Ross Taylor

Momentum part four

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

Things quietened down for a few boards – then another ugly hand. I held AK9  J832  105  9742 and heard one diamond on my right; two diamonds (forcing) on my left; 2NT on my right; 3NT on my left; all pass.

I did not enjoy finding a lead; but put my fingers on the spade ace.  Here was the layout :

Dealer: east

Vul: both

West East
62 QJ8
64 AK75
AQJ73 9864
A1065 KJ

Turns out I had hit on a very effective opening lead – but then, you guys can see all the cards! Keith played the seven, and Klimo played the 8. We play upside down attitude and standard count, but this is a very specialized situation.

Anyway, I did not find the spade continuation. I switched to my third best heart. Klimo won and hooked a diamond and Keith continued hearts. At the crucial point in the hand Klimo had to guess the location of the club queen to make and he did so – rather confidently I might add. So this was a loss of twelve imps, versus a push had we beaten the hand.

The set’s carnage was almost complete. Two hands later I picked up Q963  103   AQ10   K843. I dealt and passed, red versus white. Campbell opened 1 spade on my left, and Keith overcalled two hearts. Klimo said two spades, and I made a responsive double. Campbell said redouble – (a terrific riverboat gambler type bid – he only had AKJ54  65  8732  Q2) – a pyschic redouble!

Keith bid three clubs over the redouble, and I had to take a bid. I felt I was done, and I passed. But the full layout revealed we had lost another ten imps – largely due to Campbell’s redouble, as we both pulled in our tails thereafter. Keith actually made six!

Dealer: south

Vul: north south

Campbell Klimowicz
AKJ54 10872
65 QJ9
8732 K94
Q2 975

Ten imps gone here and the lead was now back with Team Gartaganis – up around 25 imps with sixteen boards to play.

Still, it was anyone’s match – as long as Team Korbel did not dwell on the what-ifs and focussed on the here and now – and if the hands were lively enough.

Sure enough, our team got the better of a decent number of small swings, gaining 37 imps against losing only five imps with two key hands yet to be compared. On the first, Korbel – Wolpert bid a very reasonable 4 hearts on a 5-3 fit which ran into a defensive cross ruff and went down. Klimowicz and Campbell did well to land in 3NT which was in no danger and gained their side eleven imps.

The margin was down to around 8 imps in favor of Team Gartaganis when this fateful and deciding board hit the baize.

Dealer:southVul: east west

Taylor Balcombe
QJ765 K943
J10 void
975 QJ10864
Q86 974

Campbell opened 1 forcing club, and Keith overcalled two diamonds. They then discovered their heart fit and Campbell found out Klimo had specifically an ace, a king, and the heart queen. Perhaps forgetting Klimo had passed initially (and therefore could not have another queen – as they play 11-13 NT openers at this colour) Campbell pressed his good fortune and went for all the marbles with a bid of 7NT.

I led a diamond, and when dummy came down, I could feel a gasp from Klimo when he realized his predicament – for the second time in a few hours he was in 7NT requiring a finesse. He was also steamed to be there as he felt Campbell had erred in playing him for cards he could not possibly have.

Note seven hearts has extra chances – you can pitch north’s club jack on the diamond king, and make the hand with queen doubleton in either hand or any 3-3 club break – including queen third offside.

Anyway there was nothing to do but take the club finesse fairly early and pray. The bridge gods were smiling on Klimo this day and he chalked up plus 1520 and a win of eleven imps. Our teammates stopped accurately in 6 hearts, and instead of winning 14 imps, we incurred another 25 imp swing against us.

And that was the match ! The boards ran out, and the last team standing was Team Gartaganis – winning by 19 imps over 128 boards. I was pleased my team had all played tough and hard in the last segment, but that still only spells silver – not gold.

It was a very exciting match to play in and watch – I gathered enough material to regale my blog readers with stories and hands for weeks – but that’s for another day. There were many hands of interest – hands which any of us would like to take back and redo – don’t think the match was decided on luck vis a vis the two 7NT hands – yes there was an element of luck in those two huge hands – but as is always the case, the match was decided largely on mistakes – and only a few brilliancies.

Bobby Wolff sent me a generous email today with lots of good advice and a perspective of having won and lost his share of more big ones than most players on the planet. One point struck a chord, as it pertains to momentum at the table. I quote:

“Breaking it down …………… …… At this stage one bad board (especially an unlucky one, but even worse when an outright mistake is made) too often costs about 30 IMPs before some players return to normal.

What usually happens is that judgment becomes skewed, not unlike blackjack, but certainly (I do understand poker, but I, as yet, do not play) poker would be a shining example.

During those times it is best to withdraw from making any big decisions such as close slam bidding or daring declarer or defensive plays in bridge, but then in poker, merely acquiesce if a big hand appears rather than depend on judgment gone south.

Much easier said than done and possibly missing a great opportunity will cause a resounding loss.”

Never a truer word was spoken. In both instances of the momentum shift at our table in the final 48 boards, things changed as a result of a relatively innocuous part score hand – in and of itself not a big deal – but all aspiring and serious partnerships MUST develop defense mechanisms to cope with this sort of inevitable adversity.

The winners were all seasoned, experienced international players who got the best of us – and most importantly (true for both teams actually) never gave up or rolled over when things went badly – they played through their adversity and are worthy champions of Canada.

This summary from the late stages of the match unfortunately only has the perspective of events at my own table – for sure there were lots of interesting goings on between the Gartaganis’ and Korbel-Wolpert, and I hope we get to read about much of it in the near future.

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


Ray LeeJune 8th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Great article Ross — it was fun to watch the final and do BBO commentary on such a very close and well-played match. My commiserations on losing it.

One quibble on the above: a priori, in the critical last-set grand, the odds of dropping the CQ in 3 rounds by ruffing is 52% — which is identical to cashing the CA and finessing. So other than the chance of a ruff at Trick 1, there’s no real difference between 7NT and 7H. In fact, at your table, Keith’s 2D preempt swings the odds well in favour of the finesse — which since he was in 7NT was fortunate for declarer, as the other option wasn’t available.

Ray Lee

Nick krnjevicJune 8th, 2010 at 12:30 pm


Congratulations to both you and the rest of your teammates on an excellent showing in the Canadian Open Team Championship. The gold-medal match was a nail-biter between two evenly matched teams that was exciting to watch.

While finishing second may be a disappointment, the margin of victory (19 imps over 128 boards) was the equivalent of roughly 1 additional downtrick for each of the eight 16 board segments that comprised the final, and underscores the extent to which there was *very* little to choose betwen the two teams.


Nick Krnjevic

Stephen CooperJune 8th, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Tough Rough Stough. Of course, some of the unsuccessful efforts look worse with the benefit of distance; your own, others….Everyone was trying to do what seemed best at the time.

Daniel KorbelJune 8th, 2010 at 7:36 pm

One of the best bridge articles I’ve read. Brilliantly done Ross.

Dave ColbertJune 8th, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Very well written article, Ross. The goose bumps that I felt while watching online came back again, this time not in the real time of a live watch. For example, when Gordon led the heart 10 from AT9x and soon afterwards was back on lead, the long wait followed by the spade shift was, to me, an enactment of real – life drama.

Jonathan SteinbergJune 8th, 2010 at 10:29 pm

It IS so much easier when you can see all four hands!

Both teams played great bridge and you should all be proud of your performance. This was the most exciting and closest CNTC final in many years.

Congratulations Ross, both as a bridge player and writer, two activities in which you excel.

lindaJune 9th, 2010 at 9:02 am

It is very interesting to hear a player’s perspective about the match. Thank you.

John GowdyJune 9th, 2010 at 10:39 pm

One of the things wrong with Bridge at the highest level is that the thrill of victory is no match for the misery of defeat. Your team showed great class after the match and you with this blog. I’ve done the former and I’m sure that I could not do the latter with grace.

Congratulations !

Bill KoskiJune 11th, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Great article Ross! Although I read this in Morocco, I felt the excitment of being back in Toronto. If your team plays as well in the future, the podium will be yours.

The achievement of both teams is spectacular because both were 4 person teams and they played so well in the final after a gruelling week of bridge.

MargueriteJuly 24th, 2010 at 8:12 am

Congratulations, Ross, on a very fine article. I see you have not lost

your touch with writing excellent bridge analyses.

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