To the last board …
Our team was playing well, and amicably, against excellent competition in the semi-finals of the District 25 Grand National Teams. We were playing in Flight A, limited to players with fewer than 6,000 masterpoints.
Unbeknownst to my partner and me, we had retained all but 5 of our 18 IMP halftime lead entering the last board of the session.
North-South are vulnerable, the diagrams notwithstanding.
The opponents seemed to have bid aggressively but well to reach 6♥. Winning the opening lead of the ♠3 (♠7, ♠T, ♠K) in hand, declarer assessed that if there were only one trump loser, the contract seemed to have several chances: the club finesse, diamonds splitting 3-3, spades splitting 3-3, or a finesse of the ♠J.
Sitting West, my partner, Wayne Burt of Pembroke, NH, won an early trick with the ♥K and found the return that most tests declarer, a club. Declarer, Dean Panagopoulos of Lynn, MA, considered the switch carefully and decided not to risk the slam on the club finesse. Instead, he rose with the ♣A, as I played an encouraging club. Declarer now played on diamonds, winning the third round in hand. West proved to own the fourth round winner in diamonds, however. Declarer was now down to a different combo shot for the contract: either spades split 3-3 or my hand, owning 4+ cards in spades and the ♣K, would be caught in a show-up squeeze. He played his other top spade winner in hand (both East and West following small) and his remaining trump winners.
As declarer advanced the ♥J, no show up of the ♣K, but …
Our teammates, reasonably enough, did not reach this slam and the 13 IMP swing was enough for our skilled opponents to come-from-behind and win. Congratulations to Dean Panagopoulos and his teammates: Yiji Starr of Wayland,MA, Glenn McIntyre of Bedford, MA, and Ron Mak of Manchester, NH. They went on to win the finals and will represent our district well in the NABC continuation of the event.
I also offer congratulations to my teammates in the semi-finals, Wayne Burt, Bob Bertoni of Haverhill, MA, and Peter Manzon of Waltham, MA, and also Joyce Pearson of Framingham, MA, who was able to fill in for Peter in the qualifying that preceded the semi-finals.