Great BBO Vugraph Deals #5

Marc Smith visits the 2019 World Youth Championships

The 6th World Open Youth Championships were staged in the Croatian seaside resort of Opatija. The small town of just 12,000, noted for its historic buildings, is located on the Kvarner Gulf, an arm of the Adriatic Sea, in the northwest of the country, just south of the border with Slovenia. Not that the participants had much time for relaxation in the glorious Mediterranean summer sun: SOFIES WORLD (from Norway) and SXPEONY (China) had battled through a tough Swiss Teams qualifier and a 56-board semi-final to reach the final of the Women’s Under-26 Teams.

Although just 7 IMPs would separate the two teams at the end, more than 240 IMPs changed hands over the 56 deals of the final. As you can imagine, therefore, there were plenty of big swing hands for me to choose from. Here are a few that entertained the large crowds who turned out to watch the final on BBO’s VuGraph coverage.

We start early in the opening stanza:

Both Vulnerable – Dealer North

For the Norwegians, Thea Lucia Indrebo decided to get her hand across right away with a One Notrump overcall. Ida Marie Oeberg began with Stayman and then forced to game showing 5-4 in the majors via a Smolen jump to Three Hearts at her second turn. The routine-looking Four Spades was thus duly reached, and the Chinese South’s choice of a low club lead to the eight, king and ace did nothing to harm declarer’s chances. She eventually lost just the two red aces: E/W +650.

West – Ge, North – Sjodal, East – Lu, South – Kjensli

The Chinese East passed at her first turn, but it seems to me that the same Four Spades contract should still be easily reached after a One Spade balancing overcall from West. East would, presumably, start with a cue-bid raise and then bid Four Spades over West’s Two Heart rebid. When, instead, Chenyun Ge chose to reopen with a takeout double, her partner jumped to what looked to her the obvious game and the eight-card spade fit was now lost.

The play in Three Notrump was a little more challenging. Agnethe Kjensli led a low heart to her partner’s ace and declarer won trick two perforce with the K. Yijia Lu now crossed to dummy in spades and advanced the ♣J, covered by the king and ace. She then cashed four rounds of spades, pitching two diamonds from hand. With the A surely marked by North’s opening bid, it seems clear to lead a diamond towards the K-J now but, instead, declarer decided to run the ♣9.

South won with the ♣10 and cashed her Q. This forced declarer to find a discard from ♣Q-7 K-J in her hand. She clearly cannot afford to throw a diamond, but pitching the queen of clubs would provide access via the ♣8 to dummy’s now-established J for her ninth trick. When Lu instead discarded the low club from her hand, Kjensli simply exited with a club and declarer was endplayed to lead away from her K-J into North’s tenace at trick twelve: E/W -100 and 13 IMPs to the Norwegians, who had jumped out to a 20-0 lead after just four deals.

The Chinese gained 9 IMPs to almost halve the deficit on the next deal, but then came:

E/W GameDealer East

Persuaded, presumably, by the vulnerability, Yijia Lu passed as Dealer. Ge then made an off-centre takeout double of South’s One Spade opening.

North’s jump to Three Hearts was a constructive four-card spade raise, and again the Chinese East held her fire. Had South now jumped to Four Spades, would Lu have folded her tent and gone quietly into the night on such a hand facing a takeout double that surely at least suggested a heart fit, one wonders? When Kjensli settled for a partscore, though, Lu came alive, backing in with Four Hearts to end an unusual auction.

Faced with a tricky lead problem, Kjensli reached unerringly for the ♣A. She then continued with a second club at trick two, presumably hoping to be able to win with the ace of trumps and put North in with her presumed ♠K for a club ruff. That plan was scuppered when declarer won with the ♣K and cashed dummy’s two top diamonds, pitching a club and a spade. Lu now played a third diamond, ruffing out North’s queen, and led a spade. That would have been good enough if the defenders’ trumps were 2-2, but Kjensli was able to win the spade and play two rounds of trumps. When declarer now pitched her last spade loser on a winning diamond, Kjensli was able to ruff to nip the contract by a trick: E/W -100.

West – Oeberg, North – Yu Chen, East – Indrebo, South – Ruan

The auction here was even stranger. Again, West began with a takeout double of One Spade after East had passed. I cannot be certain, but I suspect that North’s One Notrump was a transfer to clubs, intending to show her spade fit on the next round, although one has to wonder at the wisdom of this strategy when holding a singleton heart. East’s Two Heart bid seems downright pusillanimous to me, but you cannot argue with success. The subsequent auction spiralled out of control but finished rather better for the Norwegians than it might have done. Ruan had two chances to improve her team’s result on the deal and, although what she did was not at all unreasonable, the outcome was a disaster.

Having previously decided that nine-tricks was the limit of the hand, it would have been inconsistent to then bid Four Spades when Four Diamonds was passed back to South. Doing so would have limited the Chinese loss on the deal to 5 IMPs, though. Ruan also could have passed out Four Diamonds, which would have flattened the deal. Instead, she doubled and then doubled again when Indrebo removed herself to Four Hearts. Still China might have picked up 3 IMPs, had Ruan led either a club or a trump. When instead she opted for the ♠A, the run of unfortunate choices was complete.

Declarer ruffed the spade continuation at trick two, pitched two clubs on dummy’s top diamonds, and ruffed out North’s Q. Next came a second spade ruff in dummy, and a fourth round of diamonds, declarer pitching her last club as North ruffed. The defenders still had to make the ace of trumps, but that was it: E/W +790 and another 13 IMPs to SOFIES WORLD.

At the end of the first 14-board stanza, the Norwegians led by 22 (47-25). A close second set saw the margin reduced to 13 IMPs (55-42) at the midway point. We rejoin the action in the third stanza:

Both Vulnerable – Dealer East

The Chinese bid to their spade game unopposed, and Sjodal chose an unfortunate moment for an attacking lead, the A. The heart switch at trick two was hardly bad news for declarer either. Ge won and drew three rounds of trumps ending in her hand and led a low club. The appearance of North’s ♣K was a welcome bonus and declarer was soon claiming eleven tricks: E/W +650.

West – Oeberg, North – Yu Chen, East – Indrebo, South – Ruan

Xinyao Ruan’s vulnerable weak jump overcall in diamonds seemed to put the cat amongst the Norwegian pigeons. Although they may have been better off choosing to double and defend, Oeberg decided to take a shot at Three Notrump. Although Indrebo finally diagnosed the 4-4 fit at the last chance, the upshot was that the contract was played from the other side here. Although South opted for the K as her opening salvo, that was not a fatal decision for the defence.

Indrebo won with the A, drew two rounds of trumps with the ace and queen, and then played a diamond to the king. North won with the A and returned a third round of trumps. Winning in dummy, declarer was still in the game: she cashed the Q and then fatally called for dummy’s ♣J. Capturing North’s ♣§K with her ace, declarer ruffed her heart loser in dummy, but when North then discarded on the second round of clubs there was no winning option: E/W -100 and a much-needed 13 IMPs to SXPEONY.

The Norwegians won the third set by 4 IMPs to lead 87-70 with 14 boards to play. By halfway through the final set, the Norwegian advantage had grown to 27 IMPs, and then came:

Both Vulnerable – Dealer East

Ge made a game try showing short spades and Lu accepted. Only one lead beats the contract legitimately, and Sofie Sjodal was unerringly there with the 8. South might have ducked the first round of diamonds, but she had the insurance of a club entry, so she took the A and returned a suit-preference 3. Declarer won and played a trump, but Sjodal took her ace, played a club to her partner, and ruffed the diamond return for one down: a well-deserved N/S +100.

West – Oeberg, North – Yu Chen, East – Indrebo, South – Ruan

The Chinese South made a takeout double, showing both black suits, so Chen opted for the ♠7 as her opening lead. Now followed a game of ping-pong, a pastime at which I always thought the Chinese excelled…

To legitimately make the contract, declarer must win the ♠A and immediately play a club (removing South’s entry for the diamond ruff), but Oeberg not unreasonably played a trump at trick two. Now the spotlight fell on Chen, who had to duck to keep her side in the game. Instead, she won with the A and continued spades, ruffed by declarer. Again, declarer has to play a club to make legitimately, but Oeberg instead played a diamond to the king. Now Ruan could have defeated the contract by ducking her ace, but the game of ping-pong continued as she won with the A and returned the suit.

Now declarer was home: draw trumps, pitch dummy’s remaining spades on her long diamonds, and concede a trick to the ♣A. N/S +620 and 12 IMPs to SOFIES WORLD. This looked like the final nail in the Chinese coffin, trailing by 39 IMPs with just six deals remaining.

The Chinese were not quite finished, though, and they picked up three double-figure swings in the final deals. It was all just too little too late, though, and the Norwegians hung on to become world champions by a margin of just 7 IMPs (124-117).