Ray Lee

Who are these guys?

Linda and I spent much of yesterday providing BBO commentary for the CNTC semifinals — we found that knowing all the players personally added considerably to the fun for us.  As the third quarter started, RR winners GARTAGANIS and dark horse JANICKI were separated by only 4 IMPs, so we settled down to watch that match.  At our table, the East-West pair were Gordon Campbell and Piotr Klimowicz, both members of Canada’s IOC-winning team in Salt Lake City in 2000 (that was where Canada had to beat Italy, the USA, and then Poland in the final — no cheap victory), although they did not play as a partnership in that event.  South was Jim Priebe, who played for Canada in the 2004 Olympiad, and North was Paul Janicki — a relatively new partnership.

The set started quietly, but soon came to life on the following deal — one whose result was to establish a trend that ended after 18 boards with GARTAGANIS holding a commanding lead.  The deal itself looked innocuous when we first saw it come up on the screen:

Dealer: W

Vul: EW

10 5 4
10 4 3
A K Q J 9 6
West East
A  K Q 8 7 2 J 9 6
J 7 A 9 6 2
Q 10 9 6 K J 7
10 7 4 3
K Q 8 5
A 8 5 3 2
8 5 2

In the other room, Nick and Judy Gartaganis (NS – and also members of Canada’s IOC teams in Salt Lake City) faced Jordan Cohen (E) and Steve Cooper (W).  The auction went:

West North East South
1 2 2 dbl
4 5 all pass

The defense started routinely with a spade to the ace, and a diamond switch.  Nick won this, ruffed a couple of spades in dummy, drew trumps, and led up to the heart honors to chalk up an easy 400.  At our table, the auction was reported as follows:

West North East South
1 2 4 5
pass pass dbl all pass

There had been some mechanical problems with the VuGraph feed, so it’s possible that this somewhat unlikely sequence is not accurate.  However, the fundamentals remain:  East-West bid to 4, North-South went on to 5 , and East doubled.  Just as we were beginning to speculate on whether the contract could be beaten on what seemed to us to be a highly unlikely trump lead, the 3 hit the table from Piotr.  Declarer won this in hand and played a heart: on this trick, Piotr made his second nice, and highly necessary, play by ducking the ace.  If he wins the A, declarer can come to three heart tricks — but more importantly, the hearts give him entries to ruff out diamonds: he gets home with 6 clubs, 3 hearts, and 2 diamonds.  Now declarer, in dummy with the K, called for a spade, and it was Campbell’s turn to shine — he ducked his AKQ to allow partner to win the spade and play another trump.  After this it was all over — wriggle as he might, declarer was always going to lose the two aces, and either a second heart or a second spade.  By now, Janicki could have been forgiven for echoing a famous line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:  ‘Who are these guys?’

These days, one checks all analysis with Deep Finesse, and DF of course points out that a low heart lead also beats 5.  That’s because it allows the defense to maneuver a heart ruff for their third trick unless declarer takes a round of trumps himself, after which a second trump cooks his goose when the defense gets in on a spade.  Back in the real world, only a trump lead, followed by the precise defense found at the table, is good enough.  My own opening lead choice of the  J, to have a look at dummy, would not have worked — the timing is off for both the heart ruff and the trump leads.

From here on, Campbell and Klimowicz were merciless, scarcely making a wrong bid or play, and when the set was done, GARTAGANIS was 60 IMPs up and headed for today’s final.

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