Interesting hand from the USBC

The United States Bridge Championships (USBC), which is used to select Team USA for the World Championships, is currently underway in Chicago. Our sentimental favorite going in was the Donn team. Captain Josh Donn is a member of our staff and his partner, Sheri Winestock, was one of the three founders of BBO way back in 2001.

Team Donn was unlucky to draw the class of the event, the Fleisher Team, in the quarter-finals. The following deal took place near the end of the second (of eight) fifteen-board segments, with Sheri and Josh facing one of the world’s very best and most successful partnerships, Geoff Hampson and Eric Greco.

In Sheri and Josh’s (Precision-based) bidding system, 2♦ showed long hearts but not necessarily much in the way of high cards. When Josh redoubled on the next round to confirm real values, Sheri decided to take a shot at game despite holding the badly-placed ♣K among her assets. 

Eric’s opening lead was the ♠J. Sheri won in her hand and took stock. Counting your losers as declarer in a trump contract is standard practice and it sure looked like there were three certain losers (two in clubs and one in diamonds) outside of the trump suit. In order to make her contract it would be necessary to avoid losing a trump trick. 

Sheri knew, however, that it was winners that really matter and, even assuming she could play hearts without loss, there were only nine obvious winners: six hearts, two spades, and the ♦A. The ♦Q was a possible tenth winner, but the position in that suit was unclear. Sheri instead opted to play to ruff dummy’s third club in her hand. 

Not wanting to use a dummy entry to take a finesse that would surely fail, Sheri led the ♣K out of her hand at trick two! Eric naturally won the ♣A and continued with two more rounds of the suit, Sheri ruffing low in hand. Next she carefully led her remaining small heart (not the ♥J!) and was rewarded for her care when Eric’s singleton King appeared. 

After winning the ♥A, Sheri draw a second round of trump with the ♥J, and returned to dummy’s ♦A to draw the last trump and claim, losing just a diamond at the end for +620. 

4♥ was also the contract at the other table, but there the declarer (a multiple World Champion who had less information in the bidding) tried a heart at trick two followed by a club toward his hand. The contract was still makeable after this start, but declarer lost his way and ended up down one – twelve big IMPs to the Donn team. 

Unfortunately for fans of Team Donn, the Fleisher Team prevailed 226-216 in a well played 120-board match. Still, we are very proud that two of our own contributed so much to what was almost a great Cinderella story. We expect there will be a ball in their future.