Friday, March 27, 2009

Gold coins on the table

At any North American Bridge Championship, there are many well-played deals. You would expect that -- the best players from all around the world show up. The deal below was not written about that I know of. Let's correct that oversight.

The hero is Steve Weinstein, a world-class bridge player who also is a top poker player. He won the Winter Borgata Open (poker), that was officially worth more than $650,00, although as Glen Ashton pointed out: Poker News Daily notes that the prize amount does not reflect a four-way "chop" that would have split the winnings in some way for the top four players. I blogged about Weinstein's win here.

This is board #48, played in the third quarter of the last day of the Vanderbilt KO Teams. The hands are rotated, making North-South vulnerable:

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

The bidding at the other table wasn't recorded on Bridge Base Online, but I believe Brad Moss (South) opened 2, Egyptian internationalist Walid Elahmady overcalled a thin 2 (hey, it's a bidders game), and Fred Gitelman bid 5, ending the auction. (If any reader can confirm the auction, or knows differently, please leave a comment.)

Elahmady led the K which held the trick. He could see that the contract was likely cold now, unless his partner (Tarek Sadek) held the A, so he boldly shifted to the K. Moss won, ruffed a club and drew two rounds of trumps and claimed for a score of plus 620.

The auction was different at Weinstein's table. They were playing Flannery 2, so he had to pass. Brian Platnik opened 1, Bobby Levin passed, and East, John Diamond, bid 1NT. Weinstein overcalled 2 and West bid 3. North cuebid 3 and East, taking advantage of the vulnerability jumped to 5. It passed back to North who bid 5, ending the auction.

Platnik led the K, the same as at the other table, but look at what happened. Because of the bidding, Diamond knew it was safe to overtake. He shifted to his 10 to the queen, king and ace.

Now, Weinstein's entry position was awkward. He needed to ruff his club loser. He knew from the auction that the K was offside. If he played to his J, West would win and give East a spade ruff. If he played to his ace and ruffed a club, he would have no way back to his hand to draw the last trump. (There are no problems if diamonds split 2-2, but this is not likely on the auction.)

Because this event was watched on the Internet by thousands of bridge players around the world, Bridge Base Online had lined up expert players to analyze and comment during the play. Here is their running commentary as the deal played out (don't forget they can see all four hands):

Commentator 1: "That return has complicated matters."

Commentator 2: "He needs to play a heart to the ace, ruff a club, then finesse in trumps? That would be something."

Commentator 1: "It looks like it's necessary to make the hand."

At trick three, Weinstein cashed the A, led the 8 to the 10(!) and ruffed a club with the Q. Now he was able to return to his hand with the A to draw the last trump and claim five. His reward for his brilliant play was a 1 IMP loss on the board.

Commentator 2: "Cool"

Commentator 1: "Okay, it's time for gold coins on the table."

Commentator 3: "This is breathtaking bridge."

Commentator 2: "Just fabulous bridge - how lucky we are."


  1. Excellent write up - even though he lost 1 IMP the hand is a classic on how to play.

    Both the vugraph project and BBO's copies show your auctions for both rooms were correct.

    (Dummy's club was the 8)

  2. Even though I know nothing about Bridge, I certainly understand the sentiment. It's largely what keeps us engaged in our endeavors.

  3. @Glen: Thanks, I've corrected dummy's club spot.

    @bastin: Yes, he fought hard just to avoid a big loss.