Great BBO Vugraph Deals #125

Marc Smith visits the final rounds of Heat 8 in the New Alt Competition 

Last week, we left things after seven matches, with the Group A standings looking like this:


Elsewhere, BUQQY (China, Pakistan, Bulgaria) led Group B ahead of AMATEURS (USA). In Group C, CANTOR (Denmark, Germany, England, USA) were just ahead of RIPPEY (USA, Poland, France), whilst KRUSE’S CARDCIRCUS (Denmark, Sweden) held a half-match lead in Group D.

As usual, we begin with some problems. We shall discover later how your choices would have worked. Firstly, with neither side vulnerable, you are West holding:

What action do you take?

Next, with just the opponents vulnerable, you hold as West:

What action do you take?

While you consider those, let’s get on with the action. The leading two teams in Group A are scheduled to meet head on in Round 10, but we start out coverage in Round 8, where the leading three teams all played opponents in the bottom half of the table. The big match rated to be the leaders, FREDIN, against perennial favourites, MOSS. This was the penultimate deal in a close match:

The Polish Bermuda Bowl winners conducted a controlled auction to the top spot. Jacek Kalita’s 2 reverse was an artificial force. Michal Nowosadzki raised to show support if his partner did hold diamonds, and Kalita rebid 3NT. When Nowosadzki then supported clubs, though, they were well on their way. An exchange of cue-bids followed and Kalita jumped to the slam. There was nothing to the play: E/W +920.

The Swedish/South African pair at the other table, did not get the auction to themselves:

After the same start, John Hurd came in with a wafer-thin 1♠ overcall on the South cards. Peter Fredin made a support double, showing three hearts, and Jenny Wolpert jumped to 3, clearly intended as fit-showing but self-alerted as undiscussed. Alon Apteker doubled, presumably showing diamonds, and Hurd retreated to 3♠. Now Fredin rebid his clubs, and it looks obvious for East to cue-bid his diamond control. I cannot, therefore, explain the thinking behind Apteker’s 4 bid. Quite understandably, Fredin took this as a place to play, presumably denying any interest in a club slam, and passed. Declarer managed the same twelve tricks in the Moysian fit, but that was little compensation: E/W +480 and 10 IMPs to MOSS, who won the match 31-18.

IN VINITA vs SALVO, the intervention came from the North seat:

I supposed Hermant Lall had to bid 1 as, vulnerable, he was not strong enough for a weak jump overcall! Ilker Ayaz started with a negative double on the East hand, then showed extra values via a 3 cud-bid. Ali Ucar finally rebid his clubs at the four-level, got a control-showing diamond bid in return, and then Blackwooded himself to the slam.  E/W +920.

The Turks remained silent in the replay:

Vinita Gupta chose a jump rebid to 3♣ at her second turn. Andreas Plejdrup, the young Danish star who was a regular member of his country’s junior team from 2013 until 2019, might have jumped to 4 at his second turn. When he instead simply agreed clubs with a raise, Gupta might also have shown more interest via a 4 bid. When she simply raised to game, though, Plejdrup was left with a guess. Uncharacteristically for a junior, he took the conservative option. That was not the right choice this time: E/W +420 and 11 IMPs to SALVO, who won a tight match 35-28.

That narrow victory by the Turks represented the only win for any of the top three teams, with BLACK going down 13-48 against ULI. This meant that SALVO narrowed the gap behind the leaders to just 5 VPs with two matches to play. With MOSS having moved up into third place, in Round 9 the leading three teams all again faced opponents in the lower half of the table.

The match between FREDIN and VINITA was very tight, with not a single double-digit swing in the contest. BLACK vs SALVO, though, had four. Only one West had to handle the first of this week’s bidding problems, but the very first deal of the match also provided a technical declarer play test for most West players.

Tim Paske was the only West player in Group A who had to make this decision, as no South other than Ozfur Goksel raised to 3. As we shall see later, the auction appears much easier for West if South passes 2.

Paske might have taken a shot at 3NT. When he doubled and heard Andrew McIntosh rebid his diamonds, Paske had little choice but to raise. North doubled 5, and who can really blame him?

Goksel led the A, and a heart continuation would perhaps have given declarer most problems, although he can still get home even after that. South’s club switch went to the jack and queen. Declarer played a diamond to the ace and finessed on the way back, crossed to dummy with the ♠Q and picked up the rest of North’s trumps. That left him just to cash the ♠A and knock out the ♣A for eleven tricks: E/W +550.

At the other tables in Group A, West reached 3NT via a route similar to that taken by the Turks here. Perhaps remarkably, though, four out of the five declarers who played that contract in Group A went down. All received the defence of a heart to South’s ace and a second heart to the king.

You can perhaps see why so many expert declarers failed. The answer is that we so often play on autopilot and just do what looks like the ‘normal’ thing. We all teach students how to play this diamond suit, which is often their trump suit, by playing low to the king and back to the ace, so that you are in the right hand to take a third-round finesse if South shows up with a singleton. On this layout, though, that is fatal, as you can then make only four diamond tricks. Declarer here managed to go an extra one down by playing on clubs after cashing his four diamonds: E/W -100 and 12 IMPs to BLACK.

As the only danger to your contract is a 5-0 diamond break, and you have an outside entry to the West hand if the diamonds split 4-1, the correct play on this deal is to win the K at trick two and lay down the A. When South discards, you can then take the marked finesse, against the J, return to the West hand, cashing your three spade tricks, and repeat the diamond finesse. You end up with one heart, three spades and five diamonds. Easy game, isn’t it!

The only successful declarer at the Group A tables was Italian Don Giovanni di Stokatze for ULI, who gained 10 IMPs for his efforts. ULI upset MOSS 39-28, so the big winner in this round was the Turks, SALVO defeating BLACK 51-27 to take a 2-VP lead over FREDIN at the top of the leaderboard.

The Turks, remember, had won the previous heat, with FREDIN just behind them, so it was starting to look like déjà vu all over again. As mentioned earlier, though, the top two teams were scheduled to play each other in the final round. The Swedes would need to win by a margin of 4 IMPs or more in order to overtake their opponents. The match started explosively: this was Board 2, where a number of players were faced with the second of this week’s bidding problems.

Gokham Yilmaz

The Turks caught the Swedes in a perfect storm. First, Ali Ucar opened 3 rather than the 2 or a Multi with which East started at some tables. Secondly, Bo-Henry Ek did not double on the South cards, as some players did. Finally, Gokham Yilmaz took the bull by the horns and bid to the absolute maximum. Of course, North doubled but what could Ek really do on the South cards?

South found the trump lead that kept alive the Swedes’ chances of +800, but they dropped a trick later in the play to allow Ucar to make nine tricks. Not that it seemed likely to matter much, although, with every IMP potentially critical if the final score in the match was close… N/S +500.

For the record, at the tables where the auction started this way, three players raised to 4, two each tried 5, 3NT and 4NT, and Yilmaz was the only 6  bidder. The Turks had things relatively easy in the other room:

Peter Fredin

Gary Gottlieb’s 2 opening let South enter the auction in relative comfort, and it was always thereafter going to be difficult for Peter Fredin to persuade North that he did not hold the extremely good hand at which he was staring. Fredin tried a strength-showing redouble, then ‘competed’ to game at his next turn, before rolling out the old stripe-tailed ape with a double of 5.

Mert Bilgen, a Turkish junior international in 1990, would not be talked out of anything, and he jumped disdainfully to 7 over Fredin’s apparent penalty double of game in the same suit. Fredin was still not quite done, and he saved in 7, but Bilgen was not willing to defend, even at that level, and his 7NT bid closed an eventful auction. Declarer was not unduly tested once the ♠J had put in an early appearance: N/S +2200 and a massive 17 IMPs to SALVO to start the match.

Not that the most pre-emptive action was always the most successful:

Jacek Kalita

Once Michal Nowosadzki had doubled East’s 3 opening, there was then no stopping Jacek Kalita. N/S +2200.

Jenny Wolpert opened only 2, so Tom Paske had an easier double. However, John Hurd’s simple raise to game perhaps gave the impression of more strength than a higher jump might have done. Andrew McIntosh settled for a jump to a small slam in spades, but Hurd was not satisfied with just a 13-IMP gain. He backed in with 7, taking some insurance by directing the lead in case anyone should now try 7♠. Hurd duly retreated to hearts and, when Paske led the ♠A, the defence could then come to only nine tricks. N/S +800 and 16 IMPs to MOSS.

Although the next deal looks innocuous enough, the big Turkish lead did not last long:

The Turks tried to stop in 2, but Peter Fredin balanced back in with 3. Mert Bilgen had a second string to his bow, though, and he pressed on to the three-level in the 4-4 diamond fit. Theoretically, declarer has ten tricks but, when Ilker Ayaz understandably started trumps by leading the J from dummy (rather than a low one to pick up East’s stiff king), he created a trump winner for the defence. No great harm done, though: N/S +110.

The harm was done at the other table. When South started with an artificial strong 1 opening, one might be forgiven for thinking that the Swedes might get too high on the N/S cards.

No, here too, North/South climbed up as far as 2♠ and stopped. This time, it was East who had a chance to pass it out. Having already shown his clubs, Ali Ucar backed in with 2NT, suggesting a four-card red suit too. Preferring to play the 4-4 fit rather than the 6-2 in clubs, Yilmaz advanced with a pass/correct 3, and Ucar duly bid his hearts. It was when Yilmaz decided that perhaps his side could make game, despite South’s strong club opening, that the Turks found themselves in hot water. Holding Q-10-9-x of trumps opposite his partner’s 17+ HCP, Andreas Westman decided that he had heard enough and lowered the boom.

Declarer just had no bricks with which to work. He won the spade lead and played a club to the king and ace, and South played two more rounds of spades, declarer ruffing. Next came the ♣Q and a third round of the suit, ruffed in dummy with the J and over-ruffed with the queen. Two rounds of diamonds then forced declarer to ruff again. When a fourth round of clubs was played, South ruffed with the 6. Declarer could overruff with the K, score his remaining low trump by ruffing a diamond and the A, but that was still only seven tricks. N/S +800 and 12 IMPs to FREDIN.

There was more to come on Board 4, where the key decisions fell to the East players:

Gary Gottlieb

Peter Fredin and America’s Gary Gottlieb are long-time partners, finishing fourth together in the IMP Pairs at the 2006 World Championships in Verona, and collecting bronze medals from the Open Teams at the 2019 European Transnational Championships.

Gottlieb chose to overcall 1NT at his first turn here. When he then heard the auction proceed 4-4-5, he was faced with the familiar five-over-five decision. Having already advertised heart values but not great spade support, Gottlieb opted to press on to the five-level.

South doubled and Mert Bilgen got the defence off to a promising start when he opened the A, 5 from South and 6 from declarer. Unable to read the position, though Bilgen switched to a club at trick two, and thus the defenders’ diamond ruff got away. There were still two trump losers in addition to the two aces: N/S +500.

For the Turks, Ali Ucar decided to start with a takeout double. Here, too, South jumped to 4 and Ucar’s partner volunteered 4♠. North passed, as did Ucar, but now South came again with 5♣. North corrected back to hearts and East was in a similar position at this table. Perhaps the major difference here, though, is that East has already shown spade support (indeed, perhaps more than he has), but he has said little about his defensive values. Perhaps South’s club bid should have steered him away from the double, but it did not.

Against 5-X, East could make his major-suit aces, but that was it. With the club finesse onside, as it was always likely to be, declarer had eleven easy tricks: N/S +850 and another 8 IMPs to FREDIN.

Despite leading 17-1 after Board 2, two deals later the Turks were trailing 17-21, the exact margin needed by the Swedes to overtake their opponents and claim the title. As it happens, there was very little in the rest of the set. Indeed, a total of only 10 IMPs exchanged hands over the final twelve deals, Crucially, though, the Swedes won that exchange 7-3 to take a 28-20 victory in the match, allowing them to knock the defending champions back into second place by a margin of less than 4 VPs.

FREDIN121.10 VPs

For the second heat in a row, the Turks and the Swedes occupied the top two places, with MOSS, winners of four heats earlier in the year, in third place on both occasions.

Elsewhere, BUQQY (China, Pakistan, Bulgaria) held off AMATEURS (USA) in Group B to earn promotion to the top flight for Heat 9. RIPPEY (USA, Poland, France) won Group C ahead of PARSLEY (France), whilst KRUSE’S CARDCIRCUS (Denmark, Sweden) won Group D by a margin of more than half a match.

We will be back in a couple of weeks with the best of the action from Heat 9, the penultimate heat before the grand final of the 2021 event. Next week, we pay a visit to a special event on the ALT calendar, the first running of the ALT Trophy.