Marc Smith visits the TampAlt Qualifying event
Last week, we saw the action from the early rounds of the qualifying event for TampAlt. A 12-match Swiss Teams with the top eight teams advancing to the main event, we now check out events as the final qualifying places are decided.
As usual, we start with a couple of problems for you to consider. First, with only the opponents vulnerable, you hold as East:
What action, if any, do you take?
Secondly, with both sides vulnerable, you are South holding this collection:
West’s Two Diamond response shows only 9+ HCP and does not force beyond Two Hearts. East’s Two Hearts shows 11-14 with 5+ hearts. What, if anything, do you bid?
While you mull those over, let’s dive right into the action in Round 7. Our first deal created more swings than perhaps it should:
Both Vul – Dealer North
In VINITA vs BELGIUM2
West – A.Labaere North – Lall East – V.Labaere South – V.Gupta
Vinita Gupta’s Two Diamond overcall was a transfer to hearts and Alain Labaere’s jump to 3NT showed five spades but no heart stopper. Hemann Lall’s double made life easier for Valerie Labaere, as she was now able to redouble for takeout, and thus the club fit was easily found. The favorable trump position enabled declarer to make an overtrick: E/W +620.
With trumps 3-3, Four Spades was also an easy make, and most East/West pairs played game in one of the black suits. There were exceptions, though, and the Israeli/Danish combination at the other table missed the mark despite having the auction to themselves:
West – Birman North – Coenraets East – D’Bilde South – Bigdeli
Alon Birman transferred first to spades and then to clubs (with 2NT). When he bid Three Clubs, Dennis Bilde confirmed that 2NT was a transfer but also that he did not know what his bid meant. I play these secondary transfers in this auction, and one of the reasons for doing so is that opener can show his fit for the second suit without going beyond 3NT. Thus, in this sequence, Three Clubs should show four-card support. Opener makes some other descriptive bid without four clubs. Having not warned his opponents off by bidding hearts, Faramarz Begdeli saw no reason not to lead the suit, and thus the defenders cashed the first six tricks. E/W -200 and 13 IMPs to BELGIUM2.
At only one of the 16 tables did East/West venture beyond game:
West – Huber North – Rasm’ssen East – v.d.Starre South – Jain
The Americans’ pre-emptive action robbed their young opponents of bidding space, but when the Dutch guessed to bid boldly they were rewarded by the lie of the trumps suit. E/W +1370 looked like a fine board for the Dutch, but what you might deem aggressive bidding at one table was counter-balanced by something similar at the other.
West – Liu North – Witteveen East – Silin South – Arens
Max Silin opened with an artificial Strong Club for the Americans, and Karen Arens made a pre-emptive jump overcall. Carrie Liu’s Three Heart bid was a transfer, forcing to game with at least five spades. We again return to a topic discussed many times in this column during the past year — sacrificing on balanced hands. Yes, North may think that the opponents can make game, or even slam, in spades, but the potential price makes the save an unattractive proposition.
The defense started with three rounds of diamonds, declarer ruffing low and West overruffing with the ♥J. West switched to the ♠J which held, and continued with a second spade to East’s king. Now came a fourth round of diamonds, and declarer ruffed in with the ♥A. The upshot was that declarer lost three spade tricks and two tricks in each of the other suits. That left her with just four tricks in all: E/W +1700 and 8 IMPs to NEW ENGLANDERS.
Yes, declarer could have saved one trick in the trump suit, but the penalty would still have been 1400 when the opponents were probably going to make 650. The moral of the story: don’t sacrifice on balanced hands as it invariably turns out to be more expensive than you expect. It is a theme, I suspect, that we will return to again.
Board 12 of Round 8 created a swing in seven of the eight matches, and a number of East players were faced with the first of this week’s bidding problems.
N/S Vul – Dealer West
Events in the match between BELGIUM2 and IMP (Netherlands/USA/Poland) was typical:
West – Bigdeli North – Eskes East – Coenraets South – Sprinkhuizen
Just how aggressively to compete at adverse vulnerability is often a difficult judgment call. Gerard Sprinkhuizen’s raise to only Two Hearts on this South hand encouraged Onno Eskes to compete to the three-level, but did not keep the Belgians out of 3NT. South led a heart to the ten and queen and declarer knocked out the ♦A. The heart continuation then allowed declarer to claim eleven tricks: E/W +460.
West – S.Baldysz North – Dewasmes East – C.Baldysz South – Dehaye
Bernard Dehaye’s pre-emptive raise to Three Hearts was much more effective. Sophie Baldysz was forced to introduce her clubs at the four-level, and the Polish/American pair was now in some trouble. Isabelle Dewasmes’s Four Heart bid gave East a chance to limit the loss on the deal by taking a small doubled penalty (E/W +200). Cathy Baldysz declined that offer and chose to bid on, but in clubs rather than notrumps. The diamond break was unfortunate, and a few declarers around the room did manage to survive in Five Clubs played from the East side. With West declaring, Dewasmes had a fairly clear diamond lead, so the defenders collected their ruff to beat the contract by a trick. E/W -50 and 11 IMPs to BELGIUM2.
Round 10 saw one of the more explosive deals of the event, with swings in numerous matches.
Both Vul – Dealer South
Events in the match between my own team, JEDI KNIGHTS (England/Wales), and HONEY BADGERS (USA/Canada/China) were typical:
West – Shields North – Ma East – Chamberlain South – Petruzzellis
Pat Shields ruffed the spade lead, cashed the ♥A for a club discard, ruffed a heart to hand, then played a club to the queen and ace. South forced dummy with a second spade, so declarer cashed the ♦Q, crossed to hand with the ♣K, and drew the last trump. The defense made a second club trick at the end: E/W +600.
The stakes in the card play were much higher at the second table:
West – J.Bishel North – Jones East – T.Bishel South – Smith
This South was unwilling to go quietly, and John Bishel elected to play for all the marbles rather than accepting a modest penalty. As it happened, the fate of the slam depends almost entirely on the location of the ♦J.
Here, too, declarer ruffed the spade lead, cashed the ♥A and ruffed a heart. The winning play is now a low trump to dummy’s ten, finessing North for the ♦J. Declarer can then ruff a heart high, setting up dummy’s suit, and return to dummy with the ♦Q, drawing the last trump in the process.
Instead, John Bishel played a club to the queen at trick four. South won with the ♣A and forced dummy with a second spade. A club to the king then enabled declarer to ruff his last club with dummy’s ♦Q. Now declarer just needed to get back to hand to draw trumps, so he needed either North to hold the thirteenth heart or to find South with the ♦J. As the cards lie, though, declarer could not avoid promoting North’s ♦J into the setting trick. E/W -100 and 13 IMPs to JEDI KNIGHTS.
With one match remaining, the top five teams were safely through to the main TampAlt event. The battle for the final three places, though, was very much alive with seven teams still in the hunt. These were the standings:
|THE MUGGS||143.93 VPs|
|NEW ENGLANDERS||114.46 VPs|
|JEDI KNIGHTS||111.19 VPs|
|FLEMISH FEAST||109.72 VPs|
|NORFOLK AND CHANCE||100.12 VPs|
There was only one final match involving two contending teams, PELKA vs NORFOLK AND CHANCE so a big win for either would probably be enough. In theory, the three teams with the toughest tasks were HERRES! (who were playing THE MUGGS), FLEMISH FEATS (who were up against BELGIUM2) and TRANSNATIONALS (playing IMP). JEDI KNIGHTS and NEW ENGLANDERS were both playing teams out of contention at the lower end of the field.
In the end, though, any opponent in this field is capable of good judgment, and so it proved. Our final deal looks like a Three Spade/Four Spade decision for North/South, and so it was in most matches.
Both Vul – Dealer East
Four different opening bids were chosen on this East hand, 1♥, 2♥, 3♥ and a Multi 2♦. At our table, East/West’s free-wheeling Acol-style presented me with the second bidding problem posed earlier:
West – Peterkin North – Jones East – Punch South – Smith
West’s 2/1 response promised only 9+ HCP in the Acol style, and East’s Two Hearts showed a minimum opening bid with 5+ hearts. South’s final pass is, perhaps, conservative, but bidding is all too likely to propel you into game in spades, which fails on most defenses. With a number of pairs failing in Four Spades, N/S +140 gained IMPs on the Butler, but ‘close’ only counts in horseshoes.
West – Shields North – Lund East – Chamberlain South – Cantor
At tables where East opened a natural weak two bid in hearts some South players doubled, which understandably encouraged North to jump to game expecting four spades opposite. The Multi opening gave South a safer route in, with the double suggesting something like 12-15 balanced (or various very strong hands).
A Lebensohl position for many pairs, perhaps, is North’s jump to Three Spades therefore forcing or invitational? (You might also discuss with your regular partner the meaning of a jump to Three Hearts in this auction too.) Many players would have looked no further than a raise to Four Spades, but Martin Cantor judged the hand very well by bidding 3NT.
Yes, 3NT can be beaten, and will probably go down on any lead but a low diamond. However, I doubt anyone can honestly claim they would find any other lead, and Pat Shields was no exception. Cantor won the diamond lead cheaply in hand and ran the ♠10. Richard Chamberlain switched to a club but it was too late. Declarer had nine tricks: N/S +600 and 10 IMPs to REMEMBERING ROLAND.
The final standings were:
|THE MUGGS||154.90 VPs|
|NEW ENGLANDERS||120.50 VPs|
|FLEMISH FEAST||118.89 VPs|
|JEDI KNIGHTS||117.47 VPs|
|NORFOLK AND CHANCE||113.12 VPs|
We will be back next week with action from the Swiss stage of the all-star TampAlt event.