Great BBO Vugraph Deals #131

Marc Smith visits the closing rounds of heat 9 of the alt New-Co 

Last week, we left Heat 9 of the monthly Alt New-Co with the English/Swedish team still unbeaten and well in command after seven of the ten matches had been played. These were the standings in Group A going into the final three matches: 

BLACK105.77 VPs

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. 

As usual, we begin with some problems. Firstly, with just your side vulnerable, you are East holding: 

What do you bid? Next, with neither side vulnerable, you hold as North: 

What, if anything, do you open? 

Finally, with just your side vulnerable, you are sitting West with: 

You had no good bid on the previous round, but things have not gotten any easier. What action do you take now? 

While you consider those, we kick off the action in Round 8, with the leaders taking on the young American team currently in last place. The pre-match favourites did not have things all their own way, though. 

Gunnar Hallberg entered with what looks like a bog-standard 2NT overcall of David Yang’s first seat weak two opening. Franco Baseggio introduced his long suit but the Swedes swept aside the American intervention to reach their solid game in hearts. As is often inevitable in such auctions, reaching a contract in the notrump overcaller’s long minor is all but impossible. Declarer had a loser in each black suit: N/S +450. 

In the other room, West had to start with a Multi, and the Americans countered with an innovative defensive method I have not come across before: 

David Chechelashvili

Now playing under the ‘Stars and Stripes’ flag, David Chechelashvili won a European title representing his native Georgia (the country rather than the state) in the Open Teams at the 2017 European Small Federations Games. His partnership with Ai-Tai Lo probably also holds the record for the largest difference in the number of letters in each player’s surname 

Over West’s Multi opening, Checkelashvili overcalled 2♠, which he self-alerted as “14 HCP, diamonds”, which does seem remarkably specific to me. My guess is that 2♠ is probably 14+ and that perhaps a natural 3 overcall would show less than that. A novel idea, for sure, and remarkably successful on this deal. Lo was able to agree diamonds immediately with a 4♣ cue-bid, and then Blackwooded the partnership to the excellent slam. Playing in diamonds, declarer’s spade loser disappears on the hearts, so there was just one club to be lost: N/S +920 and 10 IMPs to AMATEURS.  

In a low-scoring match, this deal was almost enough to inflict a first defeat on the BLACK team, but they just managed to retain their unbeaten status with a 27-24 victory. There was little change in the overcall standings, with SALVO and DE BOTTON playing to a 25-25 tie and FREDIN defeating VINITA 25-16. 

The Turks could not field a team for Round 9, so they forfeited against AMATEURS, which was enough to move the Americans out of the relegation place, and for the Turks to sink into the battle to avoid the drop. Out next deal produced identical 11-IMP swings in the two remaining matches, almost entirely based on how the East players viewed the first of this week’s bidding problems. At one table in each match: 

Tom Paske for BLACK and Alon Apteker for FREDIN both decided to respect the vulnerability, and thus they opened the East hand 3. This allowed David Bakhshi for DE BOTTON and Emil Jepsen for VINITA to back in with 3NT.  

When the ♠K won at trick one, Apteker switched to the J, covered by king and ace. Fredin returned the 9 to dummy’s queen, and Bakhshi led the ♣K. Fredin could have won with the ♣A and cashed the 10 to save the overtrick. When he ducked the first round of clubs, declarer claimed ten tricks: N/S +430 in both matches.

Vinita Gupta

In the replays, Janet De Botton and Vinita Gupta held the East cards, and they both snubbed their nose at the vulnerability with a 4♠ opening. I would guess that neither Simon Hult for BLACK nor Anders Morath for FREDIN had a natural 4NT available, even if they wanted one. As a result, both had little choice but to bid 5, and both West players doubled on the way out. There were only ten tricks available in diamonds: N/S -100 and 11 IMPs to both DE BOTTON and VINITA. 

DE BOTTON beat FREDIN 37-22 to climb into third place. BLACK’s 48-24 victory over VINITA confirmed them as winners of this heat with a match still to be played, such was the enormity of their lead. Theoretically, it also left VINITA at the foot of the table, fighting a three-way battle to avoid relegation. However, they won their final match by default when, again, SALVO could not field a team. 

For those watching on BBO VuGraph, though, there was plenty of action in the two remaining matches, and in particular the battle between the leading two teams. On Board 8, the second of this week’s bidding problems attracted three (effectively four) different solutions. 

David Gold opened with what he described as a ‘good weak two’, the weaker version going through a Multi. When Andrew Black asked with 2NT, Gold was able to show his 6-5 shape with a jump to 4: an unusual treatment that I have not come across before, and remarkably useful on this hand. Black raised to slam and Johan Bennet led the A. Declarer won the club switch in dummy and effectively cross-ruffed his way to twelve tricks, discarding two losing spades on dummy’s high clubs and ruffing three in dummy. N/S +980.

For the Swedes, Anders Morath began with a feather-weight 1sx opening. They quickly found their heart fit and Morath showed a minimum by failing to cue-bid over 3. Johan Sylvan had one more go with Blackwood, but gave up when he discovered that there was an ace missing. Twelve tricks here too, but that was only N/S +480 and 11 IMPs to BLACK. 

In the other match, there were two two-level openings, but not from players holding the same cards.  

Ai-Tai Lo

For the Americans, David Checkelashvili opened with an intermediate two bid, showing around 10-13 and a six- or seven-card suit. Ai-Tai Lo asked with 2NT, and Chechelashvili’s 3♣ bid showed an unspecified second suit. 3 asked which suit and 3NT showed at least four hearts to go with six spades. Lo now jumped to 5, asking about trump quality. With a trump more than he had shown, Chechelashvili decided that Q-10-9-x-x was a good enough suit on which to accept the try – what’s the worst holding partner can have. Surely at least Kxxx, and almost certainly better.  

On lead from the West side, Dror Padon opened the ♣Q and declarer wasted no time disposing of dummy’s diamonds. A top heart, then a spade to the ace and a spade ruff, were followed by a diamond ruff and a third round of spades, ruffed with the K. When the last trump was led from declarer’s hand, the J appeared and Lo claimed twelve tricks, just conceding a trick to West’s ♠K: N/S +980. 

Artur Mallinowski opted for a different approach, passing the North hand with the hope of being able to show both majors at his next turn. It was, therefore, John Lusky who got the auction rolling with a weak two on the East cards, this time in diamonds. Janet De Botton was not for off-putting, though, and she entered with a natural club overall. Malinowski finally came clean and bid his spades and, when De Botton retreated to 3NT, he unveiled his second suit. Despite her good fit, De Botton could not envisage slam opposite a partner who passed on his first turn. Declarer managed to make a thirteenth trick at this table, but all to no avail: N/S +510 and 10 IMPs to AMATEURS. 

On the very next deal, both E/W pairs had to deal with opposition bidding, but the tempo of the auction worked much better for one pair than the other. 

At the all-Swedish table, Anders Morath opened a Multi, showing a poor weak two (often only a five-card suit). Expecting opener to hold spades, Simon Hult overcalled 2. Far from landing his side in trouble, though, the effect was to steer them into the relatively calm waters of the notrump game. The defence led spades and Hallberg ducked the first three rounds, potentially tightening the screw in the endgame. He then tested clubs and, when the bad break there came to light, he switched to diamonds. The A was not with the long spade so, with the 10 coming down, declarer had nine tricks: E/W +600. 

Andrew Black

With David Gold passing on the North hand, you might think the Swedes at this table would have a relatively easy ride. The English pair was not done by a long chalk, though, and Andrew Black’s aggressive 2 weak jump overcall truly placed the feline amongst the Scandinavian pigeons. Jan Becklen had no obvious bid and, when his partner then doubled Gold’s raise to 3, he was left with the last of the bidding problems posed at the top of this article. As we have seen, removing the double to 3NT produces +600, but that is hardly obvious when you know partner has a most a low singleton spade. Passing the double would have collected a +300 penalty and limited the loss on the deal, but Becklen opted for the third option and jumped to game in his long minor.  

David Gold led a spade and, at trick two, he took the Q with his ace and forced dummy to ruff with the ♣10 by playing a second round of spades. It may seem that declarer now has only two losers, a diamond and a trump, but making eleven tricks is not as straightforward as it looks. Becklen cashed dummy’s high diamonds, glad to see the 10 falling from the South hand. To make the contract, though, declarer must now perform a rare Dentist’s Coup, by cashing one of dummy’s high hearts to extract South’s exit card in that suit. Instead, Becklen continued with the 9, discarding his remaining spade loser when South ruffed in with his natural trump trick. The problem was that South now exited with the J, stranding declarer in dummy, unable to draw the last trump. Declarer had no choice but to try to cash dummy’s second heart winner, but South ruffed and the defenders had three tricks.  E/W -100 and 11 IMPs to BLACK. 

BLACK defeated FREDIN 52-25 to complete an unbeaten week and to seal victory by a record margin. With AMATEURS beating DE BOTTON 30-13 in the other match, the Swedes finished a distant second, but that was still their third consecutive top-two finish in the event. These were the final standings: 

BLACK148.69 VPs

Elsewhere, LEBOWITZ overhauled EDMONDS to earn promotion from Group B. In Group C, HARRIS led from tape to tape whilst THE MAGICIANS put together a late run to top Group D. 

Next week, we take a brief sojourn from the Alt to check out the best of the action at a couple of European events.