Great BBO Vugraph Deals #6

Marc Smith visits the 2019 World Championships in China

This week we pay our first visit to Wuhan, the capital and largest city in the central Chinese province of Hubei and the venue for the 2019 World Bridge Championships. At the end of a two-week extravaganza of intense competition, teams of world champions will be crowned in the Open (the Bermuda Bowl), Women’s (the Venice Cup), Seniors (the d’Orsi Trophy) and Mixed Teams, A Transnational Teams events will also be staged during the second week, for players eliminated before the knockout stage and those not involved in the main events.

Almost every match between these teams of world class players produces deals that are both instructive and entertaining. Our featured match this week is the clash between DENMARK and ENGLAND in the Round Robin stage of the Seniors event. After three days of play, the Danes are lying third in the 24-team field, with the English team just two places behind them. The top eight teams will qualify for the knockout stage at the end of the seven-day Round Robin.

Enough from me. On with the action:

N/S Vulnerable – Dealer East

Soren Christiansen opened a weak two in hearts and Henrik Hansen took advantage of the favourable vulnerability to jump all the way to game after South’s takeout double. John Holland was quite happy with this development and expressed that opinion in the traditional way. Alan Mould, though, had far fewer defensive values than his earlier double might have suggested, so he elected to play instead. His 4NT asked his partner to pick a minor and, fortunately for the English, neither Dane saw fit to double (although West was surely mighty close). Declarer lost the obvious four tricks: N/S -200 when defending Four Hearts Doubled would surely have produced a plus score.

West – Kendrick;   North – Schou;        East – Ward South – J Hansen

Trevor Ward also opened a weak two, but he did so via a Multi Two Diamonds, which left South with no obvious entry into the auction at his first turn. David Kendrick upped the ante with a “pass or correct” jump to Three Hearts, prepared to play at that level in whichever major his partner held. When this came back to Jorgen Hansen, he had to choose between 3NT showing both minors and a takeout double. His lack of a fourth spade, a suit in which West has expressed at least some interest, coupled with the danger of doubling with a void in case partner chooses to pass, might have persuaded him in favour on 3NT. But double he did, and pass for penalties did Steen Schou.

Between them, they had made the best decision in theory, since Three Hearts can be beaten by a trick and Four Diamonds has four top losers. However, the best decision in the bidding has to be backed by the right line of defence too.

Schou led the ♣Q around to declarer’s king. Kendrick then cashed the ♣A, shedding a spade from dummy. Looking at all four hands, it seems as if declarer must still lose a spade and two tricks in each red suit, but declarer now ruffed a club in dummy (North pitching a diamond) and led a low diamond away from dummy’s ace. Had declarer simply led the first diamond from his hand, South would have seen whether North could win the trick. By ruffing the club first, South was left it doubt about the location of the 10, so he was virtually forced to go in with the J.

Had North won the first round of diamonds, it would be obvious to play three rounds of hearts to kill declarer’s diamond ruff in dummy. South, though, had no trump to lead.  In fact, there is only one card in his hand that will now defeat the contract: he must exit with the ♣J, knowingly setting up declarer’s nine. The reason is that North can discard his last diamond on this trick. If declarer then tries to score a diamond ruff in his hand, North can thwart that plan by ruffing the A. Nor can declarer enjoy the established ♣9 as North will be able to ruff it with a low trump. Very tricky indeed.

At the table, South continued with the K, permitting declarer to win with the ace and ruff his diamond loser. North could overruff, but only with one of his natural trump winners. A spectacular E/W +530 and 8 IMPs to ENGLAND.

In the highly-recommended book by David Bird and Taf Anthias, “Winning Notrump Leads”, computer simulations found, perhaps predictably, that the most successful leads against 3NT came from five-card suits. Of course, you may not be dealt a five-card suit. Perhaps, though, partner was, and leading from a three-card holding will sometimes find it. Our next deal illustrates a hidden advantage of that strategy.

Both Game  – Dealer South

With the ♣J, the ♠K and both diamond honours onside, declarer can theoretically make at least ten tricks on any lead. After John Holland’s opening salvo of the ♣2, Hansen had no trouble coming to four diamonds, three clubs and two tricks in each major: E/W +660, and you would think this was a deal with only overtrick IM Ps at stake.

West – Kendrick;   North – Schou;        East – Ward South – J Hansen

Kendrick’s One Club opening promised only two cards in the suit, so did not materially affect the opening lead decision. Steen Schou, though, opted to kick off with the 3. South’s jack was taken by declarer’s ace and Kendrick’s first move was a club to the queen and ace. Now he could make only nine tricks. A heart came back, North covering the ten with his queen and declarer understandably ducking in dummy, but conveniently unblocking the suit for North/South. After winning the third round of hearts with the king, declarer successfully led a diamond to the ten, a spade to the queen and a diamond to the jack and queen. Cashing the A now left these cards with declarer needing four more tricks:

Looking at all four hands, it is clear that declarer can play king and another club to leave dummy with three winning black-suit cards. But how easy is that to read? Declarer has no reason not to think North holds the two missing hearts, so it looks safe to play a diamond to set up another winner in that suit.

Winning with the K, South gleefully cashed his two heart winners to set the contract a trick: E/W -100 and 12 IMPs to DENMARK, now just down by 7 IMPs at the midway point of the match,

Swings normally occur when one team plays Three Hearts and the other is in Four, or Four Spades rather than Six. Rarely are the contracts at the two tables as far removed as the two on our next deal:

E/W VulnerableDealer North

For me, the Three Club bid was the instigator of the problems on this deal. Jump shift rebids should show at least 5-5 shape (or occasionally 6-4 and should only be 5-4 when you have three-card support for partner). If you bid Two Clubs on this hand, when does partner pass? When he has minimum values with three clubs and one diamond. Are you worried about missing game opposite that? I don’t think so. If you really cannot stand Two Clubs, then rebid Two Notrump. You hand is essentially balanced and a jump shift rebid should show a strong distributional hand.

Of course, North then compounded the problem by using Blackwood when he could not handle all possible responses. If you bid Five Clubs, do you really think partner will pass with enough to make slam after you have bid so strongly? N/S +50.

And now for something completely different:

West – H Hansen;   North – Holland;        East – Christ’sen South – Mould

I realize that everyone has travelled a long way to play in this championship and they want to get their money’s worth. That doesn’t mean you have to bid on every single deal, though. At this vulnerability, Mould opted to play for penalties against Christansen’s unwise intervention. Should Hansen pass out the double? How much worse can things be? When the opponents tell me that we are in deep doo-doo at a low level, I am inclined to believe them. So, let’s assume that One Spade-Doubled will be a terrible contract for your side. If running is a disaster, it probably won’t be that much worse, and you might strike lucky. Indeed, redoubling here gets you to Two Hearts (which would make) so the worst that can happen is the opponents bid their game and make +400 or thereabouts. That sounds likely to be less than the penalty in One Spade. At the table, though, Hansen elected to sit it out.

Mould led the K, keeping alive the chance of defeating the contract by four. Holland won the diamond continuation and switched to a trump, to the nine and ten. Declarer won the heart switch with the ace and played a second heart, to North’s king. Now Holland needs to cash one high club before playing diamonds through declarer. When he instead just played diamonds, declarer was able to pitch his club loser, which allowed him to score a fourth trick. Even so, N/S +800 would have been good even if the Danish North/South stopped in game. Opposite a plus score from the other table it was worth 13 IMPs.

There is, of course, a silver lining for the Danes: duplicating your bad board costs less IMPs that having accidents on two different deals. (North/South’s -50 in the two-ace slam cost only 4 IMPs more than if they had bid and made game on the deal.)  The bad news for them, though, was that there was still one more double-digit loss to come…

Both Vulnerable – Dealer North

Neither side can legitimately make game, although Four Hearts by East would perhaps be the most likely to make. (Only an opening spade lead beats it.) Schou passed as Dealer but then made a fit-showing jump to Two Spades at his second turn, but Hansen still did not rate his side’s game prospects facing a passed partner. Kendrick backed in with Three Clubs, but gave up when Three Diamonds came back to him. The defence made a trick in each side suit: N/S +130.

West – H Hansen;   North – Holland;        East – Christ’sen South – Mould

After the same start, Mould decided that he liked his hand so he made an invitational raise in spades. Holland was huge in context so he obviously accepted the invite. East could lead his singleton diamond to defeat the contract by two, but he instead opted for a low heart. Holland won with the ace and played a trump to West’s bare ace. The defenders could cash one heart and one club, but that was it. Declarer had ten tricks via four spades, one heart and five diamonds: N/S +620 and another 10 IMPs to ENGLAND.

England won the match 58-21. Going into the final two matches of the Round Robin, these two teams were still lying third and fourth, comfortably in qualifying places for the knockout stage. Perhaps we shall see a rematch at the pointy end of the event.