February BBO Prime Tournament. Deal analysis.

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

There were 10 deals in this tournament and 4 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, and 4 in February’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.

With all major competition suspended due to the corona virus, it has been up to the ‘Invitational Alt Online’ series to keep addicts of high-class bridge sustained on BBO VuGraph. The field for this fourth event featured a handful of new teams: Jeff Meckstroth and Geir Helgemo were both playing as members of Team Smart Shots, the Israeli national Open squad were here, as were two teams featuring strong Swedish contingents.

As usual, we begin with a couple of problems for you to consider. Firstly, with both sides vulnerable, you hold as West:

What is your plan and what action do you take now?

Next, a strangely similar auction, again with both sides vulnerable, your hand as East this time is:

What action, if any, do you now take?

While you mull those over, let’s dive straight into the action from the round robin stage. Despite the influx of new teams, it would be two teams familiar to spectators of the earlier Alt events that would contest the final later in the week. Those same two teams met early in the round robin, with STREET leading BLASS by just 5 IMPs as the penultimate deal flashed onto the screens. After identical starts to the auctions, both West players faced the first of the bidding problems posed above:

Both VulDealer South

As it so happened, each team had a member of their Polish contingent sitting in the West seat. For BLASS, it was Jacek Kalita, a former World Junior champion (he won the World University Teams in 2004) and a two-time winner of the Bermuda Bowl, in 2015 and 2019. Opposite Kalita was his partner from those Bowl victories, Michal Nowosadzki. For STREET, West was the Polish protégé, Piotr Zatorski, European Schools (2007) and European Universities (2009) champion, and winner of the Open Teams at the 1st European Winter Games, in 2016. Opposite Zatorski was his partner from that 2016 victory, experienced Israeli international Ron Pachtman.

WestKalita NorthL’Ecuyer EastNowos’zki SouthStreet

Kalita decided that his hand was worth no more than a competitive Five Heart bid. Indeed, Nowosadzki might have raised to the small slam, but even that was would have been a level too low. E/W +710 did not look promising for the Polish world champions.

WestZatorski NorthDrijver EastPachtman SouthBrink

Zatorski thought that this passed hand merited a slam try, so he began with 4NT, ostensibly asking his partner to choose between the minors. When he then converted Five Clubs to Five Hearts, Zatorski showed a hand too good for just a competitive Five Heart bid on the previous round. Getting the message, Pachtman confirmed both his suitability and his spade void with a cue-bid in that suit. Zatorski decided that he needed to hear no more, and jumped to the grand slam. With trumps behaving, that was a straightforward E/W =+2210 and 17 IMPs to STREET, who won the match by 22 IMPs (61-39).

That was 14.60 VPs to STREET, who had lost to DE BOTTON in the final of Alt-II and again in the first round of this event. They were now back above average at the end of the first day. Meanwhile, BLASS were left languishing in seventh place with just 12.86 VPs from their first two matches. There was still a long way to go, though.

On Day 2, the kibitzers lucky enough to be watching the action on BBO VuGraph witnessed an excellent piece of technical declarer play from the young French superstar, Thomas Bessis, that would have been worthy of his illustrious partner.

None VulDealer North

With the Swedes having scored +490 for VENTIN at the other table, 21 IMPs rested on the young Frenchman’s play in his slam contract. Bessis won the opening spade lead perforce and got off to an excellent start by immediately playing a low diamond to the jack. When that finesse won, taking care of declarer’s heart loser, all that remained was to safety play the trumps for one lower. Any sensible play would work if trumps broke 3-2, and the only 4-1 break that declarer can handle is a singleton king, so Bessis played a trump to his ace and was rewarded with the fall of South’s ♣K. Chapeau! E/W +920 and 10 IMPs to TEAM SMART SHOTS.

This was an excellent demonstration of combining chances. Had the early diamond finesse lost, then declarer could have arranged to discard his heart loser on dummy’s K before trying to bring in the trump suit by finding the doubleton ♣K onside.

Five teams went into the last match of the round robin with a chance of making the knockout stage. Remarkably, four of those five lost, but DE BOTTON’s 12-IMP victory over VENTIN meant that it was the Spanish/Portuguese/Swedish team led by Juan Carlos Ventin who missed out on the final stages as they slipped a tantalizing 0.54 VPs behind fourth-placed BLASS,

In the end, it was the team captained by Paul Street, the most multi-national team in the competition (with representation from USA, Canada, Poland and Israel) who led the field at the end of the round robin. That gave them choice of opponents in the semi-final, a privilege that had proved to be something of a poisoned chalice in previous Alt events. STREET opted to take on the winners of Alt-II, DE BOTTON (England, Poland and Norway), who had finished third in the round robin this time around. STREET would go into the match with a 10.1-IMP carry-forward advantage by virtue of their round robin performance. That meant that the other semi-final would be ‘The Battle of the Low Country’, with BLASS (USA/Poland/Netherlands) opposing ZHAO (China/Netherlands), with the latter starting 6.1 IMPs ahead..

ZHAO’s carry-forward advantage lasted just two deals of their semi-final, Opposition pre-emption meant that Jacek Pszczola faced the second of the bidding problems posed at the top of this article. First, though, we see how a pair of Dutch Bermuda Bowl winners from 2011 handled this tricky combination with no opposition bidding:

Both VulDealer South

Over the past year, we have seen players willing to pre-empt in first seat at just about any excuse, but I fully understand Jack Kalita’s reticence to do so vulnerable on this South hand. The result was that the Dutch pair had the auction to themselves. They finally uncovered their 4-4 club fit at the four-level, which allowed East to show mild slam interest (his 4NT was an invitational Five Club bid). However, Louk Verhees felt that he had already shown all of his values with his earlier reverse. And quite right he was, since there proved to be two unavoidable trump losers in Five Clubs: E/W +600.

WestPszczola Northde Wijs EastBlass SouthMuller

The English and the Scandinavians tend to be forward bidders, but if anyone is going to pre-empt on a hand that no one else would, it is probably a Dutchman, and 1993 Bermuda Bowl winner Bauke Muller did exactly that here. No wishy-washy weak two bid either, but a full-blooded three-level opening, and Simon de Wijs upped the ante still further after Pepsi’s double on the West cards. Josef Blass doubled Four Spades, leaving Pepsi with the problem presented earlier. 

Passing the double would have netted East/West at least +800 and + 5 IMPs, but probably +1100, and an 11-IMP gain on the deal. You might think, therefore, that Pepsi’s decision to bid Five Diamonds had little going for it. When Blass raised to the small slam, there was now a significant swing in one direction or the other resting on declarer’s play, and the mercurial Americanized Pole did not disappoint those watching on BBO VuGraph.

On North’s spadelead, Pepsi played low from dummy and ruffed in his hand. He then played four rounds of trumps, South discarding two spades. Then came a heart to dummy and a club to the king and ace. North took the ♣J continuation with the queen and exited with the J, won in dummy with the queen. Pepsi cashed the ♠A, discarding his club loser, and played a heart, finessing the nine to complete a virtuoso performance and score up his slam. E/W +1370 and 13 IMPs to BLASS.

BLASS outscored their opponents 25-0 over the first half of the segment, but ZHAO battled back to reclaim the advantage by 5.1 IMPs as the set drew to a close. Big swings on the final two deals again established a halftime lead for BLASS, by 45-30.1. The second half was more sedate, BLASS winning it 28-20 to take their place in the final with victory by 22.9 IMPs (73-50.1).

In the other semi-final, STREET won the first half 28-21 to lead by 17.1 IMPs with their carryover advantage. The second set finished 28-16 in favor of STREET, so the round robin winners had at last made it into the final of an Alt event.

For both of these teams, this was their fourth appearance in the Alt series, and both were still seeking their first win. Our final deal proved to be a battle between a natural bidding system with a strong, artificial Two Club opening and the multi-purpose One Club opening of the Polish Club.

N/S VulDealer North

For STREET, the Canadians’ Two Club method failed to get the job done. Fred Pollack opened Two Clubs and rebid 2NT (balanced 22-24). Kamel Fergani advanced with Puppet Stayman and showed his four-card spade suit, but he then gave up the slam hunt when he failed to uncover a fit. Quite right too, as Kalita led a heart which, in theory, should have held declarer in notrumps to eleven tricks. Errant discarding from both of the Poles in the endgame, though, allowed declarer to emerge with all thirteen tricks: E/W +520.

At the other tables, the BLASS team’s American representatives held the East/West cards, but the methods in use were those from Pepsi’s homeland, the Polish Club:

WestPszczola NorthL’Ecuyer EastBlass SouthStreet

Josef Blass began with his system’s three-way opening, most often a weak notrump, but also either natural clubs with 15+ HCP or any 18+ hand. After the natural, positive (7+ HCP) response, Two Diamonds showed the 18+ hand with at least three spades and asked about responder’s hand, Two Spades showing a minimum with only four spades. Three Diamonds was now natural and left Pepsi with a tricky decision. When he opted to raise diamonds, his partnerships was off to the races. Blass contemplated a Four Heart cue-bid since that would let him find out about the ♣K, but he eventually opted for RKCB. The Five Diamond response showed one key card and Blass now made a grand slam try with Five Hearts. South’s double allowed Pepsi to pass, denying both the Q and the ♠Q, which dampened Blass’s enthusiasm and he settled for the small slam.

And an excellent contract it was too, with eleven top tricks and chances of a twelfth in both black suits. Blass won the heart lead, drew trumps, and played three rounds of spades. The ♠J duly became declarer’s twelfth trick: E/W +1370 and 9 IMPs to BLASS.

BLASS led 20-10 after a fairly quiet opening stanza, but STREET won the second set 43-28 to take a 5-IMP lead into the final 12 deals. The third segment was all one-way traffic, though, BLASS winning the set 36-3 and the match 84-56 to record their first Alt-series title. Beaten finalist for the second time in four attempts, the STREET team will be back in two weeks for their fifth attempt to break their duck.

We will be here to follow their efforts, but next week we will be bringing you the action from the inaugural ‘Alt Invitational Mixed’ event, in which eight teams featuring many of the world’s best mixed pairs battle it out online.

December BBO Prime Tournament. Deal analysis.

Thank you for joining December’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, 3, 5, and 6 in December’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.

Major bridge events across the world were shut down due to the corona virus, but there was still plenty of world-class bridge to be seen on BBO VuGraph thanks to the ‘Invitational Alt Online’ series. The third installment of this tournament again attracted eight teams packed with many of the world’s top players. The format was a complete seven-match round robin followed by 36-board semi-finals and final. 

As usual, we begin with a couple of bidding problems for you to consider. Firstly, with just your side vulnerable, you hold as East:

What action do you take?

Next, with both sides vulnerable, your hand as South is:

What action, if any, do you now take?

Would it have made any difference had East’s opening bid been Three Hearts?

While you mull those over, let’s dive straight into the action. Bidding misunderstandings can happen to anyone, and it is always heartening for the average player to see that experts can be as accident-prone as anyone else. I include this deal from the round robin match between DE BOTTON and ROSENTHAL as it was a particularly spectacular example of what can happen when a partnership’s wires get crossed. 

Both VulDealer East

With three rounds of diamonds promoting a trump trick against a heart game, it seems that East/West are destined to go minus on this deal. The Norwegians Hoftaniska/Charlsen therefore did well to record a plus score for DE BOTTON, by defending Three Diamonds by North: E/W +200.

The auction began normally at the other table, but…

North made a lead-directional double of West’s Three Diamond transfer bid. Jan Jansma self-alerted his redouble as a re-transfer, showing a heart fit but wanting his partner to declare, catering to the possibility that West might hold the K. 

Unfortunately for the Dutch pair, Chris Willenken was not on the same page as his partner. He assumed that the redouble was natural so, with a three-card diamond fit, he was content to play there. On this occasion, Alex Hydes had a genuine lead-directional double, rather than the dubious K-J-x-x on which you sometimes see players make such calls. When the smoke cleared, declarer had managed to scramble just five tricks: E/W a spectacular -2200 and 19 IMPs to DE BOTTON.

Pre-empting is all about judging how high to bid to present your opponent with a dilemma. Bas Drijver judged perfectly on this deal from BLASS vs DE BOTTON in the round robin, presenting Thor Erik Hoftaniska with the first of the bidding problems posed at the top of this article:

E/W VulDealer South

The Dutch play a 9-12 1NT in first seat at favorable vulnerability and One Diamond promises an unbalanced hand, so usually shows a five-card or longer suit (unless 4441 shape). The almost-guaranteed ten-card fit allowed Drijver to pre-empt one level higher than would be normal for most pairs, leaving Hoftaniska in a very difficult position. Over a jump to Three Diamonds, most players would choose between bidding their spades and a responsive double on these East cards. Of course, those same two choices are also available at the four-level, but the pass chosen by  Hoftaniska’s at the table is now also a legitimate option, and would perhaps be the mainstream choice.

Sjoert Brink did not even consider raising: he has seen his partner’s pre-empts before. Declarer lost the obvious five tricks in Four Diamonds: E/W +100.

WestKalita NorthHydes EastNowos’zki SouthHackett

South opened a 15-17 1NT and Jacek Kalita intervened with Two Clubs, showing both majors. Michel Nowosadzki’s Two Diamonds then asked his partner to bid his better major. Having found a 5-4 fit, East invited game and Kalita accepted, perhaps tipped off by South’s double that his partner had few wasted values opposite his void. Declarer lost just two hearts and a club: E/W +620 and 11 IMPs to BLASS.

For the second consecutive Alt tournament, BLASS dominated the round robin, finishing more than a whole match (26 VPs) ahead of second place. This meant that BLASS had choice of opponent in the semi-final, and they chose to play RUSSIA, against whom they would start with a 10.1-IMP carryover advantage. This left STREET playing GUPTA in the other semi-final, with STREET holding a 6.1-IMP carryover lead.

In one semi-final, GUPTA overcame their deficit, winning 51-34 on the boards played and therefore 51-40.1 overall. In the other match, RUSSIA also managed to nullify their opponent’s carryover to lead narrowly going into the second half of the match. With a few deals remaining in their semi-final, the respective South players were faced with the second of the bidding problems posed earlier:

Both VulDealer West

For the BLASS team, it was their Dutch champions holding the North/South cards:

Yury Khokhlov opened a third-seat weak two for the Russians. Sjoert Brink made a takeout double and Alexander Dubinin raised to game. When Bas Drijver now competed with Four Spades, the spotlight fell on Brink. Partner has bid Four Spades under pressure, but you do not need that much from him to make slam good. Do you bid or not? Brink did not, but there were twelve easy tricks: N/S +680.

WestKalita NorthGromov EastNowos’zki SouthGulevich

Although Michel Nowosadzki’s pre-emptive opening was at the three-level here, South’s problem over her partner’s Four Spades was essentially the same: advance or not? Anna Gulevich decided to bid, discovered that her partner held one ace, then asked again and found the ♠Q too. N/S +1430 and 12 IMPs to RUSSIA.

RUSSIA won 49-19 over the boards played and, therefore, 49-29.1 overall. For the second Alt tournament in a row, the BLASS team had chosen their semi-final opponents and gone into the match with a double-digit carryover advantage, but still failed to make it to the final. The final of Alt III would be between RUSSIA and GUPTA. Although played over three 12-board stanzas, this final turned out to be a game of two halves.

This board typified the direction of travel in the first segment of the match:

None VulDealer West

Andrey Gromov’s Two Spade opening showed 8-12 HCP and a six card suit. His Three Spade response to his partner’s inquiry then showed a good suit in a non-minimum with no shortage. Gulevich raised to Four Spades and Naren Gupta led the K.

Declarer won the the A, cashed three rounds of diamonds pitching a heart from his hand, and then played dummy’s trump to South’s ace. Huub Bertens played a fourth round of diamonds to promote a trump trick for his partner: declarer ruffed with the ♠9 and North correctly discarded a club. 

When declarer played the king then jack of spades, though, North missed a chance. If he wins with the ♠Q, cashes his heart winner, and exits in either black suit, he is bound to come to another trump trick at the end. When Gupta allowed the ♠J to win, though, declarer was in with a chance of making the contract. Gromov accurately cashed his two high clubs and, had he then exited with a heart, North would have been endplayed to lead away from his ♠Q-7 of spades at trick twelve. Instead, declarer tried to ruff a club. Gupta overruffed with the ♠7 and claimed the last two tricks with his major-suit queens. E/W -50.

WestMuller NorthKhyupp’n de EastWijs SouthKholomeev

Simon de Wijs’s 1NT response was an artificial game force and West’s jump to Three Clubs showed precisely 6-3-2-2 shape. With nothing known about declarer’s shape, Vadim Kholomeev attacked with the ♣J. Declarer won in hand with the ♣A and led his spade, taken perforce by South, who continued with a second club to dummy’s now-bare king. The ♠K was cashed and North then allowed the ♠J to win. North took the next spade with his queen and cashed a club winner, but that was the end of the road for the defense. E/W +430 and 10 IMPs to GUPTA.

Remarkably, GUPTA won the first 12-board stanza 62-1. I did say it was a game of two halves, and the Russians mounted a spirited comeback over the remaining 24 boards of the final. RUSSIA won the second stanza 39-25 and the third 35-4, but it was not quite enough. GUPTA won the match and the title by a margin of 91-75. Congratulations to Naren Gupta, Huub Bertens, Bauke Muller, Simon de Wijs, Cedric Lorenzini and Thomas Bessis.

Next week we will return again to the ‘Alt Invitational’ series, bringing you the best of the action from ‘Alt IV’ when, again, eight teams featuring many of the world’s top players do battle online.

October BBO Prime Tournament. Deal analysis.

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

There were 10 deals in this tournament and 4 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, and 4 in October’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.

The corona virus situation virtually shut down all major bridge events across the world for many months, but that does not mean that there was no high-level bridge to watch. The second ‘Invitational Alt Online’ tournament, shown around the world on BBO VuGraph, attracted eight teams and many of the world’s top players. The format was a complete seven-match round robin followed by semi-finals and final. 

As usual, we begin with a couple of bidding problems for you to consider. Firstly, with neither side vulnerable, you hold as South:

What action do you take?

Next, with both sides vulnerable, your hand as North is:

What do you bid now?

While you mull those over, let’s dive straight into the action. An early match in the round robin pitted together teams captained by Rose Meltzer and Reese Milner. We start with a deal that raised the much-debated philosophical bidding question, “When is a hand too strong for a simple overcall?” I confess that I belong to the Eric Kokish school, which believes very few hands are too strong to start with an overcall. To see why this approach has become so popular amongst top players, consider the huge advantage you have after the auction (1)-1♠-(3)-Pass-(Pass)-Dbl, compared with (1)-Dbl-(3)-Pass-(Pass)-3♠. In both cases, you have shown a good hand with spades. However, the flexibility of the first auction leaves partner with far more options. 

Let’s see how the respective South players dealt with the first of the bidding problems posed above:

None VulDealer North

Current Bermuda Bowl champion from Poland, Piotr Tuczynski, started with a One Spade overcall on the South hand. Yes, of course Sabine Auken could passed the hand out and let South play at the one-level, but how many players would have done so? Exactly zero, is my guess. Even when your hand is very strong, if you have some distribution too then the odds of One Spade ending the auction are incredibly low: someone is almost certain to have the values and/or the shape to keep the auction alive. 

Here, South showed extra values with his second-round double and then refused to defend at the three-level. Realizing that his partner held a very good hand, Roy Welland was thus galvanized into raising, despite his meager values and no great trump fit. The favorable trump position enabled declarer to make twelve tricks: N/S +480.

At the other table, the former winner of the World Mixed Teams (in 2012) and World Seniors Teams (in 2015), American Hermant Lall, opted for the more traditional approach:

WestMeltzer NorthMilner EastDemirev SouthLall

Even though Lall got to introduce his suit at the two-level, a well-timed pre-emptive raise to the four-level by Nikolay Demirev effectively shut South out. Even worse for North/South, after Lall’s opening lead of the ♠A, they could take only three tricks against East’s diamond contract. N/S -130 and 12 IMPs to MELTZER.

After four of the seven round robin matches, the USA/Polish/Dutch team captained by Josef Blass held a narrow lead over the English/Norwegian sextet led by Janet de Botton, with the Dutch national squad team close behind in third place. The big match-up of Round 5 pitted DE BOTTON against TEAM NL. This deal was all about pre-empts:

E/W VulDealer South

Thor Erik Hoftanisha opened Four Spades in third seat. Berend van den Bos made what was ostensibly a takeout double for the Dutch, but Joris van Lankveld judged, not unreasonably, to defend. Declarer was able to make just six trump tricks: E/W +800.

With the Dutch holding the North/South cards, the action began earlier at the other table:

WestHydes NorthSchollaardt EastHackett SouthGroenenboom

A level lower, the decision to defend was much less clear for Alex Hydes, and he opted for offense despite his limited support for the two unclaimed suits. Having found a 4-4 heart fit, Jason Hackett then wasted little time reaching slam. 

Declarer’s prospects were, perhaps, better with North on lead and no spade lead coming through the king. On ace and another spade from North, declarer would have to decide to ruff high at trick two. Having done so, he would be forced to drop North’s singleton Q and he could then subsequently pick up South’s trump holding with the marked double-finesse. The ♠K would provide declarer with a twelfth trick.

Maarten Schollardt’s opening of the ♣J saved declarer an immediate guess in trumps, but also did not set up the ♠K. Hydes was up to unraveling the problem, though. He won the club lead in dummy and cashed a high trump, dropping North’s queen. He then cashed a second high club and ruffed a club in hand with his low trump. Hydes then cashed the J-10, crossed to dummy with the A, and drew South’s last trump with the K. Dummy’s last club winner was cashed and declarer crossed to hand with the K, dropping South’s J. Declarer knew that South had started with ten cards in the rounded suits, so it was still possible that he had started with J-10-9 and no spades. Hydes had not come this far to misguess now, though: he played a third diamond and finessed against North’s ten to bring home his slam. E/W +1430 and an excellent 12 IMPs to DE BOTTON.

As the winners of the round robin, BLASS had the choice of semi-final opponents. They selected DE BOTTON, who was coming off a heavy loss against MILNER that had dropped them down to third place. That left MELTZER to play STREET in the all-US semi-final.

In one of the 36-board semi-finals, STREET scored a comfortable victory over MELTZER to claim one place in the final. BLASS began the other semi-final with a 10.1-IMP carryover advantage from the round robin. There were plenty of spectacular boards for the hundreds of kibitzers watching on BBO VuGraph to enjoy. This wild deal saw both North players in a similar situation to that posed in the second of the bidding problems from the top of this article:

Both VulDealer North

Anyone for a One Heart opening? At least you would now have the option of rebidding Six Clubs and getting both of your suits into the auction. Opening Two Clubs on a huge two-suiter always runs the risk that the opponents may be able to pre-empt to an uncomfortable level before you can bid either of your suits. That is exactly what happened to North here.

Michal Nowosadzki opted to bid his major at the five-level. Jacek Kalita advanced with 5NT, pick-a-slam and now Nowosadzki introduced his second suit, but only at the six-level. Unfortunately for the Polish world champions, there were thirteen easy tricks in either rounded suit, so N/S +1390 did not look like a great result,

WestBrink NorthHoftaniska EastDrijver SouthCharlsen

South’s 2NT bid showed a positive with spades, so Thor Erik Hoftaniska found himself in a very similar position after West’s jump to the five-level. He chose to bid his minor at the six-level and, when Thomas Charlsen raised, the Norwegians seemed to have earned their side a deserved swing by reaching the excellent grand slam. Bas Drijver was still there for the Dutch, though, and he opted for a seven-level sacrifice. South doubled and the spotlight now fell on Hoftaniska in the North seat. Could he find a Seven Heart bid (and, if he did so, would Charlsen pass?)

Hoftaniska decided that the time for introducing hearts had gone, and so he settled for defending. Drijver made eight tricks in Seven Diamonds Doubled: N/S +1400 and one of the more spectacular flat boards of the year.

Although BLASS begun with a 10.1-IMP advantage, the match itself was very one-sided. DE BOTTON quickly overcame the deficit, conceding only a miserly 3 IMPs in the first 18-board segment. They led at halftime by 42-13.1, and extended their advantage in the second half to earn their place in the final with victory by a margin of 70-37.1.

DE BOTTON began the final with a carryover advantage of 0.1 IMPs (just to make sure there could be no extra boards in the event of a tie). It was never going to be that close, though. On our final deal, declarer gave Jason Hackett the chance to find a superb defensive play, and the Mancunian did not miss the opportunity. This was the deal:

E/W VulDealer East

West’s Three Hearts showed a ‘mixed raise’ of spades and, after identical auctions, both East players led the 6 to the seven and queen. 

For DE BOTTON, Hoftaniska cashed both high clubs from his hand and led the 10. Karnel Fergani rose with the K and underled his high spades. Pollack won with the ♠K and returned the K for his partner to ruff away declarer’s ace, but that was the last trick for the defense. Declarer drew the outstanding trumps ending in dummy and disposed of his two diamond losers on dummy’s club winners. N/S +420.

At the other table, Paul Street won with the Q, cashed just one high club, and then played a spade. Hydes won with the ♠K to lead the K and, again, East ruffed declarer’s A. Jason Hackett now found the only card in his hand to defeat the contract, the 6, giving up his natural trump trick, but removing dummy’s entry whilst the clubs were still blocked. Declarer could win and cash the A, dropping Hackett’s king, but he still had two diamonds to lose. N/S -50 and a tremendous 10 IMPs to DE BOTTON.

DE BOTTON won the match 77.1-39 to take the title.

Next week we will return to the ‘Alt Invitational’ series to witness the best of the action from ‘Alt III’ when, again, eight teams featuring many of the world top players do battle online.