Great BBO Vugraph Deals #137

Marc Smith visits the middle rounds of Heat 10 of the Alt New-Co

This is the last monthly heat of the 2021 Alt New-Co before the Finale event. In Group A, the teams who finished in the top two places in Heat 9 still occupy those same two places after three matches in Heat 10. They are also the only two teams to have started this heat with three victories, although that winning run is destined to end for one of them as they play each other in Round 4. After three matches, the standings in Group A look like this:

BLACK47.74 VPs


Elsewhere, BRIDGE24.PL MIXED (Poland) lead HARRIS (England/USA/Bulgaria) in Group B, whilst THE MAGICIANS (Turkey) head KRUSE’S CARDCIRCUS (Denmark) in Group C.
As usual, we begin with some problems for you to consider. Firstly, with both sides vulnerable, you are West holding:

What, if anything, do you bid? Next, with just your side vulnerable, you hold as West:

What, if anything, do you bid?

Finally, with neither side vulnerable, you are sitting West with:

What action, if any, do you take?

While you consider those, we start with the Round 4 meeting of the two leading teams, and an evenly-matched contest it turned out to be. Board 12 caused carnage in all three Group A matches.

In the bidding climate of today, it is perhaps something of a surprise that no one opened the ‘obvious’ weak 2♠ on the West hand. Thomas Karlsson did open 2♠, but on the North hand, although for the Swedes it showed a meaty 9-12 HCP, so not really a weak two. Alexander Sandin rolled out some high-tech wizardry, his 3 response showing a game-forcing hand with at least six cards in one of the minors and short spades (and I wonder how long they have waited for that to come up!) The key bid in the whole auction, though, turned out to be Andrew Black’s lead-directing double of 3

The contract can be made on any lead, but David Gold’s partner-assisted opening lead of the 7 was a devilish start for the defense. Karlsson could have made 4♠ by playing low from dummy, as his 9 forces West to win with the queen. Unable to continue diamonds from his side, East has to exit with a trump, allowing declarer to get to his hand. A successful heart finesse would then augment declarer’s nine top tricks to ten.

Having won the opening diamond lead with the ace, though, Karlsson had no convenient way to reach his hand to draw trumps. He had little option but to play ace and another heart but, of course, that meant he could make only one heart trick, so he ended with the nine top tricks with which he started. N/S -100.

The Swedes reached 4♠ by a more conventional route, giving East no chance for anything heroic, and thus Jonas Petterssen led the obvious ♣K. Simon Hult rose with dummy’s ace and was rudely awakened by the appearance of a spade from the East hand. Now his nine top tricks had suddenly become eight, Johan Sylvan switched to the Q at trick two, which was allowed to win, so he had then to exit with a trump. Declarer cashed five rounds of trumps, throwing four clubs from dummy, and putting East under pressure. When he mistakenly threw a second club, declarer took the heart finesse, pitched his diamond loser on the A, and played a club, setting up the ‘long’ club in his hand as his tenth trick. N/S +620 and 13 IMPs to BLACK.

The same contract was reached at one table in the match between EDMONDS and LEBOWITZ. But, first, the best laid plans of mice and men…

No doubt Adam Grossack raised confidently to game and put down dummy thinking ‘I have six tricks for you, partner’. West led the Q and switched to the J at trick two. The defenders were never benevolent enough to lead a spade, so declarer came just to the two hearts, three clubs and one diamond he could make in his own hand: N/S -300.

Joel Wooldridge

Joel Wooldridge first represented the USA at the 1995 World Youth Team Championships. Four years later, he claimed a silver medal from that same event on home soil in Fort Lauderdale FL. He closed a long and distinguished career as a junior by winning the World Junior Teams in 2001 and 2005, and sandwiched between those was victory in the Junior Teams at the 2002 IOC Grand Prix. He was awarded the WBF Youth Award in 2003. Since joining the Open circuit, he has reached the final of the Bermuda Bowl, losing to the Dutch in 2011, and claimed bronze medals in the Open Teams at World Championship events in 2015 and 2018.

On this deal, Wooldridge bid spades four times and Jodi Edmonds finally gave up. He then demonstrated the best line of play after East had led the ♣K. Wooldridge thoughtfully played low from dummy at trick one. He then allowed East to win again, with the ♣Q at trick two. He covered East’s club continuation at trick three and West ruffed to return the K. Wooldridge won with the A, ruffed a winning club to his hand, drew trumps, and claimed the rest. Easy game, isn’t it? N/S +620 and 14 IMPs to EDMONDS.

Before we leave this deal, it is worth looking at the auctions in the third Group A match, particularly as I know how much you all enjoy seeing experts with egg on their faces. We begin with the sublime:

Italy’s Leonard Cima decided that the North hand was worth a vulnerable three-level pre-empt, and he bought the contract right there. John Lusky led the ♣K and Cima saw his ace ruffed away at trick one. He ducked the switch to the K, won the trump switch, and eventually took a heart finesse to get back to the nine tricks with which he had started. N/S +140.The auction at the other table demonstrates that even top players can come unstuck when faced with methods that are not common in their part of the world

The average club player in The Netherlands knows how to defend against things such as this multi-way 2 opening, because they see it every day. Not so long ago, a French player could expect a trip to the guillotine for playing anything other than the standard national system, but influences are clearly changing, as here we see a French pair sporting 21st-century tools. And, what havoc they wreaked! 

Ai-Tai Lo entered with a naural 3 overcall. In such auctions, where the opponents have shown two suits, it is normal to bid the one in which you have values, so Lo took his partner’s 3 bid as showing something in that suit and, with his heart stop,  he duly bid 3NT. All well and good. 

When David Czecheslashvili continued with 4, it probably never even occurred to Lo that his partner actually wanted to play there. He assumed, as I suspect would many others, that 4 was control-showing with interest in a club slam. You can hardly blame Lo for accepting the invitation. When his partner bid spades for a third time, Lo finally got the message but, by then, so had the opponents, and Pierre Bedouet doubled on the East hand. 

Declarer got his A ruffed at trick one, so that was three down: N/S -800 and 14 IMPs to RIPPEY. 

The very next deal produced more swings, with almost all West players having to answer the first of this week’s bidding problems. 

Bob Hamman’s second Law of Bidding comes to mind: “If you need me to hold a specific hand, assume I won’t have it.” Allen Falk for AMATEURS and Johan Sylvan for FREDIN both decided that their hand had just too many flaws. 

Gunnar Hallberg led the 2 and Simon Hult tried to give him a ruff, so declarer made twelve tricks: E/W +680. Mike Rippey led the A and after that start taking three tricks was not difficult: E/W +620.

I suppose partner might have KQJxxxx/x/xxx/Ax, but might he not also have opened 1 with that? Even if he has KQJxxxx/Ax/xxx/x, slam still fails on a heart lead. At five of the 18 tables in the Alt, West followed this path unassisted to 5. Only one of the five was fortunate enough to get a trump (or diamond) lead. E/W -100 meant 12 IMPs to AMATEURS and 13 IMPs to FREDIN.

Although FREDIN wins the battle to remain undefeated, triumphing 37-32, BLACK remains in first place on the leaderboard. Indeed, the 5-IMP win is not even enough for the Swedes to hold on to the English teams’ coattails, as EDMONDS beats LEBOWITZ 53-19 to move up into second spot. 

In Round 5, the top three teams all played teams in the bottom half of the table. However, none of the top three managed to win, proving yet again that any team in this event is capable of beating any other. On Board 9, a number of West players had to deal with some variation on the second of this week’s bidding problems.

The Poles had a useful toy to solve the problem, a 2 transfer to hearts. This method is becoming more popular with expert partnerships – after a black-suit overcall, up to and including 3♣, the meaning of natural bids in the unbid suits are switched. Thus, in this auction, 2 shows hearts and 2 would show diamonds. East’s completion of the transfer was neutral, just saying that he would have passed a non-forcing 2 bid. Ai-Tai Lo doubled for takeout on the South hand and Michel Klukowski raised defensively to 3. David Chechelashvili’s 4 then ended the auction.

The A opening lead gave declarer a chance, but there was still a lot of work to do and Chechelashvili eventually finished one down. With E/W making nine tricks in hearts, though, E/W +50 looked like a decent result for the American pair.

Jodie Edmonds did not come in over the 1♣ opening at this table, so the American had the auction to themselves. How good is this hand facing a weak notrump without three hearts? Whilst the Poles had judged to stop short of game, Yang went for the vulnerable marbles. As the cards lie, though, declarer had no legitimate chance of making ten tricks: E/W -100 and 4 IMPs to EDMONDS. After two consecutive close losses, finally AMATEURS record their first victory of the week with a 37-25 win.

Jacob Ron

Jacob Ron first represented his country as a junior in 1992. Having collected a silver medal in the Junior Teams at the 1994 European Championships, and bronze medals at both the World Championships in 1995 and the 1996 Europeans, he was a member of the winning Danish squad at the 1997 World Youth Teams Championships in Hamilton, Ontario. He made his debut in the Danish Open team at the 2010 European Championships.

In the same position, facing an 11-14 1NT rebid, Ron simply bid 2 over South’s double. North bid 3 but Ron settled for a competitive 3 when that came back to him. The defence could make three spades and the K but that was all: a well-judged E/W +140. 

At the other table in this match, Italy’s Agustin Madala was also faced with the original problem:

Madala’s solution was an immediate jump to 4, perhaps optimistically hoping to find North with just enough to talk him into bidding 4♠? No such luck on this occasion.

Peter Fredin led a spade, won by South with the J, and Alon Apteker switched to his trump, declarer winning in hand. Madala cashed the K and played a second spade, to queen and king. South can defeat the contract now by playing either a club or a low spade, and Apteker exited correctly with the Q. There was then no way for declarer to avoid losing a trump and a third spade: E/W +100 and 6 IMPs to FREDIN. However, this match spelled the end of the unbeaten run for the Swedes, LEBOWITZ winning 32-22.

In the third Group A match, Canada’s Kimelman/Thurston scored +140 in 3 for RIPPEY. 

With North/South overcalling and pre-empting in diamonds, this West hand looks much better, so it was almost inevitable that Gunnar Hallberg would bid game. The play began in exactly the same manner as at the table above. Here, though, when apparently endplayed with the second round of spades, Mike Rippey exited with the ♠K. Yes, declarer was forced to ruff with dummy’s now-singleton A, but North’s trumps were nowhere near good enough for a second trick to be promoted. Declarer no longer had a third spade to lose now, though: E/W +620 and 10 IMPS to BLACK, but victory in the match for RIPPEY by a margin of 38-26.

With the three higher-ranked teams all losing by similar margins, Round 5 left the leaderboard unchanged. The key tie in the first round of the second Round Robin was second-placed FREDIN against the team less than half a VP behind them, EDMONDS.

It was easy to jump onto the Magic Roundabout on Board 11. The key was to get off just before the music stopped.

The young Americans gave the Swedish stars little chance of finding their spade fit. With the K well-placed for declarer, there were just two hearts to lose: N/S +550.

Andrew Black did not have a weak two in diamonds available. David Gold overcalled in diamonds and Black pre-empted to the four-level, but the horse had already bolted. Gold raised to game, but Allen Falk knew enough to take the save, although it was not clear who was sacrificing so no one doubled. There were two club, a diamond and a spade to lose: N/S +100 but 10 IMPs to AMATEURS, who held the leaders to just an 8-IMP victory, 46-38.

Bo-Henry Ek

After the same start, Piotr Zatorski’s 2♠ bid was non-forcing. With Andreas Westman raising diamonds via a 3 cue-bid rather than a pre-emptive jump, who was bidding to make was much clearer at this table. As a result, Bo-Henry Ek was able to double the Poles when they pressed on to the five-level. N/S +300.

At the all-Swedish table, Mikael Rimstet got the ball rolling with a two-way 2 opening, either strong and artificial or weak with diamonds. The major downside to this method, though, was that after West’s heart overcall, Ola Rimstedt could not pre-empt at his first turn as he did not know which hand type his partner held. As a result, Jan Becklen was able to get spades into the auction in comfort. Ola duly bid the diamond game over Bjorn Fallenius’s raise to 4. When East’s 5 came back to him, though, Ola was not well-placed. He guessed to bid one more, turning a plus into a minus: N/S -100 and 9 IMPs to FREDIN. The rest of the match, though, was all one-way traffic in the other direction, EDMONDS winning 33-13 to consolidate their hold on second place.

In Round 7, the top three teams again all played opponents in the bottom half of the table. This time, though, the pre-match favourites all won, some of them emphatically. A number of West players had to decide whether to intervene on the last of this week’s problem hands:

South opened 1 and Peter Fredin decided to remain silent on the West cards, and was no doubt glad he had when David Chechelashvili then bid spades on his left. Alon Apteker backed in with 2 when 2 was passed around to him. Jiang Gu’s competitive 3 then ended the auction in the same contract as was reached with South’s opening bid at many tables.

Fredin duly led a diamond and the defenders made a trick in each side suit plus a diamond ruff and two natural trump tricks. Two down: N/S -100.

In the replay, Johan Sylvan also opened 1. If you really feel you must bid on this West hand, my feeling is that a weak jump to 2 is the best option. When David Yang chose to come in with a 1 overcall, Franco Baseggio took his partner seriously and jumped to 3NT. Jacob Ron, who had kept his power dry by opting not to make a negative double at his first turn, now came to life with a double double that was now very much not negative.

Steered away from a club lead that might well have given the contract away, Sylvan duly tabled the Q. Baseggio could have escaped for one down by winning with the A and starting diamonds immediately. When he played low from dummy, though, he was potentially in deep trouble, if Jacob overtakes with the K and switches to a club while his partner still has two diamond stops.

When the Q held, Sylvan switched to the 9, keeping the defence in the game. Declarer took the Q with his ace and, again, had a chance to make eight tricks by playing diamonds from hand. Instead, he went for all the marbles, crossing to the ♠A to play a diamond to the ten. Curtains!

Winning with the J, Sylvan exited with his remaining heart. Ron won with the K, cashed his two spade winners, and put a club through declarer, ensuring one more trick in each minor for the defence.  Three down: N/S +500 and 12 IMPs to FREDIN, who returned to winning ways and kept themselves in contention with victory by a margin of 72-25.

With three matches to play, these were the standings:

BLACK91.85 VPs

It was looking like a three-way battle for the title, and a three-way tie to avoid relegation.

Elsewhere, BRIDGE24.PL MIXED (Poland) led Group B ahead of PARSLEY (France), whilst THE MAGICIANS (Turkey) and KRUSE’S CARDCIRCUS (Denmark) still topped Group C.

We will be back next week with the best of the action from the final three matches.