Great BBO Vugraph Deals #127

Marc Smith visits the Swiss stage of Alt Trophy I 

A total of 22 teams lined up at the start of the week for the first running of The Alt Trophy. The format was a ten-round Swiss of 12-board matches, with the leading eight teams advancing to the knockout stage at the end of the week. Last week, we left things after four rounds had been played. These were the leading teams: 

MULTI54.83 VPs

As usual, we begin with some problems. We shall discover later how your choices would have worked. Firstly, with just your side vulnerable, you are East holding: 

What action do you take? 

Next, with both sides vulnerable, you hold as South: 

Partner’s 2  bid promises at least 10 HCP if balanced with only five hearts, but could be less if his suit is longer.

What do you bid? 

While you consider those, we kick off the action in Round 5, where leaders MULTI take on second-placed JEDI KNIGHTS and CANTOR plays VINO ROSSO in a third-vs-fourth matchup. Board 10 provided a technical declarer play problem for one of the East players in each of the top matches. If you want to test yourself, before reading on cover the N/S hands, and consider how you would play 4 from the East seat on a club lead. 

Thomas Bessis

The French found their eight-card spade fit, but Thomas Bessis judged well to play 3NT anyway. Declarer can always make three tricks in each black suit and three red-suit tricks, so the defenders had no chance: E/W +600. 

East/West played 3NT at 13 of the 22 tables, all going plus. The rest tried 4, which was much more challenging. 

The Welsh contingent in the CANTOR team conducted a transfer auction, with the final decision here also falling to East, but Paddy Murphy opted for the suit game. Michel Bessis found the only lead to legitimately beat the contract, a trump. Declarer won in dummy with the ♠A and immediately ran the J, South winning with the K. At this point, Bessis just needs to play anything other than a heart. However, the danger that heart losers will disappear on declarer’s diamond suit is clear (if, for example, North holds the A rather than the ♠K). Bessis switched to a low heart into declarer’s A-Q, and Murphy was soon claiming ten tricks. E/W +620, 1 IMP to CANTOR, and a chance missed by the French.  

It was much harder systemically for the English pair to avoid the major-suit game, as it was West who found out that his partner held three-card support and then had to make the decision. From David Muller’s hand, it looks clear to jump to 4♠. Unfortunately, playing from the West seat also gives North the opportunity to find the killing heart lead, and Michel Barel did exactly that to ensure a plus score for the Israelis. E/W -100. 

At the other table in this match, declarer was given a legitimate chance to make 4, playing from the East seat on a club lead. 

The Danes reached 4♠ via the same transfer auction we saw from the Welsh earlier. When Dan MacIntosh opened with a club, though, Thorvald Aagaard had a chance to make the contract legitimately. However, declarer won the club lead in dummy and ran the J. This left MacIntosh in the same position as Michel Bessis above and, here too, South gave the contract away by switching to a heart. E/W +620 and 12 IMPs to MULTI. 

If North holds the K, playing diamonds by leading the J leaves you just needing to avoid two heart losers. Note the difference, though, if declarer wins the club lead in hand and leads a diamond towards the jack. If that finesse loses to North’s king, you can still fall back on the heart hook. When South holds the K, though, he is caught in a variation of the Morton’s Fork. If he plays low, allowing the J to win, declarer then has no diamond loser. At worst, he needs one of two heart finesses to work. Even better, though, he can return a diamond to the ace and ruff the third round, bringing down the king. Declarer then has a parking space for one of his heart losers and is guaranteed ten tricks as long as trumps split 3-2. 

Alternatively, suppose South rises with the K at trick two. He has ensured a diamond trick for his side, but the cost of doing so was enormous. Declarer now has three diamond tricks. He can win the black-suit return, unblock the J, and play two rounds of trumps. Both of declarer’s heart losers will now disappear on the A-Q and, again, declarer makes ten tricks. 

Note that Michel Bessis’s spade lead still defeats this line of play as declarer is an entry short to his hand. If he wins the trump lead with the ♠A, crosses to the ♣Q to play a diamond towards the jack, South can rise with the K, cross to the ♠K, and North can then play a heart, removing declarer’s last entry to his hand while the diamonds are still blocked. At the table, though, the only declarers to go down in 4♠ were those who played from the West seat. 

Despite this deal, JEDI KNIGHTS beat MULTI 26-17, extending their undefeated run to five matches and moving to the top of the leaderboard. VINO ROSSO just pipped CANTOR 18-17, which allowed BRIDGE24.PL MIXED (who defeated KRUSE’S CARDCIRCUS 34-13) to leapfrog them both into second place. 

Some very one-sided matches in Round 6 completely altered the look of the leaderboard. Board 6 produced a major swing in all of the top three matches, although only one player had to deal with the first of this week’s bidding problems. 

Michel Bessis opened 4 on the South cards and was allowed to play there undisturbed when the Norwegians went uncharacteristically quietly. West led a top diamond but accurately switched to a club at trick two. Declarer won in hand and advanced the Q, but West won and played a second club, establishing the defence’s winner in that suit. When declarer tried to cash the J, East ruffed with the 10. Declarer could overruff, but there was no fast route back to dummy to enable him to dispose of his club loser. E/W +50. 

Siv Thoresen also opened 4 for the Norwegians. However, unlike his counterpart at the other table, Cedric Lorenzini was not willing to give up. He braved the adverse vulnerability with a four-level overcall and found his partner with just the right hand. Even with trumps breaking 3-0, the Scandinavians could take only two top clubs to go with their trump trick. E/W +620 and 11 IMPs to VINO ROSSO. 

IN JEDI KNIGHTS vs BRIDGE24.PL MIXED, Paul Denning also bought thee contract with a 4 opening as South. E/W -50. Things were rather easier for West at the other table, though, as Alan Mayo was the only player to open the East hand. 

Facing an opening bid, it was relatively easy for Rob Cliffe to bid his spades over South’s pre-empt. E/W +620 and 11 IMPs to JEDI KNIGHTS. Unfortunately for the leaders, there were few other good boards in this match, and they were beaten 25-54 by BRIDGE24.PL MIXED. 

In the other top match, between MULTI and CANTOR, the French auction from above was repeated at one table: 

Ben Green did not get any help from his partner, but he also risked a 4 overcall after the Welsh pre-empt. E/W +620. 

It was at the other table in this match, though, where Aran Warszawski earned the award for the most imaginative North player (or he would have had there been one). 

Aran Warszawski first played for Israel in the Schools Teams event at the 1994 European Championships. He represented his country at three European and two World Youth championships, collecting a bronze medal in the Junior Teams from the European in 2000 and finishing second only behind USA1 at the 2001 World Championships. After the most common start to the auction on this deal, he was not willing to defend West’s spade game. Having pressed on to 5, he had effectively won the board for his side. That this encouraged Peter Lund to bid a slam, and thus go an extra one down, only added to North’s satisfaction level. E/W -200 and 13 IMPs to MULTI, who blew their opponents out by a score of 66-1 to catapult themselves to the top of the leaderboard. 

A couple of relatively quiet matches saw MULTI retain their place at the top of the table. With most of the leading teams having already played each other, they took on fifth-placed ECF HOLDING in Round 9, while VINO ROSSO, who had dropped to fourth place, played the resurgent FREDIN, who had climbed up to seventh after a poor start.  

Although N/S could not make any game on Board 10, only one of the 22 pairs managed to stop in a partscore. Indeed, as we shall see, some got even higher. A number of players were faced with the second of this week’s problems on this deal. 

Magne Edie

Norway’s Magne Edie was the first to face the problem posed earlier. Not unreasonably, with a spade stopper and a solid eight-card suit, he jumped to 3NT. Sven Olai Hoyland corrected to hearts and Edie gave up. Of course, there were four top losers in 4, if Dan Israeli could find a club lead (or a trump, perhaps). When he instead led the ‘obvious’ spade, declarer was in control. Hoyland won in dummy with the ♠J and played two high diamonds. West ruffed with the 6, but declarer overruffed, returned to dummy with the ♠K, and led another diamond winner. This time, West had to ruff in with one of his trump winners and away went one of declarer’s club losers. N/S +620. 

At this table, Tor Bakke started with a takeout double for the Norwegians. Michel Barel showed his hearts at the one-level and Paz Katz jumped to 3NT. For many, this 3NT bid shows a good diamond suit hand type rather than one that is strong balanced, although I cannot confirm whether that was the case for the Israelis. Facing that type of hand, though, removing to hearts is much less clear, and Barel’s pass was far from unreasonable. 

Bakke kicked off the defence with the A. Having seen dummy, and understanding that declarer probably held a strong diamond suit, finding the club switch was not rocket science. The defence duly took five clubs and two top hearts, leaving declarer with just the last six tricks: N/S -300 and 14 IMPs to ECF HOLDING. 

In the match between FREDIN and VINO ROSSO, the Swedes did not mess around. 

None of these fancy transfers here: Jan Becklen jumped directly to 4 after West’s 1♠ overcall. Of course, Thomas Bessis duly led his partner’s suit, and declarer followed the same line of play to ten tricks as had his Norwegian counterpart above. N/S +620. 

I know that readers enjoy seeing experts with egg on their faces, but anyone of a nervous disposition should skip the details of this deal at the other table in this match. 

Faced with the same problem as Magne Eide at the first table in the other match, Herve Vinciguerra decided either that 3NT simply was not enough or that it was just the wrong game. Instead, he jumped to 4NT; but was that natural, Simple Blackwood, or perhaps RKCB for hearts? Philippe Soulet thought he knew what it was as he self-alerted his 5  response as showing one (or four) key-cards.  

Vinciguerra tried to sign off in 5. With East doubling the Blackwood response for a club lead, this contract would, presumably, have drifted one down. Unfortunately for the French, the auction was not yet over, and understandably so. Consistent with his previous view that his partner’s 4NT was Blackwood agreeing hearts, Soulet now assumed that South’s 5 bid was asking for the queen of trumps. Holding the Q but no outside king, Soulet duly jumped to 6. Vinciguerra chose to correct back to diamonds at the seven-level, hoping perhaps that his partner might perhaps hold four key cards rather than one. Peter Fredin’s double of the grand slam suggested that would not be the case.  

Fredin led the K and switched to a trump. That was fine for the defence as declarer’s club losers were never going anywhere. N/S -800 and a massive 16 IMPs to FREDIN. 

FREDIN won the match 35-6, hauling them up into the top four and virtually ensuring themselves a place in the knockout stage. Meanwhile, the French dropped down to eighth, just clinging on by their fingertips. Elsewhere, RIPPEY defeated BLACK 27-4, to move to the top of the table ahead of MULTI, who lost 2-26 to EFC HOLDING. 

Down on the bubble, it looked like there were four teams contesting the final three places in the knockout: CANTOR (103.52 VPs were playing ECF HOLDING in Round 10), BLACK (103.08 and playing BRIDGE24.PL MIXED), VINO ROSSO (100.16, playing ROIKO) and JEDI KNIGHTS (95.67, playing HARRIS).  

Board 10 might look like a routine flat game deal, and in some matches it was exactly that. Not everyone chose the same strain, though: 

Eric A Eide

Erik Aulid Eide first represented Norway in the Schools Teams at the 2000 European Youth Team Championships, where he collected a silver medal. In his final year of eligibility as a junior, he became a world champion as part of the Norwegian team that won the Under-28 Teams at the 2008 World Bridge Games in Beijing. More recently, he was a member of the Norwegian squad that finished second in the Open Teams at the 2017 European Champions Cup. 

The Norwegians conducted a controlled auction on this deal despite East/West competing to the three level in clubs. Erik Eide’s 4♣ cue-bid offered his partner a choice of red-suit games, and Siv Thoresen very sensibly chose hearts. The club lead posed no problems, and declarer was soon claiming ten tricks via five trumps, the A and two tricks in each of the other side suits. N/S +620. 

Although East/West were silent in the replay, this combination was apparently problematic for Stone Age Acol: 

Mike Graham opened the normal (for four-card majorites) 1♠ and, over David Burn’s 2 response, he rebid 2NT to show a weak no-trump hand type without three-card heart support. Ideally, North would now be able to bid something like 3♣ or 3 to ask opener whether he held two hearts or five spades. Lacking that capability, Burn showed his three-card spade support but, of course, Graham no long had any interest in that suit. Lacking a fifth spade presumably marked Graham with a doubleton heart, but Burn still elected to produce dummy in the nine-trick game.  

Jay Hoyland’s club lead was not good news for declarer. He ducked until the third round, crossed to dummy in diamonds, and played a heart to the nine. West won with the K and produced an avalanche of clubs. N/S -300, 14 IMPs to ECF HOLDING and a serious blow to CANTOR’s chances of making the knockout stage. 

The hopes of other contenders for the last places in the knockout also suffered a blow on this deal. 

Juliano Barbosa

Juliano Barbosa first represented his country at the 1985 European Championships, and he has been a regular member of various Portuguese national teams, Open, Mixed and Seniors, for more than three decades. Most notably, he was part of the team that collected bronze medals at the 2012 European Small Federations Games. 

Here, too, East/West remained silent, but Barbosa had no doubt where he wanted to play this hand. Over Sophia Pessoa’s 12-14 1NT rebid, he simply jumped to game in his long suit. N/S +620. 

This auction began in the same way as the Norwegian auction we saw in the first match. Here, too, Michel Bessis offered a choice of strains with a 4 cue-bid. Unlike the Norwegian, though, Herve Vinciguerra thought his hand was too good to simply sign off in a heart game. When he showed a preference for diamonds, Bessis took him seriously and raised to slam.  

The ♣K opening gave declarer no chance: there was a trick to be lost in each major even if declarer somehow guessed the trumps (leading the J and running it to pin the doubleton ten). At the table, declarer understandably lost a trump trick too, and thus went two down: N/S -200 and 13 IMPs to ROIKO. 

VINO ROSSO overcame the loss on this deal to win their match 20-16. JEDI KNIGHTS also won, 23-9 over HARRIS, to climb up into the qualifying places. Of the other contenders, BLACK lost, but only by a score of 4-12 against the Poles. CANTOR suffered a devastating loss, though, going down 35-1 against the Norwegians, so it was they who missed out. 

These were the final standings, with the top eight teams advancing to the knockout stage

MULTI126.24 VPs

The quarter-final line-up (with carry-forward advantage shown in brackets) is: 



RIPPEY (+3.1) vs BLACK 


We will be back next week with the best of the action from the knockout stage.