July BBO Prime Tournament. Deal analysis.

Thank you for joining July’s BBO Prime Tournament. We hope you enjoyed it!

There were 10 deals in this tournament and 5 of them were taken from a real life event, featured on BBO vugraph. Want to know which deals were “cooked” and see how they were played originally?

The “surprise” deals were boards 1, 2,3, 4 and 5 in July’s BBO Prime Tournament.



Read below BBO star player and bridge writer extraordinaire Marc Smith’s analysis, along with the context in which the hands were played in real life.


The Camrose Trophy was first contested in 1937 and although England has

The Camrose Trophy was first contested in 1937 and although England has dominated the event, Scotland is the second-most successful team with 13 wins (and two ties). Their last victory, though, was in 1998. Since then, Ireland has won seven times and Wales has recorded its first success. 

The first weekend of the 2020 Camrose was staged in Edinburgh and Scotland was represented by Mike Ash & Bob Ferrari, Phil Stephens & Frazer Morgan and Paul Barton & Jun Nakamaru-Pinder, with Anne Symons as npc. In this week’s article, we take a look at the performance they put on for the vocal home crowd.

As usual, we begin with some problems for you to consider. We will find out later how your choices would have turned out.

With just your side vulnerable, you hold as North:

West opens a Multi (usually a weak two in one of the majors). Your double usually shows a balanced 12-15 but may also be made on various strong hands. East’s Two Heart bid is ‘pass-or-correct’, to play in opener’s major. What do you bid now?

Next, with only the opponents vulnerable, your hand as West is:

Two Hearts shows a weak hand with both majors, at least 5-4. What action do you take?

Finally, with neither side vulnerable, you are North with:

West’s 2NT shows hearts and clubs. What do you bid now?

I will leave you to mull over those. The home team kicked off their campaign against Wales, and with five deals remaining in the first half Scotland led 19-18. Then the fireworks began:

N/S VulnerableDealer West

When Barton responded in his partner’s second suit, Jun Nakamaru-Pinder announced the good news with a splinter jump to Four Clubs. After an exchange of cue-bids, he then jumped to 5NT, offering a choice of slams. With excellent spade support and lousy diamonds, Paul Barton chose the major, but that decision rated to be worth at most a couple of IMPs since there were 12 easy tricks in either denomination. The defense led a club to the ace and declarer claimed the rest: N/S +1430.

At the other table, things were nowhere near as straightforward for North/South:

West – Ferrari North – Jones East – Ash SouthDunn

I have lost track of the number of deals we have reported on just in the last year where even a low-level pre-empt has wreaked havoc with what appeared to be a routine auction. First in hand non-vulnerable, Bob Ferrari decided, quite reasonably in my view, that the West hand was a weak two in hearts. We have seen instances in which starting with a Multi rather than a natural weak two made it easier for the opponents to catch opener speeding but, if anything, the Multi just added to the confusion here as it gave North/South no suit to cue-bid. 

Martin Jones started with a double (usually a weak notrump hand type but also some very strong hands) and Mike Ash bid a pass-or-correct Two Hearts. With stoppers in both majors and a hand that looked like 3NT facing a balanced 12-15, Jake Dunn bid what he thought he could make. 

North was now faced with the first of the bidding problems presented at the top of this article. Are there any forcing bids available here? Does Four Spades show this type of hand and is South, therefore, suppose to bid on? In the cold light of day, you may say that North/South should have overcome the relatively gentle pre-emption, but is it so clear exactly how? Suppose, for instance, that North bids, instead, something like 4NT to show a strong two-suited hand. What happens next? How do you investigate both strain and level starting from here?

The result, of course, was that the Welsh missed their 12-top trick slam: N/S +710 and 12 IMPs to Scotland. The Scots gained a further 23 IMPs on the final four deals of the set and emerged with a healthy halftime lead of 56-18. They also won a dull second half by 3 IMPs, so began their campaign with victory by 82-40, which translated into 16.24 Victory Points out of a possible 20. A solid start for the home team.

Next on the Scottish menu was the Northern Ireland Bridge Union team. (The country hosting the second weekend, Northern Ireland this year, fields a second team in order to even up the numbers.) In theory, this should be Scotland’s easiest match of the weekend, although these so-called ‘second teams’ have actually won the event in the past. Not this year, though: the home team steadily built a lead. This deal was typical:

N/S Vulnerable ♠- Dealer North

Paul Barton opened a quasi-natural One Club and Jun Nakamaru-Pinder’s raise to the two-level looks like a considerable underbid. (Perhaps it was an inverted raise and just not alerted, although partner’s subsequent action suggests not). As a passed hand, my feeling is that a fit-showing jump to Two Diamonds describes this hand fairly well. Whatever Two Clubs meant, Barton’s jump to 3NT closed a brief, if rather unconvincing, auction.

North led a spade to the ace and South returned the J. Three rounds of club set that suit up, so declarer emerged with a comfortable ten tricks: E/W +430.

In the replay, Bob Ferrari was up to his old tricks again:

West – Bradley North – Ash East – Dukelow SouthFerrari

Ferrari was vulnerable against not this time, but he still opted for action, Two Hearts showing a weak hand with both majors. You will recognize this as the second of the bidding problems above.

I could understand a 2NT overcall from Bradley, but I am at a loss to explain the double unless it was for penalties, which his partner’s response suggests it was not. At this vulnerability, do you not expect to collect a couple of 100s if Two Hearts ends the auction? If partner can find a re-opening double with, for example, both minors, do you not then expect the penalty from Two Hearts Doubled to be more than the value of any non-vulnerable game you might make?

Be that all as it may, Bradley doubled and very soon found himself declaring Five Clubs. When North led the 7, it seems that declarer had a choice of winning plays. He can cash three top hearts pitching a spade, then play the two top clubs before attacking diamonds, running the queen and/or hoping to ruff the third round of the suit with his last trump. The other is to attack diamonds immediately. As the cards lie, with diamonds 3-3 and the king onside, all lines seeem to kead to 11 or 12 tricks. 

What you cannot do is to win the heart in hand and immediately play three rounds of trumps. The defenders took the ♣Q and the ♠A and exited with a heart. Whatever he did now, Bradley still had to lose a diamond trick: E/W -50 and a rather unexpected 10 IMPs to Scotland. 

Scotland won the match 114-57 to add another 18.13 Victory Points to their tally. Their last match on Saturday was against the Northern Irish team, and the Scots got off to the perfect start on the very first deal:

None VulnerableDealer North


2NT was a game-forcing spade raise and West’s Three Spade intervention showed hearts and a minor. Frazer Morgan now advanced with a ‘serious 3NT’, showing real slam interest and demanding a cue-bid. When Phil Stephens cue-bid hearts, he denied a control in either minor, so Morgan knew there were two club losers and signed off in game. 

Not knowing which minor his partner held, East led a diamond. One club therefore disappeared on dummy’s hearts: N/S +480. That seems straightforward enough.

West – Barton North – Greenw’d East – N-Pinder SouthAnderson

Rex Anderson’s curious decision to respond Two Diamonds rather than raising spades immediately is perhaps a systemic thing, but it created a problem for his partner. Once again, West intervened on his anemic hand, this time with 2NT, showing the unbid suits. David Greenwood cue-bid Three Hearts (agreeing diamonds, stop-asking, stop-showing?), and when East bid game in hearts Anderson now belatedly showed some spade support. This left Greenwood with the last of the bidding problems presented earlier.

With such huge diamond support, Greenwood evidently thought he was too good for Five Diamonds. With such good spades, though, perhaps the diamonds are a red herring, and he should focus just on level. To me, a raise to Five Spades seems clear. Having already cue-bid in hearts, would this not ask for a club control?

Greenwood’s jump to Six Diamonds was not a great success. Anderson converted back to spades, but even my neighbour’s cat would have realized that a club lead was called for on this auction. N/S -50 and an 11-IMP advantage to Scotland to start the match. The first half was all one-way traffic and the Scots led 60-14 at halftime. The Northern Irish won a dull second half 23-14, but that was still a 37-IMP win for the Celts and another 16.46 VPs to their total. 

At the end of Saturday’s play, Scotland was firmly ensconced in second place with 50.83 out of a possible 60 Victory Points. Just ahead of them was England, with 54.78.

Scotland’s first opponents on Sunday were the Republic of Ireland, a potentially strong team that had started poorly. The first half was nip and tuck. The Scots demonstrated excellent judgement on this deal from late in the set:

None VulnerableDealer South

The Scottish pair conducted an excellent, controlled auction to the only making game. Four Spades may look like it loses just two aces and a trump trick, but on a diamond lead the trump blockage sinks the contract. After scoring the ♠Q at trick two, declarer cannot then get back to hand to draw trumps. East can get in twice to deliver two ruffs. Five Diamonds had no problems in the play: N/S +400.

West – P Barton North – Fitzgibbon East – N-Pinder SouthMesbur

Adam Mesbur’s Strong Club opening was like a red rag to a bull, and Paul Barton got the ball rolling with a Three Club overcall. Nick Fitzgibbon made a natural positive in hearts and East upped the ante to the four-level. This is the Strong Club opener’s nightmare, a two-suiter that you have to start describing at the four-level. As we have seen, Fitzgibbon was quite right to remove Four Spades, but it was now hard for Mesbur to imagine that they should not be in slam.

East duly cashed his two aces: N/S -50 and 10 IMPs to Scotland, who trailed 26-34 at the halfway point of the match. The second half, though, was not good viewing for the home town fans, Scotland going down 4-52 in the set, and losing the match 30-86. That meant just 0.79 VPs added to Scottish total with high-flying England left as their final opponents.

It was not that the Scots played particularly badly in this match, but everything the English team touched seemed to turn to gold. Witness this early deal:

Both VulnerableDealer South

It is hard to criticize any of the bids made by the Scottish pair in this auction. What is East meant to bid over North’s pre-emptive Three Spades? Would double not suggest hearts? Pass gets you nowhere but defending Three Spades, and 3NT on two low spades would patently be absurd. I suppose that, with his ace-less hand, Ash might have bid just Four Diamonds at his second turn, but E/W +130 would not have been that much better than E/W -100.

West – Malinowski North – N-Pinder East – De Botton SouthBarton

I cannot say that I like Artur Malinowski’s 1NT overcall at all, but you cannot argue with its success. North did all he could on his meager values, but Janet De Botton was never going to be persuaded to do anything other than bid 3NT after this start. North led a spade and the defenders had to cash their hearts to save the overtricks. They didn’t: E/W +690 and 13 IMPs to England, who led 66-28 at halftime. 

The second half was more of the same for the very partisan crowd watching in Edinburgh, the “Auld Enemy” eventually winning the match 120-48 to give the Scots just 0.75 VPs from the contest. 

After an excellent start, Scotland had managed just 1.54 VPs out of a possible 40 from their two Sunday matches. Still just above average with 52.37 out of a possible 100 from the first weekend, the Scots travel to Belfast for the second weekend in third place. They trail Ireland by 14 VPs and are a massive 38 VPs behind England, who completely dominated the first weekend, scoring 90.5 from their five matches.

We will return to the U.K. for the second half of the Camrose in Belfast. Next week, though, we will be down under, in the beautiful capital city of Canberra, to bring you the highlights of the latter stages of the Australian National Open Teams.