USBC 2017 Final, Segment 2/8

Both teams refreshed their lineups for the second segment. Nickell - Katz would still be facing Diamond - Platnick in the Open Room, but the Closed Room saw the clash between Bathurst - Lall and Meckstroth - Rodwell.

Board 16 (EW Vul):

KQ873

AK843

A4

3

J64

2

10

QJ5

J109865

732

764

AQJ852

A1095

9762

KQ

K109

S

Nickell​

W

Diamond​

N

Katz​

E

Platnick​

Pass

2NT

1

5

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

1

3

4NT

6

2

Pass

Pass

All Pass

2NT = 4+, inv+

3 = singleton club​

S

Bathurst

W

Rodwell

N

Lall

E

Meckstroth

Pass

2NT

4

4

Pass

Pass

Pass

All Pass

1

3

4

2

Pass

Pass

In the first board of the segment, Katz gambled on having no heart losers for slam, and lost the gamble. In a way, he was lucky to find 4 small hearts in dummy, a holding which gave him a decent chance of making the slam; 3 small hearts would mean a 0% slam. 

If his intention was to overrule partner after showing the club singleton, it would probably have been better to show his hearts and wait for partner's reaction. In this case, Nickell could not have worse cards for slam, and the auction would end safely in game. 11 imps for Diamond when ​Bathurst - Lall, after opening the North hand with a big club, rested in game.

Nickell gained one imp when Meckstroth-Rodwell played a 4 contract from the better side (the defense missed a ruff because of that, while on the other room the singleton was led).

In the next board, both Easts opened with a favorable vulnerability 2 with K87642 Q7 942 82, in first position. The main danger in the actual hand was their partners' enthusiasm, but they both soberly subsided at 3 and made 9 tricks. (Partner's hand: AQ 93 KQ10 KJ9643).

​Then, it was the time for the Norths to get frisky, in 3rd position and at favorable vulnerability. (It's hard to resist these conditions). They held K10854 107 754 432. Lall opened with 1, and Katz opened with 2. (I probably prefer the second option). Nothing came of it when the opponents brushed aside the opposition and reached a laydown 4 (partner hadAK10xx and showed it in the bidding, and these were the only tricks the defense made).

Board 20 (Both Vul):

Q1083

J10432

65

98

KJ975

AK76

Q8

AKQ1097

J83

AKJ

1075

A642

95

42

Q6432

When the big clubbers cannot find (or even look for) this ​reasonable grand slam (look at the diamond spots in East) in an unopposed auction, then it is unbiddable. Note, though, that playing in 7 declarer would probably go down after a diamond lead -- the best chance is to pitch a club in a heart and then ruff your losers in dummy, but South will make a trick in this line of play. Both rooms ended in 6, making seven when they played safely for 12 tricks.

Then came a hand in which both pairs bid briskly to 3NT, and both pairs of defenders cashed their 6 winners equally briskly. This was followed by...

Board 22 (EW Vul):

873

J6432

J4

J42

104

Q65

AQ10875

9

A8

976532

K106

953

AKJ92

K

KQ10

AQ87

S

Nickell​

W

Diamond​

N

Katz​

E

Platnick​

Pass

1

Dbl

3

Pass

2

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

2

4

Pass

Pass

Pass

All Pass

S

Bathurst

W

Rodwell

N

Lall

E

Meckstroth

Pass

1

Dbl

Dbl

Pass

1

Pass

All Pass

Pass

Pass

2

Pass

Pass

Pass

When Nickell opened with a natural 1in the Open Room, Katz had a safe spot in 2 once the bidding returned to him at 2 doubled. Strangely enough, playing for penalties in this auction is quite unattractive, since a 2-level overcall at unfavorable vulnerability, even in 2017, still shows some playing strength -- it's not as if North's heart spots are encouraging!

In the other room, Lall's decision is understandable -- he did not know about a spade fit, and a 1-level overcall over a big club is often made with weaker hands (even vul vs. not). Actually, the strangest bid in both rooms was Katz's decision to bid game after Nickell tried 3. It could have been a success after West led a trump. But declarer tried to pitch a club in a diamond before drawing any other trumps, and so West ended up ruffing a diamond with the 10. The defense ended with one trick in each suit.

Meanwhile, Meckstroth decided to run for the safety of his diamond suit, and ended up declaring in 2 doubled. He ended up with 7 tricks (5 diamonds -- after South ruffed a good heart -- 1 heart, and 1 club), down one, 6 imps to Diamond.

Both tables went down in a partscore when the defense found a crossruff, and then Nickell and Bathurst found themselves looking at A8, AJ10972, J9, A52, white vs. white. After two passes, RHO opened with an amorphous 1 and they bid 1. LHO bid 1, partner jumped to 3, and RHO bid 3. What would you do?

Nickell passed, and 3 was the final contract. Bathurst bid the fourth heart and bought the contract. Both contracts went one down, 3 imps to Nickell.

Board 25 (EW Vul):

Q4

AJ762

KJ3

K97

KJ9

72

983

KQ4

A654

Q982

Q103

J542

A108653

105

107

A86

S

Nickell​

W

Diamond​

N

Katz​

E

Platnick​

Pass

1

2

Pass

Pass

All Pass

1

1NT

Pass

Pass

S

Bathurst

W

Rodwell

N

Lall

E

Meckstroth

Pass

4

Pass

Pass

1NT

4

Pass

All Pass

This hand was a huge success for the underweight strong notrump. Not only Lall reached game by it, but he also concealed his heart suit. When Meckstroth led the K, all that was left in the way of 10 tricks was to lose only one spade, which Lall duly did. 7 imps to Diamond after clubs were led in the other room, against 2.

​After a pushed partscore board, Nickell gained 10 IMPs by making a 4 game defeated in the other room. I don't have the details on this board, but I'll update the post if I get them somehow.

Both teams went down in a good 4 after a diamond ruff. Then, after identical auctions, one imp went to Nickell due to a more effective lead by Meckstroth against 2.​

Board 30 (None Vul):

A4

AK42

942

J752

J3

107

1087

J965

AKJ6

Q875

AKQ4

863

KQ98652

Q3

103

109

N

Nickell​

Bathurst​

E

Diamond​

Rodwell​

S

Katz​

Lall​

W

Platnick​

Meckstroth​

Pass

3

Pass

Pass

Dbl

Pass

Pass

Pass

Dbl

Pass

4

All Pass

In the last hand of the segment, identical auctions led Platnick and Meckstroth to the unhappy contract of 4 doubled. ​Nickell - Katz put up a more challenging defense (cashing 2 hearts ending in South before playing the 3rd round of spades) and won an extra undertrick for their efforts. 5 imps to Nickell, which lost the segment 24x20, but was still leading by 11.

The running score: Nickell 44 x 33 Diamond

About the Author Paulo Brum

Paulo Brum (Paulinho in BBO and for most Brazilians) is a well-known Brazilian expert and bridge teacher. He has represented Brazil in World Championships, has won the South American Championship, the Brazilian National Team and Pairs, and many other regional titles.

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