I've played maybe half a dozen NABC's, but only once in a regular partnership (otherwise with clients on pick-up teams). The exception was the 2002 Summer NABC in Washington DC for the Spingold. My regular partner was Magnus Eriksson, who doesn't play much these days, and we played with a couple of Danes; good friend and excellent player Lars Munksgaard (Rosenblum quarter-finalist in Lille -98) and sponsor Claus Christiansen.
Claus had played successfully as a junior (national level) and then stopped for almost 30 years, building a large multi-million medical corporation (MD and research scientist). He had started playing again a few years earlier and wanted to try the American scene. Magnus is, by the way, the father of Cecilia and Sandra Rimstedt. Cecilia is already a World Junior Pairs Champion and NABC winner and Sandra just got selected for the Swedish Ladies Team this summer (both still teenagers!).
This time the Spingold was a special event for us; lady luck was on our side. After beating a couple of weaker teams (one contained all-time great Marshall Miles; a favorite author) by large margins, we ran into Welland-Fallenius, Garner-Weinstein and Moss-Gitelman in round of 32. We won by 2 imps. Next up was Shugart-Robson and Forrester-Brogeland. We won by 1 imp. Claus was 'unconscious', in a positive sense, playing way out of his league. The rest of us did pretty well, but Magnus and I was a bit sloppy against Shugart.
For the quarter-final, we got Schwartz-Becker, Zia-Rosenberg and Cohen-Berkowitz. Claus lost it a bit but Lars was good and our partnership played really, really well. A hand I'll never forget was the following against Berkowitz (S) - Cohen (N) in the second set:
S/all vul, auction (Precision-style):
pass - pass - 2C - X;
2D - pass - 3C - pass;
3NT all pass
Magnus (West) led a low diamond to my (East) ace and we cleared diamonds, Magnus having Kxx. Berkowitz tanked and continued with the J of spades from dummy, letting it ride and winning the trick. He thought some more and led a low club to the queen - king - small. This looked good. If the ace of hearts was onside, 9 tricks were easy now, 4 spades + 3 clubs + 1 diamond + K of hearts.
Should he give up on all those club tricks in dummy? They were down 34 after the first set and every imp counts. Would RHO really be tricky at this point, with a game at stake? He finally muttered 'I'll trust the guy' and led a club to the 9. One down. A swing of 16 imps compared to +110 at the other table (+5 instead of -11 imps).
I had plenty of time to think the hand through before the club play. Declarer was 100% to hold this exact hand after the spade trick, considering he was a passed hand and hadn't gone for the clubs right away. I went for the queen gambit, gambling on him not playing for me to have done so rather than following with the ten, deciding that him dropping my queen was a greater chance/risk. Besides, moments like this don't come that often. I'm no chicken.
The last quarter, we were up by 13 going in, and were slugging it out against Zia-Michael. On board 8 a slam decision had to be made. We were playing a full relay system (denial cues etc) and by the time the auction had reached 4S I knew the whole hand, barring some loose J's. Our combined resources included ca 34 hcp and a 5-3 diamond fit, but I knew we were off the K of clubs. The grand depended on the club finesse (and 'reasonable' breaks). I figured we needed this finesse to be on to pull out this match (Zia-R had bid a slam on a finesse on board 1 of the set that I thought our teammates would miss, which turned out to be correct).
So, I jumped to 7D and wrote down for all the kibitzers that the king of clubs was missing; that this was a deliberate decision and not some bidding error/misunderstanding. The K was onside with Michael (he left the table after the hand and was out for 5+ minutes) and we won 13 imps on that board. A kibitzer next to me leaned over and said 'this is why I love relays!'. My analysis was proven correct. We won by 9 (the final segment ended 55-59!).
For the semi-final, we played Jacobs-Katz, Lauria-Versace and Bocchi-Duboin. Playing 4-handed all the way, we finally lost; this time by 10 imps (68-78 over 64 boards), and Jacobs went on to win the event.
Family and regular work has kept my away from NABC's for some years now.
I'll be back.