Great BBO Vugraph Deals #74

Marc Smith visits the Quarter-finals of the TampAlt

The field for the last major Alt of 2020, the TampAlt, began with 38 teams but, after four days of play, just eight remained. As the winners of the Swiss, CLEMENT (Greece, Lebanon, Canada, Egypt) began with a 10.1-IMP carryforward advantage over SELIGMAN (USA, England). Having finished second in the Swiss, RED DEVILS (Belgium) started with a 6.1-IMP lead over ULI (Austria). In Match 3, COPPENS (Netherlands) headed BERNAL (Colombia, Brazil, Italy) by 3.1 IMPs and, in the final quarter-final clash, SWEICE (Iceland, Sweden) held a 1.1-IMP advantage over LEBOWITZ (USA).

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 do you take?

Secondly, with only the opponents vulnerable, you are West holding this collection:

What, if anything, do you bid?

While you mull those over, let’s dive right into the action from the first half of the quarter-finals. Unfortunately, the match between SWEICE and LEBOWITZ played a different set of boards to the rest. Board 7 created a significant swing in all three of the other matches.

E/W Vul – Dealer East

We start in the top match, at the only table in the field where North/South were silent throughout:

West – Bakhshi  North – Maamarbachi  East – Malinowski South – Vroustis

Playing a Strong Club system, Artur Malinowski opened a natural and limited Two Clubs and David Bakhshi’s 2NT response promised an undefined two-suited hand. Three Clubs asked which suits, and Three Hearts then showed at least 5-5 in the red suits. Malinowski thought he had heard enough, so he Blackwooded to the slam that essentially depended on a correct diamond guess.

North led the ♠A and switched to the ♣K at trick two. Declarer drew three rounds of trumps and discovered that North held a singleton. The odds of Bakhshi getting the diamond right is now about zero. What are the odds that North, who passed throughout at favourable vulnerability but has already shown up with most of the defenders’ high cards, started with two singletons? Bakhshi duly led a diamond to the ace and conceded one down when North showed out on the second round. E/W -100

West – Papak’opolous  North – Lair  East – Delim’dakis South – Seligman

The Greeks began at the one-level and Yankos Papakyriakopolous’s rather eccentric One Heart response worked out well for his side. Although Mark Lair had an easy entry into the auction on the North hand, the Greeks had already found their best fit. The Americans got the auction up to Four Spades relatively quickly, but it was all too late. The heavy competition meant that slam was never really in the picture, though, so the destination of the IMPs on this deal was just about assured: E/W +650 and 13 IMPs to CLEMENT.

West – Brenner  North – Lesmeister  East – Villasboas South – Ros

Diego Brenner responded with the more natural-looking One Diamond and John Lesmeister choose a good moment to seriously up the ante with an off-centre Three Spade overcall. When Gert-Jan Ros raised to game, Diego Brenner was in dire straits. He solved the first of this week’s bidding problems by introducing his second suit at the five-level, more or less committing the Brazilians to slam in one of the red suits, and Miguel Villasboas produced a more than suitable dummy for him.

Brenner won the opening club lead with the ace and drew three rounds of trumps. He then cashed the K and continued with the J. At this table, North had pre-empted, but was that enough to play him for two red singletons? Brenner decided not and, when the A went up, the contract went down. E/W -100.

West – Klaver  North – Hoyos  East – Hermans South – Madala

After a similar auction to the Greek one above, Carlos Hoyos bid a fifth spade on the North cards. With such great holdings in both of his partner’s suits, one can hardly blame Rene Hermans for pressing on to slam. Augustin Madala thought that Six Spades would be relatively cheap, so he took out the insurance. He was right, as East led a trump and declarer quickly claimed ten tricks, losing just three aces: E/W +300 and 9 IMPs to COPPENS.

A similar auction led to the same contract at one table in our third match, although here it was North to took the final plunge at the six-level:

West – Primavera  North – Caputo  East – Percario South – Vandervorst

The raise to Two Spades gave Federico Primavera plenty of space, so his jump to game in hearts was much more emphatic than the same bid would have been had South raised to Three Spades. Giacomo Percario duly advanced with Blackwood, and now Mike Vandervorst tried to catch up, clearly having forgotten the rule about not sacrificing on balanced hands. It was already too late to keep the Italians out of slam, but his partner’s sudden discovery of some extras (in the shape department. presumably) persuaded Philippe Caputo that this was not a hand on which to defend.

Giacomo Percario

The Italians were wide awake in defence at this table. Percario, a member of the Italian team that won the Junior Teams at the 2015 World Youth Championships and collected a silver medal at the 2019 World Under-26 B-A-M Teams, led the K. He then switched to the ♣A and gave his partner a club ruff. Primavera underled his A and, winning with the K, Percario delivered a second club ruff to hold declarer to just eight tricks: E/W +800, more expensive but still a cheap save if their teammates could bid and make slam.

West – Arts  North – Olivieri  East – de Roos South – Schuster

The Dutch seriously under-competed at this table. Yes, Steve de Ross could have found the same defence as Percario in the other room to beat the contract by two and limit the loss on the deal to 11 IMPs. De Roos also led the K but, when he continued with a second heart at trick two, that was the end of the defensive club ruffs. The Dutch could now make only their three aces: E/W +590 and 16 IMPs to ULI.

In the match between SWEICE and LEBOWITZ, the Scandinavians added 12 unanswered IMPs to their 1.1-IMP carry forward on the first three deals. Then came this innocuous-looking deal:

Both Vul Dealer West

West – Z.Grossack  North – Balldursson  East – A.Grossack South – Jorgensen

Both of the Americans were minimum for their initial actions, so they perhaps climbed one level higher than they might have wished. The defence began with three rounds of clubs, declarer ruffing with the ♠7, Adelsteinn Jorgensen overruffing with the ♠10 and switching to a heart. Declarer ducked to North’s king, won the heart return, and then had to guess the trumps to make his contract. When Adam Grossack played a spade to the jack, he was one down: E/W -100.

West – Nilsland  North – Korbel  East – Fallenius South – Lebowitz

The Swedes were playing the modern treatment of transposing the meanings of bids in the unbid suits after a black-suit overcall, so Bjorn Fallenius’s Two Heart bid showed spades. Larry Lebowitz made use of the opportunity to get his motley heart suit into the game via a double, and Nils Nilsland passed to deny primary spade support. The Swedes thus managed to stop at a more comfortable level that had their counterparts at the other table, so they had earned a small swing, say around 5 IMPs.

Mats Nilsand

Having passed at his previous turn, it makes sense that David Korbel’s 2NT bid is an attempt to offer a choice between the minors, with emphasis on clubs. After all, why should South not be, say, 3-5-4-1? Larry Lebowitz clearly took 2NT as natural, and thought he had enough for a raise to game.

Mats Nilsland expressed his disagreement with that opinion in the traditional way. A spade lead would have allowed the defenders to take the first nine tricks for a penalty of 1400. However, it seems clear that Fallenius thought his partner’s double was Lightner-type, asking for the lead of dummy’s suit, so he opened the Q. Nilsland could have recovered double dummy, winning with the A and cashing his spades, but playing low to ensure two heart tricks makes more sense without seeing all of the hands. Declarer was thus able to win with the K and cash six club tricks to ‘escape’ for a modest, in the circumstances, two down: E/W +500 and only 12 IMPs to SWEICE.

After the first of the two 14-board sets, all four quarter-final matches were still relatively close and all four pre-match favourites still led. However, the largest margin, including the carryforward advantages, was 14.1 IMPs, held by COPPENS, who had taken the first set against BERNAL 32-21. SWEICE and RED DEVILS both led their respective matches by 12.1 IMPs. SELIGMAN won the first stanza 30-26, so CLEMENT led by just 6.1 IMPs at the midway point. All still to play for.

A key deal in two of the matches arrived early in the second half:

NS Vul Dealer East

West faced the second of this week’s bidding problems at a number of tables. Looking at just the North/South cards, it seems clear that passing Three Clubs is the winning action. 3NT  needs you bring in the clubs without losing the lead, whilst Five Clubs essentially needs either the clubs to come in without a loser or ♠K-x-x with South.

As you can see from the full diagram, North holds the ‘magic’ ♣Q-J-x that declarer in game needs, so overbidding was the winning decision at the table, and one that everyone took. However:

West – Papak’opolous  North – Lair  East – Delim’dakis South – Seligman

Mark Lair led the Q to dummy’s bare ace. Declarer crossed to the K, advanced the ♣10, and ran it when North played low. The Greeks thus emerged smelling of roses with E/W +430.

In the other match:

West – Brenner  North – Lesmeister  East – Villasboas South – Ros

Miguel Villas-Boas

Here, Diego Brenner advanced by showing diamond values and, by inference, heart weakness. Unperturbed, Miguel Villasboas settled for 3NT rather than aiming for the 11-trick game. South also led a heart and the early play followed the same line. Errant discarding on the run of the clubs then allowed declarer to make four diamond tricks at the end: E/W +520.

Curiously, it was the pairs who had more sophisticated methods who fared worse on this deal:

West – Brenner  North – Lesmeister  East – Villasboas South – Ros

Pin Coppens opened an artificial, strong One Club and thereafter relayed to find out more about his partner’s hand. Kees Bakker showed 4+♠ with his 1 response and, by the time the auction reached 3♠, Coppens knew his partner’s shape was 4-3-4-2. The problem was that he knew nothing about the location of the high cards. If West held xxxx/Jxx/Axxx/QJ you clearly want to play in 3NT, which has the advantage of nine top tricks. Facing something like J10xx/xxx/AKQJ/xx, though, 3NT has no play but 5♣ is just about impregnable if trumps split 3-2.

Coppens guessed to play the minor-suit game which, in theory, is better odds than 3NT opposite this particular West hand. However, declarer won the opening heart lead and promptly started trumps from the top, effectively giving up the chance of finding the Q-J onside and relying entirely on South holding the ♠K and spades splitting 3-3. When spades failed to provide a diamond discard, declarer had to lose a trick in each suit other than hearts: E/W -50 and 11 IMPs to BERNAL.

BERNAL gained 24 unanswered IMPs in the firsts seven deals of the second set and the Dutch never managed to close the gap. BERNAL won the stanza 33-12 and came from behind to win the match 54-47.1 to move into the semi-finals.

West – Bakhshi  North – Amiry  East – Malinowski South – Samir

Artur Malinowski’s Two Club rebid was Gazilli, showing any 16+, and David Bakhshi’s Two Diamond was then artificial, showing 8+ HCP and forcing to game. The rest of the auction was ostensibly natural but, clearly, a wheel fell off somewhere. It would seem that Malinowski expected at least one of his partner’s two suits to be five cards in length, thus Four Diamonds offered a choice of pointed-suit games.

The defence was never in danger of letting this one through. Declarer won the opening heart lead and played three rounds of clubs, ruffing in hand. He can then still escape for one down by ruffing hearts in dummy but, when he ducked a round of trumps at trick five he was in deeper trouble. Declarer eventually accrued eight tricks: E/W -150 and 11 IMPs to CLEMENT. The favourites had also gained 8 IMPs on the previous deal and, although SELIGMAN whittled away at the deficit, they never managed to close the gap. CLEMENT won a low-scoring second half 21-12 and the match 57.1-42.

There was little change in the second half of the only all-European quarter-final. The Austrians won the set 22-18 but that left RED DEVILS with a 51.1-43 victory in the match.

In the final match, the Scandinavians led by 12.1 at the midway point. This early deal went some way to deciding the match.

Nil Vul Dealer North

West – Nilsland  North – Grainger  East – Fallenius South – Wooldridge

Joel Wooldridge had no winning option: thanks to the American obsession with playing Texas he was not allowed to judge whether to play Four Hearts from his side of the table or from opener’s. He could either transfer at the two-level or the four-level, but North was destined to declare.

East led a spade through dummy’s queen and declarer had no winning line. David Grainger captured the ♠J with his ace, drew two rounds of trumps, and played a diamond from dummy. East won with the J and continued spades, allowing West to win with the ♠K and exit safely with a third round of spades. Declarer was now left with two club losers: N/S -50.

West – ZGrossack  North – Balldursson  East – AGrossack South – Jonsson

The Icemen at the other table were allowed by their system to express judgement, and Birkir Jonsson accurately judged that his black-suit holdings needed to be protected, so he chose to play the heart game from his side of the table.

Birkir Jonsson

Even so, it would seem that declarer has to lose a spade, a diamond and two clubs. However, with South as declarer the defenders lost a vital tempo. Again, the defenders led spades, but declarer won in hand with the ♠Q and immediately played a diamond. West won with the K and persisted with the ♠J, knocking out the ace. Jonsson now drew trumps in two rounds and ruffed dummy’s second diamond before exiting with a spade to West’s king.

The key difference at this table was that the defenders made their spade trick on the third round of the suit (rather than the second), when West had no safe exit. Zack Grossack could either open the clubs or concede a ruff-and-sluff. Either way, declarer had ten tricks: N/S +420 and 10 IMPs to SWEICE.

The Scandinavians won the second half 21-10 and the match 60.1-37. Three of the original favourites had survived their quarter-final encounters, with only COPPENS falling at that hurdle. The semi-final match-up was CLEMENT vs SWEICE and RED DEVILS vs BERNAL with the first-named team in each tie starting with a carryforward advantage of 0.1 IMPs. We will return next week to see the best of the action from those semi-finals.