Report from Hawaii

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 11/30/2006
Level: Intermediate to Advanced

I just returned from the Nationals in Hawaii. It was a beautiful place (of course) with perfect weather -- sort of a shame to be inside playing bridge. My partner, David Berkowitz and I had a few top-10 finishes early, and then should have won the concluding 3-Day National Swiss Teams. Our team led for 2 7/8 days, but lost the event on the 8th and final match of the final day. Agonizing! Masterpoint awards are surging. Second place in the event paid 120 points. Too bad they don't really do me any good at this stage.

The most thrilling deal of the week came in the Board-A-Match teams against the Italian World Champions, Fantoni-Nunes. I held the following hand:

?8 7
?10 6
?K 5 2
?K 10 8 7 6 3

On my left, Fantoni opened with a 3? preempt. My partner doubled and RHO passed. What should I do? I was a bit heavy for 4? (a bid I might make with 0 HCP), but didn't feel like bidding 5?. I compromised with a greedy (some would call it an overbid) 3NT. Partner started to think. "Please don't go crazy, partner--I don't have my bid," I thought. He went crazy.

He bid 5NT, saying : "Let's play in a small slam--you chose where."

Incidentally, this is an excellent use of a jump to 5NT--I highly recommend it. I chose 6?, of course. He didn't care for clubs. He corrected to 6?. I presumed he was offering me a choice between hearts and spades (or maybe hearts and notrump). I chose notrump. 6NT--Pass--Pass--Pass. At least we weren't doubled.

Fantoni considered his opening lead. He thought a long time. He thought some more. He asked about the 5NT bid. He thought even longer. At this point, I'll let you, dear reader, see the entire layout:

Vul: Both
Dlr: West
?K 6
?A K Q J 8 6 4
?A Q 2
?Q 4 2
?A Q 9 8 6 4 3
?9 5
  ?A J 10 9 5 3
?9 7 3
?10 7
?J 4
  ?8 7
?10 6
?K 5 2
?K 10 8 7 6 3
Fantoni Berkowitz Nunes Cohen
3? Double Pass 3NT
Pass 5NT Pass 6?
Pass 6? Pass 6NT
Pass Pass Pass  


Opening Lead: ??

You can see that a lot was riding on the opening lead. How is that for an understatement? Fantoni finally decided that dummy probably had both majors. He didn't want to lead a diamond (presenting declarer with his ?K that he surely held). He didn't want to lead a spade from the queen, maybe guessing the suit for declarer. He chose his singleton heart! Dummy came down and with clubs behaving I was soon claiming 13 tricks. Notice that on a spade lead, the defense can take all 13 tricks (spade over, ?10, more spades and then run the diamonds). Have you ever seen a 26-trick swing on a real-life bridge deal, bid by supposedly experts? Instead of down 12 (-1200), we scored +1470. (At the other table, North-South bid to 6?, and East-West took the phantom sacrifice in 6?X down 2). This is not a deal I will soon (probably never) forget.