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Lose the Trials Semifinal with Me, VIII
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With one segment to play in the 2019 Trials semifinal, FLEISHER (Marty Fleisher, Chip Martel; Eric Greco, Geoff Hampson; Joe Grue, Brad Moss) led KRIEGEL (John Diamond, Brian Platnick; Oren Kriegel, Ron Smith) by 16 IMPs, 227-211.

Eighth Eighth

FLEISHER had the seed in the final segment. Geoff and Eric played against JD and Brian, and Joe and Brad faced Ron and me. The segment began with a close game on Board 16:

Greco
AK854
752
Q3
763
Platnick
1032
J9
A8642
AJ10
Hampson
J
KQ104
975
Q9852
Diamond
Q976
A863
KJ10
K4
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
1
P
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

The auction began the same way in the Open Room, but Brad passed the 2NT invite as North. I chose not to lead a spade, fearing a layout like this one. My club lead guessed the suit for declarer (Ron ducked trick one, so dummy's 10 won). Joe lost a diamond finesse to me, and I shifted to hearts. We took two spades, two hearts, and a diamond: making two, -120.

The stakes were higher in the Closed Room, because Brian kicked it in. A spade lead went to the J and Q. Facing a tricky entry situation, JD tried leading the 4 to the J, but that lost to the Q. Back came the K (a club return would have trashed declarer's communications), and JD essentially had to guess diamonds. He finessed through East, playing the non-overcaller for the greater length. When West produced the Q, he was down two: -100 and 6 IMPs to FLEISHER.

Ron made a sneaky play in a game on Board 17, leading from his concealed Qx toward dummy's Kxx. When his LHO rose with the A, Ron didn't have to take a (winning) finesse. Whether this was an effective stroke is hard to say, because the defenders might have done differently if the key honor was in the opposite hand. There was no swing on the deal.

Board 18 was also flat, but KRIEGEL started a run on Board 19:

Greco
K10952
1087
10
AQ52
Platnick
A3
9632
AKQ852
9
Hampson
Q876
Q
96
KJ10843
Diamond
J4
AKJ54
J743
76
W
N
E
S
 
1
1
2N
4
4
4
4N
X
5
5
6
P
P
6
X
P
P
P
D
6X West
NS: 0 EW: 0

This is the ideal sort of hand for a trailing team to bid slam on at the end of a match. East-West did well to save, paying out 800 instead of 980.

At the other table, North jumped to 4 over the 1 overcall, intended as a splinter but interpreted as natural. East bid 4, South "raised" to 5, I doubled, and North bid 5. South knew they were off the rails, and he bid 5, which ended the auction. That was -480 and 8 IMPs to KRIEGEL.

Differences in opening style led to a swing on Board 20:

North
AK3
9865
62
A753
South
QJ105
Q107
KQ843
J

When vulnerable, Joe and Brad play sound opening bids. North chose a 1 opening because of the strong controls, but South drove to game. The A was led and a club shift established three club tricks to go with the red ace-king-ace: down two, +200.

JD and Brian play light openings at all vulnerabilities. South did not even try for game after a 1 opening and a 1NT rebid showing 11-13 balanced, preferring to sign off in 2. That made on the nose: +90 and 7 IMPs to KRIEGEL.

The rally wasn't over. This was Board 21:

Kriegel
954
K73
Q93
QJ63
Moss
K8632
A965
AK95
Smith
QJ
QJ8
AK10654
84
Grue
A107
1042
J872
1072
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
3
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 North
NS: 0 EW: 0

The 4 contract was on the pushy side, to put it mildly. Declarer ruffed the diamond lead and essentially played for the three key suits to divide evenly. He led out the top clubs and played a third round, which would have succeeded when both round suits were 3-3 with trumps 3-2 (with QJ-doubleton offering some extra chances). That didn't work on the actual layout and he went down one for +100, but the contract was makable thanks to a different miracle: both clubs onside and QJ-doubleton meant declarer could have limited his losses to one club and two hearts.

North did not drive to game at the other table, and he made 3 for +140 and 6 IMPs to KRIEGEL.

JD landed a blow with a creative opening bid on Board 22:

Greco
AKQ10
10532
KJ8
82
Platnick
9
Q76
7652
A10954
Hampson
J53
A98
A1094
763
Diamond
87642
KJ4
Q3
KQJ
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
3
3
P
P
P
D
3 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

JD suppressed his weak five-card major in favor of a short 1 opening, an uncommon but not unheard of tactic. It worked like a charm here, when Eric chose to overcall his four-card spade suit. Brian bounced to the three-level, and Geoff had his values for 3. Left to his own devices, Eric might have gotten diamonds wrong, but Brian led one. Eric expected to be claiming shortly, but North's showing out on the second round of spades was a nasty shock. He played four rounds of spades and then played on diamonds for down one: +50.

Joe opened 1 at the other table and passed Brad's 1NT response. I could have doubled, showing strength in spades, but it wasn't clear 1NT was down, and even if it was, the opponents might have had a better place to run out to. We could have taken the first nine tricks with a spade or diamond lead (or the A, but come on), but Ron's club lead looks right to me. Declarer took his five club tricks and we had the rest: down two, +100. 5 IMPs to KRIEGEL.

We had scored 26 unanswered IMPs and had taken a 4-IMP lead with eight boards left to go.

Our lead lasted for two flat boards, but FLEISHER retook the lead on Board 25:

Kriegel
5
K10986
AQ872
84
Moss
Q96
Q32
J43
AQ96
Smith
AJ832
4
K95
K1032
Grue
K1074
AJ75
106
J75
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT North
NS: 0 EW: 0

I chose not to balance over 1NT because I did not have a clear way to show both suits. I could not have shown diamond length over South's double, even though the opening bid could have been short, so a delayed 2 call might have suggested diamond length only.

Ron led a spade to Brad's 9 and ducked the Q continuation, as I discarded a discouraging club. Brad led a club to dummy's J then called for a low heart. I rose with the K and shifted to a diamond, but Ron continued diamonds without cashing his A, so the contract made: -90. I might have been able to help by cashing a diamond honor before playing a low one, but Ron knew declarer's high cards, so the A was the setting trick if we could beat the contract.

At the other table, West did balance with 2 after the same start, and East raised to 3. That contract made (an overtrick was possible, but declarer played safely), so we lost 5 IMPs. Defeating 1NT would have held the loss to 2 IMPs.

There was another swing on Board 26:

Moss
A10875
94
J8
Q954
Grue
K943
AK83
A3
J106
W
N
E
S
1
X
1
2
P
P
P

Assuming the opponents will not take a ruff with a singleton spade, 4 essentially rides on navigating spades for no loser (with the slight extra chance of QJ10-tripleton). Brad's jump to 2 was not invitational: he had a way to show values with spades.

At the other table, the opening bid was a Precision 1, and West raised to 3 over the double. North bid 3, and South raised to game.

Opener held QJx and there was no miracle heart distribution, so both declarers took nine tricks: -140, -100; 6 IMPs to FLEISHER.

Board 27 posed an interesting play problem:

Kriegel
Q965
AJ543
9
1043
Moss
J4
1076
Q872
AK98
Smith
A10872
982
K1065
6
Grue
K3
KQ
AJ43
QJ752
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

After the 4 lead to the Q, Joe played Q, club to the A, K. Ron threw two spades in encouraging order. Declarer led a diamond to the J and had to go down one. As the cards lay, he could have made by leading dummy's Q, pinning a stiff intermediate in my hand.

If East had A-sixth or AQ-fifth he might have doubled the 2 response, so if declarer inferred West had some spade length to go with his heart and club length, it might have been indicated to pick up diamonds.

At the other table, North raised to 3NT directly, so there was less information available. Declarer won the heart lead, crossed in clubs, and led a diamond to the J at once, so the board was pushed at down one.

The last swing of the match came on Board 28. You, as East, hold:

East
92
7543
KJ1075
104
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
X
P
2
2
3
P
4
P
P
P

What would you lead?

This was the full deal:

Kriegel
K75
KJ10
Q83
AK76
Moss
A86
9
962
QJ9853
Smith
92
7543
KJ1075
104
Grue
QJ1043
AQ862
A4
2
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
X
P
2
2
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 North
NS: 0 EW: 0

Ron led the 10. I won the K and shifted to the 5, which was probably an error. If declarer had a doubleton heart, it wouldn't have been necessary to shift to trumps, and when he had a singleton, as here, he would often be able to establish the club suit.

Declarer's task would have been much easier if he played the 6, because it would have established the 8 as an additional entry to his hand. However, he thought I might have shifted to the 7 from this holding and put up the 8. Ron covered with the 9, and dummy won.

After A, heart ruff, declarer passed the 8 to me, throwing dummy's low diamond. I played a third club ruffed by Ron and overruffed, but Brad ruffed a heart with the A and just lost the K: making four, -620.

As the cards lie, the 2 defeats the contract. The 9 is no good, because it gives declarer an extra hand entry to establish and use the club suit.

The auction began identically in the other room, but South chose to show the majors with 2, not 3. East-West eventually bought it for 3, which went down two: -100 and 11 IMPs to FLEISHER.

Defeating 4 would have swung 5 IMPs to KRIEGEL instead, but that would still have left us 1 IMP short. Of course, there might have been one or two other deals out of 119 that could have swung an IMP.

FLEISHER won the segmentby 2 IMPs, 28-26, and the final margin was 255-237 in FLEISHER's favor. After winning close matches against us and against DONN in the quarterfinals, FLEISHER had an easy time in the finals, receiving a concession up over 100 IMPs with one segment to play.

Congratulations to FLEISHER, USA2 for the 2019 Bermuda Bowl. Thanks to Brian, JD, and Ron for a great run and being great teammates.

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