NEBridge - buzz0512


The Buzz for May 2012

This month's Buzz is a detailed account of the district 25 GNT final match in the Championhip Flight (unlimited masterpoints), held May 6, 2012 at the Bridge Spot in Woburn MA. If you haven't played at the Bridge Spot, plan to do so. It's an excellent venue.

Back in February at Sturbridge MA, a qualifying round-robin of nine board matches was held for our district's top flight, with four teams qualifying by victory points for 64-board semifinal matches. The semifinal winners were five-handed Panagopoulos

(left to right, Bob Woodard, Dean Panagopoulos, Steve Gladyszak, Melody Bi, and Richard Freedman) and (sorry - no picture) four-handed Binder  (Rick Binder, Bill Braucher, Kevin O'Donnell, and Alan Watson). The Panagopoulos team started the 64-board final with a 12-imp carryover from the round-robin match.

For the Binder team, Kevin and Alan play their style of natural bidding, Bill and Rick their homegrown strong club. The Panagopoulos team lines up several ways. Melody playes standard with either Steve or Richard, while Dean plays Kaplan-Sheinwold with Richard, or Polish Club with Bob.

I've competed in the top flight finals before, and I've reported finals before, but this is the first time I've done both. All memoirs are self-serving even when they try not to be, dating back to Caeser's Gallic Wars (even though the Romans were an A team playing in a B flight). So I hope readers will forgive any subdued reporting of my many errors.

.
   Board 1
   None vul    North
   N deals     K3
               Q1083
     West      J765         East
     J872     K85          AQ
     AK96                   J752     
     AK3      South         102
     J6       109654       A10432
               4
               Q984      
               Q97

 South     West      North       East
 Richard   Kevin     Melody      Alan
 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 -         -         P           P
 P         1NT       P           2
 P         2        P           4
 P         P         P

1NT is 15-17 in Polish, so both East-Wests reached the normal 4 via Stayman. Both Norths led diamonds. Double-dummy, declarer can make five by ducking a club and playing cleverly thereafter (watch out - you can't set up and run clubs, as the third round of diamonds taps dummy). In practice, both Kevin and Bob made 420. This first-deal push preserved Panagopoulos' 12-0 lead. We weren't using guide cards, and apparently this board was played with Melody North. She was South the rest of the quarter.

.
   Board 2
   NS vul      North
   E deals     K953
               AK3
     West      J743         East
     862      KQ           QJ10
     QJ7                    9852     
     52       South         KQ
     A8742    A74          J963
               1064
               A10986      
               105

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         -         -           P
 P         P         1NT         P
 2        P         2          P
 2NT       P         3NT         P
 P         P

 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 -         -         -           P
 P         P         1          P
 1        P         1NT         P
 3NT       P         P           P

Richard's 1NT was 15-17, and in their methods Melody had to go through Stayman to invite in notrump. My 1 was 16+, and we employ two artificial semi-positives: 1, about 6-7 points, forcing to 1NT or two of a suit, and here 1, about 8-9, forcing to 2NT or three of a suit. My 1NT was forcing, balanced, and unlimited, and Rick said he liked his dummy by jumping to 3NT.

Neither East found the killing club lead - they both led the Q. The declarers won and played diamonds, relieved that they were making their contracts. Both Easts continued spades. I won and played a spade right back. Dean shifted to the 9, I won, and led the K to Bob's ace for 630.

Richard ducked the second spade and the defense continued spades. He won, led a diamond to dummy, snuck a club through, and cashed all his winners, catching Alan in a heart-club squeeze for 660. An imp to Panagopoulos, who now led 13-0.

.
   Board 3
   EW vul      North
   S deals     K532
               J87
     West      J75          East
     6        AJ6          Q10987
     4                      K1053   
     AK108    South         Q2
     K1075432 AJ4          Q8
               AQ962
               9643      
               9

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 1        2        3          P
 3        4        P           P
 Double    P         P           P

 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 1        2        Double      3
 P         5        P           P
 P

Double-dummy, North-South make only eight tricks in hearts on a club lead, but in practice nine are more likely after the K.

Bob's 5 was too high. Rick won my heart lead and played A, . Bob ruffed and led a club to the queen and a club. I won and played another heart. Bob eventually got the diamonds wrong as well, leading to his ten for down three.

At the other table, my guess is Melody thought Richard's pass was forcing after his cuebid. That's a bad agreement to have if you cuebid so light, as you don't want to double many partscores into game. Melody won the heart lead and returned the 9. Had Alan covered with the ten, Richard would surely play A, club, and Alan could possibly make his contract by playing for the J to drop or possibly running trumps to squeeze South out of a diamond. In fact, Alan let the club run to the queen, and ruffed a diamond for down one. Binder won 2 imps for 150 vs. 100, and now trailed 13-2.

.
   Board 4
   Both vul    North
   W deals     QJ102
               Q74
     West      742          East
     K874     AJ8          A3
     KJ986                  A102   
     K8       South         A10953
     K9       965          753
               53
               QJ6      
               Q10642

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         1        P           2
 P         2NT       P           4

 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 -         1        P           2
 P         2        P           4
 P         P         P

Alan's default rebid was 2NT, Bob's 2. Both Norths led the Q. Bob ruffed two spades in dummy and led a club to his king, losing two clubs and the Q for 620. Early in the play, Alan ran a heart to North's Q and Richard tried a desperate underlead in clubs, hoping Melody had the king. Alan scored 680, 2 imps to Binder, now down 13-4.

.
   Board 5
   NS vul      North
   N deals     Q84
               763
     West      QJ9          East
     K92      AJ93         J65
     KJ42                   A98   
     1043     South         8765
     K62      A1073        Q107
               Q105
               AK2     
               854

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 1        P         1NT         P
 P         P

 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 1NT       P         P           P

Kevin led the 5 to Alan's king, so Richard had 7 tricks. Alan switched a club to Kevin's ten. Richard ducked the Q continuation, risking his contract as the cards lie, but a third club meant 120.

Rick played from the other side, Bob led a heart, and the defense cashed four of those. Rick had no legitimate chance. Had he discarded clubs, a club shift would beat him. In fact he let go spades, and subsequently tried a club to the nine himself, going down one to lose six imps and trail 19-4.

.
   Board 6
   EW vul      North
   E deals     J64
               854
     West      Q1043        East
     Q10      974          A872
     Q932                   J106  
     AJ52     South         K76
     AQ5      K953         K32
               AK7
               98     
               J1086

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 -         -         -           P
 P         1NT       P           2
 P         2        P           3NT
 P         P         P

Both Norths led a diamond, so nine tricks were assured via heart establishment. Bob found an overtrick to win an imp for 630 vs. 600 and so Panagopoulos led 20-4.

.
   Board 7
   Both vul    North
   S deals     K5
               K82
     West      K10863      East
     QJ942    843          3
     J7                     AQ643  
     52       South         AQ74
     Q1052    A10876       AK7
               1095
               J9     
               J96

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 P         P         P           1
 P         1        P           3
 P         3NT       P           P
 P
 
 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 P         P         P           1
 P         1        P           1
 P         1        P           2
 P         2        P           2NT
 P         3NT       P           P
 P

Dean's 1 was Polish: either a weak notrump, a good hand with long clubs, or any big hand. 1 was negative, and 1 was ambiguous and not necessarily forcing. 2 showed five, thus a big hand. Fancy, but it rightsided the notrump, unless a spade lead would be damaging. Rick led the 9, Richard the 6, but both declarers knocked out the K for 630.

.
   Board 8
   None vul    North
   W deals     J73
               K742
     West      63           East
     10862    6532         AKQ
     J96                    A105  
     A105     South         K974
     874      954          AQ9
               Q83
               QJ82    
               KJ10

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         P         P           2
 P         2        P           2NT
 P         3        P           3
 P         3NT       P           P
 P
 
 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 -         P         P           1
 P         1        P           2NT
 P         3NT       P           P
 P

Neither the standard 2 nor the Polish 1auction was revealing. Melody led a passive 9. There are ways to ten tricks from here, but Kevin didn't find them and settled for nine. Rick led the 2. Dean won cheaply in hand, cashed the spade tops, and led a diamond up, Rick splitting. Dummy's A won, and Dean ditched the 9 on the thirteener spade, then ran the 9 to Rick's Q. Endplayed in three suits, Rick tried a heart, but Dean took two of those plus the K, then threw Rick in with the last diamond for 460, winning two imps to lead 22-4.

.
   Board 9
   EW vul      North
   N deals     J105
               43
     West      103          East
     AQ8      K86532       K9764
     QJ9                    A1062  
     AJ9542   South         76
     4        32           Q9
               K875
               KQ8    
               AJ107

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         -         P           P
 1        1        3          Double
 P         4        P           4
 P         P         P       
 
 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 -         -         P           P
 1NT       2        P           P
 P

Bob's 2 partial was boring. Our defense was two rounds of clubs. Bob ruffed, played ace and a trump, and eventually discarded hearts on spades for 130. A heart lead might have held him to three (but not double-dummy).

Deep Finesse defeats Kevin's exciting 4 - underlead the A to North's king for a heart back. Not very realistic. Melody led a trump. Declarer won in dummy and led a club. Melody won and led another trump, won in dummy for a losing heart finesse. Melody won her K and returned a heart, and declarer was doomed. If he drew trumps he'd lose a club and a diamond. When he tried a diamond instead, Melody won and gave Richard a heart ruff - down one to lose six more imps and trail 28-4.

Declarer can make 4 in several ways after the trump lead. My favorite is to win the A in dummy and lead a low diamond. The defenders have to tap dummy or declarer will set up and run diamonds. However that dummy tap is a trick for declarer. He can then cash Q, A, K, A, and trump a diamond, then lead a heart up, losing just a trick in each side suit. A heart through before the dummy tap is no better for the defense.

As the cards lie, declarer could also have made it after the second defensive trump play by leading J from dummy instead of trying that premature heart finesse. Melody wins, but has no third trump to play, so declarer has prepared the way back to his hand after ruffing a club. In fact, by Deep Finesse standards, Richard erred on the club play from dummy. If he rises K to play a heart, the deal is back to the double-dummy way to defeat 4. This was one of several very interesting declarer play problems in this match.

.
   Board 10
   Both vul    North
   E deals     53
               1053
     West      10987       East
     AQ9842   AJ93        J
     AJ74                  KQ6  
     Q        South        J432
     76       K1076       K8542
               982
               AK65    
               Q10

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         -         -           P
 1        1        P           1NT
 P         2        P           P
 P
 
 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 -         -         -           P
 1        1        2          Double
 P         3        P           4
 P         P         P

4-3 fits are hard to play and hard to defend. Here the defense started with the 10 to the K and a trump back. Bob won in dummy, ran the J, led a trump to hand, ruffed a spade, ruffed a diamond, and drew trumps, but the spades didn't fall on his ace. He had no more trumps, so he couldn't establish spades. He eventually scored dummy's K, but that was down two vs. the 140 made in the safe 2 at the other table, 200 and eight imps to Binder, who trailed 28-12.

Double-dummy, 4 was cold: at trick three, overtake the J with the Q, ruff a spade, overtake in trumps and draw them, keeping the thirteener, then play A and a spade to South, who either has to set up dummy's J or K. A very tough hand for Bob to declare.

.
   Board 11
   None vul    North
   S deals     6543
               K52
     West      K5          East
     K        AQ83        QJ1072
     10876                 A93
     AQ87643  South        92
     7        A98         J42
               QJ4
               J10    
               K10965

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 P         P         1          1
 2        3        P           P
 4        P         P           P
 
 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 P         P         1NT         P
 2        3        P           P
 Double    P         3          P
 P         P

I'm still kicking myself over board 11. The defenses didn't slip, so 4 was down one, 3 down 2. North-South can defeat 3 if they lead hearts before declarer can play spades, but any slip and declarer makes it - too close for doubling partscores at imps, at least for me. No, my regret is that I opened the North cards. We play 1NT as a good 12 to 15. I'm conservative, and North's is not a good twelve by my lights. Had I stayed in character and passed, our table would have thrown this deal in. But white pockets in third seat fatally tempted me. Mea culpa - two imps to Panagopoulos, who led 30-12.

.
   Board 12
   NS vul      North
   W deals     J1085
               109
     West      J7          East
     K7       AQJ84       432
     863                   752
     AQ10964  South        852
     73       AQ96        K952
               AKQJ4
               K3  
               106

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         2        P           P
 Double    P         3          P
 4NT       P         5          P
 5        P         P           P
 
 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 -         P         P           P
 1        1        1          P
 2        P         3          P
 3        P         4          P
 P         P

On board 12, with all cards offside, the only makeable game is 4 by South. If West leads a club, declarer rises and plays four rounds of hearts discarding both of dummy's diamonds. The fourth heart gets ruffed, but declarer will lose only the black kings thereafter on best play. No other defense works either.

That might happen if South gets to open 1 in fourth seat and North makes a negative double of a 2 overcall, but it was impossible to rightside 4 at either of the actual tables. At ours, the 1 response was artificial and systemic - strong semipositive, and the rest was natural. At the other table, Alan's weak 2 opening made Richard the doomed declarer. Melody surely overvalued the South cards by bursting into keycard - the K turned out to be as worthless as the auction indicated. The matching diamond opening leads held North to nine tricks, down one for me, down two for Richard, three imps to Binder, who trailed 30-15.

.
   Board 13
   Both vul    North
   N deals     AJ3
               Q82
     West      105         East
     10985    QJ1098      KQ62
     J10743                6
     QJ       South        A72
     A4       74          K6532
               AK95
               K98643  
               7

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         -         P           1
 1        Double    1NT         P
 2        2        P           2
 P         P         P
 
 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 -         -         P           2
 P         2        P           P
 P

Vul at imps, you have to open East's 12 points, despite the poor spots. You have the necessary honor tricks, all well positioned in a nice 5431 shape. No problem if you have a natural 1 opening available, as Alan and Kevin demonstrated by scoring 110 in 2.

For we artificial clubbers, it's harder. Precision opens an amorphous diamond, and would survive here. Rick and I would try a 1 opening, also surviving. But the 2 opening is prescribed in Polish. West's 2 was nonforcing and went down 3 (we can beat it four double-dummy, and passing 2 isn't much better). 300 meant ten imps to Binder, who now trailed 30-25.

.
   Board 14
   None vul    North
   E deals     KJ985
               85
     West      K5          East
     Q42      Q952        A1073
     73                    K64
     J93      South        Q864
     AJ1084   6           K7
               AQJ1092
               A1072  
               62

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         -         -           1
 1        P         1          P
 2        P         P           P
 
 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 -         -         -           1
 1        Double    1          2
 3        P         P           P

Board 14 was pushed at 140. North can luckily make 3NT on only 20 combined high card points by guessing spades on this very friendly lie of cards, but it's too rich for my blood. I don't understand the Polish auction, as I thought the East hand would open 1. The opponents can't make anything - I guess they were trying to push me into the lucky game!

.
   Board 15
   NS vul      North
   S deals     A10
               AJ84
     West      J97532      East
     Q7642    J           K953
     K632                  Q
     AK4      South        Q6
     10       J8          KQ9653
               10975
               108  
               A8742

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 P         1        2          3
 P         3NT       P           4
 P         P         P
 
 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 P         1        P           3NT
 P         4        P           P
 P

Dean's 3NT was a conventional light splinter, but Bob wasn't interested. Any system would reach this normal doomed 4 contract. Both defenses started with two rounds of clubs, promoting North's trump holding, and nothing could save declarer from down one and a push on this bad lie of cards.

.
   Board 16
   EW vul      North
   W deals     7
               954
     West      J1052       East
     A        Q10986      Q9862
     AKJ763                Q82
     K84      South        AQ973
     J75      KJ10543     
               10
               6  
               AK432

 South     West      North       East
 Melody    Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         1        P           1
 P         3        P           4
 4        P         P           5
 P         5        P           6
 Double    P         P           P
 
 Rick      Bob       Bill        Dean
 -         1        P           1
 P         2        P           3
 P         3        P           4
 P         P         P

The first quarter ended with a bang. East-West will normally make six hearts if they bid it, by ruffing two clubs in dummy. North-South have an 800 dive available in 7, but they can't even make one spade against a tapping defense.

Rick stayed out of the bidding entirely, and Bob took a conservative view in both the bidding and play. I led my singleton spade. Declarer ruffed a club, but then drew trumps and tested diamonds, making 650. Had he crossed in hearts or diamonds to ruff another club, he'd make 680, but that turned out not to matter to the imp score.

At the other table, the same 4 contract was bid, but then Melody couldn't stand it, and offered 800 in 4 doubled, scorned by Kevin, who changed his mind and drove to slam! Melody's double sounded like she had a void somewhere and Richard led a club. Alan ruffed in dummy. Also fearing a void, he drew trumps and cashed A and K. Nope - no voids anywhere! What could Melody have? The only thing he could imagine was her actual shape. With the courage of his convictions, Alan led a diamond and finessed dummy's nine for for 1860!

This was a spectacular result. 15 imps to Binder, the new leader, by 40-30. Note that even if Bob had bid his slam at our table, he was losing ten imps for 1430, five imps even for 1660 (but it would be out of character for Rick to double).

For the second quarter, the Panagopoulos team sat Steve Gladyszak and Melody against Kevin and Alan, while Rick and I played against the Kaplan-Sheinwold methods of Dean and Richard.

 

.
   Board 17
   None vul    North
   N deals     Q753
               Q93
     West      953         East
     8        A87         AJ64
     A10875                J42
     A872     South        J10
     543      K1092       K1062
               K6
               KQ64 
               QJ9

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         P           P
 1        1        Double      Redouble
 1        P         P           2
 2        P         P           P

 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 -         -         P           P
 1NT       P         P           P

In 2, Alan lost two trumps and a trick in each other suit for 110. Dean's 12-14 notrump lost the spade fit, and I led an attitude 5. Winning the king, Dean seemed to lack entries, so he misguessed spades losing to Rick's J, and thus lost three hearts, two spades, a club and a diamond for down one. The fall of the diamonds means that 1NT can be made by playing spades the other way, but that seems a long shot and I don't fault Dean's play of this hand. Four imps to Binder, who led 44-30.

.
   Board 18
   NS vul      North
   E deals     732
               AK9
     West      K75         East
     K64      K1065       AJ95
     1085                  J3
     943      South        A86
     AJ84     Q108        Q973
               Q7642
               QJ102
               2

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         -           1
 P         1NT       P           P
 Double    2        P           P
 P     

 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 -         -         -           1
 P         2        P           P
 P

Both of these partials are down one against best defense, and so it proved for a push at 50. North-South would make 140 at hearts, but neither North-South pair found the suit.

.
   Board 19
   EW vul      North
   S deals     A10763
               K
     West      KQ964       East
     42       Q10         KQ98
     AQJ742                10853
     852      South        J
     A8       J5          KJ63
               96
               A1073
               97542

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 P         1        2          4
 4NT       P         5          P
 P         P
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 P         2        4          4
 5        P         P           P

My 2 was systemic - 10-13 points, 6 or 7 hearts. 4 makes East-West (five if you lean over and peek at the singleton K, but neither Melody nor I lean well). Should somebody double 5? Both Norths showed a spade-diamond two-suiter and might have more pointed cards than a mere ten. Neither East or West is very sure ir's going down - somebody would have to double on general principles. Steve led a trump and the defense got three rounds in to defeat Kevin three. Rick led a heart, so we only beat Richard two. 150 vs. 100 meant a sheepish 2 imps to Panagopoulos, who trailed 44-32.

.
   Board 20
   Both vul    North
   W deals     AQ87
               963
     West      652         East
     J432     K64         1065
     AKQ8                  J102
     KJ       South        A1098
     932      K9          J105
               754
               Q743
               AQ87

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         1        P           1
 P         1        P           2
 P         2        P           2
 P         P         P
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 -         1        P           2
 P         P         P

Both Norths led trumps against two hearts. Kevin and Alan eventually got their six black tricks for down one. At my table, a wheel came off Richard and Dean's defense. I won the heart in hand and played K, J ducked to South, so if they cashed out I'd be down two. Dean won and played K, spade to Q, signal 8 on A, win A, ponder. He tried for a ruff, leading a diamond - curtains! I discarded a club, drew trumps ending in dummy, and discarded my other club on the fourth diamond to make two. Plus 110 meant 5 imps to Binder, who led 49-32.

.
   Board 21
   NS vul      North
   N deals     AJ107
               82
     West      Q63         East
     KQ3      J962        642
     106                   AQ753
     KJ92     South        107
     KQ85     985         A73
               KJ94
               A854
               104

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         1        P           1
 P         1NT       P           2
 P         3NT       P           P
 P
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 -         1NT       P           2
 P         2        P           2NT
 P         3NT       P           P
 P

Steve and Rick put on their rose-colored glasses and made dubious game tries over a weak notrump, and both Melody and I accepted with an aceless 14 high card points. The resulting 3NT contract was hopeless on a normal spade lead. I went down two, Melody down three, two imps to Binder, who led 51-32.

.
   Board 22
   EW vul      North
   E deals     K
               J7
     West      Q9542       East
     Q10984   97643       AJ532
     654                   KQ93
     A7       South        10863
     K105     76          
               A1082
               KJ
               AQJ82

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         -           P
 1NT       P         3          Double
 P         3        P           P
 4        4        Double      P
 P         P           
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 -         -         -           1
 2        3        5          P
 P         Double    P           P
 P

Vul at imps, Rick was going to 4 if Richard hadn't preempted him out of it, and that contract would make on the nose. I couldn't beat 5 doubled three tricks. I led a spade to the ace, and Rick shifted to hearts. Declarer lost a trick in each suit. Had I led ace and a diamond instead, I could win the second club, put Rick in with the A, and score my 10 on a diamond return. However, declarer can throw one heart on that trick, and then two more on the other diamonds. It's 300 either way, the par result.

Kevin's 3 was weak with the minors. Alan could have won 4 imps by letting 3 go for 170, but he competed. Melody changed her mind and bid her vul game. She made this contract doubled, for 790 and 10 imps, so Panagopoulos trailed only 51-42.

.
   Board 23
   Both vul    North
   S deals     K1063
               Q762
     West      J           East
     85       A1065       AQ97
     5                     AJ103
     109832   South        AQ74
     K9432    J42         8
               K984
               K65
               QJ7

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 P         P         P           1
 P         P         Double      1
 1NT       2        P           P
 P
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 P         P         P           1
 P         1        P           1
 P         2        P           P
 P

I don't know Melody and Steve's raise methods in the minors, but apparently Melody's hand is too weak for any of them. South led a diamond, but Steve won his Q, played a club, and scored 11 tricks by taking a spade finesse and crossruffing.

Rick and I have disagreed over how to handle East's shape with minimum big club strength. I prefer an overstrength 1, hoping to find a fit, because after a strong 1 it's hard to get all three suits in play opposite light responding hands, let alone tricky competition. However 1 sometimes doesn't work well for slam opposite better hands, and Rick prefers to show his strength immediately. Here, it didn't work too badly, as over the 0-5 1 response, his 1 indicated minimum values and any shape, and my natural 2 (preparing a club rebid over a major) led to finding our 5-4 fit. I think Rick should have raised - the diamond fit might well mean 11 tricks. Here, I wasn't going on over 3. Our sequence unfortunately wrongsided diamonds - the J lead would hold me to four. I can rise, concede a club, and crossruff, but I can never score my fifth club - play it out in your head. From the East chair, 5 can always be made. However, with nothing to go on, Richard led a spade, I won dummy's queen, and ran the club eight to the ten. Richard shifted to a the J, but I was able to ruff out the clubs and score 11 tricks for 150 and a push. 5 by East is a tough game to bid in any system.

.
   Board 24
   None vul    North
   W deals     K8654
               Q9543
     West      87          East
     QJ9      8           A103
     A8                    K106
     KQ102    South        AJ93
     AK72     72          J106
               J72
               654
               Q9543

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         2NT       P           6NT
 P         P         P
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 -         1        P           2
 P         2        P           2
 P         2NT       P           3NT
 P         P         P

East-West have 32 high card points, all four tens, and other pleasing spots. 6NT is about 70%. You need the spade finesse, or the club finesse plus either the fourth club to be good or a rounded suit squeeze. 6 is only marginally better, if that. Today, you make seven in either strain because the 8 falls and North shows out on the second club.

Melody solved this problem by promoting her prime 19 to 20. She did not play to best advantage, but took 12 tricks for 990.

Both wheels came off our auction. 1 was strong, 2 indicated 10-14 with no 5-card major or 6-card minor, 2 denied a five card major, 2 denied 4 hearts, and 2NT denied 4 spades. Each of us was a king over minimum but nobody made a move. I thought we had agreed that 3NT was discouraging, with 10 to a bad 12, and that Rick would bid 3 of his better major with 12-13, or 4NT with a full 14. Rick thought I would do something over 3NT with this big a hand. I almost did, because slam might still be there in a minor even if he had a little less, but I had a nightmare about going down one at 4NT opposite a bare 10. Had I made any move, Rick would have gone, and if he made one, so would I. I made 520, to hold the loss to 10 instead of 11 imps, but that still put Panagopoulos back in the lead 52-51.

.
   Board 25
   EW vul      North
   N deals     2
               76
     West      KJ10743     East
     AQ76     6532        109543
     109832                QJ4
     Q52      South        A
     A        KJ8         J1098
               AK5
               986
               KQ74

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         2          P
 2NT       P         3          P
 3        P         P           P
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 -         -         P           P
 1        Double    1          2
 2NT       3        P           P
 P

An Ogust auction put Kevin in 3. After the Q lead and a diamond finesse, he could have made it had he peeked at the stiff A, but of course, he went down one by putting up an honor when clubs were played.

Rick's 3 is cold. Dean didn't lead his K, so they didn't get their ruff. He led a diamond, Rick won and took a spade finesse, then played hearts for 170, to win 3 imps, putting Binder back in the lead 54-52.

.
   Board 26
   Both vul    North
   E deals     A98
               QJ865
     West                  East
     KQ102    AKJ62       J7543
     1043                  AK7
     J106     South        AK73
     Q43      6           5
               92
               Q98542
               10987

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         -           1
 P         2        3          4
 4NT       P         5          P
 P         P
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 -         -         -           1
 P         2        3          3
 P         P         4          P
 4        P         P           P

East can make 4 if South leads clubs, by covering in dummy and eventually setting up the long diamond for a heart pitch from dummy. However, a diamond lead beats him with a ruff unless North subsequently errs, and the 9 lead beats him slowly so long as North doesn't cash his club entry on winning the A, but instead continues hearts.

Neither East played 4♠, however. Richard's 4 is hopeless on Rick's K lead even if he finesses clubs - he still loses control. Richard went down two. North's 5 can be made double-dummy by ruffing the diamond and leading the Q at trick two. East can't do anything that hurts declarer, so it all comes down to a club guess. Kevin didn't play that way or guess clubs, and went down two for a push at 200.

.
   Board 27
   None vul    North
   S deals     103
               8
     West      K32         East
     7        AKJ10975    AKQ6
     KJ2                   AQ9753
     A9854    South        10
     8643     J98542      Q2
               1064
               QJ76
               

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 2        P         2NT         3
 P         4        4          Double
 P         P         P
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 P         P         1          Double
 2        3        P           3
 P         4        P           P
 P

Dean had no club to lead, but Rick couldn't avoid his two losers there anyway, and scored 450. At the other table, Alan went down 5 in 4 doubled - heart lead to the ace, draw dummy's trumps, cash hearts, A,  ruff - 8 tricks for the defense, 1100 (sticks and wheels, Joe Silver calls it) and 12 imps to Panagopoulos, who went back in the lead 64-54.

.
   Board 28
   NS vul      North
   W deals     KQ64
               765
     West      AKQ5        East
     J10953   Q5          7
     43                    AKJ82
     982      South        J1063
     K63      A82         987
               Q109
               74
               AJ1042

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         P         1NT         P
 3NT       P         P           P
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 -         P         1          1
 2        P         2          P
 2NT       P         3NT         P
 P         P

Steve led a top heart, after which the defense was helpless. Kevin lost a club finesse and two hearts for 630.

I led a heart and Rick played the jack, a fine defense. Double dummy, Dean could make the hand by playing a heart right back. Rick would have to run his hearts and exit, and now Dean could eschew the club finesse and squeeze me in the black suits. But why should I have the K? Dean just tested spades and then took a losing club finesse, and I won and continued hearts for down one, 13 imps, and Binder was back in the lead 67-64.

.
   Board 29
   Both vul    North
   N deals     K5
               10842
     West      7643        East
     J872     1042        A9
     KJ6                   Q75
     9        South        KJ1052
     AQ853    Q10643      J76
               A93
               AQ8
               K9

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         P           P
 1        P         P           1NT
 P         P         P
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 -         -         P           P
 1        P         P           2
 P         P         P

What's the best balancing act with the East cards? Alan led a spade against 1NT, but Steve picked up the clubs and lost only a spade, a heart, and two diamonds. Rick's 2 can be held to two if Dean just plays spades at every opportunity, and Richard ruffs the third and fourth rounds with the 6 and 7. They didn't find that defense, so Rick made 110 to lose an imp and lead 67-65.

.
   Board 30
   None vul    North
   E deals     6432
               Q4
     West      42          East
     KJ       A10876      AQ75
     A97                   K853
     J9865    South        AK3
     Q52      1098        J9
               J1062
               Q107
               K43

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         -           1NT
 P         3NT       P           P
 P
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 -         -         -           1
 P         2        P           2
 P         2        P           2
 P         3        P           3
 P         3NT       P           P
 P

Our big club auction made me declarer. Richard led a club to the K and ducked the club return, so I had to run for home with my nine tricks for 400.

Alan led the 6 to the Q and K, and Steve played three rounds of diamonds. The J cut his entries, so he crossed to the K, took his diamonds, and overtook his J. The 7 turned out be high when the 1098 fell, so Steve made an overtrick and 430 to win an imp. Panagopoulos trailed 67-66.

.
   Board 31
   NS vul      North
   S deals     Q432
               7
     West      87652       East
     9875     Q102        K6
     102                   AQJ5
     AKJ      South        109
     A863     AJ10        J9754
               K98643
               Q43
               K

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 1        Double    P           3NT
 P         P         P
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 1        Double    P           2NT
 P         P         P

To beat 3NT, South must lead a minor and whenever North wins the Q, he has to play a spade through. The defense would have only four tricks, but even with the diamond finesse, declarer would have only eight, for down one. In real life, both Souths led unimaginative hearts, the declarers played clubs, and so when North put his spade through and South cashed three spades, declarer had the rest with 4 clubs, 3 diamonds on a finesse, and two hearts. 400 vs. 150 meant 6 imps to Panagopoulos, back in the lead 72-67.

.
   Board 32
   EW vul      North
   W deals     Q8
               K863
     West      A104        East
     K102     AQ93        A96
     975                   AQ102
     976      South        KJ53
     10842    J7543       K7
               J4
               Q82
               J65

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         P         1NT         P
 2        P         2          P
 P         P
 
 Dean      Bill      Richard     Rick
 -         P         1          1NT
 P         P         P

Steve had a tough lead to make against 2. He tried a low diamond, which ran to the ten. He got thrown back in and wound up beating the contract only one for 50.

Rick got a favorable spade lead against 1NT, to the Q and A, and crossed to dummy with the 10. A heart to the Q would make the hand, but he misguessed, running the 9, and couldn't recover when South won and played a third spade. Down one meant four imps to Panagopoulos, who led by nine at the half, 76-67.

We broke for sandwiches at Subway. The players are mostly all friends, and the banter was fun. For the third quarter, Rick and I would reprise against Bob and Dean, the pseudo-Poles, while Alan and Kevin took on Steve and Melody.

.
   Board 33
   None vul    North
   N deals     J876
               532
     West      K854        East
     K942     Q10         AQ5
     A                     KJ10876
     632      South        J97
     98653    103         7
               Q94
               AQ10
               AKJ42

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         P           P
 1NT       P         P           P
  
 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 -         -         P           2
 3        P         P           P

The East hand didn't fit either 1 or 2 for Steve, so he passed throughout. This worked badly, as 2 makes his way, and there was no way Melody could find the defense to hold South's notrump to eight tricks. She led a club, and Alan ran nine for 150.

Rick's 2 (10-13, 6 or 7 hearts) put it to Dean. He chose 3 instead of 2NT, a mistake on this deal. I led the A and Rick played the 10, intending it as suit preference for spades. Alas, I didn't so read it, and played a diamond. Dean scampered home with 110 to lose only an imp. His team still led 76-68.

.
   Board 34
   NS vul      North
   E deals     A1065
               K86
     West      AQ983       East
     7        10          QJ43
     J752                  93
     106      South        KJ72
     AJ9632   K982        Q74
               AQ104
               54
               K85

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         -           P
 1        P         1          P
 1NT       P         2          P
 4        P         P           P
  
 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 -         -         -           P
 1        P         1          P
 2        P         4          P
 P         P

Both Easts led the 9. It doesn't look it, but 4 can actually be made against this foul lie of the cards, by rising in hearts, losing the diamond finesse, and subsequently guessing both spades and diamonds. Believe it or not, Kevin O'Donnell did just that, for 620. Very well done!

Bob Woodard did less well. The 9 went to the ten, jack, and queen. He thought the lead looked like a singleton, and so played A, K. When the diamond finesse lost, Rick drew trumps as I high-lowed in clubs. Rick played the Q through for down 4, 400, and 14 imps. The Binder team retook the lead 82-76.

.
   Board 35
   EW vul      North
   S deals     753
               Q32
     West      A82         East
     AKQ10984 QJ32        
     J                     K10964
     73       South        KQ965
     754      J62         K86
               A875
               J104
               A109

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 P         4        P           P
 P
 
 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 P         2        P           3
 P         4        P           P
 P

Melody just blasted the West hand to 4. I chose our 2 opening (10-12, 6 or 7 spades). Rick had a chance to shine by passing this, but he went hunting for a vulnerable game. His 3 was forcing one round, and I, too, suffered from exhuberence. I jumped to 4, hoping for three tricks in dummy. I got one. Both Norths led the Q, and both defenses quickly cashed five tricks for pushing 200s.

.
   Board 36
   Both vul    North
   W deals     96542
               Q83
     West      K102        East
     AJ83     A8          K7
     J1092                 A764
     93       South        AJ5
     Q64      Q10         K932
               K5
               Q8764
               J1075

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 -         P         P           1NT
 P         P         P

Steve's 1NT was 15-17, so Melody was nearly good enough for Stayman. Rick's 1NT promised a good 12 to 15, so I wasn't close to a bid. After a diamond lead, on this lie of cards the only way to make 1NT is to win the ace and lead a low heart from hand, playing South for a doubleton honor. That same unnatural play would make ten tricks with hearts trumps, provided declarer also guessed North for the doubleton ace of clubs. 2 seems enough, but that final contract is more likely in Kaplan-Sheinwold. Neither declarer played that way in 1NT, so they both went down one for a push.

.
   Board 37
   NS vul      North
   N deals     J1073
               Q1083
     West      J762        East
     Q9865    10          42
     A42                   KJ75
     Q95      South        A83
     A2       AK          QJ54
               96
               K104
               K98763

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         P           P
 1        1        P           1NT
 P         P         P

 
 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 -         -         P           P
 2        P         P           P

Alan led the 4 against 1NT. All the cards lay perfectly for Steve and he made 120, as he can on any lead. I led a spade against 2. All the cards lay badly for Dean, which meant down 2, 200 and 2 imps to Binder, who led 84-76.

.
   Board 38
   EW vul      North
   E deals     QJ986542
               Q1093
     West                  East
              5           A7
     J4                    AK8765
     KQJ542   South        
     J8732    K103        AKQ96
               2
               A1098763
               104

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         -           2
 4        P         4          6
 P         P         P

 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 -         -         -           1
 3        P         3          4
 4        5        5          6
 P         P         P

Board 38 was wild. The trouble with opening strong two-suiters with an artificial bid at unfavorable vul is that the auction often gets out of hand and you never get to show both suits. Here, East-West can make 7 for 2140, but North can save in 7 and lose only three aces for 500 by playing to pin the HJ, a play that would surely be found at this level of competition.

Alan's 4 was exclusion - diamonds or the majors. Kevin kept his powder dry with 4, and Steve had no sensible action, so blasted into the wrong slam. At our table, the system bid over 3 with my hand is double, showing 6-9, but I intentionally violated system by passing, showing 0-5, evaluating my diamond honors as worthless paper, as they were. Rick made the remarkable decision to bid only 4, and now if I had just passed 4, Rick would have followed with the magic word clubs. I fell from grace with 5, and so we went into the 6 soup with Steve. Both Souths led the A and both Norths discarded their club. Steve went down 2, Rick down 1, 3 imps to Binder, who led 87-76.

.
   Board 39
   Both vul    North
   S deals     832
               72
     West      8743        East
     A10974   K864        Q
     J94                   AK1085
     1095     South        AJ
     Q7       KJ65        AJ1053
               Q63
               KQ62
               92

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 P         P         P           1
 P         2        P           4
 P         P         P

 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 P         P         P           1
 P         1        P           2
 P         3        P           4
 P         P         P

4 East-West is routine in any system. Pushing 650s.

.
   Board 40
   None vul    North
   W deals     K1097
               K4
     West      AK2         East
     J432     J875        Q86
     J832                  AQ10
     5        South        QJ1043
     A1094    A5          K2
               9765
               9876
               Q63

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         P         1          1
 1        P         1NT         P
 P         P

 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 -         P         1          1
 P         P         P

Steve led the Q. Alan won and played a club up and eventually escaped for down one, 100. The defense to Rick's 1 started with three rounds of spades for a ruff, but all they managed thereafter were North's AK of trumps. 90 and a push. Double-dummy, the defense can hold Rick to seven tricks.

.
   Board 41
   EW vul      North
   N deals     A
               KJ53
     West      AQ7643      East
     K10987   108         53
     A62                   Q104
     852      South        KJ109
     J6       QJ642       9542
               987
               
               AKQ73

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         1          P
 1        P         2          P
 3        P         3          P
 4        P         4          P
 4        P         P           P

 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 -         -         1          P
 1        P         2          P
 3        P         3NT         P
 P         P

Despite 26 combined high card points, North-South can make no game. Alan's 4 was down two and lucky to escape a double. Bob's 3NT had a chance if clubs were 3-3, but as it was, he couldn't make it against best defense. Rick led a heart to the A, I returned a heart to the Q, and Rick played a spade to Bob's ace. A, Q to K, and now a diamond through would doom declarer. I erred, returning the third heart, and Bob cashed two tricks in the suit. Now he could make by abandoning his A, cashing dummy's black winners, then throwing Rick in with a club for a diamond endplay. However, Bob cashed his A before crossing to dummy and now that pesky 9 meant five tricks for the defense, down one, but 2 imps to Panagopoulos, who trailed 87-78.

.
   Board 42
   Both vul    North
   E deals     Q1082
               A84
     West      K86         East
     54       A74         K963
     K2                    5
     AJ4      South        Q9732
     Q109853  AJ7         K62
               QJ109763
               105
               J

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 -         -         -           P
 3        P         4          P
 P         P

With the K, K, and A all onside, this routine 4 made 680 at both tables for a push.

.
   Board 43
   None vul    North
   S deals     K1074
               KJ6
     West      K8          East
     82       8763        Q963
     842                   Q7
     AQJ105   South        973
     J95      AJ5         AQ102
               A10953
               642
               K4

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 1        P         1NT         P
 2        P         3          P
 P         P
 
 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 1        P         1          P
 1NT       P         3          P
 4        P         P           P

With both minor aces right, ten tricks rolled home in this thin nonvul game. 420 versus 170 meant 6 imps to Panagopoulos, who trailed 87-84.

.
   Board 44
   NS vul      North
   W deals     K8
               8
     West      Q9765       East
     AJ643    QJ732       5
     102                   AJ7653
     AK8      South        432
     AK10     Q10972      965
               KQ94
               J10
               84

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 =         1        P           1NT
 P         3NT       P           4
 P         P         P
  
 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 -         1        1NT         P
 2        2        P           3
 P         P         P

Rick showed 0-5 by passing over the unusual notrump. When he bid 3, I expected a six card two-loser suit, less than three spades, and no side cards. That might mean only nine tricks, 4 hearts and my five tops, so I passed. Too conservative. I gave Rick nothing for his play. He might be able to do something with the spades. So it proved, as both Steve and Rick used dummy's bountiful entries to ruff four spades in hand. There was nothing the defense could do. 420 versus 170 meant six imps and the lead, 90-87 for Panagopoulos.

.
   Board 45
   Both vul    North
   N deals     Q10984
               74
     West      KQ93        East
     KJ7      103         53
     QJ1098                K52
     1062     South        84
     96       A62         AKQJ52
               A63
               AJ75
               874

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         P           1
 P         1        P           2
 P         P         2          P
 P         P
 
 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 -         -         P           2
 P         P         P

Rick's 2 stole the pot. He was always making this, and in fact made 130 when the defense goofed. Kevin's 2 is also cold. In fact, he made 140 by getting the trumps right. 140 and 130 meant 7 imps to Binder, back in the lead 94-90.

.
   Board 46
   None vul    North
   E deals     9
               AKQ10542
     West      63          East
     AJ2      KQ7         874
     876                   3
     AJ8754   South        K1092
     6        KQ10653     A9532
               J9
               Q
               J1084

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         -         -           P
 2        3        4          5
 P         P         5          P
 P         P
 
 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 -         -         -           P
 2        P         4          P
 P         P         P

I didn't overcall Dean's Wagner 2 (showing a weak 2 in an unspecified major). With a blind lead, Rick chose a diamond, so we only got one club ruff to beat 4 50.

Melody did overcall, so now Steve went to 5, which would have made today. Kevin did well to bid on, and nobody had much to double him with. Against 5, Steve found the A lead followed by the deuce and Melody ruffed and underled in diamonds for two club ruffs, down three and 150, 3 imps to Panagopoulos, who now trailed 94-93.

.
   Board 47
   NS vul      North
   S deals     106
               J6432
     West      KJ7         East
     853      AJ2         AKQJ97
     9                     10875
     Q86543   South        1092
     K94      42          
               AKQ
               A
               Q1087653

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 1        P         1          3
 4        4        5          P
 P         P         
 
 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 1C        P         1          1
 Double    2        3          3
 4        P         4          4
 Double    P         P           P

In 5, Alan took the club finesse for a simple 600. Dean's first double indicated 3 hearts. He did well not to go 5 over 4, which is defeated by three rounds of spades. (Even 4 is fascinating to analyze - Deep Finesse says the defense can prevail). Dean's defense to 4 doubled wasn't best, and Rick escaped for down one and 100. On best play all around, this contract goes down two. 11 imps to Binder, who led 105-93.

.
   Board 48
   EW vul      North
   W deals     AQJ93
               54
     West      973         East
     K5       973         862
     Q106                  K32
     852      South        AKQJ10
     QJ652    1074        K10
               AJ987
               64
               A84

 South     West      North       East
 Alan      Melody    Kevin       Steve
 -         P         P           1NT
 P         2        P           2
 P         2NT       P           3NT
 P         P         P
 
 Dean      Bill      Bob         Rick
 -         P         P           1
 2        Double    P           2NT
 P         3NT       P           P
 P

Both Souths led a heart, which ran to the king. Both declarers led the K and 10, both ducked, and led a heart, also ducked, to dummy's Q. The declarers ran 5 diamonds to make 600. Bob and Kevin sat there, quietly eating 14 imps worth of spades.

The teams compared and agreed that Binder led by 12, 105-93. For the last quarter, Bill and Rick took on Steve and Melody, while Alan and Kevin sat down against Dean and Richard, the Kaplan-Sheinwold pair.

.
   Board 49
   None vul    North
   N deals     Q984
               76
     West      J1098       East
     K102     K98         J63
     KJ52                  1094
     63       South        AQ2
     AQ42     A75         J763
               AQ83
               K754
               105

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         -         P           P
 1NT       P         P           P
 
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 -         -         P           P
 1        P         1          P
 1NT       P         P           P

Alan led a heart. Dean won his Q and played a spade up. With the cards all friendly, no further defense could stop him from making his 90.

Forewarned, Melody led a club to Steve's jack, and ducked the club return. Rick won in dummy. Steve rose ace on the J, and tried the 10. Rick could make by rising and leading a spade up, because Melody's last two clubs were the AQ, so she couldn't have gotten to Steve for another heart play. To beat 1NT legit, she had to unblock the Q at trick two. However, Rick took the heart finesse and went down 2, -100, 5 imps to Panagopoulos, who trailed 105-98.

 

.
   Board 50
   NS vul      North
   E deals     Q9532
               A
     West      1086        East
     AJ87     K654        106
     10852                 KQ6
     J75      South        KQ32
     109      K4          AQ32
               J9743
               A94
               J87

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 -         -         -           1NT
 P         P         P

The cards lie well for this 1NT contract. Double-dummy, North-South can hold it to two by playing clubs at every opportunity, but neither defense managed to find that, and both declarers scored 150 for a push.

.
   Board 51
   EW vul      North
   S deals     1073
               QJ75
     West      J1097       East
     Q4       65          AK62
     A84                   K62
     Q54      South        AK82
     AK982    J985        73
               1093
               63
               QJ104

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 P         1NT       P           2
 P         2        P           3
 P         3NT       P           6NT
 P         P         P
 
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 P         1NT       P           2
 P         2        P           3
 P         3H        P           6NT
 P         P         P

I'm not sure how to interpret these auctions, but they both ended in a reasonable, but pushy slam. What's the right way to play the clubs? If they split 3-3, anything works. If North has only two, there are exactly as many doubletons that work out for ducking as playing from the top. However, ducking preserves squeeze chances and is therefore the better play. Melody won the J lead in dummy and ran the 7, which won. She cleared clubs and claimed. When Alan won the spade lead in dummy and led a club, Dean split, which could be right on a different deal, but here Alan just returned to dummy for another club, picking up the suit for a pushing 1440. I don't think Dean's play cost, as I believe Alan would have matched Melody's fine play.

.
   Board 52
   Both vul    North
   W deals     Q954
               KJ73
     West      32          East
     A3       J53         J108
     852                   64
     10964    South        A75
     K762     K762        A10984
               AQ109
               KQJ8
               Q

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         P         P           P
 1        P         1          P
 1        P         2          P
 4        P         P           P
 
 
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 -         P         P           P
 1        P         1          P
 1        P         1NT         P
 2NT       P         3NT         P
 P         P

No game is great here, but 4 is the best of the bunch, and can be made by playing West for the doubleton ace of spades. No, you can't avoid this play by setting up three diamonds, because after a normal defense of two rounds of clubs, you haven't enough entries without playing spades yourself.

Dean's 4 was given no chance, as the defense led two rounds of clubs. Even if he plays a spade to the queen and ducks on the way back, a third club then establishes a second trump trick for the defense. Down one.

My artificial 1 was a weak semipositive, Rick's 1 was artificial, indicating a minimum-range strong club. My 1NT denied a 5-card suit. Rick fished for a major by raising, but I was a dolt and didn't mention either of them. 3NT was really hopeless - Steve and Melody ran seven tricks for down 3. You will recall way back on board 23 that I said opening a strong club with South's shape runs the risk of missing a fit opposite modest responding hands. Unfortunately, I proved my own point. 5 imps to Panagopoulos, who trailed 105-103.

.
   Board 53
   NS vul      North
   N deals     AK3
               9875
     West      1087        East
     Q102     Q63         85
     KQ                    J1032
     J432     South        A96
     A987     J9764       K542
               A64
               KQ5
               J10

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 -         -         P           P
 1        P         2          P
 P         P

After customary light third hand openings, Alan and Melody led the Kagainst 2. Rick won and ran the 10 to the king, and Steve returned a heart to the queen. To beat 2, Melody must lead a diamond to Steve so he can play hearts. Instead, she led ace and a club, the heart went away, and Rick used dummy's spades to lead twice towards his diamonds. He got overruffed once in hearts, but made 110.

Dean ducked the first heart and won the second. He cashed the AK and led a diamond to his king, and exited a club. Alan won his ace, cashed his spade, and led the 9. Kevin won and cashed a heart. Another heart would result in down two, but he cashed his A for down one, 5 imps to Binder, who led 110-103. By the way, fatigue was starting to become a factor for several of us, particularly the six who played the whole match.

.
   Board 54
   EW vul      North
   E deals     AKQ983
               76
     West      98          East
     10642    743         J7
     9                     KJ1032
     Q7654    South        J1032
     AJ9      5           52
               AQ854
               AK
               KQ1086

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         -         -           P
 1        P         1          P
 3        P         4          P
 P         P
 
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 -         -         -           P
 1        P         1          P
 2        P         2          P
 3        P         3          P
 3NT       P         P           P

Richard's 4 came home despite bad positions in the black suits when the heart finesse worked. Melody's diamond lead doomed Rick, and he misguessed the play to go down two. In retrospect, I should have pulled 3NT to 4. 11 imps to Panagopoulos, back in the lead 114-110.

.
   Board 55
   Both vul    North
   S deals     AQ
               Q92
     West      87643       East
     963      QJ6         J42
     J                     AK10753
     AQJ5     South        
     K8732    K10875      A954
               864
               K1092
               10

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 P         P         P           1
 P         2NT       P           4
 P         P         P
  
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 P         P         P           1
 P         1NT       P           2
 P         P         P

Three rounds of spades for a ruff can hold declarer to nine tricks in hearts (I don't want to hear about the miraculously cold 3NT). Both Rick and Dean led their singleton clubs, however, so both declarers rose in dummy, pitched a spade on the A, ran the J, ruffed a diamond, drew trumps, and drove clubs for ten tricks. 620 versus 170 meant 10 imps to Binder, right back in the lead 120-114.

.
   Board 56
   None vul    North
   W deals     108
               Q104
     West      AK103       East
     K976542  7632        3
     5                     J86
     985      South        J764
     KJ       AQJ         AQ954
               AK9732
               Q2
               108

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         2        P           P
 3        P         4          P
 P         P
 
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 -         3        P           P
 4        P         P           P

King and another club would put 4 at risk, although South would probably still make by ruffing the third club high and later finessing East for the J. Both Wests actually led passive diamonds for pushing 450s.

.
   Board 57
   EW vul      North
   N deals     QJ
               KQJ63
     West      95          East
     1052     10873       863
     92                    A75
     J8643    South        KQ102
     K92      AK974       AJ5
               1084
               A7
               Q64

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         -         P           1
 1        P         2          P
 3        P         P           P
 
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 -         -         P           1
 1        3        P           P
 P

Richard made ten tricks at hearts - win the diamond lead, cash three spades to pitch a diamond, lead a heart to the king ducked, and a small heart towards the ten. The defense can't keep him from dummy, nor can it afford to break clubs. 170, but bidding game would be wildly optimistic. Thus, Melody's threadbare vulnerable 3 preempt turned out to be a bad idea. Steve lost three spades, a heart, a diamond, and the Q on a late finesse, for down 2, 200, and an imp to Binder, who led 121-114.

.
   Board 58
   Both vul    North
   E deals     743
               QJ653
     West      AKQ4        East
     J65      7           AQ9
     A                     942
     J962     South        103
     AQJ63    K1082       K10982
               K1087
               875
               54

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         -         -           P
 P         1        Double      2
 Double    3        3          P
 P         P
 
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 -         -         -           P
 P         1        Double      2
 Double    3        3          3
 P         4        P           P
 P

Steve Gladyszak won 7 imps by competing over 3 with the East cards. This deal follows the law of total tricks exactly. Richard's 3 lost a club, a heart, and 2 spades for 140, while Melody lost only two diamonds and a spade for 130. The match was tied at 121 with six boards left.

.
   Board 59
   None vul    North
   S deals     865
               Q8653
     West      J97         East
     Q93      A6          AK1072
     AJ9                   742
     A32      South        5
     QJ104    J4          K987
               K10
               KQ10864
               532

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 2        Double    3          4
 P         P         P
 
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 P         1NT       P           2
 P         2        P           3NT
 P         P         P

Kevin's 4 is preferable to Melody's 3NT. Kevin lost only a heart and a club for 450. I led a heart against 3NT, but switched to diamonds on winning the A, and she had to run her ten tricks for 430. Had my opening lead been a diamond, we could hold her to three - she has to duck twice, and then a heart switch would set up our fourth trick before the A is dislodged. An imp to Binder, who led 122-121.

.
   Board 60
   NS vul      North
   W deals     J82
               987
     West      J103        East
     109763   AQ98        AKQ4
     KJ1043                5
     K6       South        AQ754
     J        5           1043
               AQ62
               982
               K7652

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 -         P         P           1
 P         1        P           3
 P         4        P           P
 P

Richard led a trump and Alan made six. I led a heart and Rick won and switched to clubs, so Melody made 5. An imp to Binder, who led 123-121.

.
   Board 61
   Both vul    North
   N deals     K1075
               543
     West      AJ82        East
     862      Q6          
     AK962                 Q1087
     Q643     South        K1097
     4        AQJ943      98732
               J
               5
               AKJ105

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         -         P           P
 1        P         2          P
 4NT       P         5          P
 6        P         P           P
 
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 -         -         P           P
 1        1        2          3
 3        P         4          P
 4NT       P         5          P
 6        P         P           P

A baby slam in any system meant pushing 1430s.

.
   Board 62
   None vul    North
   E deals     10876
               QJ3
     West      KQ92        East
     KJ92     94          AQ43
     1042                  K98
     107      South        J863
     8765     5           Q3
               A765
               A54
               AKJ102

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         -         -           1
 2        P         P           Double
 Redouble  2        Double      P
 P         P
 
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 -         -         -           1
 2        P         P           P

With the clubs coming down and spades 4-4, 3NT makes North-South, but nobody was finding that. A spade lead and continuation would have held Rick to 130, but Melody led a diamond, so he made 5. Kevin had won imps by daring balancing acts earlier, but not here. Alan took all the tricks he could, six, for -300. 4 imps to Panagopoulos, to take the lead at 125-123.

.
   Board 63
   NS vul      North
   S deals     J43
               AKJ9863
     West                  East
     Q105     J75         AK72
     Q74                   52
     KQ95     South        J1063
     Q63      986         K98
               10
               A8742
               A1042

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 P         P         3          P
 P         P
 
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 P         P         2          P
 P         P

The heart finesse won, so Richard and I both made 140. Oh, how I wish this finesse had lost!

.
   Board 64
   EW vul      North
   W deals     86
               Q109765
     West      A942        East
     9        2           AKJ52
     J32                   K8
     KQJ85    South        7
     K1086    Q10743      AQJ97
               A4
               1063
               543

 South     West      North       East
 Dean      Alan      Richard     Kevin
 -         P         2          4
 P         5        P           P
 P
 
 Rick      Melody    Bill        Steve
 -         P         P           1
 P         1NT       2          3
 P         5        P           P
 P

Dean led the A, so Kevin made his 5. Rick led a trump. Steve won and led a diamond to the J and A. I returned the 10, and Steve paused to consider. He couldn't read the hearts from either my bidding or my play. However, there was a crucial inference from the opening lead. Rick would be more likely not to lead my suit holding the ace than the queen. So, with an air of resignation, Steve played low and won the match by two imps, 125-123.

This was a hard fought battle, and everyone had their triumphs and tragedies. I wish the Panagopoulos team good bridge in Philadelphia. Wait till next year! I want to thank the players who corrected numerous errors in my rough draft of this article - those that remain are my own. I hope readers enjoyed this exciting match as much as I did.