Great BBO Vugraph Deals #67

Marc Smith visits the round robin stage of Alt Mixed V

This week, we continue to look at the action during the round robin stage of Alt Mixed V. The format is a complete robin of nine, 20-board matches with the leading four teams advancing to the knockout stage. We left things last week with two matches played and three teams clear at the top of the field. ALPERT (USA, Italy) led the way with 33.69 VPs from a possible 40. Just behind was EDMONDS (USA, Italy) on 32.29 and the multi-national ALT STARS with 32.00 VPs. As luck would have it, the teams lying in first and third place meet in Round 3.

Before we hit the baize, a couple of problems for you to consider. First, with only the opponents vulnerable, you hold as South:

One Club is natural or balanced and your One Heart response showed spades. Partner’s double of Two Hearts was support, showing three spades. What do you bid now?

Next, a lead problem. With both sides vulnerable, you are North holding this collection:

With 25 IMPs hanging on your choice, what do you lead?

While you mull those over, we jump right into the action. In the top match, ALPERT led by 7 IMPs after a dull first half, and had extended their lead as the second half drew to a close. The penultimate deal of the round sealed the issue in more than one match:

EW Vul – Dealer North

Hans Vergoed’s Two Diamond bid showed a single-suited hand with one of the majors. Yael Topiol decided she just wanted to play a partscore in partner’s major, so she advanced with a pass-or-correct Two Hearts and there matters ended.

The East/West hands fit well and game requires nothing more than playing trumps for one loser: high odds with the 1NT opener sitting in front of the king. E/W +170.

I will leave you to decide who was culpable for the debacle at the other table:

West – Seamon  North – van Roosmalen  East – Hoyos  South – Gast

Playing a weak notrump system, Bas van Roosmalen opened One Club, which might have been short, and Hester Gast’s One Heart response showed spades. North’s double of Janice Molson-Seamon’s Two Heart overcall was support, showing three spades, and Carlos Hoyos’s pass virtually ended the chance of East/West getting to their game. When Gast then bid Three Clubs, my feeling is that she must have at least a five-card suit, otherwise she would have retreated into the known 4-3 spade fit at the two-level. Hoyos competed to Three Hearts when Three Clubs came back to him, and North’s double then left Gast with this week’s bidding problem.

Doubles of partscores when the opponents have bid and raised a suit usually show extra values rather being specifically for penalties. Having passed Three Clubs, is it now possible that North is just showing a good hand and offering his partner the option of trying 3NT rather than simply competing to Four Clubs? Having shown up with exactly three spades, North’s possible shapes seem to be 3-3-3-4 or 3-4-3-3 based on the opponents’ bidding, so should South retreat to Four Clubs or float the double? Perhaps one reason for choosing to bid Four Clubs is that it is likely to be less costly if you are wrong.

My feeling about this hand, though, is that North’s double places undue pressure on partner: after all, you know you probably do not want to defend. If you want to offer 3NT as an alternative to Four Clubs, then bid it. Partner heard you pass Three Clubs and will be able to judge when she should pass 3NT and when she should retreat to clubs. Alternatively, North could just compete to Four Clubs: you know you have a nine-card fit, whereas partner does not. The defense was not optimal and declarer was allowed to score an extra overtrick: E/W +1130 and 14 IMPs to ALPERT, who won the match 50-18 to open up a substantial gap at the top of the table.

Only three of the ten East/West pairs got to game on this deal, two of them in the match between EDMONDS and UNICORNS:

West – Grossack  North – Myers  East – Botta  South – Brock

This auction seems fairly routine to me, with Giorgia Botta’s immediate heart raise looking like the normal action. North led ace and another spade, so declarer was able to lose just the two major-suit aces: E/W +650.

West – Berkowitz  North – Wooldridge  East – Campanile  South – Radin

Migry Zur-Campanile

Migry Campanile’s sequence here seems rather eccentric, unable to make either a constructive or a defensive raise to Three Hearts, but then willing to bid game later. You cannot argue with success, though, and Joel Wooldridge was duly suckered into doubling. E/W +790 and 4 IMPs to UNICORNS, who won the match 42-24 to move up into third place.

Round 4 saw the top two teams meet over an exciting set of boards, with 111 IMPs changing hands over the 20 deals. The random nature of the game is illustrated by the final deal of the match, on which five of the ten North players were faced with the lead problem posed at the top of this article.

Both Vul – Dealer West

Do you have a method for bidding this East hand scientifically when partner pre-empts? Janice Molson-Seamon did not, so she settled for the likely plus score in game. Joel Wooldridge led the ♠J and defenders took their two tricks before declarer claimed: E/W +600.

West – Botta  North – Versace  East – Grossack  South – Alpert

Alfredo Versace

Zack Grossack also had no way to find out what he needed to know, but he opted for the optimistic approach. At the ten tables in the event, five North players heard this auction, and only American Greg Hinze found the winning spade opening. The other four, including the Italian world champion Alfredo Versace for the ALPERT team, all tried their luck in hearts: E/W +1390 and 13 IMPs to EDMONDS.

ALPERT won the shootout at Table One 58-53, and after four rounds they had opened up a substantial lead with 61.55 VPs from a possible 80. Behind them came two other teams also flying the stars and stripes, EDMONDS (with 46.75 VPs) and WILSON (46.00). SILLA, the Norwegian team, were fourth on 43.84. The top match in Round 5 pitted the two chasing teams against each other, WILSON vs EDMONDS.

The WILSON team got out of the blocks first, and led 26-0 after just four deals, but victory in the battle between former world junior champions helped bring EDMONDS back into the match:

Nil Vul – Dealer West

Identical and relatively uninformative auctions (Edmonds, I.Gronkvist, Wooldridge, M.Gronkvist auction was exactly the same) left South on lead against 3NT. Italian Giorgia Botta fished out the ♣2 as her opening salvo, which gave Dutchman Guy Mendes de Leon little chance. He won with the ♣K and cashed a high diamond, felling a revealing queen from North. After cashing a second high diamond just to make sure that South held a stopper in the suit, Mendes played the K and took the losing finesse in the suit. North won with the Q and returned a club for his partner to cash her four winners. E/W -50.

Joel Wooldridge

In the replay, South opted for the 4 at trick one. Joel Wooldridge, who was a member of the American team that won the World Junior Teams title in both 2001 and 2005, won with the A and promptly led a spade to dummy’s king and a second round of the suit back to his jack. Winning with the ♠A, the spotlight now fell on the young South player. A member of the winning Swedish team in the Schools event at the 2013 European Championships, a European Junior champion in 2017 and World Junior champion in 2018, Mikael Gronkvist needed to switch to a low club to set up five tricks for the defense.

When, instead, Gronkvist exited with the 9, the American was in with a chance, but he still had work to do. Dummy’s 10 was allowed to win, so Wooldridge crossed to his hand in diamonds. He then cashed the J, the K and the ♠Q, stripping South of safe exit cards, before exiting with a diamond. Gronkvist won with the ¨10, but then had to give declarer his ninth trick with the ♣K. Nicely played: E/W +400 and 11 IMPs to EDMONDS, who trailed 18-26 at the midway point of the match.

A storming second half was won 28-5 by WILSON, who took the match by 31 IMPs to relegate EDMONDS to fifth place and out of the qualifying spots for the first time. An even bigger win by the Norwegians, SILLA, carried them just ahead of WILSON into second spot. Round 6 pitted SILLA against EDMONDS, while WILSON took on the Turkish team, ZORLU. Our final deal this week provided the impetus for victory in both matches.

NS Vul – Dealer North

Three Clubs showed support and forced to game after the reverse. When John Kranyak then patterned out, Jenny Wolpert quite reasonably looked no further than game in their eight-card fit. Although their auction looks relatively normal, the Americans were the only East/West pair in the top two matches to land in the top spot. North led the Q to declarer’s ace and Wolpert played a trump to the king and ace. Declarer ruffed the diamond return in dummy and played a second round of trumps, taken by South with the ♠Q.

After winning the third round of diamonds with the king, declarer could have made an overtrick by playing four rounds of clubs, ruffing to shorten her trumps, followed by a heart to the ace to trump coup South with the fifth round of clubs. Instead, she simply claimed her contract, conceding a trick to South’s ♠10: E/W a peaceful +420.

After the same start, his weak spades and strong diamonds steered Asli Acar away from the major-suit game. Ilker Ayaz’s 4NT was not alerted, so I cannot tell you whether it was intended as a natural quantitative raise or some sort of ace-asking bid. Similarly, was West’s Five Clubs then just a correction of the contract or a key-card showing response? Whatever the auction meant, East’s final raise to slam did not work out well for the Turks.

4NT would have been an easy make, winning the diamond lead and running the J to safely set up a tenth trick. Five Clubs was trickier, but could also have been made with careful play. Defeating Six Clubs, though, did not really test the defense. South led a diamond and declarer won to play a spade to the king at trick two. Surely East was marked with three spades on the bidding, so South might have cashed her ♠Q and given her partner a ruff for two down. Alison Wilson continued with a second diamond, on which declarer pitched a spade, but Ayaz still had to do something with his heart losers, so he tried ace-king and a third heart. When South ruffed in front of dummy with the ♣10 and cashed her spade winner, declarer was again back to ten tricks: N/S -100 and 11 IMPS to WILSON.

There was plenty of excitement in the other top match too:

West – Grossack  North – Salensminde  East – Botta  South – Fuglestad

Three Clubs would have been non-forcing for them, so Zack Grossack had to advance with 2NT to force to game over the reverse. The auction still seemed headed for the safety of a spade game, but the Italian half of the partnership had higher ambitions.

Grossack showed one key-card in response to his partner’s Blackwood inquiry and Botta then, presumably, tried to ask for the queen of trumps with her Five Diamond bid. Had Grossack simply denied that card with Five Spades, the partnership might still have recorded a plus score, but his attempt to offer clubs as alternative contract ensured that the partnership had climbed too high. Which slam they eventually finished in was immaterial.

Erik Salensminde led a heart and declarer had only one very slim chance: Grossack successfully took the heart finesse to reach his hand and then just needed an unlikely A-Q doubleton spade in the North hand. Ann Karin Fuglestad took no chances, capturing the ♠K with her ace and cashing the queen for one down: E/W -50.

Lisa Blågestad

West – Blågestad  North – Wooldridge  East – Eide  South – Edmonds

Here, too, East’s ambitions carried the Norwegians beyond the safety of game. At this table, though, Lisa Blågestad showed her one key card and then just denied the ♠Q in response to her partner’s second ask. She won the heart lead in dummy and then had to use her diamond entry to get to hand in order to play a trump to the king. Jodi Edmonds won with the ♠A and might have seriously tested declarer with a diamond return. When she instead played back a heart, declarer won and called for the ♠8 from dummy. Edmonds followed with the ♠4, leaving declarer with a choice, but Blågestad understood that the odds were 2-to-1 in favor of running the eight. (North can hold ♠Q-5 or singleton ♠5, when it is right to run the eight, or ♠10-5, when the winning play is to go up with the jack, i.e two possible combinations as opposed to one, ergo 2-to-1 odds.)

When the ♠8 won, declarer simply continued with the last trump from dummy. South’s ♠Q was the only other trick for the defense: E/W +450 and 11 IMPs to SILLA. The Norwegians edged EDMONDS 44-32 in their match, whilst WILSON won big, 63-34, against ZORLU. With six matches played (and thus three remaining), these were the standings:


The highlights of Round 7 will be DONNER vs ALPERT and EDMONDS vs ISRAEL. With only four teams advancing to the knockout stage, will this be the last chance saloon for the teams currently outside the qualifying places? Surely, neither can afford a heavy defeat, can they?

We will be back next week with the best of the action from the last three matches in the Round Robin.