Part 2: The Vanderbilt Victory – Final First Quarter
The first quarter of the final of the 2012 Vanderbilt was a low scoring session with Amoils outpipping Diamond: 24-16. While the result was only an eight imp lead for Amoils. this must have been a disappointment to Diamond who had employed the strategy of putting their strongest lineup in to start the event: Hampson, Greco, Moss and Gitelman.
There were only fours swings of more than an imp or two: 4 imps, 6 imps, 8 imps and 13 imps. Board 6, the 13 imp swing, is an interesting hand and a bit difficult to analyze, at least for me. Let’s start with the Open Room
With East-West vulnerable, Wolpert sitting East was the dealer and opened one spade. Amoils bid two hearts, game forcing and Wolpert rebid two spades. What do you like now? Amoils made the practical bid of two notrump, despite the imperfect diamond stopper. Wolpert continued with three diamonds which makes you feel much more comfortable about that diamond stopper. You can expect some shape from partner for this bid but partner may already expect you to have two spades for your two notrump bid and with clubs well stopped it seems reasonable to play three notrump. It also might well play better from your side since you have tenances in both the red rounded suits. 3NT is passed out. Hampson leads the club ten (which shows the jack or shortness) and this is what you see.
You win the club queen. 3NT is almost a lock after the ten of clubs lead. At the table Amoils led the spade queen from hand and when Greco, South, won this nine tricks were certain. Amoils now had eight tricks. Two spades, three diamonds, two clubs and a heart. If Greco plays hearts you have nine tricks even if all suits break badly (you duck the heart to the jack). If South leads a club (as happened at the table) your club spots protect you. You duck to dummy’s nine and north cannot continue clubs. If needed you can concede a heart for trick nine Here is the whole deal.
It probably seemed like a routine 3NT game. While it is true that a passive lead from Hampson (say a diamond) would make life more difficult for Amoils the contract can still be made with good declarer play. (For example, North can be easily endplayed on a diamond to provide the ninth trick, the defense having taken a spade, a club and a diamond on some lines.).
The problem on this hand is to get to 3NT rather than four spade when East is 5-5. The auction started off in a similar fashion with the same first five bids
Two spades was alerted and was apparently very weak by agreement. At this point Amoils chose 3NT while Fred bid three spades.
What is the difference between three spades and three notrump? It starts with the question would you bid 2NT with three spades or one spade and does two hearts promise five hearts? I think that for most pairs bidding 2NT more or less denies three spades in this auction. Persumably you would employ another auction if you were 3-4-3-3. Can you have a singleton spade? Could you be 1-5-3-4 or something like that and be unable to bid three of more your minor because it shows extra in your system? If you could have a spade singleton then bidding three spades here should probably show two decent spades or perhaps some worries about the fourth suit (clubs) or maybe extra values with some thoughts of slam. This gets deep enough into your system that I suspect for many pairs would not have an easy answer to this question.
Fred does have secondary spade support and he has already denied primary spade support by bidding 2NT over two spades. Whatever this delicate difference might suggest it encouraged Moss to bypass 3NT on with four diamonds. After all not only is he two-suited but all his v alues are in his suits. From his point of view a diamond slam might be possible (less likely a spade slam) when 3NT is a terrible contract. Gitelman had no problem signing off in four spades. It was now up to Moss who is a very good declarer to make the spade game.
One of the problems with playing four spades is that you are playing from the “wrong” side. That is, the club tenance is in dummy and Cheek attacked it at trick one with the club six. Grue won the club king and returned the spade ten won in dummy with the spade queen.
The second problem with playing the spade game is you need ten tricks not nine. How would you continue? This is a very tricky hand to play and you have only small clues from the opponents from the play so far. One plan is to play for a trump split. If you play trump now and ths suit breaks (or the 10-9 is doubleton) you iwll have four spades, three diamonds, a club and potentially two hearts. You win the club return, draw trump and concede a heart. If the trump are 4-2 (excluding 10-9 doubleton) you have two trump losers and a club so you can’t afford to concede a heart but you have the chance of a diamond break. This seems pretty reasonable but unfortunately it doesn’t work on the lie of the cards.
Double dummy you can make the hand in a few ways which more or less depend on things like the heart king being doubleton. But it seems to me that Moss took the best line.
On a good day Moss would have made four spades but this time you needed to be in 3NT.