August BBO Prime Tournament. Deal analysis.

Thank you for joining August’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, 3, 5, 7 and 9 in August’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.


Staged annually in Australia’s beautiful capital city, Canberra, the two-week “Summer Festival of Bridge” always climaxes with the final stages of the country’s most prestigious knockout event, the National Open Teams. 

HANS (Sartaj Hans, Peter Gill, Andy Hung, Sophie Ashton and Nabil Edgtton) are experienced campaigners at this level: the first three named are all previous winners of this event. They breezed into the final, winning their quarter-final match by more than 100 IMPs and their semi-final by 90. 

DON (Rose Don, Michel Courtney, Tania Lloyd and Hugh Grosvenor) also enjoyed a relatively comfortable quarter-final victory, by 40 IMPs. Making it through Saturday’s match against an experienced team captained by Nick Jacob was a much closer call. DON led by 30 IMPs after the first set but trailed by 6 IMPs at halftime. They then lost a further 5 IMPs in the third set, but won the final stanza 30-18 to squeak through by a single IMP, 135-134.

As usual, we begin with some teassers for you to consider. We will find out later how your choices would have turned out. We start this week with an opening lead problem. With just the opponents vulnerable, you hold as North:

Yes, I know, why didn’t we open the bidding? Let’s say you misread the vulnerability, and now you are faced with finding the winning opening lead. Partner’s suit or yours?

Next, with both sides vulnerable, your hand as East is:

What action, if any, do you take?

While you mull those over, take a look at this early deal. I will leave you to judge whether the HANS team deserved the IMPs they gained.

N/S VulnerableDealer North

After two natural bids, East’s jump shift rebid in clubs seems like the best option. When West then advanced with a fourth-suit Three Diamonds, though, I do not understand Andy Hung’s rush to show his spade support. Bidding Three Hearts surely keeps open the possibility of playing in hearts, and partner can still rebid his spades if he has five of those and does not like hearts. Bidding Three Spades virtually ruled out finding a 6-2 heart fit.

Indeed, Six Hearts is very unlucky to fail. Assuming South finds a club lead (and that is far from certain from that holding), then only the 6-2 diamond break coupled with North also holding the thirteenth trump means that declarer cannot quite do it. Looking at the East/West hand, though, Six Hearts is surely where you would want to be: needing just no spade ruff and diamonds no worse than 5-3, or a non-club lead, it is odds on to make. 

North led a diamond against 3NT, so declarer was able to untangle his 12 tricks: E/W +490.

West – Don North – Hans East – Courtney SouthGill

Michael Courtney did bid Three Hearts and, when Rose Don then launched RKCB, it seemed they were on their way to the top spot. Something strange happened, though, and they ended in the wrong major. 

Sartaj Hans bravely found the only lead to legitimately beat the contract, a club away from his king. Declarer understandably rose with the ♣A and was then booked for two down. Another trick escaped somewhere in the wash: E/W -150 and 12 IMPs to HANS. 

How easy it is to be the hero on one deal and then the goat on the next. 

E/W VulnerableDealer North

Hugh Grosvenor’s natural Two Diamond opening stole the auction, although the defenders could not be prevented from making five tricks. However, E/W +50 is perhaps not a bad result, as it is not obvious what East/West might bid and make. Nine tricks in clubs looks like the limit.

West – Don North – Hans East – Courtney SouthGill

East/West have clearly over-reached but, again, the spotlight fell on Sataj Hans to find the winning opening lead. You will recognize the problem from above. Do you lead your partner’s suit, or try to surprise declarer by opening a suit that your side has not announced possession of?

As you can see, a heart lead gives South a number of winning options: he can duck the first heart and beat the contract by two, or can clear the hearts with the same result. He can even win the first heart and switch to diamonds to defeat 3NT by three. At the table, though, South had none of these options as Hans elected to lead a diamond. Now, declarer miraculously had nine tricks: E/W +600 and 11 IMPs to DON.

After failing to find their heart fit with a doubleton king opposite AQJxxx earlier, what chance of Edgtton/Hung doing so on this deal?

Both VulnerableDealer East

West’s Two Club response was an artificial game force. When Hung showed his second suit, Edgtton decided that his spade holding precluded game in notrumps, so he showed his minimum by jumping to game in opener’s first suit.

South led a spade and declarer took his ace immediately to play a club. South won with the ♣A and the defense played two more rounds of spades, declarer ruffing with the 10. Hung now cashed two high trumps ending in dummy and played three top clubs, pitching diamonds. South had to make a trump trick, but that was it: E/W +620.

West – Don North – Hans East – Courtney SouthGill

Two Clubs was natural here. When North stayed silent the auction became almost inevitable and South fished out a speculative ♠4. Looking at the diagram, it is clear that 3NT can by the simple expedient of ducking the first round of spades. With no opposition bidding, though, declarer thought it was safe to win. Indeed, it may be essential to do so in order to block the defenders’ spade suit if South has led from, say, ♠K-Q-5-4-2 and also holds the ♣A.

Of course, Gill hopped up with the ♣A at trick two, and produced his second spade to put the contract one down: E/W -100 and 11 IMPs to HANS.

After the first 16-board set, DON led narrowly, 52-45. HANS had the better of a dull second set, winning it 38,-15 to lead by 16 IMPs at the midpoint of the match. The first half of the third set was decisive, and this early deal set the tone:

Both VulnerableDealer West

Nebil Edgtton opened One Diamond, heard an inverted raise, and showed his club shortage. Andy Hung then limited his hand and confirmed club honors with 3NT, but Edgtton still had plenty to spare. When Hung cue-bid his ace, denying a major-suit control, Edgtton jumped to the excellent slam. Well bid: E/W +1370.

You might expect such a deal to be flat in the final of a major national tournament. Indeed, East/West at the other table seemed to be well on their way to the same spot when it transpired that one of them knew their system and the other did not. 

West – Lloyd North – Hans East – Grosvenor SouthAshton

Hugh Grosvenor started with Two Clubs. When Tania Lloyd then jumped to Three Diamonds, he headed straight for slam via Kickback (4 is RKCB agreeing diamonds). Presumably, they would have been in agreement about the meaning of the responses had South passed, but Sophie Ashton’s apparently innocuous lead-directing double exposed a flaw in the opponents’ partnership. 

Most pairs use some form of DOPI/ROPI or similar when an opponent interferes over a Blackwood request. Clearly, West intended her response to show two key cards (perhaps plus the Q as she had six of them), but it would seem that Grosvenor thought there were two key cards missing, hence his signoff in game. The moral is that you are better off playing no methods than having a system that one of you forgets or misuses. E/W +620 and 13 IMPs to HANS.

HANS outscored their opponents 55-0 over the first eight deals of this set, to effectively end the match as a contest. This was the last of the four double-digit swings.

Both VulnerableDealer South

This East hand is the last of the problems presented earlier. I hope all of my loyal readers thought it was a dud, shrugged their shoulders, and said to themselves “I wouldn’t dream of bidding on that rubbish.” And, quite right you would be. Indeed, I think West has a hand much closer to a bid than does East, but neither is particularly close. Andy Hung certainly didn’t think he shuld enter the fray.

The defense duly came to two top diamonds and two trump tricks: E/W +100 for what really should be a flat board. East/West were unraveling at the other table, though:

W West – Lloyd North – Hans East – Grosvenor SouthAshton

If you were feeling really generous, you would still award the Five Club bid 0/10, The subsequent bids were even worse. True, the opposition have to defend well to get 1100 out of Five Diamonds Doubled (heart to the ace, spade ruff, K, heart overruffed with the Q, spade ruff and the ♣A), but that’s no great advert for getting to that contract. With an outside ace-king and a trump honor, I can see no reason at all to assume that my moderate suit will be better than the one partner has chosen to introduce at the five-level. For East to bid again over Five Diamonds, though, is sheer (insert your own adjective here). Declarer managed six tricks in Six Clubs Doubled: E/W -1400 in a phantom sacrifice and 17 IMPs to HANS.

The DON team lost the set ‘only’ 68-14, but what had been a fairly close match was effectively over. HANS won the final set 51-17 and the match 202-98. An emphatic victory and congratulations to Sartaj Hans, Peter Gill, Andy Hung, Sophie Ashton and Nabil Edgtton. For three of them, champions again, for Sophie Ashton and Nabil Edgtton, welcome to the summit.

We will be back next week with the action from another major national or international event.