4S        P        P
 P

The Doub team suffered another heavy loss, because McDevitt led his HA, for +50, while Merblum led an inferior DJ, for -420, ten more imps to DeMartino, now up by 11, 94-83.

 

Board 47 (NS vul, S deals):

.          North
           S-Q10832
 West      H-A842    East
 S-AK6     D-J3      S-J94
 H-9       C-QJ      H-KJ6
 D-AQ1095            D-K876
 C-10752   South     C-A93
           S-75
           H-Q10753
           D-42
           C-K864

 South     West     North  East
 DeMartino Merblum  Becker Doub
 P         1D       P      2D
 P         2S       P      2NT
 P         3NT      P      P
 P

 Gabay     McDevitt King   Brod
 P         1D       1S     2S
 P         2NT      P      3NT
 P         P        P

McDevitt's 2NT with a singleton heart wouldn't be everyone's choice, but it worked out fine. King led S3. Pat won dummy's jack, led a diamond to his hand, and a heart to dummy's king, to make 4. DeMartino led the H5, so Doub only made 3, an imp to DeMartino, to lead 95-83.

 

Board 48 (EW vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-QJ4
 West     H-Q652      East
 S-75     D-83        S-A10983
 H-J83    C-A1085     H-A4
 D-J9642              D-7
 C-964    South       C-KJ732
          S-K62
          H-K1097
          D-AKQ105
          C-Q

 West     North  East  South
 Merblum  Becker Doub  DeMartino
 P        P      1S    Double
 P        2H     P     3H
 P        4H     P     P
 P

 McDevitt King   Brod  Gabay
 P        P      1S    Double
 P        1NT    P     3NT
 P        P      P

Doub led his singleton diamond against Becker's 4H. Steve got the kiddies off the street as quickly as possible, then knocked out the spade ace and crossruffed for ten tricks, losing only the spade and two trumps.

 

King's 3NT was in no trouble, and got better when Brod led the club three. King guessed the hearts, and Brod continued another low club, hoping Patrick had the ten. No luck, making 5, an imp to Doub to stop the bleeding at the three-quarter mark, but DeMartino still led 95-84.

There was a brief pause for comparison and strategizing. Eventually Becker-DeMartino opposed Doub-Merblum once again. At the other table, Brod-McDevitt took on King-Stiefel.

Board 49 (None vul, North deals):

.         North
          S-965
 West     H-42      East
 S-AQ     D-J7653   S-K10743
 H-65     C-Q74     H-AQ1087
 D-A109842          D-
 C-A63    South     C-J105
          S-J82
          H-KJ93
          D-KQ
          C-K982

 North    East      South     West
 Merblum  DeMartino Doub      Becker
 P        1S        P         2D
 P        2H        P         3C
 P        3H        P         3S
 P        4S        P         P
 P

 McDevitt Stiefel   Brod      King
 P        1S        P         2D
 P        2H        P         3C
 P        3H        P         3S
 P        3NT       P         4S
 P        P         P

Doub led the C8, Brod the S2. Neither Stiefel nor DeMartino found a way to make 4S - they lost three hearts and a club. I can't find a winning line against best defense either. It's interesting to speculate about 3NT, the obvious alternative. If played by West, a heart opening lead from North beats it. Declarer must finesse with the spades blocked, must duck a club back, and now a second heart severs the two hands. West can't recover by clearing spades and playing DA, Dx to endplay South, because the two rounds of diamonds squeeze dummy. In the remarkable King-Stiefel auction, however, 3NT would be played from the diamond void side. Brod says he would have led the DK. North won't get in twice early enough to play damaging hearts, so I think Stiefel might have made 3NT if he guesses to pitch a heart at trick one and banks on unblocking and running spades and guesses what to do in the red suits in the right order. We'll never know how Stiefel would have played 3NT in practice. Anyway, push.

 

Board 50 (NS vul, E deals):

.          North
           S-J102
 West      H-J97      East
 S-Q953    D-QJ8643   S-A4
 H-AKQ8    C-K        H-1065
 D-AK                 D-752
 C-Q64     South      C-A8732
           S-K876
           H-432
           D-109
           C-J1095

 East      South     West    North
 DeMartino Doub      Becker  Merblum
 P         P         2NT     P
 3C        P         3D      P
 3H        P         3S      P
 3NT       P         P       P

 Stiefel   Brod      King    McDevitt
 P         P         2NT     P
 3NT       P         P       P

Becker-DeMartino play puppet Stayman over 2NT, so they can check for both four and five card majors. King won the diamond lead, went to dummy's spade ace, and led a club to the queen and king. A diamond came back, and now he needed the diamonds 6-2, the hearts to come in, and the spade king onside to recover nine tricks. That all came off, and Victor lost only three clubs and a spade. Whew! Becker played towards dummy's CA at trick two. When North's CK popped up, Steve took ten tricks without breathing hard to win an imp and up DeMartino's lead to 96-84.

 

Board 51 (EW vul, S deals):

.           North
            S-Q6432
 West       H-K4    East
 S-1085     D-AJ2   S-K9
 H-J1097632 C-KJ2   H-
 D-85               D-KQ10974
 C-Q        South   C-A9873
            S-AJ7
            H-AQ85
            D-63
            C-10654

 South     West    North    East
 Doub      Becker  Merblum  DeMartino
 P         P       1S       2NT
 3D*       P       3S       P
 P         P

 Brod      King    McDevitt Stiefel
 1C        P       1S       2D
 Double*   P       4S       P
 P         P

Once Brod opened that South collection, game was certain to be reached. McDevitt picked a bad time to duck Stiefel's Rusinow DQ opening lead. King played an attitude D5, Stiefel switched brightly to ace and nine of clubs, and a nasty defensive crossruff led quickly to down three. Winning the DA and taking the spade finesse would have brought home the bacon. I don't know how Merblum played 3S, but he made 5 for 8 imps, and reduced DeMartino's lead to 96-92.

 

Board 52 (Both vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-KQJ87
 West     H-QJ3       East
 S-3      D-1092      S-A1052
 H-K542   C-K5        H-1097
 D-AK843              D-QJ7
 C-AJ9    South       C-1043
          S-964
          H-A86
          D-65
          C-Q8762

 West    North    East      South
 Becker  Merblum  DeMartino Doub
 1D      1S       P         2S
 Double  P        2NT       P
 P       P

 King    McDevitt Stiefel   Brod
 1D      1S       1NT       2S
 2NT     P        P         P

If you were in 3NT, you could make it on best play with all the defenders' cards in favorable positions, but in 2NT, neither declarer took any further finesses once they had eight tricks. Push.

Board 53 (NS vul, N deals)

.          North
           S-A10654
 West      H-AQ      East
 S-9873    D-K842    S-J
 H-J1084   C-KJ      H-K9763
 D-Q10               D-653
 C-1064    South     C-9753
           S-KQ2
           H-52
           D-AJ97
           C-AQ82

 North    East      South     West
 Merblum  DeMartino Doub      Becker
 1S       P         2C        P
 2D       P         2S        P
 2NT      P         3D        P
 3H       P         6D        P
 P        P

 McDevitt Stiefel   Brod      King
 1S       P         2C        P
 3NT      P         6S        P
 P        P

Both North-South pairs bid to fine slams. McDevitt got a heart lead, so he didn't need the diamonds to make 7. Merblum got a club lead and played trumps from the top to take all the tricks. Two imps to DeMartino, who led 98-92.

 

Board 54 (EW vul, E deals):

.          North
           S-K1054
 West      H-AQJ6    East
 S-8       D-K       S-
 H-1098532 C-10643   H-74
 D-854               D-AQ9763
 C-AQ8     South     C-KJ972
           S-AQJ97632
           H-K
           D-J102
           C-5

 East      South     West    North
 DeMartino Doub      Becker  Merblum
 1D        4S        P       P
 5C        P         5D      5S
 P         P         P

 Stiefel   Brod      King    McDevitt
 2D        2S        3D      4D
 5C        5H        6D      6S
 P         P         P

McDevitt's 4D slam suggestion was aggressive with his misplaced king of diamonds. Brod, who had bid only 2S with an eight-bagger not vul, envisioned Pat with perhaps a stiff diamond and three key cards, or maybe a diamond void with two. Geof would have Blackwooded had he gotten the chance, but Stiefel foiled this by following through on his minor suit strategy. Brod tried to make a sort of last-train type slam try with his 5H, but I think he fooled both Victor and Pat into picturing a major two-suiter. Victor thought Stiefel might have something like the hand he held, but perhaps with a heart void instead of a spade void. He took a remarkable vul-against-not 6D save that was booked to lose 2 imps for down 2 if doubled. Neither North nor South would expect to score a trump trick with their holdings on this auction, and Brod's murky treatment of the South cards talked the feisty McDevitt into bidding a slam off two aces and losing 11 imps. This is too fancy an auction for me to judge - I leave that to readers - but our match had a new leading team, Doub, by 103-98.

 

Board 55 (Both vul, S deals):

.         North
          S-K108
 West     H-A7        East
 S-J9     D-KQJ1075   S-AQ532
 H-KJ9864 C-J7        H-Q103
 D-A3                 D-942
 C-1084   South       C-92
          S-764
          H-52
          D-86
          C-AKQ653

 South     West    North    East
 Doub      Becker  Merblum  DeMartino
 P         2H      3D       3H
 3S*       P       4D       P
 P         P

 Brod      King    McDevitt Stiefel
 P         2H      3D       3H
 4C        P       4D       P
 P         P

Doub's 3S showed clubs, so the auctions are equivalent. Both Easts led hearts. Becker-DeMartino found their spade ruff and let nothing get away, for down 2. King-Stiefel only beat 4D one, 3 imps to DeMartino, reducing the Doub lead to 103-101.

 

Board 56 (None vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-K3
 West     H-KQ986    East
 S-1094   D-842       S-J865
 H-A2     C-J52       H-7
 D-QJ6                D-AK105
 C-108743 South       C-AQ96
          S-AQ72
          H-J10543
          D-973
          C-K

 West    North    East      South
 Becker  Merblum  DeMartino Doub
 P       P        1D        1H
 1NT     2D*      P         2H
 P       P        3C        P
 P       3H       P         P
 4C      P        P         P

 King    McDevitt Stiefel   Brod
 P       P        1D        1H
 2D      3D       P         3H
 P       P        P

 

King led his DQ and this time King-Stiefel took all their tricks, so Brod was down 1. Understandably, Doub didn't find the killing low spade lead against 4C. He led the HJ, and DeMartino won dummy's ace and came off a club. DeMartino would make 5 by going up ace, but understandably he finessed his queen. Now Doub could beat 4C two tricks with a low spade out, but understandably he continued hearts. Maybe Merblum should have played his HK under dummy's ace at trick one, as a suit preference for spades. Rich ruffed and could still make the hand by guessing trumps, but understandably, he played his ace, a round too late. One of dummy's spades went away on the long diamond, but that was still down 1 and 3 imps to Doub, to lead 106-101.

Board 57 (EW vul, N deals)

.         North
          S-J73
 West     H-542     East
 S-K852   D-AJ106   S-AQ1064
 H-AQ8    C-Q102    H-J763
 D-KQ               D-42
 C-K843   South     C-J6
          S-9
          H-K109
          D-98753
          C-A975

 North    East      South     West
 Merblum  DeMartino Doub      Becker
 P        P         P         1NT
 P        2C        P         2S
 P        4S        P         P
 P

 McDevitt Stiefel   Brod      King
 P        P         P         1C
 P        1S        P         3S
 P        4S        P         P
 P

All roads led to a routine vulnerable 4S. The club ace was right, and both declarers avoided the trap of stripping the hand and tossing South in with the third heart to give themselves a guess when he underleads in clubs. Push at 620.

 

Board 58 (Both vul, E deals):

.           North
            S-A9
 West       H-863     East
 S-KQ107632 D-K642    S-54
 H-102      C-KJ109   H-AQJ94
 D-A103               D-7
 C-5        South     C-Q8764
            S-J8
            H-K75
            D-QJ985
            C-A32

 East      South     West    North
 DeMartino Doub      Becker  Merblum
 P         P         3S      P
 P         P         P

 Stiefel   Brod      King    McDevitt
 P         P         3S      P
 4S        P         P       P

Look at Stiefel's remarkable raise! Both Norths led a zero-or-two higher C10, which held the trick. As the cards lay, the only defense that beats 4S is for McDevitt to play ace and another trump immediately, and Brod to duck Victor's first heart finesse. This doesn't have to be a smooth duck - ducking beats the hand even if Geof gives the show away. But McDevitt was worried declarer had something like KJ10xxxx Kxx xx x, or KQ10xxxx Kx xxx x, where releasing the trump ace would be fatal. So Patrick tried the S9 at trick two. Nice try, but not good enough. Victor won and took a heart finesse, and even the smoothest of ducks wouldn't avail, as Victor would surely take his diamond ruff next. Brod did the best he could by winning his HK and switching to a diamond, but Victor ruffed one diamond and pitched the other on the third heart before ruffing a club to hand to play trumps. Would Brod have done better to win his CA at trick one and play a trump himself? Both King and McDevitt would infer Geof had the HK to make this play, but perhaps Pat would think the CK was cashing and go wrong in another way. It's hard to say. Becker also made four at the other table, but Stiefel earned 11 game bonus imps for Doub, who widened their lead to 117-101 with six boards to play.

 

Board 59 (None vul, S deals):

.         North
          S-K87653
 West     H-Q1085   East
 S-QJ     D-KJ      S-A109
 H-AK4    C-9       H-J762
 D-AQ76             D-942
 C-KJ83   South     C-A105
          S-42
          H-93
          D-10853
          C-Q7642

 South     West    North    East
 Doub      Becker  Merblum  DeMartino
 P         2NT     P        3C
 P         3D      P        3H
 P         3NT     P        P
 P

 Brod      King    McDevitt Stiefel
 P         2NT     P        3NT
 P         P       P

Becker-DeMartino went through their puppet routine again, reaching the same inevitable 3NT as King-Stiefel. Merblum led a spade, McDevitt a heart, but both declarers scored 10 tricks for a push.

 

Board 60 (NS vul, W deals):

.         North
          S-J96
 West     H-K9852   East
 S-1084   D-103     S-Q73
 H-J7     C-865     H-Q3
 D-K952             D-AQ874
 C-Q742   South     C-1093
          S-AK52
          H-A1064
          D-J6
          C-AKJ

 West    North    East      South
 Becker  Merblum  DeMartino Doub
 P       P        2D        Double
 3D      P        P         Double
 P       3H       P         4H
 P       P        P

 King    McDevitt Stiefel   Brod
 P       P        1NT       Double
 2C      2D*      P         3C
 P       3H       P         4H
 P       P        P

Both non-vul East-Wests tried to disrupt the auction, Becker-DeMartino with an off-shape weak 2 and raise, King-Stiefel with a 10-12 notrump and runout. But both North-Souths powered to 4H, where they drew trumps and set up a long spade for a club pitch. Brod wasn't sure whether 2D was a transfer, but he shakily coped. Push for 620.

 

Board 61 (Both vul, N deals)

.         North
          S-QJ85
 West     H-A842    East
 S-AK3    D-76      S-10942
 H-Q76    C-A102    H-953
 D-QJ852            D-10
 C-73     South     C-Q9865
          S-76
          H-KJ10
          D-AK943
          C-KJ4

 North    East      South     West
 Merblum  DeMartino Doub      Becker
 P        P         1D        P
 1H       P         2H        P
 2S       P         2NT       P
 3NT      P         P         P

 McDevitt Stiefel   Brod      King
 1C       P         1D        P
 1H       P         2S*       P
 2NT      P         3NT       P
 P        P         P

Doub's auction implied a strong notrump with three hearts. Brod's 2S was fourth suit forcing. But any rational auction would end in the customary 3NT. Stiefel led an inefective spade deuce, Becker an ineffective DQ, but they needed divine intervention to beat 3NT on this deal. The declarers both guessed one out of two queens in the rounded suits, and made 4 for another push.

 

Board 62 (None vul, E deals):

.          North
           S-QJ
 West      H-J942      East
 S-AK964   D-A106      S-10832
 H-63      C-J975      H-AKQ10
 D-9843                D-Q
 C-Q8      South       C-A643
           S-75
           H-875
           D-KJ752
           C-K102

 East      South     West    North
 DeMartino Doub      Becker  Merblum
 1H        P         1S      P
 3S        P         4S      P
 P

 Stiefel   Brod      King    McDevitt
 1C        P         1S      P
 2S        P         3D      P
 3H        P         4S      P
 P         P

 

DeMartino opened in his powerful 4-card major. Stiefel's 2S raise showed a good hand. In the inevitable 4S, both declarers made the restricted choice play in trumps, to hold themselves to four for a push at 420.

 

Board 63 (NS vul, S deals):

.         North
          S-A1074
 West     H-42      East
 S-KQ63   D-93      S-82
 H-K1093  C-A10986  H-A875
 D-QJ87             D-54
 C-7      South     C-KQJ53
          S-J95
          H-QJ6
          D-AK1062
          C-42

 South     West    North    East
 Doub      Becker  Merblum  DeMartino
 Brod      King    McDevitt Stiefel
 P         P       P        P

Had Becker-DeMartino known they were down 16 with two boards to play, one of them might have opened here. They can make 110 in 2H and defeat anything North-South bid over that.

 

Board 64 (EW vul, W deals):

.           North
            S-QJ6532
 West       H-1094    East
 S-94       D-86      S-A8
 H-Q765     C-K6      H-J8
 D-74                 D-AKJ10932
 C-AJ987    South     C-Q4
            S-K107
            H-AK32
            D-Q5
            C-10532

 West    North    East      South
 Becker  Merblum  DeMartino Doub
 P       2S       3NT       4S
 4NT     P        P         P

 King    McDevitt Stiefel   Brod
 P       2S       3D        3S
 P       P        P

Stiefel cashed two diamonds and shifted to the CQ. King won his CA and played another club to McDevitt's king. McDevitt played a trump and Stiefel won and played another. Curtains. Patrick ran trumps, keeping both of dummy's clubs. With five cards left, he held S-xx and H-10xx, dummy H-AKx C-10x, and Victor H-Qxx C-J9. The next to last trump, pitching dummy's low heart, trump-squeezed Victor for the ninth trick. Victor could have avoided this pickle by ducking the CQ return, and Stiefel could have broken it up by switching to hearts on winning the spade ace. Minus 140 was a wretched result for King-Stiefel, misdefending to let a partial make when they had nine tricks at notrump. When DeMartino bid his vulnerable game at the other table, Doub wisely saved in 4S. Becker should have doubled this for 300 and 10 imps. Instead, Steve took the push to 4NT. Doub led his HA and switched to spades. Rich won and ran his diamonds, but Doub-Merblum have discarded in these positions before, and they held the fort all the way for down one. An imp to DeMartino, but the match to Doub. I make the final score 117-102, but knowing the result of the match, the players never formally agreed on the score. They just congratulated each other all around, the losers wishing the winners luck at the summer nationals.

 

So Mr. Impressionist, how would you rate the contestants? Well, nobody was perfect - nobody ever is in 64 board matches. Who am I to rate them? After all, both teams thrashed mine back in the round-robin. However as narrator, I get to see all the cards. Call me Deep Finesse - I'll give kudos where I please. For the winners, Doub-Merblum were their usual very competent selves, and they played throughout. I make them best-in-show. For the losers, I thought Becker-DeMartino did best. In fact, I think they were the second best pair overall. Do readers agree?

I want to thank my wife Ann for recording auctions and opening leads at the other table, and several of the players for helping fix errata. Any remaining errors are mine alone. Thanks everybody for letting me watch, and good luck to all four of New England's Grand National teams in Nashville.

 

Other News

The Senior Regional was held in North Falmouth, MA April 25-29, 2007, and results have been posted on the results page. The Summer Regional will be in Sturbridge MA June 20-24 at the Sturbridge Host Hotel. The District 25 tournament committee is making some schedule changes for 2007. The biggest is game times of 10 AM and 3 PM for senior events. There will be Compact Knockouts at the Summer Regional. Don't assume 2007 tournament schedules will be the same as 2006. The flyer can be found on the June calendar page. See you there.