Three of the top four seeds reached the semi-finals, which were 56 boards long, and then both the higher ranking seeds were eliminated. Mike Kamil, Michael Becker, Steve Becker, Rich DeMartino, Josh Parker and Bruce Rogoff defeated Michael Rosenberg, Richie Schwartz, Mike Passell and Brian Glubok by 45 IMPs, in fact holding the losers to 57 IMPs over 56 boards, a remarkable achievement. (Throughout this article the Beckers will be referred to with their first names to avoid ambiguity.)
The other match was a far closer affair. Bob Blanchard, Jim Krekorian, Bjorn Fallenius, Bill Pollack, and John Rengstorff were 31 IMPs down with 14 to play before picking up 50 IMPs in the final segment to win by 15 IMPs over Robb and Linda Gordon, Adam Wildavsky and Chris Willenken.
The final would be a 56-board affair, played in four quarters. As you will see, the hands were tough, and the problems complex, but overall, the standard of bridge would be excellent, with relatively few IMPs changing hands.
The match seemed to feature an inordinate number of problems for Bob Blanchard, and this was especially true of our first hand.
S J 3 H J 7 5 3 2 D A 6 4 C J 6 2 S 8 7 5 4 2 S Q T 9 H 8 6 4 H T D J 9 D K 7 3 2 C K 9 5 C A T 8 7 4 S A K 6 H A K Q 9 D Q T 8 5 C Q 5Non-vulnerable, as South he opened 2 NT, and heard his partner transfer to hearts. His first decision was whether to break the transfer. He bid 3H, and heard his partner bid 3 NT. He retreated to 4 Kand had to play it. He won the spade lead, and drew three rounds of trumps, on which his RHO threw an encouraging club, and a low diamond. He now played the DA on which his LHO produced the D9, and a diamond. He put in the D10, which seems wrong in both theory and practice (with that dummy would East let go a diamond from DJxxx?). Of course, East should have discarded a second club, not a diamond; his partner would not have a singleton small club, and not lead it. This was a 10 IMP pick-up for Becker when at the other table DeMartino guessed diamonds correctly, after East pitched two clubs on the second and third round of trumps.
Blanchard's team gained back 8 IMPs when the bidding started 1NT -Pass-Pass = to:
T 8 2
A K Q T 7 3
Becker and Kamil could not double for penalties and ended up in a diamond partial, making. Fallenius and Pollack could double but collected only 500 of the 1400 that was available.
Then, another defensive problem for Blanchard:
S A J 5 H 4 3 2 D A 8 5 3 C 7 5 2 S K 9 6 3 2 S Q 8 7 4 H K 9 7 H J 5 D J 6 D Q T 7 2 C K T 3 C J 9 6 S T H A Q T 8 6 D K 9 4 C A Q 8 4 SOUTH WEST NORTH EAST Kamil Blanchard M. Becker Krekorian Pass Pass 1 H Pass 2 H Pass 3 D Pass 4 H All passA low spade lead might have given Krekorian an interesting problem if Kamil had ducked smoothly, but the heart lead worked fine, up to a point. Kamil won in hand and passed the D9. Krekorian might have shifted to the C9 (or even the CJ), but in fact, played the C6, to the C8 and C10. Now Blanchard returned the CK and declarer was home. 12 IMPs to Becker as the game went down in the other room on the spade lead, when declarer did not elect to duck at Trick One.
S J 5 H A 2 D 8 5 3 C A T 7 6 4 2 S A K 3 S Q H Q J T 9 7 6 H K 8 5 4 3 D 9 6 2 D K J T 7 C 8 C K 9 5 S T 9 8 7 6 4 2 H Void D A Q 4 C Q J 3 WEST NORTH EAST SOUTH Kamil Blanchard M. Becker Krekorian 1 H 2 C 3 C 4 S Dble All pass Fallenius DeMartino Pollack S Becker 1 H 2 C 3 C 3 S 4 H Pass Pass 5 C Dbl All passIn the first quarter, the Blanchard team picked up only two sizeable swings, and this was the second. Krekorian declared 4S doubled, and took the opening club lead in dummy to discard a diamond on the hearts, then ruffed a heart to hand on which Mike played an intelligent HK (spade card?) to lead a trump towards the S J. Kamil obviously did not get the message; he took the S K, and could still have beaten the contract by returning a heart; declarer has no entry to dummy to take the diamond finesse; however, Kamil played a diamond, not unreasonably, and that led to -590. At the other table, Steve's decision to bid 5C led to -300 on a heart lead and a subsequent diamond switch. That was 13 IMPs to Blanchard, but with a series of small part score pick-ups to Becker the score at the end of the first set was 41-22 to Becker.
SOUTH WEST NORTH EAST Fallenius DeMartino Pollack S.Becker Pass 1 D Pass 1S 1NT Dbl 2H 2S Pass 4 S All Pass S A 9 2 H A 2 D A K J 9 5 3 C 7 2 S 5 4 S T 8 7 3 H K Q 7 6 5 H J T 3 D Q D T 8 7 6 2 C K Q J 8 4 C 5 S K Q J 6 H 9 8 4 D 4 C A T 9 6 3In the second set, Mike Becker and Kamil sat out, and Rogoff and Parker (playing Precision with four-card majors) came in. Their strong club auction led to the normal contract of 3 NT, but it was reached after West had shown hearts and subsequently good clubs; so, on a heart lead they needed something very good and rather unlikely in diamonds. Nevertheless, that slim prospect duly came in and 3 NT duly made. Fallenius found his way to 4S , and found some extra chances. He ducked the heart lead and won the club switch. Playing West for a 5-5 shape he took the KA and crossed to a trump in hand to ruff a heart high. Then he drew the trumps and threw East in with the last spade. East, with only diamonds left, led into dummy's tenace, then got endplayed again in the same suit. I think Fallenius was very unlucky not to generate a game swing here, but as it was, the singleton DQ meant a flat board.
S K 9 2 H 7 2 D K J 9 5 4 3 C 7 4 S 8 7 S T 3 H Q J 5 H K T 9 8 6 3 D A T 8 6 2 D 7 C Q 5 2 C A K T 9 S A Q J 6 5 4 H A 4 D Q C J 8 6 3 SOUTH WEST NORTH EAST Blanchard Rogoff Krekorian Parker 1H 1S 2H 2S 3C 3H 4H 4S All Pass DeMartino Pollack S Becker Fallenius 1H 1S 2H 2S 3C 3S 4H All PassThe above auction led Blanchard and Krekorian to 4S; the crux was South's rebid; 3H left North unsure what was going on, but he bid game as a sort of two-way shot. Although a heart lead left declarer with no chance at all, the surprising 4H on the minority of the high cards was untouchable. At the other table, DeMartino rebid 3S and Becker reasonably enough sold out to 4H, an 8 IMP pick-up for Blanchard.
Next, Billy Pollack generated 8 IMPs for his team by opening 4C (Namyats) at
unfavorable with this:
K Q J T 7 5 4
A J 6 5
This made comfortably while at the other table Blanchard and Krekorian found a save for -300 after entering their opponents' strong club auction.
S A 9 5 H 6 2 D A Q 9 7 4 3 C 7 4 S K 7 4 S Q 6 3 H Q 8 5 4 H A T 3 D 8 6 2 D K 5 C 6 5 3 C A J 9 8 2 S J T 8 2 H K J 9 7 D J T C K Q T SOUTH WEST NORTH EAST Rogoff Krekorian Parker Blanchard 1D Dble 3NT All Pass Pollack S Becker Fallenius DeMartino 1D Dble RD 1H 2D Pass 3NT All PassThis was perhaps one of the crucial boards in the match. Krekorian led a fourth highest K4, and Blanchard had a problem at trick one. If his partner's hearts were K9xx, a heart continuation would be right, but Blanchard played the odds by winning the HA and switching to a club. His partner's C3 told him to go back to hearts after he took the DK. So he played the H10, and Rogoff finessed to Krekorian's HQ. Now, with no communication between the North and South hands a spade switch (or possibly even better a club to partner's presumed CA, for a spade through in case partner hasS J10 rather than the S Q) must be right. But Krekorian continued the attack on hearts for declarer's ninth trick.
At the other table, Steve Becker led a spade, facilitating declarer's task considerably. DeMartino continued spades, to the S J, S Q and S A. A low diamond from dummy went round to declarer's DJ! Now a second diamond (after a lot of thought) to the DQ and DK let a third spade come through. Declarer ran all the diamonds, putting some discarding pressure on East as well as on himself. Pollack then misguessed the end position for down one. This was 10 IMPs to Becker which could or should have gone the other way. Next came a slam decision:
WEST EAST S K 7 2 S A T 5 H A Q H T 9 7 6 5 2 D A K T 7 D -- C K J T 5 C A 8 7 4East followed up with 5H, and was raised to six. Krekorian as East chose to follow up with 4C getting him to 6C. The distribution was not friendly and both slams went down for a flat board.
This was the last board of any significance in the second quarter; a generally well-played quarter had seen only 29 IMPs change hands, with Blanchard winning the set 18-11 and thus breaking 12 IMPs down.
The third quarter would see Mike Becker and Kamil return against Blanchard and Krekorian. Pollack (who remarkably was playing in two finals in the same venue simultaneously, the other being the New Jersey heat of the Grand Nationals, the local district knock-out event!) would continue in his other match. Rengstorff would come in to play with Fallenius for the second half, against Parker and Rogoff. The third quarter started with a bang (or from a defensive point of view, a whimper).
S K J 7 5 H Q J 8 6 2 D -- C J 9 5 4 S Q 8 6 4 3 S 9 H A T 3 H K 5 4 D 9 7 D Q 5 4 3 2 C 7 6 2 C A K T 8 S A T 2 H 9 7 D A K J T 8 6 C Q 3 SOUTH WEST NORTH EAST Fallenius Rogoff Rengstorff Parker Pass 1D 1NT Pass 2C Dbl 2D Pass 3S Pass 3NT All Pass Kamil Blanchard M Becker Krekorian Pass 1D 1NT Pass 2D Pass 2NT Pass 3H Pass 3NT All PassBoth defences completely failed to get to grips with this hand, although the mistakes are instructive. Parker, whose 1D was essentially natural, got a lead directing double in and was thus treated to a club lead to the C8 and CQ. He took the first diamond, and cashed the CK, thinking this was a clear suit-preference position as indeed it should be. When he saw his partner play his higher club, he played a spade. Curtains. Although Rogoff's carding was unhelpful, Parker might have worked out that if declarer had five diamond tricks and the 3-2-6-2 shape that the auction had implied , a heart switch cannot possibly let the contract through, but a spade could. At the other table, a spade lead let declarer dislodge the DQ and now the defence had a real problem. If declarer had his bid, it was much more likely that he had the HA than the CQ, so Krekorian underled his clubs, and conceded an overtrick. Unlucky, but perhaps both Souths deserved their luck for the intrepid 1 NT overcall. Colour me yellow but it would not be my choice. Perhaps that is why I get to write about the boards not play them.
Next, Krekorian and Blanchard found themselves in 4S with the following meager resources:
S A Q T 8 2 S 7 5 4 H Q T 4 H K 9 7 2 D K J 9 3 D -- C 3 C K Q 8 7 6 4The cards were favourably placed as long as you guessed right. Krekorian got the hearts right and played a spade to the queen, dropping the stiff Jack behind him. +620 and 11 IMPs when Fallenius and Rengstorff played 3Ldown one in the replay.
Becker earned those IMPs back at the other table immediately when Fallenius was faced with a preempt.
Fallenius Rengstorff S A K Q S J T 7 5 2 H A Q 7 3 H K J 6 2 D K J 8 D 3 C K J 5 C A 7 4With both vulnerable, Bruce Rogoff opened 2NT showing a preempt with both minors in first seat. Rengstorff passed and Parker bid 3L. Fallenius bid 3NT instead of doubling, which ended the auction. I think his action is wrong, and not just because of the danger of missing slam; if partner has a poor hand with a five card-major and even a doubleton diamond, 3NT will be in severe danger unless he has an entry. As it was, Rengstorff considered acting, but with no clear cut move available, he eventually passed. If Bjorn had doubled instead of bidding 3NT, no doubt the North hand would cue-bid, and he would have to decide what to do next. Maybe 5 NT to pick a slam would work. At the other table, Mike Becker was allowed to open 2C, and even after intervention it was not going to be hard to reach slam now. That was 13 IMPs to Becker, and the next significant swing (their only other of the set) also went to them.
S T 9 5 4 H A J 7 6 2 D J 3 C Q 4 S K J 8 S -- H 9 5 4 H K Q 3 D 8 6 2 D K T 9 7 5 4 C 9 7 5 3 C A T 8 2 S A Q 7 6 3 2 H T 8 D A Q C K J 6 SOUTH WEST NORTH EAST Kamil Blanchard M Becker Krekorian Pass 1D 1S Pass 2S Dble 4S All PassMost reporters are fairly blase about the world of coups, safety plays and swindles. 'Been there, done that' might be their attitude; but I will wager that few of them have seen anything like the next hand. Mike Kamil reached a fairly normal game, after an aggressive action from Krekorian had given a strong hint as to the bad trump split. He won the diamond lead in hand and smoothly led a low trump from hand! It is easy in retrospect to say that Kamil was unlikely to have the 5-1-2-5 shape that would make ducking the correct play; not being blessed with such 20/20 hindsight, Blanchard ducked, and the contract duly rolled home. Well earned IMPs, I would say.
At the other table, in the same contract, Fallenius did not have an inkling of the trump position, after Parker had opened a Precision Diamond and passed thereafter, when Fallenius doubled and Rengstorff jumped to 2H. Logically enough, Fallenius did not see any reason to invest an IMP in an unlikely swindle. He crossed to dummy to play a spade up, and duly went quietly one down.
S A T 5 H K 4 2 D A K 2 C Q J T S Q 9 2 S J 6 4 3 H -- H A J 5 3 D J T 9 8 7 6 4 3 D 5 C K 8 C 9 7 6 3 2 S K 8 7 H Q T 9 8 7 6 D Q C A 5 4 SOUTH WEST NORTH EAST Rogoff Rengstorff Parker Fallenius 3D 3NT Pass 5H All PassThis next hand is a death trap; one could easily get to 6H on it, and Blanchard and Krekorian did spectacularly well to stop in game. (After a 4D opening, Krekorian doubled and Blanchard bid 4H). At the other table Rogoff felt obliged to make a slam-try, and Parker read it as a general ask rather than related to diamonds, and wisely passed. (Where one is not playing transfers there is no real way to distinguish the hand types.) Rogoff won the diamond in hand and played a heart to the H K and HA. A club went to the CK and to beat the hand Rengstorff had to play another club or the S Q. A second diamond did not get the job done, as it provided an extra entry to dummy to pick up the hearts and take the discard. (An interesting sidelight was that while Rengstorff was thinking, Rogoff, who had no idea that diamonds were 8-1, showed his hand very discreetly to Fallenius. However, Rengstorff might well have been aware of the gesture. Does this constitute a claim, and if so, what are the consequences?)
The final big swing of the set went to Blanchard, who perhaps had had the worst of the luck so far, but made up for it here.
Blanchard Krekorian S K 7 S T 8 5 4 2 H A Q 3 2 H K T 4 D A T 7 4 D -- C J 6 5 C K Q 9 8 4The bidding started 1L-1S -1NT and Krekorian chose another excellent moment for an aggressive view, when he decided to show an invitational hand with 5-5,with his moderate two-suiter. Blanchard accepted and the final contract was 3NT. The diamond lead is the killer but Kamil who held 4-3-3-3 with 4-card clubs led a heart, of course, and that was that; nine tricks duly rolled in, for a 10 IMP pick-up to Blanchard, who nonetheless lost the set 24-26 and now trailed by 14 IMPs with 14 boards to go. The same pairs would line up for the final set.
The first swing of the set was partly earned by system, partly by luck, and partly judgment.
S 9 7 6 2 H J 7 6 4 D 3 C A K J T S K 8 S A T 4 H T H K 9 8 3 D K Q T 9 5 2 D J 8 2 C Q 8 5 3 C 9 6 2 S Q J 5 3 H A Q 5 2 D A 7 4 C 7 4 SOUTH WEST NORTH EAST Rogoff Rengstorff Parker Fallenius 1H 3D 4H All PassRogoff reached the marginal game, and won the diamond lead to ruff a diamond and then played the KJ from dummy! Fallenius, looking at no defensive tricks at all, decided to duck, which made declarer's life very easy. The play is not trivial if he covers. Declarer will most likely continue with a club finesse, figuring hearts to be 4-1. If he plays for the CQ to drop now he will go down while a spade from the dummy will get him home with some careful play.
This was 10 IMPs to Rogoff when Blanchard and Krekorian stopped in 3S after a 1D opening.
S J H J T 2 D A K Q 9 4 2 C A J 5 S Q 9 5 2 S A T 7 6 4 H A 7 H 9 5 D T 7 D J 8 6 5 3 C 8 7 6 3 2 C K S K 8 3 H K Q 8 6 4 3 D -- C Q T 9 4 SOUTH WEST NORTH EAST Blanchard M.Becker Krekorian Kamil 1H Pass 2D* Pass 2H Pass 3H Pass 4H Pass 4NT Pass 5D Pass 5H All Pass * Game ForceTime certainly seemed to be running out for the Blanchard team at this table, which might explain Krekorian's decision to drive to the five level on this hand. When he got the unwelcome response, he signed off, but Mike Becker found the destructive club lead, and now Blanchard was dead. Playing for reasonable black suit splits, he decided to cash dummy's winners to pitch his spades. He hopped up with the CA and found the good/bad news, then tried the top diamonds more in hope than expectation. Becker ruffed the third, gave his parter one ruff, then overruffed the next diamond to give him a second ruff.
The good news from the Blanchard team's perspective was that they pushed the board, as Rogoff and Parker had a Blackwood accident to play 4NT down two. The bad news was that at this point they were 32 IMPs down. Still the multi came to their rescue.
S J 9 H A J T 2 D A K Q J 4 C 7 6 S A Q 8 4 2 S K T 7 6 3 H 8 5 H 3 D T 2 D 6 5 C Q 9 5 3 C A K J 8 2 S 5 H K Q 9 7 6 4 D 9 8 7 3 C T 4 SOUTH WEST NORTH EAST Rengstorff Parker Fallenius Rogoff 2D Pass 2NT Pass 3H Pass 4H All PassEast's actions look decidedly wimpish to me, but there is no doubt that at the other table a start of 2H- 4H made East's 4S bid automatic. Blanchard-Krekorian conceded 100 in 5S , for an 11 IMP pick up, and the margin was down to 21.
The final board gave Blanchard and Krekorian a little hope, as it was a grand/small slam decision. Where would you want to play with
S K Q 8 4 2 S A 7 5 H K Q 9 8 5 H A 6 3 D T 2 D A J 9 C 3 C A K 2Both Becker-Kamil and Rengstorff- Fallenius opted for 7S , which can survive some 4-1 heart splits. With South having a singleton small heart and three spades however, all grand slams went down.
The losers had held their opponents below 2 IMPs a board on a set of hands which had presented many problems to both sides; unfortunately, their opponents had only conceded 1 1/2 IMPs a board. The contest had been played well, and in an excellent spirit, by both sides.
Back to Post-Mortem