Great BBO Vugraph Deals #66

Marc Smith visits the round robin stage of Alt Mixed V

Ten teams lined up for the start of Alt Mixed V. The format was a complete robin of 20-board matches with the leading four teams advancing to the knockout stage after nine rounds. This week, we begin our coverage with Round 2, where the Great Dealer provided one of the most exciting sets of boards seen in the Alt events. We will concentrate on the match between EDMONDS (USA) and ZORLU (Turkey), in which 137 IMPs changed hands over 20 boards, with ten swings of 8 IMPs or more.

As usual, we begin our coverage with some problems for you to consider. First, with only your side vulnerable, you hold as West:

What do you bid?

What action would you take if South bid only Four Hearts?

Next, again vulnerable against not, you are South holding this collection:

East’s 3♣ shows black suits and partner’s 4NT suggests two places to play. What do you bid?

Finally, with only the opponents vulnerable, you are South with :

Partner’s negative double shows exactly four spades. What action, if any, do you take?

If you bid Four Spades, do you rethink when West’s double comes back to you, or do you stand your ground?

While you mull those over, we jump right into the action. The Americans in our featured match opened a lead of 18-0 after just two deals. Board 4 was a serious bidding test for North/South and produced a major swing in all but one of the five matches:

Both Vul – Dealer West

The Turkish pair, bronze medalists in the Open Pairs at the 2019 European Transnational Championships held in Istanbul, found their way to the top spot on this very tricky combination. Sedat Aluf began with a takeout double of West’s natural, weak Two Diamond opening, and Sirma Sanus cue-bid to show a hand too strong to limit. One could argue that a jump to Four or Five Clubs would show a hand something like this, so Aluf was quite happy to agree clubs on this even stronger sequence. He cue-bid his diamond control and then confirmed it was the ace with a redouble. Once his partner offered a return cue-bid in hearts, Aluf rolled out Blackwood and then signed off in the partnership’s only eight-card fit at the six-level when he found that the queen of trumps was missing.

There was little to the play. Declarer won the diamond lead, unblocked the ♣K, crossed to the ♠Q, cashed the §A, took a diamond pitch on dummy’s high spades, and claimed twelve tricks, losing just the queen of trumps. N/S +1370.

West – Ucar  North – Botta  East – Akdas  South – Grossack

Zack Grossack

Less concerned by the vulnerability, Ali Ucar began with a full-blooded three-level opening, severely cramping the American pair for space. Not prepared to limit his hand immediately, Zack Grossack responded to his partner’s takeout double with a cue-bid. Giorgia Botta now advanced with a re-cue-bid, clearly expecting her partner to choose a major. It seems that Grossack expected a classic-shape three-suited takeout double for this sequence, so just making a minimum bid in his seven card suit did not seem like enough with such playing strength. A case of crossed wires in a non-regular partnership, it seems.

Botta didn’t like this turn of events, so she forced Grossack to choose a major and thus they ended in a 4-2 fit. They were already too high, though, so it mattered little that they went an extra one down. N/S -200 and 17 IMPs to ZORLU.

In WILSON (USA, Sweden, Netherlands) vs ISRAEL:

West – Larsson  North – Barr  East – Kiljan  South – Herbst

Ronnie Barr settled for a simple overcall on her shapely 19-count. When Ilan Herbst advanced with Four Clubs, Barr simply raised to game and there matters rested. Although Six Clubs is an easy make, might N/S +620 be a decent score on this difficult layout?

West – Zack  North – I.Gronkvist  East – Tal  South – M.Gronkvist

After the same start as the American auction above, Mikael Gronkvist bid only Six Clubs. Ida Gronkvist removed to Six Hearts, at which point South gave up and produced dummy. Well judged. This was not a bad contract, but could declarer overcome the 5-1 trump break?

Dana Tal led the Q and declarer overcame the first hurdle, winning the A and playing a heart to the ten. A club to the king and a trump to dummy, revealing the bad break, was followed by a low club, declarer ruffing. Declarer now cashed the K-Q, and led a spade to dummy’s ten. She now played clubs from the top. East could ruff with her long trump whenever she wished but, with only spades left, she then had to concede the lead to the ♠Q and dummy was high. N/S +1430 and 13 IMPs to WILSON.

Later in the set, both West players faced the high-level decision posed in the first of this week’s problems above:

E/W Vul – Dealer North

Sirma Sanus raised only to Four Hearts, but Jodi Edmonds deemed her hand worth no more than Four Spades. Right she was, as there were two unavoidable trump losers: E/W +650.

Note that the extra room afforded by South’s Four Heart bid might easily have given West just enough rope with which to hand herself. If she advances with Blackwood, she hears about two key cards plus the trump queen. As this is most likely to be ♠A-K-Q, West is then likely to advance to the poor slam.

West – Ucar  North – Botta  East – Akdas  South – Grossack

Cecilia Rimstedt

After the same start, Zack Grossack jumped to Five Hearts on the basis that he was going to save if West raised to Four Spades so he should do some immediately to increase the pressure. This had the effect, perhaps, of persuading Ali Ucar, a fourth-place finisher in the Junior Pairs at the 2009 World Youth Congress, that he was being talked out of something. There was no room to investigate slam now: West had either to bid slam or settle for game, although perhaps East might have raised a Five Spade bid with a better hand. Armed with the exuberance of youth, this was no contest. Unfortunately for the Turks, the spade suit had just too many holes, and current Turkish junior international Selene Buke Akdas had no way of avoiding two trump losers. E/W -100 and 13 IMPs to EDMONDS.

In DONNER (USA, Sweden) vs SILLA (Norway), Swedish star Cecilia Rimstedt faced the same problem:

West – C.Rimstedt  North – Eide  East – Donner  South – Blaagestad

Norway’s Lise Blaagestad also jumpred to Five Hearts but Cecilia Rimstedt, a member of the Swedish team that won the 2019 World Womens’ Teams title in Wuhan, had been there before and was not tempted. E/W +650.

West – Fudlestad North – Michielsen  East – Brekka  South – Cullin

Marion Michielsen’s Four Heart opening created a completely different scenario. Ann Karin Fuglestad re-opened with a double in fourth seat and Geir Brekka then offered a choice of slams with his 5NT bid. His correction of clubs to diamonds thus implied spades too.

Now the spotlight was on Per-Ola Cullin to find the winning opening lead. Unerringly, he kicked off with the ♠A, but then he had a further decision when the first trick went ♠7, ♠J, ♠6 (playing standard count). The bidding told Cullin that East held at least four spades, so he knows that declarer is trying to do something as he has falsecarded with the ♠6 from either K-Q-6-5, K-Q-6-3 or K-Q-6-5-3. Is he trying to avoid a spade continuation because North’s jack is a singleton, or is he trying to encourage one because he has the ♣K-Q and not the A?

When Cullin switched to a heart at trick two, the spade ruff went begging and declarer was home: a spectacular E/W +1370 and 12 IMPs to SILLA.

In our featured match, EDMONDS led 48-17 at the midway point. The action began again early in the second half, with most East players having to decide how to intervene on a shapely hand. We start with the action from UNICORNS (USA, England) against ALT STARS (France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland):

N/S Vul – Dealer West

Migry Zur Campanile’s Three Club overcall showed both black suits and Virginia Chediak’s double presumably showed hearts, although it was not alerted/explained. David Berkowitz jumped to Four Spades and Sjoert Brink backed in with 4NT, described as showing two places to play. When Chediak simply retreated to Five Diamonds, Brink decided he had already done enough and the excellent slam was missed. Perhaps North should be more but, once partner has forced to the five-level, it seems to me that South is worth at least a try, perhaps with a Five Club bid. Perhaps the real problem goes back further, though, to the negative double on the first round. If South instead bids Four Clubs (presumably a cue-bid agreeing diamonds), North will surely then drive to slam. N/S +620 looked like a poor board for the transnationals.

West – Vergoed North – Willenken  East – Topiol  South – Katz

I cannot say that I agree with Chris Willenken’s 2NT opening, but it certainly worked out well on this layout. Although Yael Topiol was able to get both of her suits into the auction at the three-level, North was able to bid his hearts and South to cue-bid agreeing them and making a slam try before West could pre-empt the auction.

Declarer had plenty of trump entries to dummy, so even the 4-1 split did not inconvenience him. He won the diamond lead, played a trump to dummy, unblocked the ♠A, crossed to dummy in trumps again, and ruffed dummy’s remaining spade. He could then overtake the K, draw the last trump and claim. N/S +1430 and 13 IMPs to UNICORNS.

In our featured match:

West – Ucar North – Botta  East – Akdas  South – Grossack

It is hard to disagree with Selen Buke Akdas’s decision to overcall in her longest suit. The effect, though, was to give South room to describe his hand, starting with a natural and forcing heart bid before supporting diamonds strongly. North was then able to show slam interest and a heart fit before his opponents had even mentioned their spades. When West eventually bid Five Spades, North was able to make an encouraging, forcing pass, enabling Grossack to bid the good slam. The Turkish spade bidding really was a case of too late and too little. N/S +1370.

West – Edmonds North – Aluf  East – Wooldridge  South – Sanus

Joel Wooldridge’s One Spade overcall turned out to be much more effective. Jodi Edmonds’ immediate pre-emptive raise paved the way for Wooldridge to take the good sacrifice once the Turks bid their slam.

Sanus led her club, so the defenders got their ruff to go with their three aces, but that was still only N/S +500 which meant 13 IMPs to EDMONDS.

Our final hand this week demonstrates why high-level competitive decisions are so difficult.

E/W Vul – Dealer South

Looking at just the East/West cards, do you want to defend Five Diamonds or sacrifice in Five Hearts? Even if she could see her partner’s hand, East still cannot tell what is right, since it depends on whether the opponents’ hearts are splitting 1-1 or 2-0 in addition to needing both high clubs to stand up. On balance, you would choose to take the insurance, even at this vulnerability, as you are virtually certain to make at least ten tricks in hearts. Hey, on a good day, South will hold a singleton club honour and both Four Spades and Five Hearts will be making.

Akdas did not wait for the opponents to stop in Five Diamonds before taking the two-way shot in Five Hearts. She was always going to bid over Five Diamonds, so there was a chance that her jump to Five Hearts would railroad South into doing the wrong thing. Not this time, but a good effort.

The defenders cashed their two high spades and then tried to cash a diamond. Declarer ruffed but still had a club to lose: N/S +200.

West – Edmonds North – Aluf  East – Wooldridge  South – Sanus

Jodi Edmonds overcalled only One Heart, which duly presented Sirma Sanus with the last of the problems posed at the top of this article. Sanus was certainly right in that defending Four Hearts was not a winning choice, although if she had passed North would probably have bid Five Diamonds. Four Spades was a brave bid, knowing it would be a Moysian fit, and standing her ground when West’s double came back to her was doubly so. Quite why West doubled opposite a pre-emptive heart raise is anybody’s guess, and might have tipped declarer off to the spade position too.

As it happened, Sanus did not need to guess the trumps, since West led the K and then continued with a second round of hearts, conceding a ruff-and-sluff. Away went one of dummy’s clubs as declarer ruffed in her hand. Sanus could now just cash her three top trumps and play winning diamonds. The defense could make one club and their trumps trick whenever then liked, but that was all: a magnificent N/S +590 and 9 IMPs to ZORLU.

EDMONDS won this topsy-turvy match 88-45 to take 17.90 of the 20 VPs at stake and move into second place with 32.29 VPs from their first two matches. ALPERT (USA, Italy) scored the biggest win of the round, defeating HINZE (USA) 87-27 to claim 19.49 VPs and top the table with 33.69. ALT STARS rounded out the top three with 32.00 VPs.

We will return next week to see more of the action from the round robin stage.