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Luck? Destiny?

Source:  ACBL Daily Bulletin

On the final board of the Morehead Grand National Teams, Championship Flight, Gary Cohler, picked up a hand with potential for a swing. None of the players involved in the match knew the actual score – the opponents were a District 3 squad – but top players take nothing for granted. If it was close – the margin was 4 IMPs for District 3 – Cohler knew he might be looking at an opportunity to make a change in the outcome. No one could have predicted what happened on the board, which was the talk of the NABC on Monday after the Warren Spector team stunned their opponents on board 64 of the match by bidding and making a grand slam despite being off a cashing ace – and with the holder of two aces on lead. There’s more to the story, however, than the crazy auction that led to the improbable grand slam. The Spector team (Cohler, David Berkowitz, Mike Becker, Jeff Meckstroth and Eric Rodwell) had fallen behind the Jared Lilienstein team (Sam Lev, John Hurd, Joel Wooldridge, Michael Polowan and Brian Glubok) 64-31 at the half. Spector pulled to within 14 IMPs at 96-82 with 16 boards to go, and with four boards to play they were down 16. The margin was 4 IMPs with three boards to play. Boards 62 and 63 in the match were pushes, so it came down to the final board.

Dlr: West Vul: E-W

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


West North East South
Meckstroth Lev Rodwell Glubok
Pass 1 2 3
4 5 Pass 6
All Pass      

Rodwell led the 4, taken in dummy. A low diamond was ruffed by Lev at trick two, followed by a trump to dummy and another diamond ruff. When nothing good happened in diamonds, Lev led the 7 from hand. Rodwell won the A and exited with the 10 to dummy’s king. Lev eventually took the successful spade finesse and was able to claim 12 tricks for plus 980.

At the other table, a mysterious auction resulted in an unlikely contract.

West North East South
Wooldridge Cohler Hurd Berkowitz
Pass 1 2 3
4 4 (1) Pass 4 (2)
Dbl (3) Redbl Pass 5 (2)
Pass 5 (2) Pass 5 (4)
Pass 5 (5) Pass 5NT (6)
Pass 7 (7) All Pass  

(1) Last Train, a slam try device popularized by none other than Jeff Meckstroth.

(2) Cuebid.

(3) An effort to help East with his lead if he held the K.

(4) Signing off.

(5) Still trying for a grand slam.

(6) “Over to you, Partner.”

(7) At that stage of the match, Cohler said, “I knew I had to go big or go small, and it’s not my style to go small.”

Hurd, looking at two aces, didn’t lead either because (1) he might pick the wrong one and have it ruffed, setting up tricks for declarer and (2) it appeared from the bidding that his side had a spade stopper (remember the double of 4 ), so there was no rush to play an ace. After Hurd led the 4 and before Cohler saw dummy, he thought Hurd had found the killing lead. Based on the auction (again, the double of 4), Cohler figured that his partner’s spade cuebid was indicating a singleton. “I thought I was going to have to ruff three spades in dummy,” Cohler said. That’s why he thought the trump lead was bad. It was the inference that his partner held a singleton spade that convinced Cohler that his partner held the A. Berkowitz would have needed the ace to be showing interest in slam in the absence of a spade card.When the dummy came down, Cohler was tempted to ask his partner the time-worn, sarcastic question: “Where’s the hand you held during the auction?” Instead, Cohler took the K in dummy and called for a low diamond, ruffing when Wooldridge followed low. Cohler played a trump back to dummy and played a low spade to his jack. When the J held and both opponents followed to the next high spade, Cohler could claim, planning to discard both clubs from dummy on the long spades and then ruff his singleton club in dummy for trick 13. That was 11 IMPs to Spector and another GNT title. Meckstroth has now been on the winning team in the event 10 times, Rodwell nine. Berkowitz has five wins, Spector, Cohler and Becker four each. Cohler acknowledges that the wheels came off in the grand slam auction at some point, but he’s a believer in the saying that all’s well that ends well.“Sometimes,” Cohler said, “it’s a good thing when the wheels come off.”


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