Sunday, December 19, 2010

Von Zedwitz

I'm going to pause at this point in the match to report on an actual deal, from the finals of this year's Von Zedwitz Double Knockout. For those of you unfamiliar with the format of this event, it operates similarly to a standard knockout, except that you must lose twice before you are eliminated. The finals generally consists of one undefeated team and one once-defeated team. If the undefeated team wins, it has won the event. If the undefeated team loses, then there is a rematch, and the winner of the the rematch wins the event. In other words, if you make it to the finals as the undefeated team, the only way not to win the event is to lose two matches in a row.

Back when I was actively playing, I found myself in this position twice. Both times, my team lost both the first match and the rematch to come in second. The second time this happened, the final match was particularly exciting. The critical deal - and the match and the event - hinged on whether or not declarer held the eight of hearts.

This year, my partners at Gargoyle dragged me out of retirement to play in the event again. And, last week, I found myself once again entering the finals as the only undefeated team (the team consisting of Josh Parker, Bruce Rogoff, Eric Robinson, Marty Fleisher, Jeff Aker, and me).

Fortunately, history didn't repeat itself. We won the first match, rendering the rematch unnecessary, despite the fact that I butchered the deal I'm about to show you.

Board 9
Opponents vulnerable


♠ A K 5 4 J 8 2 K 7 ♣ K Q J 4

I open one notrump (15-17) in third seat, and partner bids two hearts, a transfer to spades. I think the right bid is three clubs, showing four spades, a maximum in high cards, and concentration in clubs. But we haven't discussed pre-acceptances. Some people play that three clubs in this auction shows a doubleton. I'm also not sure what a three-heart rebid by partner would mean. Would it be a re-transfer or a heart suit? I decide to keep the auction simple by bidding a straight-forward, if misdescriptive, three spades. Partner raises to four, and LHO leads the nine of hearts, showing the ten or shortness.


NORTH
♠ Q J 6 3 2
A Q 7 4 3
10 8 6
♣ --






SOUTH
♠ A K 5 4
J 8 2
K 7
♣ K Q J 4



West North East South
Pass Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 Pass 3 ♠
Pass 4 ♠ (All pass)


If spades are three-one and hearts are three-two, I shouldn't have any trouble. My biggest concern is four-one hearts. I could duck this trick and hope the opponents can't take the first four tricks. But there are lots of ways they would be able to do that: (1) if the nine is singleton and East has the diamond ace, (2) if the nine is singleton and East has queen-jack of diamonds, or (3) if East has a singleton king and West has the ace of diamonds. In addition, what do I do if East wins the heart king and plays a small diamond? If the nine was a singleton, I must play low. (East can't have the diamond ace, or he would have beat me by force, so low guarantees my contract.) But if the king was a singleton, I must rise, hoping the diamond ace is onside.

What happens if I go up with the heart ace at trick one? I draw trumps (let's assume I must draw three rounds) and play a heart from dummy. First, suppose East shows out. I play the jack. West wins and plays a low club. I ruff in dummy and play a diamond. If the diamond ace is onside, I'm home. If it isn't, West wins and plays another club. This one I can't afford to ruff. I have to duck and hope West has the club ace. So, if I go up with the heart ace and West has king-ten-nine fourth of hearts, I need either two-two trumps or one of the minor-suit aces onside.

What if East follows when I lead a heart toward my jack? If I play the jack and West shows out, I can no longer establish hearts. Again, I will need to find one of the minor-suit aces onside. Of course, I could insert my old nemesis, the heart eight. West would have led the ten from ten-nine doubleton. So, once East follows low, the only possibilities for West are a singleton nine or king-ten-nine tripleton, the latter being a rather unattractive holding to lead from. Wouldn't it be great if this turned out to be the critical deal of the match and the eight of hearts again proved to be key? Except this time I would be on the receiving end of the eight's favors.

All in all, hopping with the ace looks like a better idea than ducking. I call for the ace, and East follows with the six. I play a spade to the ace, and West pitches the deuce of diamonds. Oops.

Given the diamond pitch, West's likeliest pattern is 0-4-5-4, leaving East with 4-1-3-5. King-ten-nine fourth is not an attractive lead. So there is a fair chance West has both minor-suit aces. Personally, I would bid over one notrump with that hand. But the opponents, for some reason, aren't playing Astro, so West probably doesn't have a suitable action.

Except for the fact that I must draw four rounds of trumps instead of three, the play would appear to follow pretty much the same lines as I envisioned early. I am going to need to find one of the minor-suit aces onside. I draw four rounds of trumps and play a heart to the jack. West wins and shifts to a low club. I pitch a diamond, and East follows low. Now I'm home. I win with the jack and pass the eight of hearts. Now club king--ace--ruff and run the hearts. If the diamond ace is onside, I can make an overtrick if I guess East's pattern. If he comes down to two diamonds, I must hold king-doubleton of diamonds. If he comes down to the diamond ace and a club, I must hold one diamond and one club. I see no reason to think my original assessment of his shape was wrong, so I play accordingly. The diamond ace is offside, so I make only four.


NORTH
♠ Q J 6 3 2
A Q 7 4 3
10 8 6
♣ --


WEST
♠ --
K 10 9 5
A 5 4 3 2
♣ A 10 3 2


EAST
♠ 10 9 8 7
6
Q J 9
♣ 9 8 7 6 5


SOUTH
♠ A K 5 4
J 8 2
K 7
♣ K Q J 4



At the other table, West leads the diamond ace, so declarer has no problems.

I said at the beginning of this post that I butchered this deal. Do you see my error? Neither West nor I noticed that I gave him a chance to beat me in this position:


NORTH
♠ 6
Q 7 4 3
10 8 6
♣ --


WEST
♠ --
K 10 5
A 5
♣ A 10 3


EAST
♠ --
--
Q J 9
♣ 9 8 7 6 5


SOUTH
♠ --
J 8
K 7
♣ K Q J 4



When I lead a heart to the jack, West must win and play the club ace, not a low one. I can't afford to ruff this; I must pitch a diamond. West now exits with the ten of hearts, smothering that pesky eight, and I'm left with two diamond losers.

To make this by force, I must arrange to be in my hand when we reach this position. Then I lead the club king and, whether West covers or not, pitch a diamond. Now there is no defense.

11 comments:

  1. Haven't you now won a "title of national significance"? If so, Major Congratulations! And if not, Congratulations anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  2. No. Actually, this is not a particularly important event. It is significant to me personally only because it's the only team event on the GNYBA calendar that I had never won. I came in second in '82, '87, and '89. But thanks for the congratulations.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can't blame anyone for not noticing this line at the table. Players who stop to consider what might have happened if declarer had taken a pitch when he led from KQJ to take a ruffing finesse and it got covered are seldom focused enough to get to the finals of serious events.

    ReplyDelete
  4. In the final position, West can also exit with the ten of hearts, smothering the infamous eight, without bothering to play the club ace first.

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