Amerikan kesän mestaruuskilpailut ovat alkaneet Atlantassa. Tuttuun tapaan jaoista kirjoitamme englanniksi, mutta muita kuulumisia raportoidaan myös suomeksi. Noin puolitoista viikkoa kovatasoista bridgeä on taas luvassa Atlantin toisella puolella. Tällä kertaa joukkueeseen kuuluvat Justine Cushing, Sadik Arf, Melih Özdil sekä tietysti Kauko ja Vesa. Pelaamme pääsääntöisesti kaksipäiväisiä pudotuspelimuotoisia joukkuekilpailuita. Poikkeuksena pelaamme viimeisinä kolmena päivänä ison Swiss-joukkuekilpailun.
Suomen helteistä Atlantaan saapuminen ei tarjoa ainakaan helpotusta kuumuudesta kärsiville. Tunnelma on Atlantassa kuin asfalttihelvetissä keskipäivän aikaan lämpöasteiden kivutessa reilusti yli 30. Meillä on aikaa pienelle turistikierrokselle ensimmäisinä päivinä ennen pelien alkamista. Pakenemme kuumuutta sisätiloihin. Valitsemme kohteiksemme lähellä meitä olevat akvaarion ja Coca-Cola-museon. Coca-Cola on lähtöisin Atlantasta, joten heillä on myös museo täällä. Hauskimpina elämyksinä museossa ovat useiden erilaisten hauskojen mainospätkien näkeminen sekä eri tuotteiden maisteleminen. Mainoksia esiteltiin usealta eri aikakaudelta ja ympäri maailmaa, ja osa oli todella hullunkurisen hauskoja. Lisäksi museossa pääsi maistamaan kaikkia erilaisia Coca-Cola-tuotteita ja makuja. Afrikan tuotteiden maut olivat aika eksoottisia suomalaiseen makuun!
Akvaario on aika perusakvaario. Paljon nähtävää isoista kaloista pienempiin kaloihin (mm. maitovalas ja erilaisia haita) ja tietysti myös pingviinejä. Paljon saadaan aikaa kulumaan molemmissa paikoissa, joten turistipäivä kuluu nopeasti.
Atlanta is usually a very hot and humid place to be in July and this summer is not an exception. However, we are freezing at the bridge table, the air-conditioning blowing cold air at maximum. The first tournament is a two-day knock-out teams, starting on Friday afternoon and our first opponent is a team captained by Lou Ann O´Rourke. The first half we are doing pretty well and we are up by 16 IMPs after the first 12 boards. The second half starts even better. The first board gives us 14 IMPs.
Four clubs showed shortness, four hearts control and five clubs 0/3 keycards. With zero I wouldn´t have made a control bid, so Vesa could guarantee all the keys and the trump Queen with five no-trumps. Six clubs and six diamonds showed Kings, but then I had to slow down with six spades. Dennis Clerkin started with a heart to my Ace, I played three rounds of spades and continued with a diamond to the nine and Jack. Rest was easy, 12 tricks and 1430 for the good guys.
At the other table south was bidding the fourth suit at his second turn, North three diamonds and South three spades, fixing the trump suit. Next Ron Smith asked keycards and Curtis Cheek promised two plus the Queen with five spades. Five no trumps was inviting to grand and south accepted with a jump to seven spades.
Seven spades is a reasonable contract and makes against most reasonable lies of cards. Let´s assume trump lead to the ten, club Ace, club ruff, heart to the Ace, Club ruff, unblocking the spade honours, ruffing a heart, removing East´s last trump with the Ace and claiming the contract. But not against Melih Ozdil! Melih found the only lead to disturb declarer´s communications, a small heart. The heart lead removed the vital entry back to hand and there was no way for declarer to recover. One down and a gain of 14 IMPs. Six boards later:
Clerkin brothers are playing a strong club system, so the jump to three spades was promising 14-15(16) points with a six-card spade suit. I decided to lead the Jack of spades, Vesa was following twice, but then discarding the six of hearts on the third round of trumps. The first discard is Italian, the six of hearts being not so clear signal, maybe just a neutral card. I followed to the second and third trick with the ten and the nine to show strong interest for a heart switch. Dennis Clerkin continued with a small diamond to dummy´s Queen and another diamond to his King, Vesa showing the odd number with the ten and three. I had to win the trick with the Ace, but what next?
So, I know for sure that declarer has AKQxxx in spades and Kxx in diamonds. When a defender has one master trump left, it´s normal to cash it out at the earliest possible opportunity. But now cashing the eight of spades would be of course a big mistake. When Vesa discarded hearts at the first opportunity, I was quite certain that he has 2-4-3-4 and not 2-3-3-5. From a five-card suit it would be so obvious to make the first discard. So, declarer has most likely 6-1-3-3. If declarer has the Ace of clubs, he´s claiming soon. If partner has AQ of clubs, declarer won´t make this contract. If partner has A109, any club continuation is enough. If declarer has Q10x, that´s too bad for us. But think if declarer has Q9x. If you continue with a small club, declarer will play low from dummy and probably makes the right play when you later continue the suit. But the Jack of clubs might work out well! The whole deal:
The Jack of clubs did work well, declarer winning this in his hand with the Queen. I ruffed the diamond and a club switch gave us four tricks for one down. At the other table Sadik and Melih were playing natural system and opener´s two spades on his second turn became the final contract. Two overtricks and well deserved 7 IMPs to our side.
On the second round we don´t have any easier opponents. Justine and Melih are playing against Gaylor Kasle and Connie Goldberg, while at our table we are competing against Singaporeans Hua Poon and Choon Chou Loo. The first half we win 26-21. For the second half the Singaporeans change the table to play against Sadik and Melih and the Italians Massilimiano di Franco and Andrea Manno are coming in to our table. After a quite low scoring set we win this half, with 28-16, so next day we start the semi-finals!
In the first half of the semi-final Justine and Melih are starting against Dano de Falco and Patricia Cayne. We play against the Dutch pair Bart Nab and Bob Drijver. We are still doing well and at the halftime we are up with 42-16. The second half starts well. Tim Verbeek opens one club to my right and I see AQJ8, 86543, K4, J6. We are vulnerable against not and of course passing would be the most disciplined choice with these cards. Discipline is not my thing, however, and I choose to make a canape-style overcall of one spade. Danny Molenaar passes and Vesa raises to four spades. Molenaar leads a trump and dummy is better than I deserve: K1096, J, 109753, AK3. The trump lead prevents me to make the contract by crossruffing, but luckily the Ace of diamonds is onside, and the diamonds are 3-3, so I have no difficulties to make 10 tricks. Lucky for us, our opponents are playing 10-12 NT-opening in the first seat NV. Verbeek has a balanced 15 count, so +620 is of course a very good score for us, because at the other table our teammates are opening 1NT and it´s much harder for the opponents to find their spade fit after that opening. Our relaxed feeling is gone in the very next board. Knowing that they need IMPs aggressively, our Dutch opponents are bidding seven spades missing Queen fourth in the trump suit and Queen fourth in the vital side suit. Both suits are 2-2, so seven is made and we were sure to lose 13 IMPs. That´s what happened as well, but we win the second half with one IMP, 41-40.
In the final we are meeting the team of “Pepsi”, Jacek Pszczola. The Polish pair Jacek Kalita and Michal Nowosadzki are not doing their best against us and we have a comfortable lead of 17 IMPs after the first half. The second half is not too good for us anyway. After some bad boards we had a real disaster:
Sjoert Brink starts with the King of clubs, takes the King of diamonds with the Ace and plays back another club. The Queen of diamonds is the last trick for Vesa, five down and 1100 for the opponents! The result is of course very ugly, but who´s to blame? Our teammates proposed that Vesa should pass one trump, so that I could choose the longer minor. Anyway, I don´t think that would be a good idea. If you pass one no trump, then you are practically shouting to everybody that we are in trouble. But in you bid a minor, looking confident, then it´s not so easy for the opponents to double, especially if they have only three or four trumps in one hand.
After this board we are pretty sure to lose this match. Deep inside I hope that either our teammates have also a very bad half, losing a lot and not just because of our bad boards, or then they have a very nice 12 board set, so we could win anyhow. Luckily for us, Sadik and Melih are crushing Kalita & Nowosadzki at the other table, we lose the second half with nine IMPs, but we win the whole match with eight IMPs. So not a bad start at all for these Nationals! The results: http://live.acbl.org/event/NABC182/272A/2/recap