July BBO Prime Tournament. Deal analysis.

Thank you for joining July’s BBO Prime Tournament. We hope you enjoyed it!

There were 10 deals in this tournament and 5 of them were taken from a real life event, featured on BBO vugraph. Want to know which deals were “cooked” and see how they were played originally?

The “surprise” deals were boards 1, 4, 5, 6 and 9 in July’s BBO Prime Tournament.

Read below BBO star player and bridge writer extraordinaire Marc Smith’s analysis, along with the context in which the hands were played in real life.

After a week of play in Tweed Heads in northeastern New South Wales, just two of the original entry of 60 teams remained standing. Having secured local bragging rights with a semi-final win over the original number one seeds, SYDNEY 1, #5 SYDNEY 2 found themselves as clear favorites in the final. Their opponents, #17 CANBERRA 2, had reached the final via the repêchage, having originally been knocked out of the main event by #16 SYDNEY 6 in Round 2.

As usual, we begin with a problem for you to mull over. We will find out later how your choice would have turned out.

With neither side vulnerable, you hold as North:

What would you bid? If you overcall Two Heart, LHO jumps to Five Clubs, which is passed back to you. Are you bidding again?

Early indications were that The Great Dealer had saved some of his best material for this final. We begin with a deal on which high-level bidding judgement provided both teams a chance for a significant gain:

E/W Vulnerable – Dealer East

On this curious auction, the only suit bid below the six-level was clubs, with everyone at the table mentioning that suit at some point. The Sydney pair landed in their second-best fit, which could have proved to be a disastrous decision for them. 

Stephen Fischer tried to alert his partner with the lead of an obviously not fourth highest ♣2. Jodi Tutty won with the ♣A and clearly could have beaten the slam by returning a spade for her partner to ruff. Perhaps a clearer suit-preference lead, such as the ♣9, would have helped? Even so, returning a diamond does seem rather insulting to the opponents. Not that they were complaining: E/W +1430.

West – B Tutty North – Hans East – Marker SouthBeauchamp

Tony Marker began the merry-go-round at this table with a Two Diamond opening, showing 4-9 HCP and at least 4-4 in the majors. Bill Tutty asked with 2NT and Marker presumably showed additional distributional values with his free bid at the four-level. David Beauchamp bravely showed his moderate club fit, which was all Sartaj Hans needed to hear. When the Canberra East/West pair confidently bid their unassailable slam, he had no hesitation in taking the seven-level save. 

A red-suit lead would have allowed East/West to collect the maximum, but Marker began with a spade. Now declarer could ruff and play a trump. That was the end of the defenders’ diamond ruff, so they made just their four top tricks in the red suits: E/W +800 and 12 IMPs to SYDNEY 2.

The very next deal presented the respective Souths with a play problem:

Both VulnerableDealer South

Jodi Tutty opened a natural, 11-15 HCP Two Clubs and soon found herself in Four Hearts. Aided by her partner’s bid, Sophie Ashton led the ♦A and continued with the ♦Q, attacking dummy’s trump holding. Declarer ruffed and crossed to her hand in spades to play a trump. Perhaps warned of the possible bad break by West’s double, Tutty might have found the winning play of the ♥10, but it is hardly obvious. When she, instead, played low to dummy’s ♥Q, she was in trouble. 

Declarer played two rounds of clubs, picking up that suit, but when she then played another trump, East discarded and the roof fell in. West won, cashed her second trump winner, and continued diamonds. Declarer could have saved one trick by withholding her last trump until the fourth round of diamonds. When she ruffed the third round and played a spade to dummy’s ace, East claimed the rest: E/W +300.

West – B Tutty North – Hans East – Marker SouthBeauchamp

David Beauchamp did not open the South hand, but still arrived in the same contract, albeit without any information from the opponents’ bidding. With nothing to guide him, Bill Tutty began, quite reasonably, with the ♠10. Beauchamp won in hand with the king and had no reason to do anything but play a low heart to dummy’s queen. (Only starting with the king or ten legitimately keeps declarer in the game on this layout.) 

Needing to ruff a diamond in dummy, declarer then exited with the ♦K at trick three. West won and switched helpfully to a club, so declarer won in hand and took his diamond ruff. He now needs to play on clubs to make even nine tricks but, when he played a heart and East showed out, he was effectively in the same position as declarer at the other table. West won with the ♥J and correctly cashed the ♥A, leaving declarer with just one trump. Playing diamonds now would then have ensured something close to a flat board. When he instead exited with a spade, though, declarer was able to win with the ace, cross back to hand in clubs and draw West’s last trump. E/W -620 and another 14 IMPs to SYDNEY 2.

The Great Dealer’s next offering was a tricky slam deal. Could either North/South pair find their way to Six Diamonds?

Both VulnerableDealer East

The result of Bill Tutty’s intrepid, vulnerable third-seat pre-empt was that the Sydney North/South pair never manage to discover that they held anything like a combined 32-count. 

Tony Marker led a club. Declarer won, crossed to dummy in hearts, and played a spade to the king and ace. He then won East’s diamond exit, cashed his winners, and led towards the ♠Q-10 at trick twelve. When West discarded, declarer claimed eleven tricks: N/S +660. With twelve tricks easy in diamonds (seven outside winners and five trump tricks), which pair would be happier with this result?

West – Ashton North – Fischer East – Wiltshire SouthJ Tutty

Stephen Fischer was allowed to open a hybrid One Club (minimum balanced hand or any 18+) on his balanced 23-count. South’s 1NT showed a balanced positive and now Fischer rebid a quantitative 4NT. South had enough to accept the slam try and, it seemed at first, the methods to get to the right slam. Five Clubs showed a four-card suit but, apparently, North needed a five-card suit to introduce one of his own, which seems to be a particularly strange agreement in light of North’s failure to show a suit previously. This is surely exactly the type of hand on which you want to try to find a 4-4 fit. Had the auction finished …5♣-5♦-6♦ it would surely have won the ‘Best Bid Hand’ award.

Sophie Ashton opened the defense against the notrump slam with the ♠3, and I would guess that declarer’s hopes were raised when dummy’s king won. Those hopes were soon dashed when declarer tried to score a second spade trick. East cashed four winners in the suit to put the slam three down: N/S -300 and another 14 IMPs to SYDNEY 2. The downpour was quickly becoming torrential. 

None VulnerableDealer South

You will recognize this North hand as the bidding problem presented at the top of this article. Stephen Fischer decided to overcall Two Hearts and then passed when East’s jump to Five Clubs was passed back to him. The defense made their two black-suit aces, but that was it: E/W +400 and surely another good result for the team from Australia’s largest city.

West – B Tutty North – Hans East – Marker SouthBeauchamp

In the replay, Sataj Hans opted for a Michaels bid on the North cards, showing hearts and a minor. This encouraged David Beauchamp to venture a Five Diamond bid over East’s jump in clubs. This contract would probably have gone two down, but perhaps three. Either way, it would have resulted in a 3-IMP swing one way or the other. 

What do you think of East’s decision to bid again? To me, this seems to break all of the principles of sound bidding. You have made the opponents guess at a high level, and bidding again just seems to offer them fielders’ choice. Your objective in general should be to avoid taking the last guess in these high-level auctions. E/W-50 and another 10 IMPs to SYDNEY 2.

The team from New South Wales led by a massive 69-14 after the first of the scheduled four, 14-board sets of the final. If the underdogs from the national capital were to have any chance, they would need to begin the recovery right away. The Great Dealer provided a real firecracker to open the second stanza. 

As sometimes happens, it was not obvious who was saving and who was bidding to make on our next deal:

N/S VulnerableDealer South

Only an eight-card suit this time, but plenty of distribution around the table too. Bill Tutty’s Two Club cue-bid showed a two-suited hand with diamonds and a major, and Tony Marker was not hard-pressed to work out which major after North’s jump to Four Hearts. Note Sartaj Hans’ excellent decision to convert to hearts despite his strong club support. Five Clubs has no chance: declarer has five losers in the pointed suits, and every one he ruffs in dummy promotes an extra trump trick for East.

Of course, Five Hearts can go two down if East gives his partner two club ruffs. Tony Marker began the defense with two top spades. Could he now find the club switch to beat the contractby one? No, he played a third spade and declarer was soon claiming eleven tricks. N/S a magnificent +650.

With such a huge, undisclosed diamond fit, perhaps this was the deal on which Marker should have taken another bid after making the opponents guess at the five-level. Would South have found the opening diamond lead needed to defeat Five Spades? My guess is certainly a ‘no’.

West – Wiltshire North – Fischer East – Ashton South J Tutty

Jodi Tutty started with a natural and limited Two Club opening, and David Willtshire’s decision to overcall in the shorter of his two suits worked like a charm. Stephen Fischer jumped to Four Hearts and then competed to Five Clubs when Four Spades came back to him. I am guessing that Five Clubs would have ended the auction and the Sydney East/West pair would have recorded a modest plus score to pick up a decent-sized swing, but Sophie Ashton was not satisfied with that. She wanted the whole caboodle, and one cannot fault the accuracy of her decision to press on to Five Spades. 

There was no winning defense with West as declarer. North led the ♣K. Declarer ruffed, drew trumps, and conceded two hearts at the end: E/W +450 and 15 IMPs to SYDNEY 2 to start the second stanza. 

Things did not improve for the Canberra team. SYDNEY 2 won the second stanza 46-8 to lead by 93 IMPs (115-22) at the midway point. They played the third stanza and CANBERRA 2 conceded down 142-44 after the third set.

Congratulations to Sartaj Hans, David Beauchamp, Sophie Ashton and David Willtshire, who not only return to Sydney with bragging rights over their club mates, but also as national champions.  

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