2016 North American Open Bridge Pairs District Finals
Brian Bankler
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The 2016 NAOP District 16 (Texas/Mexico) finals are this weekend. There are three flights, A, B and C. Until recently, I qualified for flight C (the lowest), but I've been playing in the open flight A for years. Currently my best finish is 10th, which means "Tenth out of Texas and Mexico," but many strong pairs don't bother to make the trip to play (since only the top 3 qualify and there are usually at least 3 pairs of national or even world champions, your average strong flight A doesn't see the point).

I look at it as a chance to improve and play against the best. And locally, too!

I'm playing with Hank. We play Polish Club.

Update -- As pointed out, the results are online (all flights, of course).
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1. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
Texas
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Friday morning. The NAOPs don't start until tomorrow, but we're playing in two practice sessions. This is a mixed field, Flight A and B (a few Cs).

Round 1 -- Our first round is disastrous when my partner literally misreads a 4 heart bid as 4 spades. (It's a long story, and somewhat tedious). Then our opponents get to a routine game of 4S making five, and we get a surprisingly terrible board, For the life of us we can't see a way to hold them to four.

Round 2 -- Routine hands, average round.

Round 3 -- After RHO opens 1 spade, I pass, and LHO bids a (forcing) 1NT, partner overcalls 2H and I have to decide what to do with KTx Axx QTxx T98. I decide to pass instead of raise, perhaps influenced by the fact that this pair can legitimately play for the Flight A championship. We're not getting bad defense. Sadly, I have just enough to make game, although partner may not have gone, in any case. It turns out to be average. On the second board, I am declaring and I take a small risk for an overtrick (which you sometimes do at matchpoints) and get a great board. I guess the field doesn't see the option, honestly I'm surprised at how good my score is.

Note -- We don't see the results (which is on a scale of 0 to N-1, where N is the number of times the hand is played) until after the game.
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2. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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Round four -- we're playing a weak pair, and my partner hears LHO bid 1C. He has S:KQx H:QJ876 D:Kxx C:A8. He bids 1 heart (normal) and RHO hitches for a second and jumps to three clubs (weak). I bid three hearts and partner bids four. Dummy hits with Axxx KTxx JT T9x. Partner has to decide how to play diamonds knowing LHO has at most two black jacks outside. He decides that the hitch means she might have a bit too much strength, and plays her for the ace. Wrong. She had a perfectly normal weak bid with only four points.

On the second board I play it and the same player hitches again after I open 1 spade and hank bids 1NT (semi-forcing) before making a double. I bid 2S which buys it.

So I've got to play the spade (trumps)

Dummy: Jx

Me: KT87xx

I only have one entry in dummy, so how to finesse?

The hitcher is to my right and has already shown up with AK of clubs and may have the king of diamonds, or may not. If I decide to play her for the ace and queen of spades, I still have to decide of she has AQ exactly (lead small from the jack) or the AQ + a small one, in which case the winning play is to lead the jack, since the other player's 9 will drop!). I decide not to get cute since spades may break poorly (the double of 1N does imply takeout of spades). Since I can't trust this persons hitches, and I lead small to the ten.

Pity, I the play of the jack would work. In this case, she had her hitch, and doubled with a terrible shape.

We get a bad round and, more importantly, Hank is a bit steamed at this. That player is the sort of person who will routinely give you great boards, but not today.
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3. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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An opening bid problem: You have AJ8xxxx Q QJ8x 5. (Hand order is always spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs). Do you open 1 or 3? (Nobody vulnerable).

Fortunately, before I had to decide my RHO opened 1 club. Ah, that's easy, now I just preempt 3 spades. LHO bids 4 clubs which ends the auction. Since my partner didn't raise, I'm going to play him for a stiff spade, and so it passes that the defense goes:

Ace of spaces, spade ruff, partner lays down the heart ace (dropping my queen) and then the heart king, then I ruff a heart, then partner ruffs a spade. Down two, and a great board.

The next hand my partner makes a great sacrifice against a part score. I have a legitimate play to make it, but it doesn't work. But! LHO misses the obvious play and the setting trick goes away, and make. We get a near perfect round, 48.5 points out of a possible 50! We're back in it!
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4. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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How light do you open? For most tournament, players, pretty light.

I hold KQ432 QT2 T3 A85, and open 1 spade in second seat.

Partner shows a (game only) spade raise without slam interest, and I certainly don't have any, so I bid 4 spades.

LHO leads the ominious heart king.

Dummy Axx J9x AK9 J432

Heart King led

Me KQ432 QT2 T3 A85

It goes heart king, heart ace and heart ruff, so I'm not going to make this. RHO shifts to a small club and I need something wonderful to happen to get out for down one. What I'm not going to do is play for a miracle and risk down 3. I probably can't beat the people who passed instead of opened, but I can beat those who got to game if they go crazy.

I duck the club to LHO's queen. LHO shifts to a diamond and I fly with the ace playing the three from my hand. Now I run trumps. RHO pitches a club on the second round and squirms and pitches a diamond on the third. I play another. RHO pitches another club. Hm. She played 7 then 6 then 9. Has she bared the king? Was the KQ tight to my left? It must be safe to find out.

I cash the club ace and LHO shows out, RHO playing the ten. Now I know what piece of luck I'm hoping for. The question is, am I lucky? Actually, given that LHO has already shown up with 9 points, I might be...

I lead my last trump and pitch dummy's club jack. Here's the position:

Dummy: Diamond K9
RHO: Diamond QJ and club King (must play a card)
Me: Diamond T, club 8
(LHO has two small diamonds).


RHO plays the diamond queen, and now I play overtake my diamond ten, dropping the jack, and the nine is good. If RHO had discarded the club king, I would have played my good club 8 and pitched my small diamond. RHO is a new player, and isn't quite sure if she had a good play. She didn't, and I tell her (truthfully) that there was nothing she could do in the ending.

In technical terms, an automatic squeeze.

Great play! Well, good enough for this hand. But I should have played my diamond ten on the first diamond. Then, if a different position shows up (RHO having the singleton queen or jack), I can lead small to the nine. If that had happened instead of the (rather lucky) squeeze position, I would have gone down two.

Going down one lets me salvage quite a few points, most of the field is in three hearts only, but they play it a trick worse. So -50 is a pretty common score. Not average, but a respectable 8/25 and I'm pleased that I found the squeeze.

On the next board our opponents do not heed my lesson. In a hopeless contract he tries to greedily make, hoping for the cards to be perfect, instead of playing safe for down one.

Partner and I are merciless and cash everything in sight, and declarer is down four. That's decent strategy at rubber bridge, but it's bad at tournaments (when you compare the number of people you beat, not the difference). So, an above average round.
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5. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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Round seven -- Another infuriating round. One opponent invites (artificially) game, opener declines quickly. Inviter shrugs and bids game anyway. It's cold. Infuriating, and another terrible score for us.

The next board we get to our best spot, which about half the field does, so we get an above average board.

Round 8 -- On the first hand, we defend well against some new players to get a slightly above average result. Then on the second hand I'm in a tricky two club contract and I get a misdefense to let me make an overtrick. Then, after that, I make a play that should break even but may induce a mistake, and I get the mistake. Making four is a good score.
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6. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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We're playing a strong married couple (both experts) in round nine. On the first board LHO (the husband) opens two diamonds (weak). Partner doubles and the wife thinks for a bit and bids five diamonds. They aren't vulnerable, we are.

I have S:Q8xxx H:Kxx D:Kx C:98x

For all I know we can make four spades. But it would be touchy. I'm not going to bid five. I just double and salvage what we can. If five diamonds makes we're getting a terrible score anyway, so I feel like I'm on the right side of the risk-reward-ratio.

As the play goes on I can see the wife's annoyance grow. Husband didn't have his bid, he has a touch too much defense and not enough offense (he has one less diamond than he promised). We get them two tricks for +300 and we can't make anything.

In fact, we'd have probably gone down in three spades if he passed.

We get an absolute top, 25/25 points.

On the second hand they have a tricky bidding sequence to avoid the doomed 3 NT and find their minor suit game. Well, they are experts. We get a terrible board, only 5/25. Still, an above average round.

The next round we are playing terrible players. Simply terrible. On the second hand they have every ace, king, queen (and two jacks). Seven Notrump can be claimed after the opening lead with 15 top tricks. They miss even the small slam, the only pair to miss slam. 42/50 points for the round.
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7. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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The penultimate round. Another married pair, both reasonable players. They own the local club, so are good but not as strong as the earlier couple.

Partner opens 1 heart and I have A9x xx AQTxx Jxx. In old standard american, I'd bid 2 diamonds, but now a 2 over 1 bid is game forcing, so I bid 1 no trump, which could be up to 12 points. Many people play that 1NT is forcing. But my partner and I play it semi-forcing. He can pass with a balanced minimum opener and he does so.

This means we can play in 1NT (which scores 10 more points than any other suit if we make the same number of tricks). The cards are favorable and I get a misdefense, so I make four. But some of the field push to the (lucky) game, so that's just an average.

The second hand is interesting. I pick S:AKT987 H:AK2 D:A865 C:--

I open 1 club, which is a forcing (but not necessarily strong) bid. Partner bids 1 diamonds, weak. I jump to 2 spades, which says "I have a big hand, but I need you to have points or a spade fit. Partner bids four hearts, which says "I have a spade fit, probably only three, and at most a single heart."

And now I think.

We have a gadget (of course we have a gadget). I can bid five clubs, "Exclusion blackwood" that asks for aces, but not counting the club ace. But that doesn't help: I'm looking at them. If partner shows zero aces then I could bid 5 hearts, ostensibly asking partner for the spade queen and outside kings. But if I'm going to commit to the five level, I think I may as well just jump to slam and hide my hand. After a (long) think I decide that this will also prevent anyone from saying my hesitation influenced partner. I jump to slam. 6 Spades.

A funny hand. I made a passable two spade bid, then when partner bid game, I jump to slam.

LHO leads the club ace, and I get a borderline dummy:

S:xxx H:x D:QTx C:KJTxxx

But the dummy looks better after the club ace lead.

I ruff the opening lead. Trumps split 2-2 (first hurdle) so I lay down the ace of heart and ruff a heart, then cash the club king to pitch a small diamond. Sadly the club queen doesn't fall, so I ruff out a club (LHO showing out) and run all my trumps but one and a heart. I know LHO has nine red cards, and so I think I'm going to just play her for the king, but when I play the diamond ace LHO plays the jack so I don't have to make a guess. We are the only pair to bid the (admittedly lucky) slam, another top board.

In the final round we have a routine hand and then a disaster. Partner opens 1 Heart and I hold S:x H:xxxx D:AJxxx C:AJ9. With four trumps, two aces and four hearts, I'm forcing to game so I make the same bid most of the field (should) make. The (splinter bid) of Three spades.

In normal standard american, a spinter shows a singleton in the named suit (spades, in this case) four trumps, and game forcing values. But we've tinkered. We hide our splinters, which frees up some other bids. In our scheme three spades shows a short suit somewhere along with four hearts and 9-12 points.

Why the change?

Well, our one of a major bids have a tighter range of points, so partner almost never asks. Therefore the opponents don't know which suit I'm short in. That can be critical and sometimes leads to misdefense, since the opening leader can't tell.

And since we don't have three bids for splinters (one for each suit) we free up two bids for other things.

The downside is we have to remember how to unpack the answer the times partner does ask.

This time partner asks, and I repeat the decryption scheme to myself a few times before answering but I still manage to get it wrong. We bid the suit underneath our suit short suit. So when partner bids 3NT asking, I mutter "Clubs means diamonds, diamonds means hearts and hearts means spades" and bid 4 hearts.

But, of course, I'd never jump to game with so few points and only one trump. I should ignore hearts in my muttering. In reality, clubs meant diamonds, diamonds meant spades (ignoring hearts) and hearts means clubs.

Partner jumps to a slam and when we have a brief argument over who got the bidding wrong (answer: me) I shudder and say, "Well, I do have a good hand, so hopefully you can still make."

Partner makes seven. My misbid has cost us an obvious, biddable grand slam, partner downgraded his hand because of the wasted king-queen of clubs opposite my 'shortness'.

But there's good news -- Apparently most of the field did not decide to splinter with my hand, because almost nobody gets to any slam. We still get 22/25 for getting to the small slam on our combined 27 count.

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8. Board Game: Burger Joint [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:6235]
Board Game: Burger Joint
Brian Bankler
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We now are done with the morning session and check our score: 59%, just a touch off the winning score of 61%. Most of our mistakes didn't cost much, and if Hank doesn't misread that bid on the first board we come in practically tied for first.

To be fair, we had a fair number of gifts, but also some fixes. It's typical. And on several hands we made our own luck.

As it was we were 7th or so. Partner even comments that I'm declaring quite well, and I do think so. Apart from technical play which earned a few good boards and salvaged some points, I'm trying to induce errors when it's easy to do so.

Off to lunch!
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9. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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In the afternoon we play 3 boards a round. A few other strong pairs have shown up to practice. A stronger field than the morning.

The first round sees us get to our easy game, our opponents then overbid and we set them, and then we get a bidding challenge:

ME: S:AQT H:x D:KQ9xxx C:xxx
Hank: S:K9x H:AK9542 D:AJxx C:--

I open one diamond, LHO bids 2 clubs, hank bids 2 hearts, I bid three diamonds. Hank bids 4 clubs (a strong diamond raise) and when I bid 4 hearts ("Show me key cards, aces and the diamond king") he bids 5 hearts ("Two key cards and a useful void.")

I now have a brain fart.

I should realize the void has to be in clubs and bid the grand slam. But I just bid the small slam. This is still a pretty good score, 19/26. But I've now missed two grand slams in the last two rounds.

Granted, separated by a hamburger.

Interestingly enough, exclusion keycard (asking for aces, excluding a suit) could have shown up twice in the last three rounds. (Hank did not bid exclusion because we'd been discussing it over lunch and we'd realized we needed to make sure we both agreed on some details. We do so after this round).
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10. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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On the first hand, RHO opens 1 spade and I have xx AKxxxx KTx xx. I bid two hearts. LHO passes and Hank bids 2NT. I think about it, but this is actually a natural bid. It means what your grandparents would think. Some values, inviting 3N.

Before I can decline RHO bids 3 spades and this gets passed to Hank, who doubles. I leave it in.

Too bad. Dummy has no spades, but he has great values (in fact, I think he should have doubled two hearts to show good cards in the minors). Not only does dummy have 8 high card points, they are useful and well placed. Three spades doubled, making for an absolute 0/26.

Hank and I just shrug. (Literally, we shrugged). Doubling a making contract is a mortal sin in rubber bridge, but at matchpoints? Eh. If declarer doesn't get lucky, we made be able to salvage a decent score. As it was, doubling probably cost us a mere 6 matchpoints, but could have gained us twelve. Hank caught me with a bare minimum bid, and some of my points turned out to be wasted. It happens. Next hand.

Our system lets us get to 1N making (+90) when the field is either languishing in 1 diamond making (+70) or 2N not making (-50). That's matchpoint gold! Still, some people are allowed to make 2N, but we get a solid 17/26.

We then have a surreal hand. I'm dummy in three NT and the opening lead is a spade. I've got xxxx KQxx Q9x xx and after calling for a card third hand pitches a club.

"No spades, partner?" asks the leader.

"Nope."

Hank thinks about this, and then wins with a small spade and leads a heart. After it goes small, then king, then the third hand shudders and says "Oh, I did have a spade."

Too late, the revoke is established. RHO wins the heart ace and leads his newly found spade queen. Hank wins the ace, but a funny thing has happened.

7643
KT8x Q

AJ92


Small spade to the 9. Then Queen-ace-8-x. If LHO had followed suit, declarer would have only one spade trick. But by revoking and then leading it, he's given us another spade trick and tightened the position. If LHO can be thrown in at the right time, he'll have to lead spades from the KT into the J9!

In fact, this happens. I watch the play (as dummy) with growing interest and see RHO get stripped and endplayed. We take three spade tricks on a hand where the cards should only let us take one. And technically we should get 1-2 tricks as a revoke penalty. So call it 5 spade tricks!

No matter.
Three NT making 5 is +460 is a top score anyway, the field getting +400 or +420). +520 is the same score, still 26/26.
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11. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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Next round, solid opponents. I make a stupid cardplay mistake on the third hand to earn 3/26 instead of 11/26 or so. The other two boards are fine, but I can't keep giving up points like that. Terrible.

Another round. I pick up S:AT9x H:JT5x D:J8xxx C:--

LHO opens 1 club and partner bids 1 diamond. Huh.

I should probably just bid five diamonds. Yes, we could have a lot of losers, but we have a 10 or 11 card diamond fit, no club losers, and I have an ace and a decent spade spot. And, since partner and I play Raptor, his 1 diamond bid almost certainly denies having a four card major (which score more, and this is matchpoints). But I only just compete, so we get +170 (4 diamonds making six) instead of +420 (5 diamonds making six). Slightly above average.

Next hand we miss a game, but it's a tough game to get to (and easy to misplay) so we get an average.

I then pick up x J8xxxx KTx K9x. Hank opens 1 NT (15-17 HCP). It's borderline, but with a six card suit I'm just going to shoot the game. But RHO bids 2 spades first. No matter, I bid four diamonds (a texas transfer to four hearts, so that they can't lead through the strong hand) but LHO bids four spades.

We're vulnerable, and they are not. Which means we'd have to set them four tricks if we can make four hearts. Hank decides to try to make five hearts, hoping that I have full values and deciding that his extra heart sways the decision towards offense. He gets doubled.

The doubler took a real risk, because if I have the king of hearts instead of Hank, five hearts makes. But she's lucky. But again, I think the odds favored bidding, and Hank and I just shrug (and gnash our teeth slightly at the double, which could have turned an average board for us into a top). Surprisingly, we still get an average score for -200 (the matchpoint kiss of death score).
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12. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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We're playing two Austin experts, Melodie and Tommie. On the first hand Melodie opens 4 hearts and it's passed to me. I'm staring at her system notes to see what any other special bids they use. That may provide an inference and she read my mind. "No Brian, I don't play NAMYATS." (Which is, in fact, what I was looking for).

I hold Kxxx xx x AJTxxx and we're both vulnerable. I'm told that I should bid 4 spades over 4 hearts with any excuse but I can't bring myself to. I pass. We set four hearts two tricks, for +200, but partner had a balanced 14 count, so if I doubled he'd have sat for it and we'd have gotten +500. Ah well.

Sidebar -- A few days ago Hank sent out a note on when to lead trumps to some people he plays with, because he thinks they are doing it wrong.

I open 2C, showing clubs and 10-15 HCP (as compared to a strong artificial bid) and Melodie doubles. Hank redoubles (asking me more about my hand). Tommie bids 2 hearts, I bid 2 spades showing 4 spades. Hank raises to three, and I pass, not liking my hand that much (Q8xx Qx AT AT9xx) and worried that spades are splitting 4-1.

It turns out I'm right. A trump lead butchers me, and this is a situation called for by the notes. But apparently Melodie didn't like leading from her JTxx of spades (her partner held the stiff king). Her actual lead (the heart ace) gives me a trick and the timing I need to make an overtrick, for a near top.

On the next hand Melodie opens 1 club, announced as "Could be short" (as few as two clubs). Hank bids 2 clubs (actually having clubs) and gets doubled, by Tommie, and everyone passes. Despite putting down a good dummy (two clubs and the red aces) Hank really has no hope. Melodie's clubs are QJT87. -200 is the matchpoint kiss of death, 1/26. Hank's overcall was a bit frisky, but getting caught is mildly unlucky.

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13. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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Our opponent in the next round overbids, catches a miracle dummy (who should have realistically raised him into an unmakeable contract after he freely bid to 4 diamonds by himself) and then decides to risk his contract for an overtrick. Bzzt! Never play for a second miracle. That's greedy. We set him.

I pick up a big hand: S:AJ987 H:KQ8xx D:-- C:AKx

I open 1 Club (polish), which is usually a minimum 12-14 point hand, but also includes strong hands like this one. Partner bids 2 diamonds, which is game forcing opposite a weak opener. OK, we're in near-slam zone. I bid 2 spades, partner bids 3 clubs. I bid 3 hearts, which lets partner into the picture that I have a big hand. Partner bids 4 clubs.

It's a misfit, but we may be able to do this on brute strength. I could bid 5 diamonds exclusion, but it's not at all clear to me if partner will interpret it as this, and it commits us to slam in any case.

So I just shoot out six clubs.

Alas, partner has S:x H:xx D:AKQJx C:J9xxx. The opening lead is the heart ace and when the club queen is not doubleton I'm down. Give partner the JTxxx of clubs instead, and slam makes as I can finesse against the queen.

Next hand my LHO (the overbidder from the first hand) opens 2 clubs, strong and forcing. Is my partner bullied by such things? He is not. It helps that we have agreements on how to handle strong artificial openings. And that we aren't vulnerable and they are.

Hank bids two spades, which (with our conventions) shows spades and clubs. RHO passes. This might very well be the first time anyone has ever interfered against a two club opener that she or her partner has bid.

I look down at my hand -- S:Txxxx H:Qxx D:Kx C:xxx

Well, they may have a game or slam anywhere. I've got no useful high card points, but I do have five spades. So -- four spades!

LHO bids 5 hearts. It always sucks to have to introduce your suits at the five level.

Hank thinks. I wonder what he's thinking about. We've already won.

Our opponents' had to guess at the five level. I'm mentally reviewing the bridge player's bible (Matchpoints by Kit Woolsey) that talks about the fact that you should make a pressure bid and give up. I'm mentally reciting this to get hank to pass.

Hank bids five spades. This is a massive parlay, Hank must have an incredibly pure hand, with nothing in the red suits, and probably a ton of clubs. As Hank gets doubled, I'm visibly grousing.

In fact, he plays quite well to go out for -300. But even if he'd gone -500, he's proven right. Five hearts makes (which would have been -650), so he improved our score.

But in looking at the hand, we realize that they could also have taken the push and possibly found a line of play to make six hearts! (-1430). So, it worked this time, but I still think that when you are ahead of the field, don't offer a fielder's choice.

Worked this time, though. Lucky or skill? Who knows.
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14. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
United States
San Antonio
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Another strong pair that we'll see tomorrow in flight A. On the first hand we get an average when my LHO plays for a mistake but I have a full count on the hand. No mistake by me.

Then my RHO opens 3 spades on a hand where the field may open 4. We can't do anything, and it makes exactly three. Nothing we can do about that, sigh. Then Hank declared 3NT and makes a sneaky line of play to try for an overtrick but LHO makes a good play based on a very subtle inference. As dummy I wasn't paying that much attention but looking at it now, her partner was right to complement her.

That's why I play in flight As. You learn a lot. She explained her reasoning and it seemed quite sound. Too tired to explain it all.

The net result of the round is that we only get 30/78, which isn't great, but they are a good pair and had some decent luck on the middle hand.

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15. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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The last pair we play is another married couple who will probably make a run at the Flight B NAOPs over the weekend. They don't make glaring mistakes (compared to flight Bs or even some of my mental aneurysms). They are actually fairly solid.

On the first hand I open about as light as I dare with xx Kx Axxx KTxxx. Even by our standards that's a stretch. But it works out as partner doesn't have enough to drive to game but we do force them to three hearts, which fails.

On the second hand we get average for being in three no trump making.

The last hand of the night I my LHO opens 1 heart. Typically a 1 NT overcall shows about what an 1NT opener does -- 15-17 points. But those are much less common once an opponent has opened, so my partner and I play Raptor, where a 1NT bids shows merely a competitve hand with 4 cards in a major and a longer minor. Those are hard hands to describe. In fact, my hand is strong enough that I could have overcalled 1NT, no matter which we I played. I have a 17 count with 4-2-2-5 shape.

I bid 1N and Hank alerts. LHO reaches for a bid, then changes his mind and passes. Hank buys the hand in two spades, playing in his 4-3 fit with almost no points. Still, I have enough that he gets out for -100, while the opponents can make 3 hearts (-140), so we get 19.5/26.

The session is over, and we've had not nearly as many gifts and a few too many mistakes. I blame the hamburger. We get a measly 51%, barely above average at all. Thankfully this is just a warmup, the real match is tomorrow!
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16. Board Game: Start Your Engines! [Average Rating:4.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Start Your Engines!
Brian Bankler
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I arrive early at the game site and Hank is already there! He normally shows up +- 5 minutes from game time. Ah, right, he's on the unit Board of Directors and had to help set up. There were ~40 tables yesterday, but now we have 16 tables in Flight A, 30 tables in flight B, I'm not sure but ~15 in flight C, and the regular sectional games (for people who don't want to play in the NAOP). Hank already got our entry, so I just chat for a bit with people before the game starts.
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17. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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Here's some nice bidding.

North -- S:Q5 H:4 D:Q7532 C:AQ643

South -- S:AKxx H:9xxx D:AK8x C:K

1 Diamond - 2 Diamonds (Strong, forcing)
2 Spades - 4 Diamonds (asking for key cards: Aces + Diamond King)
4 Hearts - 5 Diamonds (0 or 3. Five diamonds catering to 'zero')
6 Diamonds (I have three).


Score it up. Sadly, we are east-west and get to watch. As we leave the table I comment to Hank, "We're in a Flight A. I'm sure most people will get to that slam." I am wrong. We only get 1 point out of fifteen.

On the second hand I invite a game and Hank declines, and he has two reasonable lines of play. He picks the wrong one. We're off to a poor start.
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18. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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Hank and I stop in two spades when he could have invited. It's unlucky in that I have an absolute maximum, our hands fit together really well and I get a friendly lie of the cards.

The next hand I invite game and, Hank accepts and it goes down. But move a Ten around and it makes.

At the time, I think both hands are average. They are not.

The field has gotten to the very lucky game and stayed out of the close game. Both boards are roughly 2/15. But honestly, I think we've gotten unlucky on these. At the time, I mark them as average.
 
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19. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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Hank and I have a pressuring style.

We jam the auction, and dare the opponents to punish us. After LHO opens a strong 2 clubs, Hank doubles (showing clubs and hearts). RHO passes (showing some values) and I have Kx xx QJ9xx T8xx.

I bid 3 clubs. I'm sure it can go down, probably for a number, but is the number big enough to compensate the opponents? I don't know. Neither do they. And we've eaten up one level of bidding. LHO bids 3NT and RHO rather surprisingly bids 4 Spades, which gets passed.

Apparently they play that a bid of two spades over Hank's double promises two honor cards (Ace/King/Queen), I make the opening lead and I see that my partner has bid on air, as dummy has AKQxx of hearts and AQx of clubs. As it turns out, partner does have nine cards in the two suits, but that's it. The opponents miss a slam (forgivable) but also only make five when six is there, so we get an obviously good board.

On the next hand we are not vulnerable and they are. Hank opens 2 spades and RHO bids 3 diamonds. I've got

Q9xx JTxx QTxx 5

I bid four spades. They may go down in five diamonds, they may have a slam. I don't know. I just know we have a lot of spades and not many points. LHO doubles (no surprise), Hank passes and RHO pulls the double, bidding 5 clubs. I pass and LHO shrugs and raises to 6 clubs. I lead the spade Queen and RHO is sputtering that his takeout doesn't show extras when dummy hits with

S:KJx H:KQx D:7 C:KJ7432

6 card trump support solves a lot of problems. Making six.

We may have pushed them into this slam, but thems the breaks. If they double us in 4 spades, we get a great score of -500. Again we find out (after the game) that the field has not protected us. This seems like a pretty reasonable auction, although Hank has preempted with two aces, which some people won't do.

Still, the pressuring style tends to win more often than not.
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20. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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My RHO for the 3rd round seems to have a problem. I look at my hand.

KJT97 9x 9x J9xx.

Sadly, I'm not even sure I'm going to overcall if I have the chance. I do have all the nines, though. RHO eventually comes out of the tank and opens 1 Club which is alerted. I discover the opponents are playing Precision, so 1 club shows 16+ points and nothing else.

I re-evaluate. First of all, why did my opponent have a problem? Opening bids are easy, mostly. I think something fishy is going on, and I do have 9 cards in two suits, and all my (five) points in them. I bid 1 spade, showing spades and clubs and inviting Hank to jam the auction as high as he dares. LHO doubles, showing a scattered 5-7 points, and Hank raises to two spades. RHO still has some trouble, and but he bids four hearts which ends the auction.

He isn't happy at all when he dummy puts down:

S: (Void) H:QTxx D:KJxxxx C:xxx

Opener's problem?

It takes a while to count to 25 (high card points).

Our opponents can make a grand slam in hearts (or no trump) and are the only pair to miss the slam. Our "gentle" competition meant opener had to jump to four hearts. Dummy is complaining that she didn't have room to make a safe slam try, but honestly, what more could she have? Our sympathies are with declarer, that was just a misbid.

But, our pressure helped.

They are still simmering when I sort my cards for round two

I have a reasonable opening hand 73 AKT Q8763 K63, so I open 1 diamond. Everyone has something to say.

Me LHO Hank RHO
---------------
1D 2C Dbl* 3C [Showing both majors, or perhaps one major and diamonds]
P P 3D 3H
??

I have no idea what 3 hearts is supposed to be, but I desperately want a heart lead and don't think they can make it. And Hank may have hearts. We have at least half the high cards.

I think RHO has stepped out of line.

I double. LHO retreats to four clubs and Hank doubles, ending the auction.

I get my heart lead, and dummy has QJxxxx of hearts. With the AKT behind him and most of the hand obvious, the play has no surprises. We get +300, and probably can't even make three diamonds.

A great board and probably two top scores for the round.

We're back in the thick of it.
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21. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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LHO opens 3 spades and Hank doubles. RHO passes. I have a motley collection

S:9xx H:JTxx D:K76xx C:8.

Well, Hank has made a takeout bid. No point in complaining that we are going down. I bid four hearts and play there.

I get the spade king lead and see the following:

Dummy: S:Jx H:AKQx D:J9xx C:KT9

RHO follows with the ten. LHO has preempted on AKQxxxx suits.

I have long railed against preempting solid suits. I hate it. First of all, partner with a stiff and scattered values can easily make 3 NT, and he'll never bid it unless he has a monster.

Also, if you don't win the hand, declarer has an easy time. I can now place all four hands, roughly. LHO cashes another spade and RHO discards an encouraging club. LHO obligingly shifts and I play the T to keep a possible ruffing threat. Who knows, perhaps RHO will try to cash the ace.

RHO wins and shifts to a heart. I pull hearts (which break 3-2) ending on the board, which now looks like

S:-- H:x D:J9xx C:KT

S:x H:x D:K7xxx C:--

I'm missing the A, Q, T and 8 of diamonds. No problem, I know where two of them are.

I play the jack of diamonds. LHO plays the 8 (hoping I misguess) but there's no guess. Small and I smother LHO's ten. If I'd led small to the king I'd have lost two diamonds, but the position was obvious.

I'm only down one, not bad. And in any case they can make five spades, but my RHO was worried about raising on a singleton.

Advice -- Don't preempt suits to the AKQ (at least, not if partner hasn't passed yet).

On the next hand I get to open in third chair, with Kxx K98x ATxx Qx.

I open 1D, Hank responds 1S and I rebid 1N, passed by Hank. RHO can't stand it. He doubles for takeout.

Ah, the part score battles of tournament bridge.

I pass and LHO bids 2 clubs. Hank doubles. A few months ago we had a disagreement about when such doubles were penalty. Now we are on relatively solid footing. This is penalty.

I have no reason to pull it, so that's where we stay.

We were going to get +90 or +120 in 1 No trump. The points are exactly evenly split, but we have the spots behind them. My RHO has picked a bad time to double, he's got four spades and three of each other suit. (A mantra by Danny Kleinman is "Balanced Hands Defend").

Declarer shudders when dummy hits and it's obvious to me that he's in trouble, with Hank's clubs behind his and my spots behind dummy. It's brutal. We set them three tricks for +500.

Another great round, and this one feels a little bit earned. It was still mainly gifts, but we improved on them, a bit.

Update
-- An expert has pointed out that RHO erred by ducking the jack of diamonds. If he covers the jack with the queen he'll still get two tricks because he'll have A8 and I have to lead away from the 9. So I had no legitimate play to hold diamond losers to one (barring AQ tight), but my play did at least give the option for an error. I'll take it.
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22. Board Game: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? [Average Rating:4.77 Overall Rank:18982]
Board Game: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Brian Bankler
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As we change rounds I examine the field, and finally notice what's missing. Lots of champions. We normally have 5-10 national champions (and a few world champions) but only Bart Bramley and one or two others are there. The field is noticeably weaker than last year. Huh.

On the next board I open 1N and partner transfers me into hearts. My LHO leads from three small diamonds into my AKQ8x and my RHO can't figure out what's going on. After the hand they have a discussion about their defensive carding, but the poor opening lead and lack of a shift means I have time to take one more trick than I'm entitled to.

Our next hand is a routine game, totally average.

Update -- I have been informed that there were a fair number of National Champions (and almost Nat'l champions) in the field, there were at least 7 Grand Life Masters (and that award, unlike Life Master, means quite a bit), prior winners of the Grand National Teams event, a few almost National Champions. They just aren't 'named' players, and since I don't go to nationals I wasn't really aware of it. So the field is stronger than I thought. Good to know.

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23. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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Next round, partner and LHO each have a monster hand, which means neither one can make anything. Partner "Wins" the auction with two hearts, and goes down two on a 5-0 heart split. This actually isn't bad, because lots of people are getting killed for more.

I open 1N again, get transferred to hearts again, but this time I have a good fit so I jump to 3 hearts in case partner is borderline. He isn't, and I play it there. Again my opponents have a defensive carding disaster (in diamonds!) and give me a ruff and sluff! for another undeserved overtrick.



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24. Board Game: Ninety-Nine [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:3322]
Board Game: Ninety-Nine
Brian Bankler
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Against our next opponents I try to economize and signal with a middle card instead of a big one. Huge mistake, as partner can't read it and we give up two overtricks. Don't be subtle is a lesson I need to learn again and again. The worst part? The bigger card didn't matter anyway. A sadly deserved terrible board.

We then get an average board, and move onto the next round, against the Chinese Mafia. They get to a routine four spades on the first hand, which doesn't make due to bad trump breaks. At the end, I have to decide whether to guarantee down one or risk letting him make an a lucky distribution, but get him down two tricks most of the time. I decide to take the down one, which turns out to be a mistake.

On the next hand they wind up in a routine 1 NT (or so I think) but declarer (a very fine player of cards) struggles. I'm expecting him to make it, but my partner has made a falsecard that has fooled me (but more importantly, declarer) and suddenly my partner claims and we get +200 for a top.

But the interesting thing, that both partner and I have noted is that in the last two rounds we've defended four hands. And on all four hands, the opening lead was .... The Nine of Diamonds.

Weird.
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25. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
United States
San Antonio
Texas
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Microbadge: Rebuilding the Infinity EngineMicrobadge: Res Arcana fanMicrobadge: BloggerMicrobadge: Magic Realm fanMicrobadge: 18xx fan
Another open, preempt or pass hand. I have
AK9xxx xx Txx Kx.

2 and 1/2 quick tricks looks like an opening to me. I bid 1S, LHO doubles and Hank bids 4S (5+ spades, not many points).

RHO hesitates slightly. I'm already going to bid 5 spades over anything. With 11(+) spades between us, my hand is useless except in spades. RHO passes and now I pass, because RHO's hesitation means that LHO probably can't bid unless it's clear cut.

RHO has effectively signaled she has enough points to almost do something, but LHO is not allowed to know that, and on borderline decisions he could be penalized based on her hesitation.

LHO passes.

There is nothing to the play, we are down two. After the hand LHO complains that partner's action barred him (as I suspected). RHO had 5-5 in the red suits and 8 points 9and a spade void). That looks like a 5 heart bid to me. They probably can't get to a slam (six of anything but spades) but should get at least their game.

On the next hand Hank butchers a touchy game to go down three. Just brutal. Ugh. It happens.
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