July BBO Prime Tournament. Deal analysis.

Thank you for joining July’s BBO Prime Tournament. We hope you enjoyed it!

There were 10 deals in this tournament and 5 of them were taken from a real life event, featured on BBO vugraph. Want to know which deals were “cooked” and see how they were played originally?

The “surprise” deals were boards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in July’s BBO Prime Tournament.


Read below BBO star player and bridge writer extraordinaire Marc Smith’s analysis, along with the context in which the hands were played in real life.


We return to Monte Carlo this week for the last day of the 3rd European Winter Games, and the final of the Zimmermann Cup. Still standing is the team that dominated the round robin qualifying stage, the multi-national GUPTA (Naren Gupta, Debbie Rosenberg, Geir Helgemo, Cedric Lorenzini, Jeff Meckstroth and Zia Mahmood). Their opponents, another team packed with former World Champions, survived the qualifying stage by just 0.29 of a Victory Point, advancing to the knockout phase in 16th place. They are SWISS TEAM (Pierre Zimmermann, Franck Multon, Sjoert Brink, Bas Drijver, Piotr Gawrys and Michal Klukowski). 

The final was played over three 20-board stanzas. As usual, we begin with a couple of teasers for you. Bidding this first hand type can often be tricky. With neither side vulnerable, your hand as South is:

What do you open and what is your plan?

If you start with One Club, partner bids One Spade. If you then reverse to Two Hearts, partner bids Two Spades, which confirms the values for game and shows a fifth spade. What now? 

If you open Two Clubs, partner responds Two Diamonds (negative or waiting). How do you then advance?

Next, with only the opponents vulnerable, you hold as North:

Your partner’s Two Heart opening shows 6-10 HCP and at least 5-5 in hearts and a minor. What action do you take, if any?

Whatever action you take now, the bidding is likely to come back to you in Four Spades. Would you take action at that point?

Finally, with neither side vulnerable, you are faced with this everyday bidding decision. As West your hand is:

What do you bid?

While you think about those problems, let’s take a look at the one curious deal in a very quiet first set. In the past year or so, we have seen plenty of examples of what would not so long ago have been considered outrageously light pre-empts bringing in piles of IMPs. Sometimes, though, when you live by the sword you can also die by the sword. Such deaths, though, whist seemingly excruciating at the time, can still turn out to be relatively painless.

E/W VulDealer North

The North hand is of a type that has become a routine weak two opening if you play such a thing in diamonds. Indeed, if the diamonds were a major the percentage of players opening these days would, I suspect, be significant. You will usually only choose to defend at a low level at adverse vulnerability when it is unclear that your side can make game. If ever there was a hand on which to go against that principle, though, it is surely this West hand.

Playing Two Diamonds-Doubled was little fun for declarer, who managed to make just two trump tricks: E/W +1400.

WestKlulowski NorthRosenberg EastGawrys SouthGupta

Piotr Gawrys opened a forcing, three-way Polish Club (clubs, weak balanced or any strong hand) and Michal Klukowski made a positive, game-forcing response showing at least five diamonds. When his partner rebid his diamonds, Gawrys wasted no more time on the auction. On Gupta’s heart lead, declarer had no problem unblocking his tricks to score two diamonds, four hearts, and three tricks in each black suit. E/W +1430 and 1 IMP to SWISS TEAM.

If South happens to find a spade lead, the play is rather more interesting as entries then become a serious problem for declarer. However, serious pressure can quickly be exerted on the South hand. Suppose declarer wins in dummy with the ♠K and plays the K. If North ducks, to avoid rectifying the count, declarer then continues with the Q. Whether North wins this trick or not, declarer can afford to throw a club but South is immediately squeezed in three suits. Alternatively, if North wins the first diamond and returns a spade, ostensibly severing easy communications, then declarer can cash his third spade winner and then cross to the ♣Q. When he cashes his first high diamond, declarer discards a spade from hand and South can then afford a spade too. When the second diamond winner is cashed, though, declarer can pitch a club and South has no good discard from his three-card holdings in the rounded suits.

After numerous stanzas in earlier matches in which more than 100 IMPs were exchanged in 20 boards, this set produced a scoreline of 15-14 in favor of SWISS TEAM. The second set began with a double-digit swing to GUPTA when Meckstroth-Zia bid and made a slam on a finesse, but then quieted down again until this hand. Even then, the auction was identical at the two tables:

Both VulDealer North

WestHelgemo NorthDrijver EastLorenzini SouthBrink
WestMulton NorthMeckstroth EastZim’mann SouthZia

The Two Spade overcall was 4♠+/4♣+ (Helgemo) or 5♠+/4+minor (Multon), and both North’s showed an invitational (or better) hand with hearts via a transfer. Both East players then doubled both Three Diamonds and the final contract. Both Wests led the 10 and there would seem to be one diamond, one spade and two trumps to be lost. However, things did not work out that way at either table.

At one table, the 10 floated around to the king and Zia immediately returned a diamond at trick two. Zimmerman won with the Q and switched to the ♠9, covered by ten, queen and ace. Now Zia tried to ruff dummy’s third diamond in his hand, but Multon overruffed, cashed the ♠K, and gave his partner a spade ruff. Zimmermann still had a natural trump trick to come. Two down: N/S -500.

Against Brink, East won the first trick with the A and returned a diamond to the king. Declarer led the ♠5 to the queen and ace and then called for a low trump from dummy. When Lorenzini put in the Q, two defensive trump tricks had suddenly become one. Declarer won with the A and ran the 8 to East’s jack. Lorenzini tried to lock declarer in his hand by forcing him with the Q, but Brink was ready for that. He ruffed, cashed the ♣A and ruffed a low club in dummy. He then drew East’s trumps, simultaneously squeezing Helgemo out of either his club guard or his third spade. Declarer could then concede a trick to the ♠K and claim the rest. N/S a breathless +790 and 15 IMPs to SWISS TEAM./

Towards the end of the stanza came the first of the bidding problems posed earlier:

None VulDealer North

Zia chose to open a natural One Club and reverse to Two Hearts over his partner’s One Spade response. Meckstroth’s Two Spades was then forcing and showing a fifth spade. One cannot be particularly critical of Zia’s decision to bid what he thought he could make, and he was right in that there were only eleven tricks in notrumps: N/S +460.

WestHelgemo NorthDrijver EastLorenzini SouthBrink

Sobert Brink started with his system strong bid, Two Clubs, and rebid 2NT (22-23 HCP balanced) after his partner’s ‘negative or waiting’ Two Diamonds, Drijver transferred to spades and Brink’s 3NT denied a fit. With enough values for a quantitative raise of notrumps, Drijver decided to show his second suit on the way and hit the jackpot when Brink could raise all the way to slam.

The 4-1 trump break did not inconvenience declarer, who make the same eleven tricks that were available in notrumps plus a club ruff in his hand. N/S +920 and another 10 IMPs to SWISS TEAM, who won the second stanza 56-28 to lead by 29 IMPs (71-42) going into the final 20 boards.

In what seems to be something of a theme, we again saw another ‘New Age’ weak two opening that did not end well. Piotr Gawrys was faced with the second of the bidding problems presented at the top of this article:

E/W VulDealer South


Michal Klukowski’s Two Heart opening showed 6-10 HCP with at least 5-5 in hearts and a minor. One cannot argue that this hand fit those requirements, but that did not make life any easier for Gawrys with that North hand. Can it really be right to introduce your diamonds when partner is known to hold a weak hand and at most three cards in the pointed suits? Gawrys thought not, and it is hard to disagree with his assessment.

Jeff Meckstroth advanced with 2NT on the East cards and Klukowski’s Three Club bid was a good description of his hand within the confines already set, but that still did little to help Gawrys. By the time Meckstroth unveiled his spade support, the auction was at the four-level and there was little Gawrys could do except double.

North led a top diamond on which declarer pitched a club from his hand, so Garwys cashed his ♣A and exited with his heart. Declarer won with the A, ruffed a diamond, and played a second heart. Gawrys ruffed and switched to a trump, which ran to declarer’s nine. Zia still had to do something with two heart losers, but when he played one of them Gawrys ruffed with the ♠8, forcing declarer to overruff with the ♠Q. Zia returned to hand with another diamond ruff and played his last heart loser, but Gawrys ruffed with the ♠J to score the setting trick. N/S +200.

WestBrink NorthHelgemo EastDrijver SouthLorenzini

Clearly ‘old school’, Cedric Lorenzini did not open the South hand, so it was obvious for Helgemo to introduce his seven-card suit. Bas Drijver’s 2NT is not alerted in the BBO records, but it seems likely that it was some sort of invitational spade raise, which is also consistent with Lorenzini’s double, then clearly for takeout. When Brink jumped to game in spades, Helgemo could be sure his partner had short spades and thus at least tolerance for diamonds. Actually, Lorenzini’s hand was exactly what the doctor had ordered.

Not unreasonably, Drivjer led a spade. Helgemo ruffed in dummy, crossed to the ♣A, and ruffed a second spade with dummy’s last trump. Declarer’s heart loser disappeared on the ♣K. There was even better news when Helgemo then led the ♣Q: Brink could neither follow nor ruff. Away, therefore, when the last two spade losers. Drijver had to make the Q, but that was the only trick for the defenders: N/S +620 and 10 IMPs to GUPTA.

After just four boards, GUPTA had gained 20-1 on the stanza and thus the deficit was down to 10 IMPs. It was nip-and-tuck in a fairly low-scoring set and by the time there were just seven deals left, the SWISS TEAM lead was down to just 7 IMPs. Then came the last of the bidding problems posed earlier.

None VulDealer East

The West hand presents an everyday problem: do you bid 1NT or show a constructive diamond raise via a cue-bid after South’s One Spade overcall? Zia opted for 1NT and Meckstroth understandably raised to game. They had reached the best contract, but from the wrong side of the table (and, no, I do not have any suggestions for a sensible auction that gets you to 3NT from the East seat.)

North led the obvious spade and when the queen was covered by the king declarer had only eight tricks. E/W -50.

WestBrink NorthHelgemo EastDrijver SouthLorenzini

Sjoert Brink was faced with the same problem, but he chose the other option. Not that the hard work was over. Bas Drijver made a descriptive Three Heart bid and might then have decided that the auction was over once his partner bid 3NT. Instead, he showed excellent judgment: opposite the known diamond fit, if 3NT is making then is it not likely that at least Five Diamonds will do so too? Drijver advanced with a club cue-bid, just in case his partner had enough for slam. Brink’s jump to game confirmed that he did not, but at least they were in a game that had chances.

Lorenzini kicked off with the ♣A and a second club, declarer discarding a spade from hand. Bas Drijver cashed the ♠A and ruffed a spade, drew trumps ending dummy, and ruffed dummy’s last spade. Then came a trump to dummy and the ♣Q. When declarer then led the 10, the defenders had no recourse. A well bid and well played hand: E/W +400 and 10 IMPs to SWISS TEAM, now ahead by 17 IMPs with six deals left.

Five of the last six deals turned out to be flat, and SWISS TEAM gained a partscore swing on the sixth. GUPTA had won the final stanza 34-29, but the Zimmermann Cup and the title went to SWISS TEAM by a score of 100-76.

Congratulations to Pierre Zimmermann, Franck Multon, Sjoert Brink, Bas Drijver, Piotr Gawrys and Michal Klukowski on their victory. Next week, we will be heading north to Belfast in Northern Ireland to catch up on the action from the second weekend of the Camrose Trophy. The Irish team have hot-footed it back after their quarter-final appearance in Monte Carlo and will be looking to mount a serious challenge despite England’s substantial lead from the first weekend.