Marc Smith visits the climax of the Swiss stage at the TampAlt
Last week, we left the TampAlt at the midway point of the Swiss. The format was a 38-team, 10-match Swiss of 14-board matches, with the top eight teams advancing to the knockout stage at the end of the week. This week, we will take a look at the best of the action from the latter stages of the Swiss as teams battled to secure one of those places in the top eight.
As usual, we start with a couple of problems for you to consider. First, with only your side vulnerable, you hold as West:
What action, if any, do you take?
Secondly, with both sides vulnerable, you are West holding this collection:
What do you bid? If you respond 1♠, what do you then do it partner raises to 2♠ (often only three spades) or rebids 1NT (11-14)?
Finally, with both sides vulnerable, you hold as East:
What do you bid? If you advance with 4♣, what action, if any, do you then take if partner rebids 4♥?
While you mull those over, let’s dive right into the action from Round 6, where Board 6 created swings in numerous matches including those at the top two tables.
E/W Vul – Dealer East
The West players were faced with various different problems on this deal, depending on whether South overcalled Two Clubs, Three Clubs or Four Clubs. In the all-Nordic match at Table Two between SWEICE (Iceland, Sweden) and FREDIN (Sweden), Birkir Jonsson’s Three Club overcall left Peter Fredin with the first of this week’s bidding problems:
West – Fredin North – Baldursson East – Gottlieb South – Jonsson
It is hard to be too critical of partner’s 3NT bid. If you passed, though, as Fredin did, you will soon be recording E/W -300 in your scorecard. This auction does raise a few questions and you might like to check with your regular partner that you are in agreement. Would 4♦ from West now be forcing? If so, is it, therefore, stronger than 5♦. Is 4♣ a choice of game cue-bid, asking him to choose a red suit, or showing slam interest?
Theoretically, your side cannot make game, but in practise is North really going to lead a heart (or the ♦A and switch to a heart) against Five Diamonds? At all tables where E/W reached Five Diamonds they scored either +600 or, more often, +750. In the other room:
West – Bergstrom North – Sylvan East – Nilsland South – Sundelin
P-O Sundelin overcalled only Two Clubs and Olof Bergstrom bid Two Spades, showing diamonds. The Two Spade bid promised no more than the values to compete to the three-level, so Johan Sylvan took a shot at game on the North cards, and thus Sweden had bid 3NT, ostensibly expecting to make it, at both tables in this match.
As the cards lie, Sylvan’s 3NT from the North seat was destined to fare no better than East’s did at the other table, but Bergstrom was not willing to take any chances and pressed on to the four-level in his seven-card suit. Perhaps Sylvan should have been more respectful of his opponents’ bidding at this vulnerability. When he led the inevitable club, declarer won, pitched a heart on dummy’s second club winner, and crossed to hand with the ♠K. Bergstrom then ran the ♦6 successfully. North took the ace on the second round of diamonds and declarer claimed the rest: E/W +910 and 15 IMPs to SWEICE.
In the top match, between the thus-far undefeated CLEMENT (Greece, Lebanon, Canada, Egypt) and BERNAL (Colombia, Brazil, Italy), both South players overcalled at the two-level:
West – Amiry North – Hoyos East – Samir South – Castillo
A competitive auction saw the Egyptians stop in Three Hearts. Juan Carlos Castillo led the ♣Q to declarer’s ace and Ahmed Samir played a trump to the nine, queen and king. It was far from obvious that Carlos Hoyos needed to play a diamond now, so the defenders’ ruff disappeared and declarer eventually lost just three trumps and the ♦A. E/W +140.
West – Versace North – Maamarbachi East – Bernal South – Vroustis
This auction was well-judged by the Italian multiple World champion. As expected, Clement Maamarbachi led a club and the play followed the inevitable route to eleven tricks. E/W +750 and 12 IMPs to BERNAL.
The unbeaten run of CLEMENT came to an end, but only by a score of 25-29, so they remained atop the leaderboard. Meanwhile, SWEICE scored a 47-15 win over their fellow Scandinavians to move ahead of BERNAL into second place, The Icelandic/Swedish combination would play CLEMENT in Round 7, while RED DEVILS (Belgium) moved up to oppose BERNAL at Table 2. Board 10 was fairly innocuous looking, but generated swings in numerous matches:
Both Vul – Dealer East
At Table 1, both West players had to solve the second of the bidding problems presented earlier:
West – Falleniuus North – Samir East – Nilsland South – Amiry
Bjron Fallenius made a constructive raise to Two Hearts, described as showing 8-10 HCP with three trumps, and one cannot really argue with that as a description of this West hand. Neither can one particularly blame Mats Nilsland for passing, but ten tricks were fairly easy: E/W +170.
West – Papak’opolous North – Baldursson East – Delim’dakis South – Jonsson
For the Greeks, Yankos Papakyriakopolous started with a forcing notrump and then showed an invitational raise in hearts. Is that closer to the mark, perhaps? Nikos Delimpaltadakis offered 3NT as an alternative contract on the way to Four Hearts, but his partner was having none of that. With all suits behaving, there were ten easy tricks: E/W +620 and 10 IMPs to CLEMENT.
The problem, of course, is that when you hold a raise to two-and-a-half hearts, you will inevitably end up either too high or too low sometimes. Things were no easier at tables where West started with a One Spades response, At one table, East raised to two Spades and there matters ended too: E/W +170. At others, East rebid an 11-14 1NT over One Spade; E/W +150.
At Table 4, FREDIN was engaged in another Nordic battle, this time against SKEIDAR (Norway).
West – Mikkelsen North – Sylvan East – Farstad South – Lagerman
Jan Mikkelsen started with a multi-purpose Two Club response, for which one of the options was an invitational heart raise. When Arve Farstad showed “some extras” with Two Diamonds, Mikkelsen was able to accept his own game try with a jump to Four Hearts. Norway had thus safely negotiating their way to the top spot: E/W +620.
West – Fredin North – Helgemo East – Clementsson South – Andresen
Sweden’s Jan Clementsson chose to upgrade his 14-count to a strong notrump, as did quite a few other East players around the room, although I would have thought that the doubleton ♦K-J offset the value of the fifth heart. Crucially, though, either not equipped with Puppet or deciding not to use it, Peter Fredin could not find the heart fit.
Now the spotlight fell on Martin Andresen to find a diamond lead, which he duly did (although some South players opted for a black-suit lead after the same auction). Declarer beat North’s ♦Q with the king and led the ♠J. Geir Helgemo signalled helpfully with the ♠7 (a Smith Peter, encouraging a diamond continuation), so Andresen won the ♠A on the second round and did as he had been asked. When he then regained the lead in hearts, he could then cash his side’s three diamond winners to set the contract. E/W +100 and 12 IMPs to SKEIDAR.
With two matches remaining, only the leaders, CLEMENT (on 118.40 VPs from a possible 160) and probably LEBOWITZ (USA), who had 109.88, looked safe. Everyone from SWEICE, in third with 101.64, down to about fifteenth place (84 VPs), were all still battling for the remaining places in the knockout.
Board 7 of Round 9 provided East/West with a bidding challenge. Some pairs had the auction to themselves, but others had to deal with the last of this month’s bidding problems.
Both Vul – Dealer South
The difference was highlighted in the match between VINITA (USA, Denmark) in 12th place and BRIDGESCANNER (Poland, Lithuania) in 10th
West – Lall North – Arlovich East – Hamman South – Vainikonis
Once the Lithuanian South passed as Dealer, Hermann Lall and Bob Hamman conducted a very sensible, controlled auction to the top spot. North led a spade, but declarer rose with the ace and drew trumps. North did not start with a singleton diamond (might he not have led it if he did?) so declarer was safe. Two black-suit losers disappeared on dummy’s long diamonds: E/W +1430. Life was more difficult for the Poles at the other table:
West – Gierulski North – V. Gupta East – Shrzypczak South – M.Bilde
Jurek Shryzpczak might (and probably should) have done more but, even at those tables where East advanced with a 4♣ cue-bid, West could only bid 4♥. Is East then worth a further effort? E/W +680 and 13 IMPs to VINITA.
At those tables where South opened with a pre-empt, many North players came to East’s assistance:
Events in the match between two teams right on the bubble, SKEIDAR (in 8th place) and COPPENS (Netherlands) in seventh highlights the point that the best pre-empts take up just enough space to make things inconvenient. Where the Norwegians were East/West, they replicated the Polish auction above. E/W +680.
West – Ros North – Helgemo East – Lesmeister South – Andersen
Once Gier Helgemo raised to Four Clubs, East could virtually guarantee that his partner held at most a singleton in the opponents’ suit. Most Easts did not get to slam quite as quickly as John Lesmeister, but most who got a club raise from North found their way there eventually. E/W +1430 and 13 IMPs to COPPENS.
Going into the final match, there were still a handful of teams in need of a good result. The top four were probably safe and, perhaps, BERNAL in fifth place on 111.73 too. The eighth-placed team had 107.68 and a 4-VP lead over ninth place. The big match of the round looked like SWEICE, in eighth, vs VINITA, who were seventh.
There were plenty of swing deals in this round, and most of them went in one direction in the key match.
Nil Vul – Dealer North
The contract was Four Spades played by North at most tables, but not a single East player found the diamond lead needed to defeat the contract legitimately. Most, including at both tables in our match, opened the ♥J.
Upon winning the first trick, Mats Nilsland switched promptly to the ♦3 at trick two against Vinita Gupta. Declarer might have guessed to rise with the ♦K but, having done so, she would still have plenty of work to do. When declarer played low at trick two, the defenders quickly took two diamond tricks and waited for their trump. When declarer guessed to finesse clubs into the East hand, it was only for the extra undertrick: N/S -100.
Against Iceland’s Birkir Jonsson, Hermann Lall also won trick one with the ♥J, but he switched to the ♠J. Jonsson took his two top trumps and the ♣A, then ran the ♣Q, pitching a diamond from dummy. He then crossruffed hearts and clubs, bringing down the ♥A in the process. With the West hand now stripped of exit cards, Jonsson exited with his last trump. Hamman won with the ♠Q but had then to play a diamond, ensuring declarer tricks with both of dummy’s red kings at the end. Nicely played: N/S +420 and 11 IMPs to SWEICE.
SWEICE won the match 49-30 and moved up into fourth place, knocking VINITA out of the top eight in the process. The beneficiary was SELIGMAN, who beat the Norwegians, SKEIDAR, 47-27, to move up from ninth into sixth place. Just clinging onto a place in the knockout stage were ULI (Italy), who dropped from third to seventh with a 20-48 loss to CLEMENT, and BENAL, whose 10-24 loss to COPPENS dropped them from fifth to eighth. BERNAL’s 117.77 VPs was just enough to secure them a place in the knockouts at the expense of FRANCE SUD, who finished nail-bitingly close with 117.30.
As leaders, CLEMENT had earned both a 10.1-IMP advantage in the quarter-final as well as first choice of opponents, and they selected SELIGMAN. RED DEVILS finished second in the Swiss, so earned a 6.1-IMP carryforward against ULI. Third-placed COPPENS chose to play BERNAL and they will start 3.1 IMPs ahead. That left SWEICE and LEBOWITZ with the Scandinavians starting 1.1 IMPs in front.
We will be back next week with more problems for you to consider as well as the best of the action from those quarter-final matches.