Las Vegas Barometer '93: Answers

Here are some problems from a Flight A Qualifying Barometer final. Scoring is matchpoints, against very good opposition. (John Mohan and client were not seeds.) This was an amazing event; the cards ran psychotically and we were on or near the leader board the whole time. I think I'm going to include all the boards and let you play the whole session with us. We were in the event the whole time and generally had very good luck. We had decisions to make on nearly every board, and many of them are fascinating problems, especially if you like freak hands and torturing very strong opponents. Again, all your opponents have over 1000 masterpoints and about a third are experts.

Top on a board is 39. Your partner is either Mike Shuster or I, mostly Mike on the problems given because I had most of the strange hands.

  1. S: QJ6
    H: AK986
    D: J5
    C: 732
    S: K9874
    H: 2
    D: A102
    C: AKJ10


    * Drury

    What do you think of the bidding?

    I think it's ok. Declarer gave up on slam pretty quickly, but since this is matchpoints, I think that is sensible. 3H: splinter (if discussed) is reasonable.

    You get a trump lead from Mohan. Plan the play. (Mike's problem.)

    I don't see a problem--I'd duck in dummy and continue trumps. Maybe they will duck again. If so, I can take a club hook, cross to the heart, pitching a diamond, take another club hook and pitch a diamond to make six. This assumes that the client has the Ace; Mohan would never duck. Mike played it by winning in hand, heart to the table, D:J off the dummy, covered and won. Trump to dummy ducked (yay!) diamond pitch and club hook. When the hook lost, Mohan continued hearts (oops!) and Mike made five. I understand why the client ducked the trump ace the second time (she plays her cards randomly,) but why Mohan didn't cash partner's diamond is beyond me.

  2.  S:--- H:J9862 D:--- C:AKQ98753

    Board 2, right out of the box. White vs. Red, dealer. What is your initial action? What is your plan?

    Damfino. I opened 5C: and it went float. The client on my left had  S:KQJxxxx H:x D:KQJx C:x and passed. My plan was to allow myself to be pushed into 6C: as long as they didn't bid hearts. I got the lead of the stiff heart and falsecarded from my hand acting like she led a doubleton. Mohan shifted to the spade Ace. Dummy was  S:J10x H:KQx D:A10xx C:xxx. +420 was below average because we are getting to hearts which they are forgetting to beat or getting 500 from 6S:x. Unbelievable.

    End Round 1. We were in the middle of the pack.

  3.  S:A954 H:K7 D:103 C:QJ543 Vul vs not.


    2C:, of course. Never let white opponents play 1NT at matchpoints if you have any excuse. 1NT is probably going down 1. +90 was a fine score when they let me make it. Amazing. They have misdefended on the first three boards. Maybe we'll win this thing.

  4.  S:A10 H:105 D:KQ9732 C:543


    What is your plan?

    I bid 5D: which is down 1. They did not double, though -100 and -200 are the same. 4S: is cold unless you find the heart lead, hop trump ace and give partner a ruff. No one found that defense, though Roberto led hearts. He didn't tell me what his continuation would have been.

    End Round 2. We are off the board by 4 matchpoints. They are computing the carryovers now, and since we Q'd with a 177.8, we shall have minimal carryover.

  5.  S:10 H:105 D:KQJ965 C:QJ95 White vs Red.


    I passed, figuring we'll go for at least 800. Their fine bidding does not inspire confidence in their making it, either. Wrong. -1430 when declarer claimed at trick 2. That was worth 3 matchpoints. -1100 would have been worth 8.

    If you pass or double, what do you lead?

    Obviously, a club. Irrelevant, though.

  6. S: Q107
    H: J54
    D: 10643
    C: QJ7
    S: K5
    H: Q973
    D: Q5
    C: A6542

    ---2NT (20-22)

    You lead the C:4, which goes to pard's 9 and declarer's King. Small spade back. Let's say you duck smoothly. Declarer inserts the 10 and pard's Jack wins. He fires back the C:3. What's your plan?

    Duck. Do you really want partner to have to discard at this point? I don't. Unfortunately, I had a brain fart and continued clubs. Declarer then proceded to drop everything in sight and scored up 4 when neither of us could work out that he'd opened a 19 count. Zero. Well deserved. This misdefense stuff is catching.

    End Round 3. I blew a board, putting us below average. Things are looking grim.

  7. No real problem. They pass a negative double at the two level, and we get to play 2C: smacked with an 8-card fit. -500 wins vs. a red game for a near top. Another example: don't let the opponents play an 8-card fit at the two-level.

  8. Again, their problem. They had AQ9xx vs. 10xxx in trumps and played the suit technically right. (Which is?) This is one my normal bete noires and this time the burn got them.

    End Round 4. Finally they have posted the carryovers. We have 20.92 out of a max of 78. A good round has put us over average, but not in striking distance of the lead.

  9.  S:Q97 H:K854 D:K98 C:972 Red Vs. White (Mike's problem)


    What do you lead?

    A heart seems obvious, but I'm not so sure. This might be a very strong auction, though we can't tell for sure. It is probably best at matchpoints to try to avoid blowing a trick. At the table, I think I'd lead a heart, but a club is probably best in theory. In practise a spade lead will hold it to five, a heart lead will make six trivial, and anything else will make declarer work for six. It's there, but he might not get it right. -490 was a crummy score (12+).

  10.  S:--- H:AJ10986 D:AK102 C:K106 Both vul. (Mike held this one.)


    Methods: double is takeout, 4NT is very shapely takeout.

    I'd bid 5H:. Mike bid 4NT and converted 5C: to 5H:, which evoked a double. 5H: is cold. +850 was a near top.

    End Round 5. Climbing, but still out.

  11.  S:102 H:J62 D:K9865 C:K103 (Mike's)


    Early bids: 1S: is 4+, limited to 15 HCP. 1NT is not forcing.

    Pass seems pretty obvious. You've pushed them up to the three level via some courageous bidding. (Nice going partner.) If you beat them it should be good. Wrong. +50 was average. Mike doubled. 31+

  12.  S:--- H:8 D:KQ108653 C:AK943 They're vul.


    Another damfino, but I'd pass. There is no way this will end the auction, though. I did pass and LHO bid 5S:. That went around to me and I bid 6D: which was left unmolested. 6D: is cold. Why did they not double? Why did LHO pass? He had nine (!) solid and a side ace. 6S: is 500 only. +920 is a great score.

    What do you do if they bid 5S: or 6S: later?

    Over five, I bid. Six I'll double.

    End Round 6: A 31+ and a 32+ place us 10th and on on the board!

  13. Vs. Jeff Ferro. He plays a cold 3NT and uses his radar to hold himself to 3 only when the rest of the room is making 4 or 5. 33+, which seems unduly harsh on him. He says that the whole session has been like that--they've misguessed everything.

  14.  S:A96 H:K8543 D:Q4 C:A65 None vul. (Mike's problem)


    * After a long hesitation.

    This is a toughie. On the surface, it looks as if you should balance, but on reflection, that's not so clear. The hesitation marks Holtz with some values. Partner is in a pre-balancing situation and he didn't bid, so he probably doesn't have much. If they have decent hands, notrump will score better than diamonds, which means they have made a mistake.

    They had. -130 was a great score. 2H: went for 300, which was an average. They are cold for game, though it was only bid about half the time. Notrump is making 3 or 4, so we had the board won. Tough decision--finding the opponents' error is always hard.

    By the way, why didn't you bid 1H: the first time?

    End Round 7: Moved up to 9th after an OK round against the Junior team anchors. It could have been better.

  15.  S:AKJ82 H:KQ10965 D:J C:5 White vs. Red.


    I passed. 4S: is cold and it is obvious that it is, so redouble is a resonable choice. They have an easy save in 5C:, but they will have a tough time finding it. They might have saved in 5H:. That's 2000. Someone acquired that score and got 38.99 matchpoints. What do you need to do to get a top? We got a 30.79, so 880 was only a couple more points. 5D: is bloody, too.

  16.  S:AQ6 H:KJ104 D:QJ75 C:Q3


    What does partner's double mean? They are not vulnerable, so we are not letting them play 1NT undoubled. It seems like it ought to be takeout. If so, then what do I bid? He ought to have three hearts and four diamonds. I think we can make either of those, so I bid 2H: for the shot at 140. He bid 2S:. What's going on? Can he have four spades, too? I guess so, if they are not good enough to double 1S:. I passed this. Wrong. He was 3-2-4-4 with a six count. 1NT is down on a diamond lead, but has play for 2 on a heart lead. 3 diamonds is cold unless they find their spade ruff and you don't break it up by playing hearts early. Who should have bid it? 2S: is down 200 for 1 matchpoint.

    End Round 8: Oops. A 1 on board 16 puts us 4 matchpoints out of 10th place. We have fallen off the board. Goldman and Shugart look like a lock with a full board lead at the moment.

  17.  S:J632 H:109 D:4 C:KQJ874 None vul. (Mike's hand)

    Pass1H:Pass1NT (Semi-forcing)

    3C:. What's the problem? It went float and it has no play. They didn't defend tough and we ended up -50. They can make 3D:, and they'd've done it doubled looking at my hand. Wimpy opponents.

  18.  S:AQJ1098 H:95 D:7 C:K1096 White vs Red. (Mike.)


    Seems obvious to open 1S:. Game is not out of the question. If partner supplies a limit raise, I'll bid game and be sure to make it. Do they have hearts? Dunno, but I doubt that they have four, and since I have spades, overpreempting is not necessary. In real life, Mike opened 3S:, bought the hand there and made it for 140. I had  S:xx H:Axx D:AJTxxxx C:x. Their max is 2H:, but we are getting minus scores a lot. I assume, therefore, that my hand opened, which gets us to either diamonds (bad) or too high. 3S: is cold.

    Looking at the whole hand, 1S: might get us too high, too. It might go 1S:-(2H:)-X-(3H:)-? If this hand bids 3S:, I'll probably continue to 4. If Mike passes, I'll either bid 4D: or double. Double is the winner--either we get 200 or 140. I doubt I'd find a 3S: call; I'd probably bid 4D:. Good job, Mike.

    End Round 9: We stole both boards and Mike guessed the play well on one of them to get a 27 and a 26. (19+ is average.) We are less than half a matchpoint from 10th.

  19. South opens an 11 count and passes a forcing bid later in the auction, missing a vul game that is cold on a show-up squeeze. (The hook works, but the queen shows up.) We only get a 23+. TANJ.

  20. Opening lead problem for the bad guys. They blow it on an auction where I chose not to use a toy that shows strength in the other major with a limit raise. Lucky us. Another 28+

    End Round 10: Entering the home stretch, we are up to 9th. Goldman and Shugart are now almost two boards in front. We are about one whole board out of second. It is a dogfight.

  21.  S:A108 H:KQ875 D:753 C:63 White on Red.

    2nd seat, dealer passes.

    Pass, of course. This is a good hand, but not an opening bid. Why would you want to preempt partner? He opened 1C:, I bid 1H:, and he rebid 2NT. We have Wolff available, but with a 9-count and a decent five-card suit, I just bid 3NT. Unfortunately, he had only two hearts, so everyone reached 3NT. It's cold. They led diamonds, so we made five. A spade lead holds it to 3. 31+. Opening leader had  S:J9x H:xx D:Q9xx C:xxxx. Why would he lead spades? Maybe Mike is the culprit: he held  S:xxx H:Jx D:AKJ C:AKQJ8. Those who reversed into 2D: got themselves into trouble and forced a spade lead.

  22.  S:J73 H:5 D:1098 C:K109764 Red vs White


    1 20-22-
    2 natural

    3NT seems obvious. Would pass be forcing? It probably shouldn't be, but who could pass with a 21-count? It won't take much to score 3NT and that's what I bid. Didn't work this time. Pard held one heart stop, no C:A, and D:AKxxxx. If diamonds had broken 2-2, 3NT would have rolled. Nope. -400. Ick. Would you believe 12 matchpoints? They can make 3H: or 4 if I forget to lead trumps, but there weren't any 420s. Just lots of company and a few going down more.

    End Round 11: We hold on to 9th. A top and an average minus actually move us up closer to the leaders because Goldman-Shugart have a disasterous round and are now 2nd (by a hair) to Campbell-McLellan. Third is less than half a board away from us.

  23.  S:AK95 H:AQJ954 D:43 C:A (Mike's hand)


    I'd bid 2S:, a help suit slam try. Slam could easily be cold and 4S: could easily be better than 4H:. Mike bid 4H:. 450 was an average plus (how?) when spades is making six on a non-diamond lead. On a diamond lead (very likely,) everything makes five.

  24.  S:5432 H:J52 D:9854 C:Q10 None vul


    They have a slam unless Mike has S:AKxxx and spades are 2-2. At this point, I'd say he has a five-card suit 90% of the time. So what should I do? These opponents are good. Psyching will probably not work well, so I tried 4S:. It went x-p-4NT-float. I led the S:5 and dummy hit with a monster including S:KQ10x. Mike ducked and got squeezed out of the S:A for -520. Slam is cold in hearts, diamonds, or notrump. 32 matchpoints.

    End Round 12: A top and a average plus put us in the running for the event. We are 6th, two matchpoints out of third and a half board out of 2nd. Campbell-McClellan are now a half board ahead of Goldman-Shugart, but are well within striking distance. Our last round will be against Paul Soloway and his client. They have moved into our normal 9th place and have a chance for the event, too, but a small one. They will probably go for it. If they do and fail, we can win the event.

  25.  S:Q102 H:1042 D:Q85 C:6543


    Your lead. Red vs. White.

    Gloom, Despair, and Agony on me. It is right to lead diamonds. I am shorter in that suit, so more tricks are likely to cash and I have the queen, so partner needs less for this lead to be useful. In practise, wrong. Mike had  S:Axx H:A D:Jxxx C:AQ9xx. Dummy has C:Kx and spade pitches, so a club lead beats this and the diamond lead let it make. So much for the event. 6+ puts us out of it. Should Mike have overcalled clubs instead of doubling? Without one of the major suit aces, it is clear. With both, it is very close, but I'd probably bid. We are unlikely to buy this hand and if Soloway is playing it, I want partner to lead clubs. If the client is playing it, I am happy anyway. Down 1 is worth 30.

  26.  S:A H:A4 D:AK983 C:K8542


    Huh? What is this double by Soloway? Where are the spades? Partner clearly has hearts, not spades since he didn't bid the first time and came to life over my reopening. Aha! Soloway is void in hearts and has spade length. Slam is going down on a ruff. 3NT. Right. They lead hearts and Mike had  S:x H:K9xxx D:Qxxx C:Axx. Very unfortunately, clubs don't break or I make six, beating everyone. As it is, I take my ten tricks for a 25. That seems unfair somehow, but they only have 9 tricks in spades, which is 800 in 6S:X. That must be who is beating me. North is 7-0-2-4 and probably is saving all the time when he finds spade support in partner's hand. Oh, well. We've been lucky a fair bit of the time, just not enough.

    End Round 13: I got board 26 right, but 25 wrong. A 6+ and a 25 drop us back down to 9th and move Soloway up to 6th. If I get the lead right on 25, we get an additional 23 matchpoints and are 3rd overall. Campbell-McClellan hold on, but only beat us by a board and a half. This event was available. Let's see if you win it. Strangely, there was nothing at all to the play of the hands. This whole game was a bidding competition.

Jeff Goldsmith,, Feb. 9, 1996