Ross Taylor

A rare moment of clarity

I have not played much at all in the past year, and as you might expect, when I do inconsistency is my middle name. However, occasionally a situation pops up where I find an exciting play – analagous to an average golfer scoring a couple of birdies – it sucks him in, and makes him want to come back for more.

Yesterday in the NABC Fast Pairs, I picked up    954  98654  AQ6  A4

No one was vulnerable, and in first chair I passed. LHO opened 1D, and his partner responded 1S. I passed. LHO bid 2C, , and RHO rebid 2S. I elected to let this go again, and 2S was the final contract. (I felt like a wuss for not competing on the hand, but had decided the risk outweighed the potential benefit)

I led the heart nine, and the dummy was: 

Dealer: north

Vul: none











Declarer called for the heart king from dummy, and partner won the ace and cashed the ten. This meant we had missed our 5-4 heart fit with the king onside.

Next partner played another heart which declarer ruffed in his hand, and pitched a diamond from dummy. He played a spade to the ace and then played the spade jack, winning.

Now he called for the club queen. Partner fumbled a second and followed with the five. Declarer followed with the eight, and now it was me to play.

The fumble by partner must be put out of mind of course. It could be he was wondering whether or not to play the king, or how to give count, or he could have been trying to remember where he parked his car.

We had two tricks in, and two more aces in my hand to come. Partner may have been dealt the spade queen, in which case, declarer for sure has the club king. Or if partner did not have the spade queen, he must have begun with 10xx, else surely declarer would have overtaken the spade jack to clear the trump suit.

It seemed I had to negotiate a club ruff to beat the hand. If partner had the club king, I should win the club ace, and play another club to his king, and hope to score a ruff, or less likely, create an uppercut situation.

The uppercut seemed remote, since it looked like declarer had exactly five spades and two hearts, ergo six minor suit cards. If he had begun with only two clubs, then that would have given my partner a stiff diamond – he likely would have switched to a diamond earlier.

On the other hand, if declarer had the club king, I should duck the club queen, and thwart him from coming to his hand. I decided this was the better play.

I followed with the club four, and declarer now played a second club to his king, as partner played the two, showing an original four card club holding.

So declarer was likely 5-2-3-3 shape.

Now I had to put my partner in to give me a club ruff. There was only one holding he could have that could work for me – Jx of diamonds. And to force the jack to be an entry, I now had to exit with the diamond queen from my original AQ6.

Only the queen would do.

Sure enough, declarer played dummy’s king, which won, and a second diamond, which partner won with his jack. Happy day!

How sweet it is when things go the way you planned. The full layout was:

Dealer: north

Vul: none






















The opponents can make two spades, and we can make two hearts, so beating two spades should ensure a respectable result.

Canadian Bridge Federation seems to be dropping the ball

Other than Michael Yuen’s daily briefs, and recent posts from Linda and Ray, there has been a  dearth of reporting from this year’s Canadian Bridge Week being held in Regina as I write. Yet, all would acknowledge this is the single most important week on Canadian bridge players’ calendars. Surely the CBF could have commissioned (or even comandeered) someone to write more detailed timely reports about all the goings on – it truly is of interest. 

But my bigger beef is with the results reporting on the CBF website. They are often a half to one day behind and errors are not uncommon. The second day of the CNTC final is presently underway (it is 3 pm EST on May 28), yet the CBF website is just reporting the results of the first three (of four) segments from yesterday’s play. And if I want to see what is going on in the overalls after the first day of the COPC (Canadian Open Pairs Championship), a mouse click only takes me to the results of yesterday afternoon’s first of two qualifying sessions.

Someone tuning in right now to the CBF website for a snapshot of the CNTC final would not be able to determine who was leading as the teams retired for bed last night.

Why not have the director in charge post the results of each session’s bridge within 15 to 30 minutes of session’s end? If he or she is not the right person, surely there is a competent volunteer onsite who can take care of this.

There are hundreds of people following these events from afar, and we rely on the CBF to keep us informed. Truth is, I am getting more timely information from and also Problem with their information is it is just a tease – would love more hands, stories, and gossip.

Update – May 28 9.47 pm. Well I have no complaints now – maybe someone read this blog entry.

The results are all posted and easy to read. Even the CNTC result from the seventh segment (of eight), is already posted.

The match is a real nail biter which could go either way. Team Rayner leads Team Hughes by only seven imps 222 to 215, with sixteen boards left to play.

Play resumes at 9.55 EST. Worth watching on BBO.

Repeat after me – think hard at trick one

It’s drummed into us from an early age, along with eat all your vegetables, and wash your hands before meals. Plan your play (or defense) before playing to trick one.

Yet, it is a common failing for many bridge players. In fact there is a recent cool hand written up by Henry Bethe in which he points out new USA 2 Champion John Hurd missed a play at trick one in a key slam.

The lead was a diamond against John’s 6 hearts, and he had AJ10xx on the board, and the stiff king in his hand. The line of play that guaranteed the contract was to rise with the ace of diamonds from dummy at trick one, (counter-intuitively killing his own (redundant) king.

Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi !

Bethe’s analysis can be found at at

For the record, John Hurd and his team mates played really well during the trials and were deserving and worthy champions.

Anyway, today’s hand. Playing in a money matchpoints game of unimaginable importance, our hero held      A1074    QJ93    82     KQ10

He opened the bidding one club, and partner responded 2 diamonds, announcing a game forcing hand with club support. Our hero bid 2NT, and his partner now jumped to 4NT. There would no accepting this invitation, and so the final contract was 4NT. The lead was the diamond jack, and this is what he saw: 











He counted five clubs, two spades, and two aces on top. He decided to rely on one of two finesses to make the contract. (A solid 75% chance)

Our hero finessed the diamond queen at trick one, and this lost to east’s king, who led back another; ducked; and then a third diamond taken by declarer with the ace.

A short while later he took a losing finesse in hearts and ended up down one. Ironically, his score was almost average as a few pairs had ventured the no play slam.

But of course, you all know the winning play was to rise with the diamond ace at trick one. It can never ever be wrong – even at pairs I believe. It’s a 100% line of play.

You plan to take a heart finesse into east’s hand. East is not a threat, even if the finesse loses. He cannot pierce the dummy’s gizzard with another diamond, so you will for sure have ten tricks at least. Two spades, two hearts, a diamond, and five club tricks.

And you still have possibilities for an eleventh trick. (Analytical geeks can work that out for themselves, it’s not the point of this article)

The full layout was : 















♥ K1082









Tricks are for kids

Canadian world champion Daniel Lavee, a full time professional player and teacher, has recently begun a monthly newsletter for young players in the Greater Toronto Area. What a super initiative! Well done Daniel. Click the link below to see the latest issue.

Learning the game – part one ( Learning by memorization is not fun )

Observing Svetlana’s progress as she learns our wonderful game has prompted some thinking on my part as to what needs to be done to help stimulate growth and development of new players. 

Everyone is different, and learns at their own pace. Some immediately begin to devour books, and play whenever and wherever they can. Some tap into resources like BBO, and use the software and relaxed bridge club and partnership bidding tools to assist their development. Others go more slowly. 

I realize the more we force memorization on new players, the more work it seems, and the less fun it becomes. And while this approach may work for youngsters, whose brains are exercised and conditioned for learning by rote at school, it is much harder for people later in life to learn this way – and many simply don’t want to. 

But how did we learn all the stuff we know? I guess practise and practise – and the more situations came up, the more we learned things “on the fly”, and it became an almost effortless way to learn and absorb. 

In my most experienced partnership, we have hundreds of pages of system notes – comprising agreements, sub agreements, and rules to guide us in the later rounds of bidding or in defending in complex situations. To be sure, if we are both on the same page, and equally well prepared, these agreements can be of tremendous benefit – but it is very taxing and simply not necessary for the vast majority of players. 

For myself, I find it far more relaxing to sit down and play with someone where we have a five minute discussion before game time, and simply go ahead and play. If it hasn’t been discussed – we ain’t playing it! And many times I feel I play better in these relaxed circumstances.

Typically, new players attend a package of lessons offered by a local bridge club. The club hopes that today’s students become tomorrow’s club regulars, and thus the beat goes on.

I wonder what the typical success rate is of each club in doing this. I’ll bet some clubs have got this down to a science, where their conversion rate is rather high, and others maybe pitifully low.

This means something has to change. Yes, it may be the teacher (as in life, first impressions are so important); it could be the teaching methods or curriculum; it could be the atmosphere in the learning environment; or it could even be their fellow students – who offended or irritated the student in some way.

Many clubs offer a special game once a week or so for their new players – the idea being to create a friendly, non intimidating environment where they can continue to learn with their peers at their own pace.

This approach spills over to tournaments where special effort is put into providing special attention and games for new players – all of which is very good.

But I am wondering if there is an additional step which we could adopt for all new players to help them learn the game faster, play better, and achieve some measure of progress and development in a way that stimulates their desire for more.

Svetlana may or may not be representative of new bridge players approaching the game at the mid stage of their life. She is a highly intelligent, over achieving individual, who does not like to be mediocre at anything she tackles.

I know that in her case, sitting her down to play with other novices each week and say “ok honey – have fun” is not the right approach for her.

By playing with someone far more experienced (and very patient) i.e. yours truly, she feels she is truly learning on every hand in every situation she encounters.

I try to avoid any teaching and instruction during an actual game – since it can upset the thinking and concentration process – and as we all know – ignorance can be bliss.

But you can be sure we come away from each session with lots of areas for discussion and improvement – based on actual hands we played, and with the benefit of hand records, a good cup of tea, and a relaxed atmosphere, the teaching process starts in earnest the next day, or even right after the session.

Anyway, my idea is very simple – if every new player to the game had the chance to develop with a far more experienced player, in addition to whatever other methods he or she chooses, the conversion rate of raw beginners to regular players could only increase.

Learning the game – part two

Learning the game – part two ( Mentor programs )

Anyway, my idea is very simple – if every new player to the game had the chance to develop with a far more experienced player, in addition to whatever other methods he or she chooses, the conversion rate of raw beginners to regular players could only increase.

For this idea to work, each club owner needs the buy in and cooperation of its member players. It’s time for all of us to give back a little of ourselves to the game.

I don’t think that should be too difficult – as the demographics clearly show, many club regulars have lots of spare time, and it is in their best interests to promote the game, and increase membership and game sizes.

It is also a wonderful way for everyone to meet new people – new friendships may develop, and new social groups may evolve.

Each club owner should build a list of volunteer mentors for new and developing bridge players. I don’t think there should be automatic acceptance into the group. Mentors should have patience, pleasant personalities, availability, sincere interest, and an ability to transfer knowledge in a constructive manner. System geeks should be asked to tone it down, or be reserved only for players who lust for new methods.

Mentors must be willing to donate the equivalent of one bridge session a week – more is preferred, but hey, we have to start somewhere.

Mentors must be willing to make a commitment of at least three months.

Ideally, mentors would attend or shadow some of the bridge classes being offered in the club. Mingle with the new players, sit down with them at scheduled breaks during the lessons to socialize and reinforce concepts just taught by the teacher.

The idea is that every inexperienced player would develop a relationship with at least one mentor – more than one is perfectly fine.

Each inexperienced player will have the chance to play at least once a week with an experienced player – such sessions to be preceded by (at least a brief) discussion and coaching, and followed by healthy analysis and feedback (ideally in the next twenty four hours)

As interest develops, the club should schedule a regular game for mentors and their students – in addition to whatever sessions they may play together on the regular club schedule. (Most clubs have dead sessions on their calendars whose time slot can be used for this purpose) 

These can be lots of fun – with short presentations (served with desserts and coffee) before the game, and possibly even a group debrief and discussion after these games. 

I could go on and on – I suspect I will at some point. I have lots of ideas to stimulate the growth of the game. For now, I just want to throw these ideas out there and ask what you regular bridge players think of this.

 A plan can evolve very quickly if we are like minded.

Learning the game – part one

Bridge with a raw beginner

I used to teach bridge many years ago, but have not had a new student till the past couple of months, when my better half Svetlana decided finally she wanted to learn how to play bridge. She enrolled in a set of lessons at Hazel’s bridge club, and after each class she would come home and pepper me with questions.

I really believe beginners should simply play as much as possible – and ideally with someone better than they are, so there can be useful instruction following the game. We have gone out to the local club a few times recently, and have been moving up the rankings to the point where last night she finally won her first masterpoints. I think I was more pleased than Svetlana !

We have no conventions. Our agreements are strong NT, doubles are takeout below 2NT and penalty above that. We do not play Stayman, Blackwood, nothing. Two bids are strong and natural. New suits force us to continue the bidding. Cue bids are not discussed, so when she makes one, I know she has that suit.

We have no carding agreements other than a low card can mean we like a suit. It is interesting – since I am forced to rely on logic and deductive reasoning to defend hands – without the benefit of count signals or suit preference signals.

Things will be added in time, but there is so much to learn for a beginner, I think she should just stick to the fundamentals of card play and finding the right strain and level in the bidding. God help us when we have a slam hand – no machinery yet.

After a session of bridge, I can find two or three recurring themes I need to teach and reinforce – this sort of learning seems much easier to absorb, since it is not in the abstract, but rather it can be related to specific things we experienced at the table. Hand records are a blessing of course.

Here are some hands from last night’s session.


Dealer: E

Vul: none






















A 2NT opener has not come up for us before, so Svetlana began the bidding with one club in the south chair. West passed, and I responded 1 heart. Svetlana had enough values for a reverse of two diamonds, and I upped the ante to four diamonds. Everyone passed !

The opening lead was the spade queen. There seemed no point to Svetlana in covering that with the king, so she ducked in dummy. East won the second spade, and was powerless to defeat the contract. Had the spade king been played at trick one, the defense can play three rounds of spades and score the trump ten.

Plus 130 was a cold top ! Even down one would be most of the matchpoints as the field mangled these hands pretty badly. 3NT down 3 by south was a common result.

Later, Sveta had another monster hand – AQ10  AQ1083 AK A104. She opened a conservative one heart, and I raised to two hearts. Forgetting for a minute that 3 of  a major does not pay the game bonus, Svetlana bid the third and final heart.

However, I reasoned that if she could go up to three hearts all on her own, then my hand of K8  J742  432  K972 was enough to bid game – so I bid 4H, and all passed.













The heart king was offside, and nothing good happened in clubs, and making five was an above average board – as slam was bid by some people.

Then I picked up KQ63  2   AJ7   A10953. I opened one club in fourth chair, white versus red. LHO bid 1 heart, and Sveta bid two diamonds. My RHO bid 2 hearts, and I liked my hand. I figured it was now or never for the spade suit, so I chirped two spades. My LHO bid 3 hearts, and Sveta bid 3 spades. RHO passed, and I had to bid.

The vulnerable opponents had bid up to three hearts, but my partner had bid me up to three spades. Realizing she is a cautious bidder, I decided to place my faith in partner, and bid the fourth spade. No one doubled, and the lead was the heart ace. I immediately saw I had backed the right horse, as Svetlana was full value for her bidding.












Spades split, but both opponents had minor suit singletons to explain their aggression. No ruffs were found though, and I picked up the Qxxx of clubs in the west hand to make five for a good score. I guess we managed fine without negative doubles.

Finally, I picked up 108532  AKQ2  1073  K. My RHO opened a weak NT, both vul. A bid to show both majors would have been swell, but we don’t have any conventions on our card. Two spades seemed risky, as I could well run into a penalty double. I decided to mastermind and bid 2 hearts, saving the spades for emergency measures, if needed.

(Notwithstanding this hand, I rarely make unilateral moves playing with Svetlana – we are trying to help her learn – that’s it. However, if I see a chance to swing the tide in our favour now and then, I may go for it. )

My LHO bid 3NT, Sveta passed, and RHO bid 4 diamonds. I was content to have muddied their waters, so I passed. LHO now bid 4 hearts (my suit) and RHO bid 4 spades – which sounded like a cue bid. However everyone passed, and four spades became the final contract.

























 A trump lead seemed indicated, rather than the “obvious heart”.

I don’t see how declarer was ever going to make this, but for good measure he went down a sporting three for +300 and a great score for us. Once they avoided 3NT we were slated to do well on the hand.

We have all played the game so long, we often forget the mysteries of bridge through the eyes of a beginner. The idea is to encourage and develop, and I do feel the less memory work you foist on a player the better off they will be.

I am lucky my student has excellent card sense (she is already a proficient poker and blackjack player) so I have no doubt if we keep at it, there will be many more nights of good results to come.


Momentum part one |   Momentum part two |   Momentum part three |   Momentum part four

The final match of this year’s CNTC was an exciting ebb and flow as the lead and momentum changed hands several times over the final day’s play. Team Gartaganis was up by 6 imps after 64 boards; then up by 11 imps after 80 boards; and then the tide turned significantly in Team Korbel’s favour in the sixth (of eight) segments and Korbel was up by 23 imps going into the final 32 boards.

This momentum shift started with an innocent part score hand. Keith opened the bidding one club, and I responded 1 spade. Campbell on my left bid 1NT. Keith passed, and Klimowicz bid 2D, intending this as a transfer to hearts. I passed, and after much thought Campbell passed also, remarking to me (his screenmate) that he hoped that wasn’t a transfer.

I was looking at J97 of diamonds and two baby hearts. I was pretty sure it WAS a transfer – so in this kind of situation a trump lead works best. Envisioning diamond honours in dummy, I debated between the nine and the jack, settling on the diamond nine as my opening salvo.

The layout was fairly predictable.

Dealer: east

Vul: none

Taylor Balcombe
K865 32
62 A9
J97 K1052
Q753 AKJ96

Klimo flew with dummy’s diamond ace, and played a heart to his hand immediately, Keith ducking with the ace. Next came the spade ten from Klimo’s hand. I covered, he won and tried to cash three rounds of spades, Keith ruffing the third. Keith cashed the club king, receiving a come on from me, and underled his club ace to my queen. The jack of diamonds now put declarer and dummy out of their misery, and we beat the contract four tricks for a three imp pick up.

Tension filled the air as Klimo and Campbell exchanged a few “polite” words about what this sequence would mean in the future. As is often the case, the payoff from a result like this invariably comes in the following boards.

Sure enough, Campbell immediately picked up a monster (especially opposite a one spade opener from his partner)   K9752   AQ987   A72   void. He went into a brown study and emerged a couple of minutes later with a bid of six spades ! Science be damned. One can argue he was facing a limited opening bid, but I don’t think that has much merit here. Perhaps Gordon was on tilt a bit after the last hand.

I doubt there are many hands one’s partner can continue bidding on with opposite a six spade response, and Klimo’s mitt of AQJ64  K4  KQ85  Q8 surely did not qualify.

Klimo threw down his claim at trick one, and I could feel the steam rising from the other side of my screen as he gently put his cards back into the board.

Dan and Darren bid the grand of course, and now we had our first real return on the transfer mishap. Eleven imps.

The very next hand, a vulnerable game bonus was available in four spades, requiring some racing luck in terms of two finesses working and a favorable trump split. The Energizer Bunnies at the other table were bidding everything that had a pulse by this point, so Korbel and Wolpert had already chalked up +620 on the deal.

Dealer: west

Vul: north south

Balcombe Taylor
53 K92
KJ654 873
4 KQ1053
KQ432 96

Facing a passing partner, Balcombe chose an opportune time NOT to bid Michaels over Campbell’s one spade opener. (A) We don’t play Michael’s, and (B) even if we did, Keith would never do so on this hand. Instead he bid a creative and subtle two clubs!

Klimo bid a heavy two spades over Balcombe’s two clubs, and the world passed. Notice how a different action by Balcombe would likely have propelled his opponents to the makeable game. This is exactly what happened in the other room – so credit Keith with the ten imps we won on this board. That made 24 unanswered imps and an overall lead of thirteen imps to Team Korbel after four boards into this set.

The fifth board of the set produced more of the same. Dan Korbel was our team hero this time. He held 62  976  A1083  AJ94, and heard his partner open one spade, both vul, in first position. His RHO bid double, and Dan said redouble – upgrading his hand based on the quality and power of his aces.

His LHO now bid three hearts, and Darren Wolpert now jumped to three spades holding AQJ543  KQ5  74  K8. Dan bid the fourth and final spade, and with the spade king onside third, yet another vulnerable game rolled home.

Dealer: south

Vul: not sure

Balcombe Taylor
108 K97
A82 J1043
KQJ6 952
Q762 1053

Strike one was when Klimo bid 1NT over west’s double. I wisely kept my mouth shut, resisting the urge to bid 2H.  Strike two was when Campbell simply rebid two spades. I suppose he could have rebid three spades, especially within a strong club system framework, as his hand has a clearly defined upper limit of 16 HCP for such action. Strike three was Klimo passing two spades, but really, who can blame him?

Ten imps more for Team Korbel and an overall lead of twenty three imps after only five boards of the set. The tide had turned in our favour.

Momentum part one |   Momentum part two |   Momentum part three |   Momentum part four

Momentum part two

Momentum part one |   Momentum part two |   Momentum part three |   Momentum part four

Two boards later we beat a delicate two spades one trick for another four imps, and three boards after that was another dynamite board for Team Korbel.

Keith was on a roll at this point – bidding very aggressively and successfully. He picked up   void  J8754  KQ743  K107, and heard me open a weak NT in third chair, not vul versus vulnerable opponents. Campbell overcalled two spades, and Keith bid three hearts, forcing. Klimo next jumped to four spades, which was passed around to Keith.

He promptly bid five diamonds. This was converted by me to five hearts; Campbell doubled and all passed.

Dealer: north

Vul: east west

Klimowicz Campbell
Q108765 AJ942
1063 A
2 A98
QJ5 9832

Actually, as soon as I placed the five heart bid on the table, I regretted it. So often in situations where your side has two fits, it is best (safer) to play in the weaker fit, to avoid enemy ruffs in that suit. Damn, I hoped it would not cost.

But it did. Klimo led his singelton diamond and scored two ruffs for down two, minus 300. As you can see, had they chosen to defend five diamonds doubled, we could have made that! Still we don’t know if Klimo would have sat for a double of five diamonds.

In fact, at the other table, Korbel holding Klimo’s cards bid onto five spades over their five hearts, and scored up plus 650 for a nice eight imp gain. Team Korbel up by 35 imps.

Three boards later, Campbell went down (not unreasonably) in a vulnerable four hearts, made by Korbel at the other table. Played from the other side, the hand was all about the location of the jack of spades. The spade side suit was KQ62 opposite A109. At Korbel’s table, the opening lead was the spade jack, a singleton, so the card was located immediately.

At our table, Campbell played the hand methodically and found out quite late in the hand that spades were likely 5-1. He therefore backed up his card reading by taking a first round hook of the spade ten, losing unluckily to the singleton jack, losing eleven imps more. Team Korbel up by 46 imps now.

I could tell it was going very well at our table, but these guys had played incredibly tough all week, and had been there before. I did not expect them to roll over. Momentum was clearly with us, but they were determined to turn the tide. I could not see him, but if someone told me Klimo was chewing nails on the other side of the screen, I would have believed them. (I found out later it was ice, not nails)

It might have been much more but for two great results for Campbell and Klimowicz on two late boards. Campbell held AJ5  K8   10964 AJ93 and heard two spades (weak) on his right; four spades on his left. He had to lead a club specifically to beat the contract for a ten imp pick up. The hands were:

Dealer: east

Vul: none

Campbell Klimowicz
AJ5 9
K8 96532
10964 82
AJ93 K10654

The ace of clubs followed by another club ensured down one – well done !

And the two Westerners had a most unusual auction to bid up to 7NT on the preceding hand. Klimo opened one diamond and redbid 1NT over Campbell’s one spade response. Klimo held Q7  KQ93   AQ1054  QJ, and his rebid showed 14 to 16 HCP. Campbell next bid two diamonds, game forcing check back stayman. Klimo bid 2H, Campbell bid 2NT. Klimo bid 3 diamonds, and Campbell now bid 3 hearts.

Klimo now reached into his bidding box and placed the 6 NT card on the table ! Assuming he had not totally lost his mind, I deduced he must be thinking along these lines…. Partner is sniffing around with a big hand, yet he cannot find an eight card fit, but he does not want to place the contract in (only) 3NT. I have a maximum for the auction. I will accept any and all slam invitations – so why don’t I just bid 6NT – the most likely final contract.

Furthermore, it would be serendipitous to do to his partner what Campbell had done to him earlier when he eschewed science and blasted to six spades over Klimo’s one spade opener.

Anyway, Campbell was also not expecting this bid, and was staring at a full twenty count! AK32  AJ5  J3  AK73. Finally he decided, where there’s twelve there is a hope for thirteen, and he bid the seventh and final no trump.

Dealer: westVul : both Campbell
Taylor Balcombe
1098 J654
1042 876
976 K82
10954 862

These back to back hands were the bridge equivalent of a ‘Hail Mary’ pass into the end zone. Had they worked out badly, I doubt Team Gartaganis could have regrouped. But of course, the diamond king was onside (and showed up on a pop up squeeze against east) and twelve imps won for Team Gartaganis instead of losing seventeen had the finesse lost. Wolpert and Korbel had stopped scientifically in 6NT at the other table.

Still, even with winning 23 imps on these two boards, Team Gartaganis had relinquished their 13 imp lead, and were now down by 23 imps with 32 boards remaining.

Momentum had clearly run Korbel’s way for most of this stanza, but Gartaganis had caught hold of themselves just in time.

Momentum part one |   Momentum part two |   Momentum part three |   Momentum part four

Momentum part three

Momentum part one |   Momentum part two |   Momentum part three |   Momentum part four

Things started badly for Team Gartaganis in the seventh (of eight) set when a defensive mishap allowed me to bring home an impossible 3NT for a thirteen imp gain.

Dealer: east

Vul: north south

Campbell Klimowicz
J62 Q1075
A1092 J8763
K104 9
AJ8 963

I had opened a weak NT in second chair, showing 11+ to 14 HCP. Keith quickly bid 3NT and Campbell led the heart ten from his A1092 holding. I could see I was in serious doo doo here. Even if I can divine the diamond suit for no losers, that’s only eight tricks. Surely any attempts at razmataz in the club suit first would be met with suspicion by either defender, and the hearts quickly cashed.

So I won the queen of hearts nonchalantly, giving nothing away about my predicament to my screenmate. I looked like a guy with KQx of hearts. I led a diamond to the dummy’s queen. Campbell followed with the ten on my left, but Klimo then followed with the 9!

What was going on here? Had Campbell just unintentionally Grosvenored me? Or maybe Klimo was giving a Smith echo, or perhaps just playing the 9 from 9x forcing me to waste an entry back to my hand to repeat the diamond finesse.

I had a feeling Campbell had pulled the wrong card – and I sneaked a quick glance at him to get a read. Just as I did, he was sneaking his own glance back at me and our eyes collided momentarily.

You’d think with all the poker I play I would now know exactly what was going on in the diamond suit – but this play (and the eye action) had all come out of left field, and I still wasn’t sure.

I finally reasoned I did NOT want to enter my hand with the spade ace and repeat the finesse – it would simply give away too much information to my skilled opponents about the whole hand. So I called for dummy’s ace, and watched amusedly as Klimo in fact pitched a small club.

I continued with my confident approach to the hand and played another diamond casually to Campbell’s king. As his king hit the table, I could feel Klimo’s disbelief ooze through the screen as he refused to turn over his card to ready for the next trick. It was like he was frozen in the moment.

Amusing yes, but I still only had seven tricks now that diamonds were only good for four of them. Campbell had no reason at this point to think I was in dire straights in the heart suit, so he exited a spade. I won in dummy, and played off the remaining diamond winners.

Finally I had to exit a club, but by this point I think Klimo had momentarily become unhinged by the diamond suit plays, and between the two of them they blocked the heart suit when Campbell won the club ace, and somehow I emerged with nine tricks.

Klimo excused himself to go regroup (always a very good idea when something real bad happens to your partnership in an important match)

The table atmosphere was eerie quiet at that point. Not a word was spoken by anyone for a full five minutes while Klimo gathered himself. Keith and I could not have asked for a better start to the final quarter. A big pick up, and the opponents clearly upset by an unfortunate turn of events.

And then two boards later, adversity of a similar nature struck our partnership. It began with an innocent three heart contract declared by Campbell – it looked to be a sure down 1 (in an inferior strain) and six imps for Team Korbel – but the defense went seriously awry and declarer snuck home for a two imp gain.

The very next board I held  KQJxx  KJ  AJ9x  10x

Red vs white I opened 1S, LHO said 2D, Keith said 4D, and RHO said 4NT. I doubled (we were in a FP auction – and were even before my double). LHO bid 5C and this was passed around to me.

I didn’t think the old “double with a doubleton rule” applies here – we are simply defending or bidding on and each partner has to express an opinion or pass with no opinion.

Keith passed it around to me – I went for the vulnerable game bonus – not to mention possible slam bonus if he held the right cards so I cue bid 5D trying for slam. Keith bid 5S and we went down 1 when he held  A10xxx   Qxxxx  x  Qx.

Clearly one of us should have doubled five clubs and held down the loss to a few imps versus the actual twelve when four spades made at the other table. Credit to Klimo for getting busy with his hand with only 9 10974  875  KJ964 – generating a pick up no matter what.

Bad things seem to come in threes. The very next hand we bid up to what seemed like a routine 3NT after Klimo began the auction with an 12-14 HCP weak NT on my right. They were vul we were not and I held K94  AQ76  K6  AQ94. I doubled and Campbell (on my left bid two hearts – showing the majors. Keith bid three diamonds, and I bid 3NT – all passed.

The lead was the spade queen and I beheld :

Dealer: east

Vul: EW

Campbell Klimowicz
QJ82 A103
9854 KJ10
J93 852
75 KJ106

I ducked the lead, and spades were continued to the ace, followed by the heart jack from Klimo – which I won with the queen. I ducked a heart a little later and found out Campbell was 44 in the majors. The only relevant matters at this point were (a) who has the diamond jack, and (b) are diamonds 3-3 (and therefore clubs 2-4) or are diamonds 2-4 (and therefore clubs 3-3).

I am sure people watching on BBO were screaming at their monitors for me to hurry up and take my ten tricks but alas there would be no story then. At the moment of truth I played king of diamonds and a diamond to dummy’s ace. Campbell played first the nine then a spot. (They play UDC but at this stage in the hand – carding would be very random by both opponents.) Klimo showed an even number of diamonds.

I went with my gut – usually it helps me to do so but here I was dead wrong. I abandoned diamonds – and played three rounds of clubs – playing Klimo for KJ10 of clubs and Jxxx of diamonds. He did have KJ10 of clubs but a pesky fourth one too – so the “Miami end play” was a spectacular down 1 – J9x of diamonds were onside and ripe for the picking the entire time.

My line was obscure – as (a) diamonds were just as likely to be 3-3 as clubs – and (b) even if clubs are 3-3 – this only helps if RHO has specifically KJ10 and cannot take himself off an endplay (with KJx or K10x he can unblock his honours)

So if you want to talk percentages, the odds definitely favored the straight forward (winning) line of simply cashing the diamonds from the top down.

I suppose some would admire my “not being afraid to look stupid if I am wrong” approach on this hand, but the truth is – better to be right – always – when you make a move like this. I was going for the jugular and the only throats I ended up cutting were my own and Keith’s. Why give the opponents something to feed on and gain confidence with?

That was twenty four imps to Team Gartaganis in three short hands and the lead was now down to eleven imps for Team Korbel – and momentum back with our opponents.

We bid up to a reasonable 5 diamonds doubled a couple of boards later – if the club ace is offside we will go down 1 (but then they can make four spades the other way) and if it is onside we make our doubled contract. Down 1 – lose two imps as the same contract was undoubled at the other table.

Then I held Q832  642  J4  KQ87 and heard Keith open 1D in first chair white on red. Klimo said one heart and I bid one spade. Campbell on my left said double – showing clubs; and Keith bid three diamonds freely. I was pretty sure nine tricks could only be taken with soft defense – which was not likely to happen here after they had told each other their hands and I had a major shortage of quick tricks on the side.

I passed and Keith went down one (normal) holding K10x  A98  AKQ763 6. But it was a ten imp loss nonetheless on a totally different auction at the other table and the non heart hand on lead. We were now down by one imp!

Momentum part one |   Momentum part two |   Momentum part three |   Momentum part four