Marc Smith visits Heat 3 of the New Alt Competition
Last week we saw the opening salvoes in the third heat of the monthly New Alt Competition. After four of the ten matches, the standings in Group A were:
|DE BOTTON||57.11 VPs|
In the other divisions, the two teams flying an English flag led Group B, ORCA with a 10-VP lead over BLACK, who in turn are the same margin clear of the Turks, SALVO, in third place. In GROUP C, FREDIN (Sweden, Denmark, Italy, South Africa, Netherlands) narrowly led HOK (Netherlands), with both nearly 20 VPs clear of the rest. In Group D, ULI (Austria, Poland) held a 10-VP lead over OBJECTIVITY (Netherlands, England), who were a further 10 VPs ahead of third-placed CANADIAN & FRIENDS.
As usual, we begin with some problems for you to consider. We will see later how your choices would have worked. Firstly, with both sides vulnerable, you are South holding:
What action, if any, do you take?
Secondly, with both sides vulnerable, you are East with this hand:
What action, if any, do you take?
Finally, with just the opponents vulnerable, you hold as North:
What bid do you make?
While you consider those problems, let’s take a look at the early action. None of the top three teams were playing each other in Round 5. Is this a chance for the leaders, DE BOTTON, to widen the gap at the top, as they are facing the cellar-dwellers, recently-promoted EDMONDS?
What would you rebid on this South hand over partner’s 1NT response? Two Diamonds would certainly have excited North. Jodi Edmonds’ Three Spades, though, did not, and one can hardly blame Joel Wooldridge for passing. With the diamonds 1-1 (and the king onside, no less), twelve tricks in diamonds are easy. Declarer in spades can make ten or eleven tricks: N/S +170.
In another Group A match, Polish Bermuda Bowl winners Jacek Kalita and Michal Nowosadzki duplicated this auction. For them, it was easier to pick up the spades on the ♦K lead: N/S +200. At the other table in that match, East intervened with a 2♥ overcall, producing the first of this week’s bidding problems. Does this make things easier for South, or even harder?
Zach Grossack chose to make a takeout double. Just how dangerous that might be is illustrated by his partner’s jump to Five Diamonds. Certainly, brother Adam was happy with this dummy, but how would he had fared has South’s minors been reversed? N/S +620 and 9 IMPs to LEBOWITZ.
Against DE BOTTON, EDMONDS’ Norwegians solved the problem via a much safer route:
You may not admire Thor Erik Hoftaniska’s invitational jump in diamonds, either the method or the decision that this hand is worth an invitational bid, but one cannot argue with success. N/S +620 and 10 IMPs to EDMONDS.
Few pairs managed to reach the top spot on this deal. The Bulgarians demonstrated how in their Group D match:
All of the Group A matches in this round were fairly close, but MOSS’s 12-IMP win against LEBOWITZ was the only victory by one of the leading teams.
The key match in Round 6 figured to be between the second- and third-placed teams, MOSS and RED DEVILS.
If you just looked at the East/West hands on the next deal, you would think it impossible that an expert pair would not get to either a game or a slam in one of the minors. Sometimes, though, it is possible to get a really stupid-looking result without anyone doing anything particularly wrong. Look at what happened at one table in the match between DONNER and DE BOTTON:
Gary Donner opened a perfectly normal weak two in spades. Artur Malinowski overcalled Three Hearts, again, nothing out of the ordinary although I suppose he did have other options. That left Janet de Botton with the second of this week’s bidding problems. Is passing such an offbeat choice? Not at all, but the result did look particularly stupid when you see East/West pairs at just about every other table are playing in game or slam, often making, in one of the minors. What is almost equally remarkable is that Malinowski managed to go plus in his 5-0 fit: E/W +140.
After the same start, Joe Grue advanced with Three Spades on the East cards. Does this cue-bid agree hearts in your partnership? If so, are you sure that it should? For Grue, it was a general probe. Brad Moss was unable to bid 3NT but he could bid a minor, so Grue raised to game. In only one match (out of 14) did making game on the East/West cards lose 13 IMPs. (Peter Crouch and Jon Cooke, for ORCA, made +620 in 5♦ but lost 13 IMPs when Turkey’s Erke Suicmez and Ali Ucar bid and made 6♦.) Here, E/W +600 meant 10 IMPs to DONNER.
Malinowski/De Botton would have gained IMPs against one of the tables in the top match:
Steve de Roos started with a takeout double on the West cards. Geert Arts responded with 4NT, ‘pick-a-minor’, and then raised his partner’s 5♣ response to slam. The defence began with the ♠3 to South’s ace, and Kevin Bathurst returned a low spade, ruffed by declarer. De Roos cashed the ♣A and led a low club. When he guessed to play the weak two opener to hold only a singleton club, he was one down. E/W -100
Sam Bahbout’s pass in first seat is, to me, losing tactics. Compounding the error, passing and then wading in vulnerable at the two-level after a 2/1 response, virtually guaranteeing that partner has little or nothing, is deserving of a game swing in the negative column all on its own. Of course, that’s not how it always works out, and the Poles still had to take advantage of the extra room they had been given. And take advantage they duly did, bidding to perhaps the better slam.
Bahbout led the ♠K and switched to a heart. Kalita won with the ♥A pitching a spade from hand, and drew trumps in three rounds. He then played the ♣K and a second club, solving the problem in that suit. The ♥K took care of declarer’s last spade. E/W +1370 and 16 IMPs to MOSS.
On our next deal, North/South have 13 top tricks even if every suit breaks 5-0 against them, and about 18 tricks against normal breaks, so surely all of our experts will get to a grand slam, won’t they?
The self-descriptions confirm that both players knew 3♥ showed a game-forcing hand with long diamonds. Perhaps the conclusion will be that Adam’s quantitative raise to 4NT is just not enough, but suffice it to say that the grand was never in the frame: Zach’s 5NT simply asked his partner which small slam he wanted to play. N/S +1390.
The other brothers involved in the match demonstrated how it should be done:
An excellent auction from the Swedes. N/S +2220 and 13 IMPs to EDMONDS. Remarkably, this board produced a slam swing in all of the Group A matches, with three of the six pairs stopping at the six-level.
With DE BOTTON winning 35-26 against DONNER, both teams in the key match were looking for a victory to keep pace at the top. In the end, it was MOSS who prevailed, winning 50-26 to remain just a couple of VPs behind the leaders. RED DEVILS were still in third place, but now more than 25 VPs off the pace.
Round 7 again saw each of the leading three teams playing against one of the bottom three teams. Could anyone take advantage?
A number of North players were faced with the last of this week’s bidding problems. Just how good is this hand after partner has made two takeout doubles? Gary Donner simply picked a minor at the lowest available level. 4♣ was not a happy spot, and just about any defence holds declarer to eight tricks: N/S -100.
In the same position, Michal Kowosadzki jumped to 4NT, offering his partner a choice of minor-suit games. Not surprisingly, the nine-card diamond fit plays rather better than the Moysian in clubs. The defenders could never take more than their two black aces: N/S +400 and 11 IMPs to MOSS.
RED DEVILS managed a small win, 27-20 over EDMONDS, whilst DE BOTTON lost 6-22 to LEBOWITZ. MOSS’s 48-30 victory over DONNER took them to the top of the table with three matches to play.
With seven of the ten rounds completed, the standings in Group A are:
It is starting to look like a two-horse race for the title, and the top two play each other in Round 8. The battle to avoid relegation is also heating up, with three teams still in serious peril.
In the other divisions, ORCA (England) still leads Group B, with BLACK (England, Sweden) 15 VPs behind and SALVO (Turkey) right on their tail in the race for promotion. In GROUP C, FREDIN (Sweden, Denmark, Italy, South Africa, Netherlands) are almost 30 VPs clear of the field. HOK (Netherlands) are leading the chase for the second promotion spot, with five teams less than a handful of VPs behind them. In Group D, ULI (Austria, Poland) have opened a huge lead and OBJECTIVITY (Netherlands, England) are well clear of third place, so the promotion spots are almost decided there.
We will be back next week with the best of the action from last three matches.