These 25 deals were were played on February 18, 1999 in Goldway XX the 20th in a series of monthly challenge matches on OKbridge. World champions Bobby Goldman and Paul Soloway (nicknamed Goldway as a pair) took on my son Rich and me. The match was hosted by Tony Reuss and watched live by hundreds of spectators. The deals were played earlier in the week by other OKbridge members to determine the comparison results. Scoring was by IMPs.
I have added comments about the bidding and play, as well as other interesting sidelights. Hopefully, this will provide instructive reading for anyone wishing to improve his or her bridge game. The match was close all the way and not decided until the last board.
Rich was a few minutes late and Tony Reuss filled in as West on the first deal, which was a wild one. Tony chose to open a gambling 3 NT with his eight solid clubs. This would not be my choice, nor is it part of the system Rich and I play. Bobby bid his long spade suit comforted by the vulnerability, and I competed to 5 knowing partners suit had to be clubs. Paul, holding the best hand at the table, must have wondered if we were playing from the same deck. He contented himself with 5 , probably to get Bobby off to the right lead in the event Tony bid diamonds. This came around to me, and I let them buy it figuring we would surely be set in 6 and might beat 5 .
Tony led our singleton spade and Paul quickly claimed 13 tricks. Of course, we could have held it to five with a diamond lead. I wish now that I had pushed to 6 (down only one) since it is almost certain that Paul would compete to 6 , then I would be on lead (down one).
This was a nasty one. Bobbys 2 bid was artificial showing a constructive spade raise (only by coincidence did he have five hearts). When Rich doubled a second time showing a stronger negative double, I felt my values justified a shot at game. Four hearts is a fair contract but optimistic. So what else is new?
At Trick 5 it looked grim (to make 4 Paul would need to have six diamonds) so I tried to cut my losses. At Trick 8 Bobby played too quickly and ruffed (a club discard ensures defeat) and I overruffed. Now I could make it if I cashed the A, but I decided this couldnt be the case when he ruffed. I led a trump hoping to salvage the club finesse, but at the end I changed my mind.
Im not happy with the way I played this hand, and in retrospect I probably should make it. After winning the A, it is reasonable to play the A and a club to the king. The miracle distribution is revealed when Souths queen drops and I am home.
We would have played a peaceful 2 here, but Bobby chose an unfortunate time to balance with 2 . He ran into a trump stack, and of course I doubled. It was not certain that I could beat 2 , but Rich knew my hand was limited and could have pulled it to 3 with poor defense. Anyway, it worked out well as we got most of our money back.
I was disappointed to find the Q in dummy, but there was little Bobby could do to take advantage of it. Midway through the play he was well aware of the futility and claimed for down two. These are the kinds of hands you want to get out of your mind as quickly as possible.
The adverse vulnerability kept me silent here, and I suspect Rich too. Nonvulnerable, I would chance a 2 overcall; and if I didnt, Rich would have balanced with 2 (Astro showing hearts and a minor). As it was we both went quietly.
After my normal spade lead, Bobby immediately claimed seven tricks. On to the next hand
This time it was our turn to play an unexciting 1 NT. Rich didnt have much for his opening bid, but it pays to get in the bidding first. After my negative double Rich might have rebid 2 (we would then play in 2 ) but knowing I held hearts he chose 1 NT with his spade stopper.
There was not much to the play. As a technical point Rich should have unblocked the 9 at Trick 2 in case Paul held Q-10-x-x, but it didnt matter with the diamonds 3-2.
A routine partscore in diamonds made this another forgettable hand. The only reason for the slight IMP gain is that a few E-W pairs must have overbid to hopeless games.
In my haste to get this trivial hand over with, I won the opening club lead in hand. It would be better to win the K, saving the A entry to my hand in case South held A-x-x and held up his ace. As the cards lay, 10 tricks were cut and dried.
After Bobbys strong 1 NT overcall Paul signed off in 2 . It is curious that they dont play transfers or system on here (like we do), yet they use transfers abundantly in other areas. I guess thats what keeps this game interesting; everyone has their own ideas about bidding theory.
This contract should make, and I suspect Pauls play of the 9 at Trick 10 was a mismouse. This allowed me to sluff my remaining spade and now he had to go down one.
Finally, some more action! Bobbys 3 cue-bid showed a limit spade raise (or better) and Paul jumped directly to game. Rich had to put up or shut up and decided to venture 5 , a risky bid but not without its rewards. Bobby doubled to end the auction.
On the surface it looks like 5 is a good sacrifice, down two against the cold N-S game; but the foul distribution in the minors doomed it to go down three. As the dummy, I was a little bemused by this; having never bid, I lay down six-card trump support for my partner, and he goes for 800. Hmm. Next time Ill try to have more.
Bobby and Paul conducted a fine auction to reach the excellent game after my third-seat open. (We play five-card majors but in third or fourth seat it is common to open in a strong four-card major.) Especially note Bobbys insight to probe with 3 over Pauls 2 . Many North players would pass 2 , but the modern style is that doubling and then bidding shows a very strong hand (typically 19+) because of the tendency to start with a simple overcall on many good hands.
Pauls line of play was curious. Obviously, he didnt want to commit to a possible diamond guess right away, so he won the Q and led back a heart allowing me to run my suit. Nothing mattered here, but Richs 3 had to be from three cards or one (couldnt be a doubleton) so he would be set immediately if it were a singleton. As usual his table feel was right. Since I could cash only three hearts, he later was able to give up a club to increase his chances. Nine tricks were always there.
I made a dubious opening bid, but I liked the quick-trick structure of my hand and the J-10-9 in hearts. Also, it is far more risky to pass these hands and overcall later. All considered, I think 1 is right. After Pauls overcall, Rich made a limit jump raise and this solved all my problems. One thing about opening a point light: You dont have to worry about whether to accept an invitation.
There was little to the play, and my heart spots did indeed make a difference.
Like on Board 7-1, Bobbys 2 bid was artificial showing a constructive spade raise. This idea of transfer responses to overcalls surely has merit, but Im too set in my ways to change now; the old-fashioned way still works fine for me. Over 2 I had more than enough to bid 3 (I would have bid 3 if North passed). Just as well, since Rich had very little for his negative double.
The play was interesting. With just one sure entry to dummy (in hearts) it was better to save it for a later club finesse rather than risk everything on the diamond finesse. Therefore, I cashed the top diamonds how sweet. After that I could claim an overtrick when North admitted to holding the 10. (Note that I would use dummys heart entry to lead a club to the nine.)
Rich didnt use good judgment here. The bidding was OK up until 4 , whereupon he should pass because his spade holding is wrong for me. If his spades were headed by the ace, then 5 rated to be a good contract. Also, it might have been better to make a simple jump to 3 at his second turn rather than the ubiquitous cue-bid. In any event, we were clearly overboard.
The contract was hopeless but easy to play. Thank you partner, down one.
Another one of those less-than-memorable deals. There was no way to discover our 4-4 spade fit after the routine 1 NT opening, and even if we did we would fail in 2 also.
After the heart lead, it was routine to finesse spades, and then force out the A. But there was no way to come to seven tricks. Indeed, Rich guessed well to lead a club to the king to salvage six tricks. He reasoned that if the J forced the ace, he could always be set two tricks anyway (losing one heart, two spades, four diamonds and a club) so the only realistic hope for down one was that South had ducked with the ace.
Rich used good judgment here not to invite slam. In theory we might have 33 HCP (our 2 NT range is 20-22) but hands with 4-3-3-3 shape are notorious for producing fewer tricks than the HCP would suggest. Of course, its possible the hands might mesh perfectly and produce a laydown slam; but its just as possible we could have 33 HCP and no play whatever.
In 3 NT I could have won 12 tricks with the spade lead by winning the queen, but this would jeopardize the contract if Paul (oops, make that Tony, who filled in for one hand) had led from something like J-10-7-4-2 holding the K. Playing low from dummy virtually assured making nine tricks. Tony made a cute play refusing the first heart finesse, causing me to waste an entry to repeat it; then he was able to clear the club suit before I had time to win a spade trick. No big deal; I would settle for 10 tricks in advance any time I bid 3 NT.
Some pairs got overboard here to slam (6 or 6 NT) which has no chance if South doesnt lead a spade.
Bobby and Paul bid well to the best contract (although at MPs one would prefer to be in 4 ). They play support doubles, so Pauls pass over 2 denied three spades; then Bobby jumped to the obvious game, suggesting no heart control. Note Pauls choice to open 1 instead of 1 , which I suspect was for two reasons: (1) to direct the lead he preferred, and (2) to prepare for a possible rebid in clubs, although I think he would have chosen 1 NT if Bobby had responded in a major and we were silent.
There was little to the play. As long as trumps were no worse than 3-1 and spades no worse than 4-2, it was routine to establish the long spade.
We were fortunate that Bobby and Paul didnt reach the grand slam, even though we lost IMPs as it was. In their system 2 showed a strong hand, either with diamonds or with certain balanced hands; 3 was a transfer (showing hearts); 3 showed a second suit (guaranteeing longer diamonds); and 4 was a preference. Paul, of course, always intended to bid slam but he was biding his time to consider the chances for a grand slam. Bobby was unable to use Blackwood holding two fast club losers, so he could do little more that continue to 5 , after which Paul guessed to bid only 6 NT. Im not sure of their entire structure here, but it was clear that this deal was not well suited to their system.
There was nothing to the play; exactly 13 top tricks with diamonds 3-2.
This was a routine 4 game. In the Goldway system 3 was a game-forcing heart raise and 3 was artificial showing a minimum hand (I believe balanced too), then Paul just jumped to game.
After cashing two clubs, Rich was marked with the ace and his high-low showed four clubs. Further, his choice to play 7-5 instead of 7-2 indicated a preference for spades over diamonds. Nothing really mattered here, and Bobby claimed 10 tricks before I could shift to the 10.
Bobby and Paul reached the proper spot here, though a friendly lie of the cards allows 4 to be made. Off three top tricks, the game requires picking up the spade suit and a club finesse (or some other luck) so it is clearly anti-percentage to bid. Bobbys 1 NT was forcing, then the jump to 3 showed a three-card limit raise. Paul was close to accepting (with 5-4-3-1 shape you never know when partner has just the right cards), but he chose to pass and the appearance of dummy vindicated his decision, at least in theory.
Rich led a heart and Paul immediately led diamonds to pursue a ruff in dummy. Im not crazy about Richs shift to the A, which simplified declarers play. Rather than risk losing to the Q and suffering a club ruff, Paul just cashed the A-K. The good news is I now got to make my Q. The bad news is our second diamond trick went away, so he made 10 tricks anyway. If Rich returns a heart at Trick 3, there is a chance to beat 3 if Paul takes the free finesse of the jack nah, no way Paul would fall for that.
After Paul opened a textbook weak two-bid, Rich scrounged up a 2 overcall and Bobby competed to 3 . I gave a fleeting thought to saying 3 but wisely chose to bid my cards, not my dreams.
The defense here was noteworthy. Given the opportunity, Paul would easily make 3 because Richs hand would become squeezed in spades and diamonds. When I won the club at Trick 4, I could see this coming and began an attack on dummys entries with a diamond shift. Note that if Paul now gave up a spade to correct the count for a squeeze, I could win and lead a second diamond killing all his hopes. Instead, Paul took his best shot by running all his trumps, but Rich made the key play of tossing his K to avoid the endplay. Down one.
My opening preempt is far from classic, but at favorable vulnerability these bids are effective. No doubt Marty Bergen would consider this a sound preempt at the colors. Paul overcalled in hearts and Bobby took a chance at 3 NT surely the right decision with all his strength in clubs.
I followed the strategy of bidding one suit and leading another and caught Rich with gold, although another spade would have been nicer still. After cashing the top spades Rich shifted to a club and Bobby cashed both top clubs (a key play) discarding a diamond from dummy. Next he attacked hearts, and if that suit broke 4-2 he would be cold Rich would be endplayed in diamonds when he won his heart stopper. Alas, hearts were 5-1 so the best he could do was salvage down one. Everyone had the same troubles, of course, and our result was almost average.
After Rich opened 1 , Im not sure what is the best way to handle my lopsided hand, but I opted to ignore the clubs and just raise spades. In our system 2 would be a considerable overbid, and 1 NT forcing would not solve the problem either because at my next turn I would have the same decision whether to support spades or bid my clubs. This time it worked well. Paul competed with 3 (holding three spades this was safer than it looks) and Rich correctly took a chance on game, albeit for the wrong reason he thought his hearts would be the key. Im a little bit surprised that Bobby didnt bid 5 , which is down only one for a good save.
In theory Bobby was right since 4 can be beaten with a club ruff. Paul was afraid to overtake the K with the ace and shift to a club because Bobby might be leading from K-x. When Bobby continued diamonds, Rich was home and in fact made an overtrick when Paul shifted to his singleton club too late.
In our signaling method we play suit preference on the opening lead when leaders partner has shown five or more cards. Hence, I would play the 2 asking for a club switch. North should lead the 5 (suit preference for hearts) and the defense can prevail.
When we passed it out in 1 NT, Bobby balanced with 2 showing both majors. (This is a variation of the DONT convention that is normally used over 1 NT openings only). I considered competing to 3 but decided against it with such a broken suit. Paul could not know which was Bobbys longer major so he passed it right there. It didnt matter much because 2 could also be beaten.
It was easy to beat 2 . We had five cashable tricks and I was able to discard a spade on Richs third diamond. In fact we could set them two if Rich had given me a spade ruff at Trick 5. When Rich led a fourth diamond instead, Bobby made a shrewd play discarding the K, after which we could get only one ruff.
It was pretty normal to bid 4 with Richs hand after I opened the bidding. Sometimes these bids make, and other times they push the opponents to the five level where we can set them. Unfortunately, this was a different occasion and he stepped into a penalty double. Oh well, it wont be the last time.
The contract was always doomed, but Rich cleverly guessed diamonds to salvage nine tricks. At Trick 4 it looks as if Rich should ruff with the jack, but nothing really mattered; in that event Bobby would just throw off a red card to promote a second trump trick. After the overruff and the diamond return, Rich deduced the layout and hopped with the ace. Perhaps it would have been better for Bobby not to sluff a diamond on the second club, as Im sure this helped clarify the diamond situation.
Wow! Bid em up! Paul was right on the money here when he jumped to game after Bobbys 3 , a Bergen raise of some kind. Pauls judgment is about as keen as you can get. Notice how he rejected the invitation on Board 7-26 and accepted here (probably because here Bobby showed four trumps) and he was right in theory both times. This is a good game; the other was not. It is true that he needed the A onside to make it, but at IMPs it is mathematically correct to bid a vulnerable game with as little as a 37 percent chance.
There wasnt much to the play. Rich led a trump (best) and Paul immediately led a diamond to the king. With trumps 2-2 it was a laydown.
We lost our lead with this board too. With only one board to go, we now needed to pick up 2 IMPs.
This board would decide the match, and luck was on our side. Pauls 2 response as a passed hand was reverse Drury and Bobbys 2 showed a normal opening. Paul indicated minimal values with 2 ; Bobby invited with 3 ; and Paul accepted a dubious decision, no doubt influenced by his holding two aces.
I didnt like leading a heart from the king, but I think its the right strategy at IMPs. Needless to say, I was delighted when Rich produced the queen. Bobby was destined to lose a trick in each suit and go down one. In his attempt to make it he ended up down two when we got a trump promotion at Trick 9.
So we eked out a narrow win, not convincing by any means but it was fun. Maybe next year well give them another chance.
© 1999 Richard Pavlicek