Great BBO Vugraph Deals #72

Marc Smith visits the Swiss stage of the TampAlt

A total of 38 teams lined up to kick off TampAlt, the online substitute for the North American Fall Nationals, which had been scheduled to take place in the city on Florida’s west coast. Many of the world’s top players were lined up to contest the third and last Major Alt event of 2020. The format was a 10-match Swiss of 14-board matches with the top eight teams advancing to the knockout stage at the end of the week.

As usual, we start with a couple of problems for you to consider. First, with only your side vulnerable, you hold as North:


What action, if any, do you take?

Secondly, again with only your side vulnerable, you are North holding this collection:


West’s Two Spade opening is natural and weak. What action, if any, do you take?

While you mull those over, let’s dive right into the action from Round 1.

Both Vul – Dealer South


The bidding was the same at both tables in the match between VENTIN (Spain, USA, Sweden, Denmark) and RED DEVILS (Belgium). The play too followed similar lines. West led a club, ruffed by declarer, Sam Bahbour for the Belgians and Sweden’s Fredrik Nystrom for VENTIN.

Fredrik Nystrom

West won tricks two and four with high diamonds and each time forced declarer with a club. When declarer then ruffed the third round of diamonds with dummy’s 10, neither East was tempted to overuff with the king, both discarding a spade. Declarer could take the trump finesse successfully, but could then do no better than play a winning diamond, allowing East to score a low trump. Declarer won the spade switch with the ace, cashed the A, and played winning diamonds. East could score the K, but that was the last defensive trick: an honourable push at N/S -200.

The auction was also the same at one table in the match between BLACK (England, Sweden) and ISRAEL & FRIENDS (Israel, USA, England). However, Sam Amer chose the unfortunate opening lead of the 9, which was all the help Andrew Black needed. He covered with dummy’s 10, which was allowed to win, and he then took the winning trump finesse. Declarer switched to diamonds now and West began the force in clubs, but it was too late. East could only make one trump trick and declarer was in control: N/S +790.

The BLACK team also score well above average at the other table too:

West – Hallberg  North – Warszawski  East – Hult South – Israeli


Simon Hult chose to show his club fit rather than his heart stopper at his first turn. Although Dan Israeli still bid up to the four-level, Hallberg was never interested in taking a penalty when there was a vulnerable game bonus on offer. There was nothing to the play once the A appeared on the firtst roun. N/S -600 and 16 IMPs to BLACK, who kicked off with almost the best possible start: their 64-16 victory translated to 19.28 of the 20 VPs available.

Although most tables played the same contract, the third deal of Round 3 created swings in more than two-thirds of the matches when many of the East players were called upon to avoid a stepping stone squeeze. Events in the match between DONNER (USA, Sweden) and CLEMENT (Greece, Lebanon, Canada, Egypt) were typical.

EW VulDealer South


The auction was the same in both rooms in our match, although at some tables East had overcalled in hearts. Both West players led a top club and accurately switched to a trump at trick two. Declarer won and played a heart, and Both Easts overtook to play a second trump. Then declarer ran all of his trumps.

Both East players in our match began by discarding their three low clubs at the earliest opportunity, although at my table West pitched his diamonds, making the position in that suit clear to his partner, which seems much more helpful. The end position at most tables around the room was similar, though. When the final trump was cashed, East had to find a discard from A-J and J-7-3, dummy holding K-10-8 and ♣Q.

Ahmed Samir

For DONNER, Gary Donner threw a diamond and thus declarer was able to overtake the Q and score the 10 as his tenth trick: N/S +420. At the other table, Egypt’s Ahmed Samir correctly discarded the A, leaving West to take the final two tricks with the two rounded-suit kings: N/S -50 and 10 IMPs to CLEMENT who, with three wins from their three matches had moved up into second place with 47.37/60 VPs.

At the tables where East discarded the J in the same end position, declarer cashed the A-Q and exited with a heart to the bare ace and East then had to surrender a trick to the K. Four Spades made 15 times and was beaten 18 times.

The leading two teams, BLACK and CLEMENT, met at Table 1 in Round 4. The match was mostly one-way traffic, and it began on Board 2, which caused carnage throughout the field.

NS Vul – Dealer East


Many North players were faced with the first of this week’s bidding problems.

West – Amiry  North – McIntosh  East – Samir  South – Paske


Many of the North players faced with this problem did exactly what Andrew McIntosh did here. Others overcalled Three Spades or 3NT, and there was even one who overcalled Four Spades.

Reda Amiry

Remarkably, of the West players in the same situation as Reda Amiry, only seven out of eighteen wielded the axe. Yes, eleven North players were allowed to play in Three Spades or 3NT undoubled for N/S -300 or -400. Even the player who overcalled Four Spades on the North cards and made just five tricks escaped for -500 and a 3-IMP loss on the deal. ‘Tosh’ was not so lucky: N/S -1100 was the tariff for him.

An unusual East/West method at the other table in this match allowed the Canadian North an easier passage:

West – Hallberg  North – Maamarbachi  East – Hult  South – Vroustis


If you must play a doubled contract at the three-level, then clubs is certainly the one you would choose. Gunnar Hallberg led the K and declarer won to lead the ♣K, which was allowed to win. Vassilis Vroustis then exited with a heart, won by East’s jack. Simon Hult accurately cashed the A and continued with a second diamond but, when Hallberg discarded a heart rather than ruffing, declarer was in with a chance. Winning with the K, declarer now crossruffed spades and hearts. Hallberg could make only two trump tricks at the end: a spectacular +670 for N/S and 16 IMPs to CLEMENT, who won the match 41-7 to head the leaderboard with an impressive 65.00 VPs from a possible 80.

Almost 8 VPs behind the leaders but in second place, AMATEURS (USA) were the only other team with four wins from their first four matches. The two undefeated teams met in Round 5, and what a decisive encounter it was.

Board 12 generated swings around the room, including in the top match, although it is fair to say that justice was not necessarily always served.

NS Vul – Dealer West


I’ll start with events in our match, where both North players were faced with the second bidding problem posed at the top of this article.

West – Shields  North – van den Bos East – Chamberlain  South – Lucassen


Dutchman Tim van den Bos decided that he did not have a suitable bid on the North hand, so he passed. Not unreasonable. The defence dropped a trick in the play: N/S +50.

West – Kant  North – Smith East – van der Weide  South – Jones


Although it may seem strange, I think the realistic options are either to pass or to describe your shape with an admittedly featherweight Leaping Michaels bid of Four Clubs (5+♣/5+). For me, overcalling Three Hearts is the worst of the all worlds and a takeout double may work out but could also go horribly wrong too. For all the risks attached, it may also fail to locate the 5-3 heart fit to boot. Perhaps BBO’s expert bidding panel will be asked their opinion sometime later in the year!

Looking at just the North/South hands, of course Four Hearts is not a great contract, but it is improved significantly when you get a diamond lead, thus taking care of the spade loser. Now the contract is probably odds on to make. That is, until you cash the A and West discards. One must, of course, be thankful for small mercies, and I am grateful to Reinder van der Weise for demonstrating the spirit of the Christmas season and not doubling. Others who reached game in hearts were not as fortunate: N/S -200 and 6 IMPs to FLEMISH FURY.

In the top match, one West did not open the bidding (obviously not a Dutchman or a Brit):

West – Papak’opoulos North – Lo  East – Delim’dakis South – Cole


This was the battle between the pair with the most combined letters in their surnames and the pair with the fewest. Once Yankos Papakyriakopolous had passed as Dealer, the American pair had the auction to themselves and they managed to stop in an eminently sensible contract. Surprise, surprise, they got an eminently sensible result too: N/S +110.

West – Kolesnik North – Maamarbachi  East – Gu South – Vroustis


The world has changed greatly in the past 18 months or so, and I am not referring to the pandemic either. It was at the 2019 World championships in Wuhan that we first observed that even the top Americans were now following the lead of the north Europeans by making jump overcalls and opening pre-empts on five-card suits, and Alerx Kolesnik did exactly that on this deal. When you live by the sword, though, you also have to accept that you will sometimes die by it. Clearly, no one would bid these North/South cards to 3NT given an uncontested auction, and quite right too as it is a truly terrible contract. As the cards lie, though, it is unbeatable.

Canada’s Clement Maamarbachi started with a takeout double and Vassilis Vroustis responded with a Lebnsohl 2NT. Maamarbachi duly completed the relay to Three Clubs and waited, presumably with some trepidation, for his partner to attempt to sign off in Three Diamonds. Vroustis, though, lacking any other attractive landing spots, chose to force to game showing a spade stopper but denying four hearts. There was nowhere for North to go and declarer cannot have been best pleased when dummy appeared with a singleton diamond and West led that suit.

The opening diamond lead went to East’s 10 and declarer’s king. What could declarer do but play a club to dummy’s jack. East won with the ♣K and began cashing winning diamonds. Unbelievably, though, having cashed three winners in the suit, East switched to the ♠Q. Somewhat mystified but certainly not complaining, declarer won with the ♠A, unblocked the hearts, and took a second club finesse. When East could not produce the ♣Q, declarer quickly claimed nine tricks before anyone changed their mind: N/S an unexpected +600 and 10 IMPs to CLEMENT.

The Greek declarer on this deal could not believe his luck, but there was something even more satisfying in store for him: the scoring of the match. CLEMENT emerged with a win by 93-27, which translated into the event’s first 20-0. Their perfect score in this match and their fifth straight win meant that the Greek-flagged team had opened a gap of more than half a match on the field. After five of the ten matches in the Swiss stage of the event, the leaders (with eight teams to qualify) were:

CLEMENT85.00 VPs
BERNAL73.79 VPs
SWEICE70.96 VPs
FREDIN70.39 VPs
RED DEVILS66.26 VPs
SKEIDAR61.94 VPs
DONNER61.52 VPs
ULI61.07 VPs
COPPENS60.60 VPs
LEBOWITZ60.35 VPs
DE MICHELIS58.57 VPs
GILLIS57.12 VPs

We will return next week to bring you the best of the action from the second half of the Swiss stage of this event.