Marc Smith visits the round robin stage of Alt Mixed V
This week, we look at the action from the final matches in 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 after six matches with ALPERT (USA, Italy, Colombia) leading the field by a fair margin. Behind them came WILSON (USA, Sweden), SILLA (Norway) and ISRAEL. Just outside the qualifying places with three matches remaining were EDMONDS (USA, Italy) and DONNER (USA, Sweden).
As usual, we start with some problems for you to consider. First, with only the opponents vulnerable, you hold as South:
Two Spades is a natural weak two bid. What action do you take?
Again, with only the opponents vulnerable, you are North holding this collection:
How adventurous do you feel? What action, if any, do you take?
It is time to see some action. Round 7 featured two key matches, DONNER vs ALPERT and EDMONDS vs ISRAEL. With only four teams advancing to the knockout stage, the two teams outside the top four surely could not afford to slip further behind.
Board 4 was flat in most matches, but generated a major swing in one of the key matches, where neither North/South pair managed to come to terms with this combination.
Both Vul – Dealer West
The American/Swedish pair had the methods to make this deal straightforward. Sandra Rimstedt’s Two Clubs was an artificial game force and Joe Grue’s Two Spades promised a six-card suit. Rimstedt now had a fairly routine raise, and an obvious sign off after Grue’s non-serious 3NT. Trumps behaved well enough that declarer had to lose only two tricks in the suit: N/S +650.
Things were a little trickier for America/Colombia at the other table:
West – Michielsen North – Hoyos East – Cullin South – Molson
Here, Janice Seamon-Molson’s Two Club response was ostensibly natural, so Carlos Hoyos advanced with a Three Diamond splinter bid, showing diamond shortage and a club fit. Molson showed her heart values and then raised to game when Hoyos rebid his spades. All well and good so far, but Hoyos was only playing with a 30-point deck, so he thought he was worth one more try. Molson quickly retreated but they were teetering on the brink. With trumps behaving, they had managed to stop just in time: N/S +650 and a push.
There are two styles of 2/1, each with its own plusses and minuses. In the first auction above, North promised a six-card suit with his Two Spade rebid, the partnership using 2NT for relatively balanced hands with only five spades, irrespective of stoppers in the side suits. The alternative is for the 2NT rebid to show stops in both of the unbid suits, with Two Spades then the default bid on hands that do not qualify. This was the style preferred by the Israeli North/South pair, and thus:
West – Grossack North – Barr East – Botta South – Herbst
For the Israelis, Two Clubs would have shown a four-card or longer suit (except when 3-4-3-3), so Ilan Herbst was forced to respond in his motley diamond suit. Ronnie Barr rebid her spades and, with solid holdings in both of the unbid suits, one can hardly blame Herbst for thinking that 3NT would be a reasonable spot. Barr had no reason to overrule her partner so there they were, in a notrump game with six top losers to be cashed against it.
Fortunately for the Israelis, no one let West in on the secret. Zack Grossack opened the defense with a heart. Declarer overtook dummy’s winning ♥8 with his queen and led a spade toward dummy. His suspicions not sufficiently aroused by the heart play, Grossack played low and Herbst called for dummy’s king. When it held he quickly claimed his nine tricks, bullet dodged: N/S +600.
West – Tal North – Woolridge East – Zack South – Edmonds
Natural methods can easily come unstuck. Here, too, Jodi Edmonds’ Two Club response was quasi-natural and I suspect that Joel Woolridge’s Two Spades did not promise a six-card suit. Edmonds advanced by showing her heart values, presumably in the hope that he partner could bid 3NT with something in diamonds. On this hand, Four Clubs seems like the obvious move by North. What, then, though, should he make of South’s Four Spade bid? Is this a belated attempt to play in spades (yes, it certainly was here) or a cue-bid with slam interest in clubs? Wooridge obviously thought it was the latter and, on that basis, his jump to slam looks more than reasonable.
Noga Tal led the ♠A and switched to a sneaky ♦7 at trick two, forcing declarer’s long trump holding. Reduced to a 3-3 fit, Edmonds cashed the ♠K and ruffed a spade high, setting up that suit. All she needed now was a 3-3 trump split. Not today! The Great Dealer had not seen fit to hand out a harsh punishment to West for her opening lead. With trumps splitting 4-2, declarer was always in trouble and she drifted three down: N/S -300 and 14 IMPs to ISRAEL.
ISRAEL won the match 49-35 to consolidate their place in the top four. In the other key match, though, DONNER held on to their coattails by inflicting a first defeat on ALPERT, although only by a score of 25-6 in a match without a single double-digit swing. The gap between fourth-placed ISRAEL and the DONNER team was a not-insignificant 8 VPs. What’s more, ISRAEL’s final two opponents were both in the bottom half, whereas DONNER would finish against WILSON.
The main interest in Round 8 was the match between the top two teams, ALPERT and WILSON. ALPERT’s loss in the previous round meant that the gap between them and the rest of the field was down to 4 VPs, so a good performance may see WILSON take over at the top, and there were benefits to winning the round robin.
The deals in Round 8 offered much more scope for swings. Everyone played in a spade game on Board 9, but only two players, Janice Seamon-Molson for ALPERT and Yaniv Zack for ISRAEL, managed to overcome the adverse trump distribution.
EW Vul – Dealer North
This was a contest between top-class mixed pairs with Jessica Larsson, a member of Sweden’s current Womens world champion team from Wuhan, doing battle against Janice Seamon-Molson, a five-time world champion who has won both the Venice Cup and the World Team Olympiad twice.
Larsson led the ♣J. Seamon won in dummy, played the low heart to her king, and advanced the ♦9. Had West ducked her ace, declarer would have thrown the ♦Q on the ♣K and would then have been able to afford to lose three trumps, but Larsson was up to this task, and rose with the ¨A.
Seamon won the club continuation in dummy, throwing a heart, and led a trump to the jack, queen and king. Declarer won the heart exit with dummy’s lone ace, came to the ♦Q, ruffed the ♥10 in dummy, pitched the ♥Q on the ♦K, and ruffed a diamond. Seamon then exited with her low trump, forcing Larsson to win and lead away from the guarded ♠10 at trick twelve. Chapeau!
The final round pitched the two leading teams, ALPERTS and SILLA, against each other, as well as two of the teams vying for the final place in the knockout stage, DONNER and ALISON. Board 9 proved too difficult for all ten East/West pairs, with no one managing to reach the normal-looking contract of Four Hearts. It was many of the South players who were faced with the first of this week’s bidding problems, though.
EW Vul – Dealer North
Giorgia Botta’s bidding on this deal seems eminently sensible. Presumably, Three Clubs immediately over partner’s weak two opening would have been forcing, perhaps game forcing, but that didn’t stop some bidding it, as we shall see, Declarer lost the obvious five tricks: N/S -100 and potentially a good sacrifice for North/South with ten tricks easy in hearts.
West – Edmonds North – v.R’smalen East – Woolridge South – Gast
I confess that I see no more reason to bid over a Three Spade opening than over Two Spades. Perhaps Three Spades would have ended the auction, perhaps it would have been doubled and come back to South. Either way, the penalty would have been less than in Five Clubs Doubled: N/S -500 and 9 IMPs to EDMONDS.
In ALPERT vs SILLA:
West – Fuglestad North – Hoyos East – Brekka South – Seamon
Carlos Hoyos opened with a Multi and Geir Brekka, showing a weak no trump type. Yes, perhaps the Norwegians would have found their way to Four Hearts after this start, but Janice Seamon-Molson did not wait to find out: N/S -500.
West – Versace North – Edie East – Alpert South – Blågestad
Lisa Blagestad’s sensible pass hit the jackpot when her opponents failed to find their 5-3 major-suit fit. She led the ♣K and she soon regained the lead to cash the rest of her suit. Indeed, she is probably still cashing her club winners: N/S +400 and 14 IMPs to SILLA.
There was also a curious flat board in the other key match:
West – Wolpert North – S.Rimstedt East – Kranyak South – Grue
Well, you cannot argue with success, as South seems to have talked East/West out of their vulnerable game. Declarer was allowed to play peacefully undoubled, which was the good news for North/South, since she made only four tricks: n/S +250.
West – Michielsen North – v.Prooijen East – Cullin South – Wilson
Anne Wilson’s Three Clubs was, presumably, game-forcing. Ricco van Prooijen made double sure that East/West wouldn’t find their game by bidding their suit at his second turn, and Wilson completed her mission by raising to game. It’s hard to blame East/West for failing to find a double after this auction. The Dutchman managed to pick up one extra trick in the play: N/S -250 and a push board.
SILA led ALPERT 25-1 at the midway point of the match whilst, in a remarkably low-scoring set, DONNER led WILSON 3-2. DONNER would need a big second half to overturn the VP gap between themselves and their opponents in order to take the last qualifying place.
How adventurous are you at favorable vulnerability when the auction begins with two passes?
EW Vul – Dealer South
For the Americans, Greg Hinze was not feeling in an adventurous mood, so the Turks had an easy route to the normal game. E/W +630.
West – E.Hessel North – Aluf East – I.Hessel South – Sanus
I confess that I am not a fan of overcalling 1NT on lousy 15 counts, so Sedat Aluf’s One Spade opening would probably have caught me out with this East hand too. The defenders took all ten of their tricks, but that was still only E/W +200 and 10 IMPs to ZORLU.
West – Fuglestad North – Hoyos East – Brekka South – Seamon
Carlos Hoyos’s Multi Two Diamond opening gave Geir Brekka an easy way into the auction, with double showing a weak notrump hand type. Janice Seamon-Molson did all that she could with a defensive jump to Three Spades, but Ann Karin Fuglestad was not to be shut out. Her double showed a maximum pass and, thus encouraged, Brekka took a shot at game. E/W +630.
West – Fruscoloni North – Edie East – Alpert South – Blågestad
The natural weak two opening set East a trickier problem. I can certainly see why Claire Alpert did not fancy a 2NT overcall on this East hand, so she made do with an off-shape takeout double. When Leonardo Fruscoloni could not force to game, but only show an invitational hand with hearts, Alpert’s reluctance to push the boat out further is understandable. As the cards like today, either game would have made: E/W +170 and 10 IMPs to SILLA.
SILLA won the battle at the top in resounding fashion, 70-29, but that was just a single IMP short of what was needed for the Norwegians to overhaul ALPERT and steal first place in the round robin table. DONNER beat WILSON 24-13, but that was nothing like enough for them to overhaul their compatriots.
The final tables looked like this:
By virtue of winning the round robin, ALPERT had choice of semi-final opponents and they chose to play WILSON, assuring a USA-vs-EUROPE final. ALPERT would start the semi-final with a 10.1-IMP advantage, In the other semi-final, the Norwegians, SILLA, would enjoy a 6.1-IMP carryforward lead against ISRAEL.
We will be back next week to see the best of the action from both those semi-finals and the final.