Marc Smith visits the fourth heat of the monthly Alt New Co
Last week, we saw the action from the first four matches in heat four of the monthly Alt New-Co. With just one match left in the opening round robin, the standings in Group A were:
|RED DEVILS||48.08 VPs|
The big match in Round 5 features second against third, DE BOTTON vs EDMONDS, whilst the Belgian leaders take on the reigning champions, MOSS.
As usual, though, we begin with a couple problems for you to mull over. We will find out later how your choices would have worked. For a change, we start with a lead problem. You are West holding:
What do you lead?
Next, with just your side vulnerable, you hold as North:
Your partner’s 2♥ overcall is what used to be called ‘Intermediate’. What action, if any, do you take?
Whilst you consider those, we join the action early in Round 5, with a competitive bidding deal on which neither side has an eight-card fit. A good lesson on misfit hands is to stop bidding as quickly as possible. Let’s see how they got on with that:
Janet De Botton was faced with one of those horrible decision that are not uncommon when partner makes a takeout double of a weak two opening. The decision to respond in her three-card spade suit could have worked. (Not that using Lebensohl to get her side to 3♦ would have been significantly better.) The good news was that her partner raised only to the three-level and, more importantly, no one doubled.
David Grainger led his club and Joel Wooldridge won to switch to his heart. A heart ruff, the ♣A, a club ruffed and overruffed and a third heart followed. To escape for three down, declarer has to ruff with one of dummy’s high spades at this point: hardly an obvious move! When, instead, De Botton pitched dummy’s remaining club, Wooldridge ruffed and could have held declarer to just five tricks by playing another club for his partner to uppercut dummy with the ♠10. Of course, Wooldridge could not know that his partner had a second trump, so he exited ‘safely’ with a spade. The defence still had to come to the ♦K: N/S +300.
Tor Helness also began with a weak 2♥ opening on the South cards and, here too, West doubled. Perhaps Thor Erik Hoftaniska was worried about a heart stack on his left and a penalty pass, but his attempts to improve the contract turned out disastrously. Helness re-rescued himself into diamonds, which Mikael Rimstedt was quite happy to double. Not that clubs would have fared much better.
The defence began with the ♠A, the ♦A and the ♣Q. Declarer won in dummy and played a spade to the ten and king, and Mikael then played the ♦Q (ducked) and a third diamond. Declarer played the ♥A (West unblocking the queen) and a second heart, but Ola overtook his partner’s ten with the ♥K, drew declarer’s last trump, and exited with a spade. Declarer could cash dummy’s winners but had to concede a club trick at the end: N/S +500 and 13 IMPs to EDMONDS, who won the match 50-45.
Victory for MOSS, 45-27 over RED DEVILS, really compacted the table at the end of the first of the two round robins. The Belgians remained top, but only 11 VPs separated first from last, and fourth-placed MOSS were less than 2 VPs behind the leaders. All to play for.
The second of the round robins began with excellent results for the two leading teams.
Omer Umur was faced with the opening lead problem posed at the top of the article, after an auction in which the Belgians had done nothing other than bid their two long suits followed by Blackwood. Is there anything to suggest a club lead rather than a heart, or vice versa?
Umur opened the ♥J. Sam Bahbout won with dummy’s singleton ♥Q, drew trumps and led a spade towards dummy. Umur won with the ♠A, but the ♣A remained as declarer’s entry to the ♠K-Q, on which the Belgian’s remaining losers disappeared. N/S +920.
The auction here started in similar fashion. Rather than Blackwood, though, Ali Ucar cue-bid hearts at his fourth turn. The Turks duly rolled into slam but, with North having taken the final decision, it was clear to Philippe Caputo that that the club control was on his left and that declarer had losers in that suit. When he selected the ♣6 as his opening salvo, declarer had no winning option. N/S -50 and 14 IMPs to RED DEVILS, who won the match 51-2 to retain their place at the top of the leader-board.
The American pair unfurled some fancy footwork, but it still failed to keep Piotr Zatorski out. After the three-level cue-bid showing both majors, the Americans discovered they had stoppers in both suits and settled for 3NT, but it was a contract that never looked remotely like making.
If Zatroski had led the suit supported by his partner, declarer would still have been one trick short. Instead, the Pole chose the ♥7, leaving declarer to hope the ♦A was on his left. When Michal Klukowski turned up with that card and fired a spade through declarer’s king, that was two down: N/S -200.
There were world champion Poles in the East/West seats at the other table too:
The Swedes started with a nebulous 1♣ from South and a natural 1♦ response from Ola Rimstedt. East showed the majors and North made a takeout double of West’s 2♠. Mikael Rimstedt showed his diamond fit and Jacek Kalita competed to the three-level. When Ola doubled again, showing extra values, Mikael offered his brother a choice of minor-suit games with 4NT.
Looking at all four hands, you can see that this contract should suffer a similar fate to the 3NT in the other room. However, Michal Nowosadzki did not get off to the best of starts when he tabled the ♠A. He can still beat the contract, though, provided he switches to his singleton club at trick two. When East continued with a second spade, though, declarer was suddenly in control. Winning with the ♠K, he led a diamond to the queen and ace. A diamond came back and trumps split evenly. Now declarer was fairly sure that East started with only one club, so he led a club to the king and finessed on the way back. Declarer’s fourth club disappeared on a top heart, so the Swede was able to claim eleven tricks: N/S +600 and 13 IMPs to EDMONDS.
EDMONDS ran out winners by a score of 46-12 against MOSS, so they clung tightly to the leaders’ coattails. DONNER also recorded a sizeable victory, 36-7 over DE BOTTON, and they moved up into third place with a 10-VP gap behind them.
David Bakhshi overcalled 2♥, alerted as an ‘opening hand’, so something like what used to be called ‘Intermediate’. When Kevin Bathurst competed to 3♣, Tom Townsend was left with the bidding problem posed earlier. For me, on a hand packed with only defensive values, the jump to 4♥ is too much at any vulnerability. Indeed, even 3♥ is a questionable action at these colours. The 4♥ bid was like a red rag to a bull for John Hurd, who was delighted to wield the axe.
Bathurst could have collected an even larger penalty had he led a diamond (or a spade and a low diamond switch). In order to ruff his club loser in dummy, declarer would have to give up the lead before drawing trumps. The defence can then take a diamond ruff, cash their black suit winners, and promote the ♥Q with a fourth round of diamonds. On the club lead, Bakhshi was able to ‘escape’ for two down, but that was still N/S -500.
Sylvia Moss overcalled only 1 ♥, which did not tempt Roger Lee to bid at all when West essayed 3♣. Now it was East/West who bid game, and at some tables declarer was able to score the obvious nine tricks when the defenders set up their hearts. Here, though, Moss recognized the situation: she won the opening heart lead with the king and accurately switched to a low diamond. Declarer ducked two diamonds, won the third, and could cash his seven black-suit tricks. He had no way, though, to score his ♥Q, and thus was left only with losers at the end. N/S -50 and 11 IMPs to MOSS, on their way to a 44-5 victory that lifted them into the top three.
Victories for RED DEVILS, 34-14 against DONNER, and for EDMONDS, 30-7 over SALVO, meant that it was ‘as you were’ at the top. With three matches remaining, these were the standings:
|RED DEVILS||87.55 VPs|
We will return next week to see the best of the action from the final three rounds.