I love the Grand National Teams (GNT) event. It probably has something to do with the fact that I have experienced a lot of success in the event. Between District 8 (Illinois without Chicago) and District 12 (Michigan), I have three district wins in flight C (non Life Master), two in flight B (0-2000 masterpoints) and three in flight A (0-5000 masterpoints), in addition to being augmented to a flight A winning team one year. The victories and the subsidies that come along with them have allowed me to be at many NABC’s that I might not have attended otherwise. So, this event has been very good to me.
This year I was looking forward to putting together another strong flight A team, along with one of my favorite partners, Kevin Fay. Unfortunately, those plans were derailed when I received notice that my cousin’s daughter was getting married in July right in the middle of the GNT finals in New Orleans. There was no consideration of missing this wedding, so I had planned on skipping the district event.
Fate intervened however last Wednesday when I received a semi-frantic email from another friend asking if I was available to play on his team in the Open flight because one of their team members had a sudden work situation come up that precluded him from playing at the district finals. Deciding that it would be fun to play in the open flight, I agreed. I found out that I would be playing with two men that I have known for some time, like a lot, but with whom I have never before partnered.
Six teams entered the open flight and every team had excellent players, including one team that boasted several national championships. In fact, the amateur handicappers in the room rated my team as the long shot in the field. The format of the event was a full round robin of eleven board matches on the first day with the top two finishers playing a 56-board final on Sunday. We finished the round robin 4-1 with 62 VP’s, good enough for second behind the leaders 63 VP’s.
In the finals we started slowly, losing the first quarter by 26. Fortunately, we won the second quarter by 40 to take a fourteen IMP lead into halftime. The second half was tight all the way through with us winning the third quarter by three and the final quarter by seven for a 24 IMP victory. It was a total team victory. Everyone played very well. My two partners were strong and we had no systemic failures. I personally felt very good about how I played. Out of the 111 boards, I made only one obvious egregious error because 1) it was one of the final boards on the qualifying day and 2) declarer’s distribution surprised me and I thought there was no chance for the defense. So, that does identify for me an area for improvement in working on every hand no matter the time of day or what has occurred.
Now, as I cue up Alanis’s “Isn’t It Ironic?” in the background, I have my first opportunity to play in the Open GNT finals at the nationals, totally serendipitously. But I can’t take advantage of it because of the wedding. Of course had there been no wedding, I wouldn’t have been playing in the open flight anyway, so I never would have had the opportunity in any situation. Nonetheless, it felt good to win and to know that I can compete at that level. And now I have a complete set of at least one district GNT win in each flight.
As for next year, I will probably be back in the flight A competition. The reason for that is with the success I’ve had on the district level, I’ve yet to win one of the national events despite coming very close on many occasions. In the flight A alone, teams that I have been on have lost in the final once and in the semi-final three times. So, I do have a goal to win one of these type events at the nationals before I move to the open flight exclusively. I do plan on being in New Orleans following the GNT event with a strong team for the Mini-Spingold event. If by chance my team was to win that, re-evaluation may be in order, but that is a couple of months away.
Here are a few bidding problems from the weekend. The theme appears to be dealing with opponents’ preempts. I’ll post the at-the-table results in the comments after folks have had time to respond. Assume IMP scoring for all questions.
1. w/r, ♠x ♥AKQ109xx ♦9xxx ♣Q
2. r/w, ♠9xx ♥AK ♦Jxxx ♣AKJx
3. w/w, ♠J ♥KQJx ♦Qx ♣Q10xxxx
4. r/w, ♠Kx ♥AQxxx ♦A ♣AJ109x