BBO Vugraph #172
Welcome back to Wroclaw in southwestern Poland. We are now down to just eight teams remaining in the Rosenblum Cup. The BBO expert bidding panel still has three irons in the fire, with Zia in the ROBINSON team, Andrew McIntosh and Simon Hult on TEAM BLACK, and Michal Klukowski and Sjoert Brink in the ZIMMERMANN team. We are bound to lose one of those chances at gold today, as BLACK and ZIMMERMANN meet in one of the quarter-finals but, of course, that also means we are guaranteed at least two medallists.
As usual, we start with some problems. Firstly, with only the opponents vulnerable, you are West holding:
Your diamond suit persuades you to upgrade to a 22-23 NT and partner transfers to spades. Your 3♠ says nothing about your spade holding and partner now bids a quantitative 4NT. What action, if any, do you take?
Next, with both sides vulnerable, you hold as North:
What do you bid?
Finally, only your side is vulnerable, and you are sitting East with:
What action, if any, do you take?
While you mull those over, we join the quarter-final match between ROBINSON and WOLFSON as the second stanza gets underway. These two teams finished fourth and fifth in the qualifying Swiss at the start of the week. In the early knockout rounds, ROBINSON won twice by margins of more than 30 IMPs, whilst WOLFSON won their Round of 32 match with a set to spare but then only squeaked past ZAMIR by 6 IMPs after being nearly 40 up with a set to play in the Round of 16. That all suggests that today’s match should be a close-run affair and, indeed, the teams were separated by only 7 IMPs (WOLFSON leading 33-26) after the first 14-board segment.
It was not long before both West players had to deal with the first of this week’s problems.
Jeff Wolfson liked his hand enough to accept the slam try, and he also chose to play in spades. Unfortunately, the distribution of the defensive hands was such that making even game in spades was no certainty.
Eric Robinson kicked off with the ♣A and a second club. When declarer started trumps by cashing the king, he was in trouble. A second round of spades revealed the bad break and now declarer switched to diamonds. However, South ruffed the second round and switched to hearts, ensuring a fourth trick for the defence. E/W -150.
Faced with the same decision, Zia thought for some considerable time before passing 4NT, heralding much applause from the cheap seats. North led a diamond and there was little to the play, declarer conceding tricks to the ♣A and the ♥K and making the rest. E/W +460 and 12 well-deserved IMPs to ROBINSON.
The crowd did not have to wait long for the next potential slam hand.
Eric Robinson opened 1♦ and Daniel Korbel made an invitational jump to 3♣. I know this is a popular method in North America, but it seems to me to be deeply flawed, as opener never knows how to proceed when he has extra values. Robinson understandably took a shot at 3NT and found that he had 12 top tricks. E/W +690.
Could the European Champions’ famed Tarzan Club system find a way to slam?
Ricco van Prooijen’s 1♣ opening was any 15+ and the 1♦ was response was 0-8 according to their convention card. Now they could safely play slam in either clubs or NT, with North having bid clubs first. North’s 1♥ was artificial, showing 18+, and South’s 2♥ was alerted as showing clubs. 2NT was natural and now Louk Verhees jumped to 4♣. However, when Van Prooijen could only manage a raise to game, there was little more than Verhees could do on his aceless hand. Declarer made the same 12 tricks: +620 and 2 IMPs to WOLFSON.
The next major swing was generated by a combination of courageous bidding and astute declarer play:
Steve Garner rebid an 11-14 1NT and Jeff Wolfson invited via 2♣ puppet. With his square shape and no intermediates, Garner did not think he had enough to accept. Daniel Korbel led the ♦4 and declarer played on clubs, eventually setting up dummy’s ♣9 up as a second winner in the suit. After cashing his diamond winners, Robinson exited with the ♥A and a second heart, meaning that declarer did not have to guess that suit. The spade position then provided Garner with his eighth trick. E/W +120.
After the same start, Zia found out about three-card spade support but I suspect that information made little difference to his evaluation. He hasn’t enjoyed as much success as he has over the years by playing in 2NT – it’s all about making games, so he jumped to 3NT.
Now it was up to David Gold to conjure rabbits out of hats, and he got off to a good start when Verhees opened the ♥9. Van Prooijen won with the ♥A and returned to ♥7, and it was here that Gold found the key play of the ♥J from his hand. He didn’t want Verhees to switch to a diamond and, by making it look as if the hearts were 4-3-3-3 around the able, Gold persuaded the European champion from Madeira to continue with a third round of hearts after he won with the ♥Q.
That was all the help Gold needed, although Van Prooijen’s spectacular discard of the ♣K at trick three perhaps did not hurt. The ♣9 was run to South’s ten and now Verhees switched to diamonds, but it was too late. A club to the ace and a third round of clubs to South’s queen established the ♣9 as a trick for declarer. The favourable spade position then gave declarer three tricks there to accompany two in each of the other three suits. E/W +600 and another 10 IMPs to ROBINSON.
ROBINSON won the set 52-8 to blow the match wide open but, with 28 boards to be played, it was still far from over. However, with ROBINSON ahead by 37 IMPs (78-41) and with Meckstroth/Berkowitz to come back in for the second half, it would have been only a very rich man who would have bet against them advancing to the semi-finals. Indeed, there was little in the remaining two sets, WOLFSON gaining 7 IMPs on the third and ROBINSON winning the fourth by 5 IMPs to record a 148-113 victory.
The main excitement in this round occurred in the match featuring the Bermuda Bowl champions. ZIMMERMANN led BLACK 67-64 at the midway point, but BLACK stunned the World Champions by winning the third set 51-4 to lead by 44 IMPs with 14 boards remaining. The match, though, proved to be far from over. The action began on the very first board, McIntosh going down in a 4♠ contract that could have been made: 11 IMPs to ZIMMERMANN when Klukowski made 11 tricks on a less-testing lead at the other table. Then both East players faced the last of this week’s problems:
Piotr Gawrys raised to slam. Simon Hult led his singleton club, solving declarer’s problem in that suit, although Klukowski would surely have got it right on the action anyway. E/W +1390.
After the same start, Andrew McIntosh did not raise. The Swiss supporters in the enormous crowd watching live on BBO VuGraph were willing Sjoert Brink to pass the hand out in 5♦ and collect his 12 IMPs. Of course, when Brink backed in with 5♥, the English pair now had a chance to reconsider and bid the slam to flatten the board. With so few high cards for his previous bidding, though, Tom Paske could hardly make a forcing pass to invite his partner to bid on, and his double virtually ensured that McIntosh would not rethink.
The defence collected the maximum, McIntosh leading the ♦K and switching to a spade when Paske signalled with the ♦10. Paske ruffed and underled his ♣A, putting McIntosh in to deliver a second ruff. E/W +500 and 13 IMPs to ZIMMERMANN. Who know how important that extra IMP might turn out to be. After just two boards of the set, the deficit had been more than halved.
On the next board, ZIMMERMANN gained another 8 IMPs when a more aggressive pre-empt by Bas Drijver kept Paske/McIntosh out of making non-vulerable game. Then came what looked likely to be the first flat board of the set:
Gunnar Hallberg opened 1♠ and the Swedes quickly bid to the obvious 3NT. Klukowski led a heart and declarer was soon claiming 11 tricks: N/S +660.
Sjoert Brink’s decision to open 1NT generated an immediate windfall when Tom Paske chose to pre-empt in spades. Drijver made a takeout double and Brink’s decision to defend was hardly one of the more difficult he has ever been called upon to make.
Declarer could make only the ♥A and three trump tricks. E/W +1100 and another 10 IMPs to ZIMMERMANN, who had run off 42 unanswered IMPs on the opening four boards of the set. The deficit was now just 2 IMPs and it was not long before the World Champions were ahead: with half of the set played ZIMMERMANN led by 5 IMPs, 50-1 on the set and 121-116 in the match. However, the rest of the set proved to be all one-way traffic, with TEAM BLACK winning 22-0 over the final seven deal to knock out the pre-tournament favourites by a score of 138-121.
It would be ROBINSON-v-VENTIN and BLACK-v-NICKELL in the semi-finals of the 2022 Rosenblum Cup.
We will be taking a brief hiatus from the Rosenblum next week in order to see the best of the action from the final of the McConnell Cup, the Women’s Teams event. We will then return to see the last four teams battle it out in the Open event.
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