Monday, August 3, 2009

DC Nationals (bridge)

This was the first nationals I'd been to since the one in New York in 2004. I hated the weather, which was hot and humid throughout and very muggy. The hotel I stayed at was clean, but we had actual keys, not key cards, and the dampness was persistent in our room throughout. While it wasn't bad, I didn't think the price I was charged was justified. Food was pretty good overall. The nearby chinese takeout place was above average and there was a decent thai place and a pretty good falafel place within walking distance. There was one really nice expensive dinner, but that will come in a separate post.

I managed to get talked into playing one midnight loose and snooze KO, which we won. I also participated in a puzzle hunt, which we won. It's like a scavenger hunt where one clue leads you to the next and so on. It turns out that the puzzle hunt (mostly played by caddies) has always been a tradition at the DC nationals, especially since the setup of the Marriott is really nice for such a game.

Not much to talk about bridge-wise. I didn't play particularly well, but felt I was pretty good during the 2 day Open Swiss. I lost my mind on one board during the whole event, and that really was about it. We got blitzed in the penultimate round so we withdrew so everyone could catch their buses and trains. I'll describe three hands here, but only one of them would be a real bridge problem.

The first hand is from the midnight KO. Playing with a new partner with very little discussion besides 2/1 and DONT, I pick up ♠Ax xx x AKQxxxxx. Partner opens 1and I bid 2. Partner rebids 2 and I rebid 3. The auction then goes all pass. LHO leads the ♠K as dummy comes down with ♠J9x KQJx KQxxx x. Partner says that she usually plays this auction as nonforcing, and we didn't have time to discuss it. I usually err on the side of bidding game in those situations, but it's ok because if I lose, I get to snooze. I win the ♠A and cash the top club. RHO shows out. Yup. 4-0 clubs and we win on the hand as well as the match.

The second hand is from the first day of the Open Swiss. Playing against a team of French nationals, I hold ♠Qx KJxxx xxx Axx with favorable vulnerability. Partner passes, RHO opens 1, and I bid 2. I think the pros very much outweigh the cons for a bid like this. Partner is a passed hand so we're likely not missing game. The colors are favorable and make it harder for the opponents to double me if I bid too much. I gain the advantage of taking up space while partner won't hang me for preempting nonvulnerable opposite a passed hand. Also, in the Zia sense of things, declarer might misguess the ♠Q because of the preempt. In fact, that is what happened. The opponents pushed themselves up to 5♠, then misguessed the position as LHO held J87x opposite RHO's ATxx. Partner did a great job of covering the ♠J when it was led, and after I'd shown up with the KJ and A, declarer went up with the ♠10 on the second round of trumps.

The third hand was also from the first day of the swiss, and it was against a team that I knew well, consisting of Patrick Huang and client with a pair of Hong Kong players. I held ♠Kxx Axx AT98 KQx V vs. NV. Partner opened a 15+ to 18- 1NT, and RHO overcalled 2♠, showing spades and a minor. I didn't think I'd pick up a suitable penalty, so I decided to ignore the bid. I think that normally I'd invite with this hand. However, I thought that it was close enough given our range that it was worth it to take a shot at 6NT given the extra information from the overcall. What would you bid?

So I bid 6NT and partner's hand was ♠QJx KJxx KQxx Ax. Do you want to be in this slam?

Well, either way, the hearts were Qxx offside (RHO was 5305) so there was no play. At the other table, perhaps in response to having gone for 800 on their first board, the player holding my cards bid 3NT over RHO's 2♠ overcall. Talk about taking the low road, he was practically digging an underground tunnel.

One of the other things I noticed during the nationals was that the 0-5000 mini-Spingold lasted a full 6 days. Since I really like long KO matches, I started thinking whether I should consider entering that event next time. Actually, I came to this conclusion. I play very little bridge right now and assuming it continues, I'm never going to be in "fighting shape" when I get my ass over to a nationals. Half-assing it and then getting my head kicked in in the high level national events isn't really the way to go. Perhaps when this event rolls around next time if I am still not playing much bridge overall I should just put together a good team and play it and get some enjoyable long KO matches out of it.


thg said...

I don't think there's any shame in playing in the 0-5000 events (mini-Spingold and GNT Flight A).

The Pretender said...

After discussion with a friend, his conclusion was not that there's any shame to playing those events. Rather, it's that you'd be committing 5-6 days of a nationals for that event and even if you win it there's not a whole lot of prestige.

thg said...

Prestige is relative. Most of us aren't ever going to experience the prestige associated with winning the Spingold (or making the semi-finals). A top 10 finish in the NABC Fast Pairs or a NA Swiss will soon be forgotten (if people even notice in the first place). They'll notice and remember if you win the 0-5000 Spingold.

But really, it should be more about your enjoyment than what other people will think. If you would enjoy doing well in an event with long matches, then go for it.

I'll admit to playing in a Flight B KO earlier this year. We won, but it is not like we destroyed the field -- more than one match was close. It was fun.

I've won Flight A KOs in the past and would have more fun being competitive in a Flight A event than winning a Flight B event. But, reality is that the Flight B team I played on would not have been competitive in the Flight A KO (as much because of me as anyone).

It is tough lowering your bridge expectations. I'm not the player I was five years ago and am not in a position to put in the time to get back to where I was before. I didn't play for a while in large part because I knew I could not expect to play at the level I once had. I've managed to reconcile myself to the new reality and have started playing again. I'm enjoying myself. This doesn't mean I don't hope to get better (better than I ever was, even) but I recognize that if it happens it will be a ways off in the future.