Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Active Kibitzing The US Women’s Team Trials

As of end of day yesterday the score in the Final match with teams one and two was Baker: 102 and Mancuso 107 with the lead changing hands a few times. I see from the results of the poll this morning that readers see it as close as well. Still time to vote.

I have been a BBO commentator at several sessions of the US Women’s Team Trials and watch some bits and pieces of other sessions. It is exciting and with two rounds to go the Final with Dinkin and Mancuso has a 5 imp difference with the match see sawing back and forth between the two teams. Like two tired prize fighters each throws some great punches and then is hit by a sucker punch or simply falls to the mat when they lose their footing. Or as Charles Dickens might have said had he written a Tale of Two Women’s Teams: “It was the best of bridge, it was the worst of bridge.” Well to be fair a lot of it was just good women’s bridge.

Why do teams rise to the occasion or fall flat from time to time in these matches? From my personal experience most of it is the pressure.

Being a commentator has also been an interesting experience. Some times I think it is a competitive sport with the commentators arguing about the merits of potential bids or plays, sometimes knowledgably and sometimes not. My first match was wonderful with Kit Woolsey and David Bird who are two of the very best. Some of the later matches seemed more like territorial contests where players of lesser caliber seemed determined to mark their turf with silly arguments. What do you think of this bid from the second final set not vulnerable versus vulnerable?  You are in first chair in a close match holding this hand:


Karen McCallum opened 3♣. This worked very well on the deal as we shall see.  This bid never works for me.  My partner turns up with something like:


But winning bridge is doing the wrong thing at the right time.  In events like this it is about creating pressure.  Oddly enough McCallum and Baker did have a spade fit but it was still right to preempt in clubs.  Here is the deal:

What went wrong? Well perhaps West (Mancuso) should just have bid 4 after East (Sutherlin) bid 4which I think had to show a slam try in hearts.   Mancuso doesn’t have much extra for her 3 bid and Sutherlin did pass.  Yes they might have a perfect fit but it isn’t worth exploring.  Things tend not to break after a preempt and it isn’t usually right to try for ambitious slams.  When McCallum found the spade lead 5 had no play.

I am going to include a deal that was misplayed at both tables in a similar way because it is instructive.

There was no option bidding and both tables ended in 4 after North showed a strong balanced hand and South used Stayman to find the spade fit.  At both tables a club honor was led.  How do you play the hand?

I teach my students to count losers so let’s start with that.  You have a potential heart loser, a diamond loser and three club losers.  (I am assuming that spades break 3-2).    Two too many but 1 club can go on a diamond and one can be ruffed.  Simple ten tricks.  Let’s say you win the first club and play a high diamond.  East will win and return a heart.  Now what do you do?  If spades break you must rise taking no risk of a heart ruff draw trump and claim your ten tricks.  But if spades don’t break then you need the finesse and there will be some more play to the hand.  Perhaps the best line is to draw trumps right away.  If you play two rounds of trump and everyone follows you can actually play the third round and then the top diamond ultimately conceding a heart to the king.  What if someone shows out on the second trump which you have won in dummy.  You are now forced to take the heart finesse.  Things are going to be tense but you may make it even with the bad trump break.  By the way, if East is going to hold the opening club lead I like ducking it.  This will help with the timing on the hands with the 4-1 trump breaks.

Did I miss something?

At both of the tables in the Final both women did not draw two rounds of trump and both ended up finessing the heart.  When the heart return was trumped they were out of luck.

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