Marc Smith visits the Midi Alt Swiss Teams
We left the Midi Alt Swiss Teams with four matches in the book. This week, we return to see the action from the middle quartet of matches in the twelve-round event. These were the standings at the top of the table going into Round 5:
|FOLLOW SUIT||58.49 VPs|
As usual, we begin with a couple of bidding problems for you to mull over. We will find out later how your choices would have worked. Firstly, with both sides vulnerable, you are North with this rather motley collection:
What action, if any, do you take?
Next, with neither side vulnerable, you hold as South:
What action do you take?
Whilst you consider those, we begin in Round 5, where Board 7 was a minefield for North/South, although the occasional East/West pair also managed to take a misstep. I know many players like to open 2NT on 19 HCP, so let’s see how that fared here:
Yes, Roger Lee might have passed either 2NT or 3♥ , but how many of us would with a vulnerable game bonus in the offing?
West obediently led a club, and Sylvia Moss won and exited with the same suit. Piotr Nawrochi won and switched to the ♠J, covered by king and ace. The ♠Q and a spade ruff followed, and now West switched to the ♦10, covered with dummy’s jack and ruffed. A fourth spade came through declarer, who ruffed with the ♥J. West overruffed with the ♥Q and delivered a second diamond ruff. Declarer claimed the rest, but there were only five tricks left by now. N/S -400.
Would a one-level opening fare any better?
A number of players found themselves with the first of this week’s bidding problems. Kamil Nowak’s solution was a pre-emptive diamond raise. If you held the South cards, you would recognize partner’s raise as pre-emptive, but I’d bet a dollar to a donut that few of you would take him seriously enough to find the winning pass. Indeed, even getting to the three-level would have cost IMPs in some matches.
At the table, Mike Rippey quite understandably did not consider passing, although I cannot explain his rather mysterious and not-alerted 3♠. Apparently not understanding the meaning either, Nowak raised to game in spades. Rippey retreated to the known fit at the five-level, but Michal Klukowski knew that was way too high and duly lowered the boom.
Klukowski found the best lead, the ♥Q. Declarer won and cashed the ♦A, getting the bad news. Rippey exited with ace and another club, but soon found himself back in with a second round of hearts. A spade to the king lost to the ace, and now Zatroksi cashed the ♠Q and gave his partner a spade ruff. Klukowski could safely exit with a club, conceding a ruff-and-discard, but declarer could only play a heart, allowing West to score another low trump. The defence still had the ♦Q to come: four down here too, but the double meant N/S -1100 and 12 IMPs to MOSS.
Some managed to stay low and still suffered a penalty:
German star Daniela von Arnim, winner of the Venice Cup in 1995 and 2001, opted for a very sensible pass of her partner’s 1♦ opening. She then showed reluctant support for his suit when he made a takeout double at his second turn. Even having managed to stop this low, though, did not prevent the Norwegians from wielding the axe.
Declarer did not cover Gier Brekka’s ♠J lead, so the defenders played three rounds of the suit, West pitching a club. Geeske Joel won the club switch and cashed the ♦K, then exited with a second round of clubs, taken by East. Back came a heart and declarer took the finesse, losing to the ♥Q. Brekka returned a heart and then ruffed the third round of the suit. The defence already had six tricks and still had the ♦Q to come: N/S -500 and 7 IMPs to LEVINSON when 4♥ went just two down undoubled for -200 at the other table.
It was not always North/South who came to grief on this deal:
After Andrew McIntosh’s 1♥ response, you might have thought that the British pair would be on their way to the stratosphere. However, when Marion Michielsen entered the fray with a cue-bid showing the black suits, it was Per Cullen who headed for the skies before his opponents could get there. Tom Paske showed his forcing heart raise with a cue-bid of his own but, by the time the bidding came back around to his mountain, the opponents were already in game. What else could he do but double?
Declarer ruffed the diamond lead in dummy and, with spades 3-3 and the king onside, he could have escaped losing just the three obvious top tricks. When Cullen played South for four spades, though, he was an extra one down. N/S +500 and 12 IMPs to BLACK when Joe Grue managed to escape with just a one-trick set in 4♥ at the other table.
The normal order had been returned, MOSS rocketing to the top of the leaderboard with a 61-6 drubbing of RIPPEY. FOLLOW SUIT lost to AMATEURS, but only by a score of 32-35, so those two teams both remained close behind the leaders.
In Round 6, MOSS took on the Israelis whilst AMATEURS played fourth-placed YOSHKA at Table 2. At one table in each of the top two matches, North/South were constrained by the vulnerability on Board 5, so East/West bid quietly to their game:
One can understand Michal Nowosadzki’s reluctance to overcall on a lousy suit and a minimum hand opposite a passed partner at unfavourable vulnerability. Yaniv Zach went through a semi-forcing notrump response to show his invitational values with three hearts, and Michael Barel bid the obvious game for the Israelis.
Nowosadzki led his club and Jacek Kalita could have taken the first five tricks by winning with the ace and giving his partner a ruff. That the ♣10 was a singleton, though, was far from clear, so declarer was allowed to win with the ♣Q. Barel tried a spade towards the king but, when North showed up with the ace and returned a trump, declarer was just about out of chances. He tried a low diamond from hand, but Nowosadzki ducked. Declarer played a trump to hand and led a club towards the king, but Kalita won with the ace, cashed one more club winner, and played a diamond to the ace. Nowosadzki’s trump exit then left declarer with a club still to lose. N/S +100. Similar bidding and play netted the Germans the same plus score in their match against AMATEURS.
Not all South players were so restrained, though,
Ai-Tai Lo overcalled 1♠ and the American quickly found himself in 4♠-X. Thomas Schmitt led a heart and Matthias Goll took two winners in that suit before accurately switching to the ♦Q. Declarer now had no winning option and was soon claiming nine tricks: N/S-200 and 7 IMPs to YOSHKA.
Ophir Reshef, a silver medallist as a member of the Israel Junior Team at the 2004 European Youth Championships, also passed with the South hand. Sylvia Moss’s more conservative raise to just 2♥ then tempted Eldad Ginossar into the auction on the North cards. When Roger Lee jumped to game, Reshef knew his side had a ten-card spade fit so, even at this vulnerability, he could not bring himself to defend 4♥. Moss doubled and led a heart. Here, though, Lee won the first two tricks with high hearts and elected to continue with the ‘safe’ third round of hearts. That was all the invitation Reshef needed.
He ruffed the third round of hearts in dummy, cashed the ♣A, and led the ♣8, discarding a diamond from his hand when East did not cover. Moss won with the ♣K and switched to her low trump, but Reshef finessed, drew the outstanding trump with the ♠A, and led the ♣9. Declarer’s remaining diamond loser soon disappeared: N/S +790 and 12 IMPs to FOLLOW SUIT.
FOLLOW SUIT just edged their match against MOSS, winning 34-32. Victory for AMATEURS, 42-15 victory over YOSHKA, somersaulted them past both teams to the top of the table, with the Germans remaining in fourth spot.
Even experienced partnerships can have misunderstandings. Michal Klukowski was faced with the second of this week’s problem hands. What would your regular partner make of this auction?
Klukowski entered with a 3♥ overcall of East’s weak 2♠ opening. West competed in spades and Piotr Zatroski bid 3NT (as it happens, the last contract that is an easy make for North/South). Facing a passed partner, Klukowski did not fancy notrumps on his shapely hand, so he advanced by bidding his second suit. Zatorski now bid 4♦, which he alerted as ‘choice of games’, so intended it as inviting his partner to pick between hearts and clubs. Judging from his raise, though, it would seem that Klukowski thought 4♦ was natural. The result was a hopeless slam.
The good news was that, although 5♣ can be made, it is not easy to do so. Indeed, in the match between AMATEURS and RIPPEY, the board swung just 2 IMPs when both declarers made 10 tricks in clubs, one in game and one in slam. Klukowski also came to ten tricks in his slam: E/W +100.
Roger Lee attempted to get the North/South ball rolling at an uncomfortably high level. When Thomas Schmitt chose to convert his partner’s takeout double, though, it seemed to be the Americans who had climbed beyond their comfort level. Matthias Goll kept the defensive chances of two down alive by leading a top heart and then switching to a club through dummy’s king at trick two. Winning with the ♣A, Schmitt can maintain the good work by continuing either clubs or hearts. His switch to a low diamond, though, saved declarer a trick and also created scope for a disaster. Goll could have reverted to hearts or clubs but, not unreasonably, he returned a diamond. When Schmitt rose with the queen, declarer was home, not only because he had gained a trick, but because he now had a vital entry to dummy with the ♦J. Not only had the defence surrendered their second diamond winner, but also their trump trick. E/W +530 was 10 IMPs to MOSS.
MOSS won the match 50-18 to reclaim their place at the top of the table. Meanwhile, AMATEURS lost to RIPPEY and FOLLOW SUIT succumbed to HARRIS. They still occupied the other podium places, but there was now a gap between the leaders and the trailing pack. Next up for MOSS at the top table were fifth-placed HARRIS (England, Bulgaria, Armenia).
Who is supposed to get North/South into this auction? In the match at Table 2, Ahmed Soliman made the same raise to 4♦ on the West hand, keeping McIntosh/Paske out of the auction. In both matches, 4♦ drifted two down: N/S +100.
When West passed his partner’s 3♦ opening, Jacek Kalita managed to scrape up a takeout double on the North cards. Michal Nowosadzki needed no second invitation to the party, and duly installed himself in game.
The defence led a diamond, so declarer won with the ♦A, ruffed his diamond loser in dummy, and played two rounds of trumps. East won and continued diamonds but, with the ♣Q onside, there was no way to stop declarer making ten tricks. N/S +620 and 11 IMPs to MOSS.
London-based Swedish ex-pat Gunnar Hallberg is old enough to remember when a 3♦ opening looked like, well, at least a weak two opening, so it was hardly a surprise to see him passing this East hand in first seat. He got his suit into the auction at his second turn, Simon Hult made a competitive raise, and Hallberg bid on to the four-level. Once North had bid his spade fragment, though, there was never any stopping South. Hallberg doubled and led his singleton club, but the trump length was the wrong way round for it to make any difference: N/S +790 and 12 IMPs to AMATEURS.
The MOSS jamboree rumbled on, defeating HARRIS 36-22, but a big win for AMATEURS, 50-9 over BLACK, closed the gap at the top. A loss for FOLLOW SUIT, 19-32 to CANTOR, and victory for RIPPEY, saw the Israelis drop out of the top three for the first time. After eight matches, the standings at the top were:
We will return next week to see the best of the action from the final four matches.