Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

The Winner Takes It All … Abba sounds in the background

I had no intention of watching the fourth quarter of the Spingold final. I had already written a blog about the third quarter which had lots of interesting deals but I couldn’t help myself. The bridge kept me glued to the screen for several hours early this morning. And it was worth it. I know I won’t be able to write about the match in one blog but I can get a start.

And to help me along I am playing ABBA: “The Winner Takes It All”. I do this because I am thinking about how very small the difference is between winning and not winning. You play a week of bridge, long tough matches against great opposition. You win a tough semifinal and then in the final you play to almost a draw. But in the end there is a winner and a loser. And so it was early this morning New York time that Diamond snuck out a victory against Meltzer on the second last board in a toughly fought match and so it is Diamond smiling on the front page of the NABC Daily Bulletin and it is they who will have their names on the wonderful trophy.

Winning in any sport is about being mentally tough and that is certainly a requirement in a tough top class bridge event.  The third quarter had been a bit of a nightmare for the Diamond team but they were not far behind and they had to put that all behind them.  The fourth quarter was a roller coaster and although the players do not see the running score they must have felt it too.  The Diamond team started the quarter down 18 imps and they came out like tigers winning 22 unanswered imps so that by Board 54 they had regained the lead.  Then came this deal where a bit of luck swung Meltzer’s way (deal rotated).










 Do you want to be in 6  on these cards?  Well yes if it makes.  If the defense starts a diamond (as will likely be suggested by the bidding) you need trumps 3-2 with the queen onside.  Keycard Blackwood is designed to keep us out of these slams and it worked for Gitelman-Moss.  But in the other table Fantoni-Nunes had a long complex auction which ended with a leap to the heart slam (without a check for theK).  But today the Kxx of hearts was in the pocket and it seemed the momentum had shifted back as Meltzer took the lead again. 

A few more small swings brings us to Board 63 with the score 115-103 for Meltzer.  The boards had been played in the Open Room and they appeared to be two flat partscores as one of the commentators, I believe Larry Cohen, pointed out and said that he was probably cursing the Meltzer team by saying so and perhaps he was because here is Board 63.

Dealer: South

Vul: NS







♠ K1065  















There were a series of small decisions that in the end led to a disaster. 

Moss      Berkowitz Gitelman Sontag
 pass  pass  1NT 3
 pass  3  pass pass 


 Sontag had to decide whether or not to open his hand a strong club.  I confess I would have and it must have been very close to make the decision that he did.  He opened 1.  Moss passed and now Berkowitz seemed to get the partnership out of trouble when he passed.  Gitelman doesn’t have that great a hand but Sontag is limited so he knows Moss has some cards.  He might have balanced 2 since he hardly has much of a spade stopper but he chose 1NT and this was a necessary part of the drama. 

Sontag must have reasoned now that he could hardly have a better hand than he did and not open 1 and that 3 would show this hand.  But then again it seems a bit much opposite a partner that didn’t squeak over 1.  Of course partner can pass slightly better hands over a limited opening and if Berkiwitz just had some hearts you could envision a hand that could make game.  The mistake in this reasoning, in my opinion, is that with nothing much but heart support Berkowitz would still likely raise 2.  But there is no certainty.  Had Berkowitz passed out 3 the story would likely have ended with a Meltzer win but he did the normal thing and bid 3.  Now it came back to Moss who huddled for a long time.

If he knew the score in the match it would have been obvious to double but he didn’t.  Doubling a partscore on the second last board of this match was a risk.  Was his side winning or losing?  He knew Sontag was 5-5.  Fred had to have a couple of spades for the 1NT call including almost certainly the Q or A.  In fact he could almost figure out the whole hand from the auction since he knew that Berkowitz was likely 2-2 in the majors.  Gitelman had promised some high cards so he made the call he knew he had to make and doubled.

Moss led a diamond which was a fairly good lead for declarer who won in dummy with the Q.  Sontag finessed the Q losing to the K and Moss found the shift to the Q ruffed by declarer.  Sontag ducked a spade.   Gitelman won and returned a top club.  Sontag knew by now pretty much the lay of the land and had an almost complete picture of Brad’s hand.   This is an extremely complex hand and there is no obvious way to play it.  One down is possible on the lie of the cards if you read them perfectly but there are some distributions which might let Sontag make the hand.  If Brad held a doubleton club then 3 doubled can be made.  The end position might have been something like this.









♠ Q106  













Now Sontag lays down the A and plays off heart winners keeing two diamonds in dummy (and therefore throwing clubs).  Moss can ruff in at some point and draw Sontag’s trump but in the end he wil be endplayed in diamonds.  This would mean that Gitelman balanced 1NT on a fragile spade stopper and six clubs though.  And the problem with this line is at the table it led to three down when Moss did have a third club.   (Two down would have ended in a 1 imp loss for Meltzer though.)   Congratulations to the winners:

John Diamond, Biran Platnick, Erico Greco, Geoff Hampson, Brad Moss and Fred Gitelman.

Check out today’s bulletin for more about this match and other interesting events.


Don KerseyAugust 1st, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Hi Linda. You say that there are some distributions on which Sontag could have made his doubled contract after ruffing the second club. In fact, this deal is one such – if Sontag reads Moss for 4=3=3=3, he succeeds by cashing the heart ace, ruffing a heart to get to dummy, and ruffing another club to eliminate Moss’s last club. Now spade ace and more hearts, and Moss can take his two trump tricks but must then lead from the diamond king.

Gitelman could have ensured defeating the contract by not playing the club; but then Sontag would surely get out for down one and win the Spingold. It’s a fascinating position all around.

Linda LeeAugust 2nd, 2010 at 8:10 am

Thanks. I did miss that. I noticed the diamond endplay (for the line suggested) but I didn’t think about ruffing the heart and ruffing the club out.

So it wasn’t so crazy for Sontage to play to make.

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