Marc Smith visits the middle rounds of heat 9 of the alt New-Co
Last week, we left Heat 9 of the monthly Alt New-Co after four matches. These were the standings in Group A as we approached the mid-point of the event:
Elsewhere, LEBOWITZ led EDMONDS in the race for promotion from Group B. HARRIS had built a lead over KRUSE’S BRIDGECIRCUS in Group C, whilst ROIKO headed Group D ahead of THE MAGICIANS.
As usual, we begin with some problems. Firstly, with just your side vulnerable, you are North holding:
What do you bid?
Next, with just the opponents vulnerable, you hold as North:
What do you bid?
Finally, an opening lead problem. With both sides vulnerable, you are sitting East with:
What do you lead?
While you consider those, we kick off the action in Round 5, the final match in the first of the two round robins. The top match in this round is third-placed FREDIN against the leaders, BLACK. After 14 of the 16 deals, FREDIN led 39-23, but then came the first of this week’s bidding problems:
Peter Fredin chose to begin with a quiet 1♠ on the North cards and heard David Gold show hearts on his left via a negative double. He still jumped to 3♠ at his second turn and, when Gold then took a shot at 3NT, South African star Alon Apteker wielded the axe. However, it turned out to be more of a whimper than a boom that was being lowered. Apteker led his spade, ducked to declarer’s king. Gold played the ♦Q and Apteker took his ace, but his heart switch only served to surrender the second overtrick. Gold won with the ♥J, ran the diamonds, then played a club to his ten in the end position. Whether Apteker exited with a club or a heart, declarer had the rest. N/S -750.
Gunnar Hallberg chose the exact opposite to the ‘going quietly’ approach, offering the Norwegians a chance to gain 2 IMPs on the deal by collecting an 800 penalty from 4♠-X. Allan Livgard doubled, but he also described it as ‘usually takeout’. Terje Aa pulled to 4NT, which was the last making contract for the Norwegians. However, Aa intended his 4NT as offering a choice of minors, so Livgard never really contemplated playing there.
Against 5♦, Hallberg led the ♠A and then gave his partner a ruff. Had Simon Hult exited with ace and another diamond, he would have scored a club trick in the endgame, but his heart switch allowed declarer to get both of his club losers away. It was only the second undertrick, though, and made little difference to the score: N/S +50 and 13 IMPs to BLACK.
When Andrew Black then found a superior line of play in 3NT on the final board of the match, another 13 IMPs rolled in and the English team had turned the match around, BLACK winning 49-39 to retain their place at the top of the leaderbaord. With SALVO defeating VINITA 44-32, the standings remained unchanged.
The second round robin opened with a meeting of the two teams hot on the heels of the leaders, SALVO and FREDIN, and what an entertaining match it was for those watching live on BBO VuGraph. The match opened with a 17-IMP swing to the Turks on a deal where slam depended on correctly guessing a suit missing four card including the queen. The board also produced an unusual result and perhaps a salutary lesson at one table in the match between VINITA and AMATEURS.
VINITA’s young Danes had bid to 6♦ at one table, losing 100 when declarer got the trumps wrong. Events at the other table fall into the category of ‘teach them a lesson’.
Allan Falk and John Lusky just missed out on a medal in the Seniors Pairs at the 2018 World Bridge Series in Orlando, and also reached the last 16 of the Seniors Teams at the same championships.
Falk opened a normal 2NT and Lusky began with Stayman. Danish protégé Andreas Plejdrup’s decision to double 3♣ for the lead is the kind of bid that you will usually get away with at your local club, but not at this level. Falk redoubled to show decent clubs and Lusky showed excellent judgement by passing, despite holding only a singleton club.
Plejdrup led the ♣10 and declarer won with dummy’s jack. Next came the ♦K and a diamond to the jack. South could ruff, but declarer was in control. The defenders came to the ♥A and one more trump trick, but that was all. Ten tricks for declarer: an unusual E/W +1240 and 16 IMPs to AMATEURS.
The next major swing hinged on North’s evaluation on the second of the problems posed earlier. Most of the Turkish advantage disappeared when their player took the most conservative of views.
With the Turkish North raising only to 2♥, it is hard to see how Faruk Kepekci could realistically contemplate further action after East’s raise to game. The defenders had just three top tricks: N/S -620.
Norwegian players are rarely reticent when it comes to bidding, and Allan Livgard duly stepped up to the plate with a full-blooded raise to game on the North cards. When East then essayed 4♠, it was not a difficult decision for Terje Aa to continue on to the five-level on his 5-5 shape. The hands fit well and the defenders had just the two black aces to cash: N/S +450 and 14 IMPs to FREDIN.
For the record, the auction began the same way at all 24 tables. The North players bid 4♥ (8), 2NT inv/4+♥ (6), 3♥ pre-emptive (3), 2♠ inv+/3♥ (3), 3♦ mixed raise (2), 3♠ splinter (1) and 2♥ (1). With so many possibilities, this is surely an ideal hand for BBO’s expert Bidding Panel to opine on in a future month.
FREDIN’s 69-24 victory propelled them above the Turks. The Swedes were still lying second, though, 15-VPs behind BLACK, who won again, this time defeating DE BOTTON 58-35. AMATEURS also recorded their first win of the week, 49-12 over VINITA.
In Round 7, it was the turn of SALVO to step up to take on the leaders. It was another exciting match, with close to 100 IMPs changing hands. 25 IMPs swung on the opening lead problem posed at the top of this article. This was the deal:
Cengiz Ozgez opened 1♥ and then doubled at his second turn after the opponents had each bid a suit. When Andrew McIntosh jumped to 5♣, the vulnerable Turk advanced to the five-level all alone, facing a partner who had contributed nothing to the auction. One can hardly blame Tom Paske for doubling. If the sight of the World’s Fair coming down in dummy wasn’t enough, declarer ruffing Paske’s opening club lead told the English pair that things were not looking good for their prospects. Declarer lost just the ♦K: N/S +950 and what looked like an excellent result for the Turks. One never can tell, though.
Simon Hult collected a bronze medal in the Youngsters Teams at the 2011 European Youth Team Championships on his debut in international bridge. He enjoyed a glittering career as a junior international, amassing seven medals from major events including gold from the Junior Teams events at the 2017 and 2019 European Championships and the 2015 and 2018 World Youth Championships. Still well short of his 30th birthday, Hult has collected a silver medal from the Open Teams at the 2018 European Winter Games and he was a member of the Swedish team that reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 Bermuda Bowl in Wuhan. One thinks he will be around for some time, which is surely great news for Swedish bridge.
After the same start to the auction, Hult jumped to 4♦ at his second turn. This encouraged Gunnar Hallberg to cue-bid in spades and, when West doubled, to redouble to confirm first-round control. Although Hallberg signed off in 5♦ after East had doubled Hult’s club cue-bid, the young Swedish star raised himself to slam anyway. Ozgur Goksel doubled on the East cards and then had to solve the lead problem posed earlier.
When the Turk opted to open the ♣K, Hult ruffed with the ♦J and continued with the ♦A and the ♦9. East won with then ♦K and persisted with a second round of clubs, but Hult ruffed and played a spade to the ace. With the spade finesse now marked, he could draw the last trump and claim his twelve tricks no matter how the hearts split. N/S +1540 and 11 IMPs to BLACK. Had Goksel found the spade lead perhaps suggested by his partner’s imaginative double of South’s cue-bid, N/S -200 would have meant 14 IMPs in the other direction.
The BLACK team seem to be walking on water, and their 70-24 victory over the Turks is their seventh straight win. With FREDIN going down to a 5-57 loss to last-placed AMATEURS, the English/Swedish team now lead the field by more than a match and a half with three rounds remaining.
With seven rounds played, these are the Group A standings:
Elsewhere, EDMONDS has moved ahead of LEBOWITZ in the race for promotion from Group B. HARRIS leads Group C with JEDI KNIGHTS close behind them, whilst ROIKO and THE MAGICIANS top Group D.
We will return next week with the best of the action from the final three matches in this heat.