BBO Vugraph #176
We are still in Wroclaw in southwestern Poland, with eight days of play at the highest level in the Rosenblum and McConnell Cup competitions behind us. Today, we see many of those same players (albeit sometimes in less-familiar partnerships) begin their quest for a world championship title in the Mixed Teams.
As in the Rosenblum, the format is a 10-round Swiss, with 32 teams to advance to the knockout stage after two days. As usual, we start with some problems for your consideration. Firstly, with both sides vulnerable, you are West holding:
What do you bid?
Next, a lead problem. With neither side vulnerable, you are South with one of my usual rubber bridge hands, and you hear this auction:
East’s 1♦ response shows at least four hearts, and West’s 1♥ bid is usually a weak no-trump hand type without four hearts. What do you lead?
Finally, with both sides vulnerable, you are in the West seat holding:
What action, if any, do you take?
Whilst you mull those over, we take a look at some of the best talent on view. Firstly, an early match between KNOTTENBELT (England) and WILSON (USA, Netherlands, Sweden). On our first deal, Mikael Gronkvist had to deal with the first of this week’s bidding problems:
With most of his points in partner’s suits and a maximum pass, I thought that this looked like an obvious 2♣ cue-bid, and perhaps we will find out in a future month whether the BBO expert panel agrees. Gronkvist, though, chose to bid 1NT, and no one else had anything to say.
Nevena Senior found the most challenging lead, the ♣10. Gronkvist won in dummy with the king and played the ♦K, which held. He then crossed to hand in hearts to play a second diamond. Senior rose with the ♦A and continued with the ♣A and a third round of clubs. Declarer seems to have nine tricks now, but his entries are irrevocably tangled. Whichever red suit he unblocks, he will be cut off from the long trick in the other. E/W +120.
Declarer can make nine tricks on a club lead, by winning in dummy and immediately cashing the three heart winners from his hand. He then plays a diamond and, say the king wins, so he makes use of the entry to cash the ♥J. He then continues with the ♦Q from dummy, and a third round if that wins. North will eventually be forced to let declarer back into his hand with the ♣J to cash the thirteenth diamond.
The auction started in similar fashion here, but Alison Wilson’s attempt to steal space from the English pair backfired as it merely added momentum to the auction. Maggie Knottenbelt had far fewer options over 2♠, so she settled for a value-showing responsive double, and then raised David Gold’s 2NT to game.
The ♠Q lead, whilst perhaps the obvious choice from the South hand, gifted declarer a painless ninth trick on a platter. Gold won the club switch in dummy with the jack, played a diamond to the king, a heart to dummy, and a second diamond. North again played low, so the ♦Q won, and a third round of diamonds went to North’s ace. With entries now abounding, the defenders could never score more than North’s three aces: E/W +630 and 11 IMPs to KNOTTENBELT.
We have space for one more deal from this match, and it produced an early bid for a brilliancy prize (if there were such a thing at these championships). Let’s start with events at the other table.
Knottenbelt rebid 1NT and Gold forced to game with an artificial 2♦. Having investigated fits in both majors and found them lacking, the English pair settled on the inevitable destination for such auctions.
North led a club around to declarer’s king, and Knottenbelt played on spades. When the defenders had only three club winners to cash, she claimed her contract. E/W +400.
How easy it is to mentally tune out when you pick up a shapeless 2-count. Had he done so, though, Mike Bell would not have found the way to earn a swing for his side when presented with the lead problem posed earlier.
The bidding has told you only that dummy has a weak no-trump hand type, that the opponents have a 3-4 heart fit, and declarer has at least one spade stopper. There is also an inference that partner has made a takeout double even though he is known to hold two hearts, and yet he could not bid over 1♣ on the first round. Mike Bell duly deduced that his partner must hold good clubs and tabled the only card in his hand to defeat the contract, the ♣J. Chapeau!
No matter how declarer played, the defence was certain to make four club tricks and the ♠A. E/W -50 and another 10 IMPs to KNOTTNBELT, who won the match 42-22 and led the field with 34.68 VPs from a possible 40 from their first two matches. Still a long way to go, but this English team had the look of a team to watch and, indeed, they still led the field at the end of the 10-round qualifying Swiss.
On now to the second day of qualification, and a match between REASON (USA, Germany, Australia) and DONNER (USA, Canada, Sweden). These are two more teams packed with quality players, both of whom are likely to be in contention as the competition heads towards the pointy-end. At the midway point of the match, DONNER led 24-2 but, as Alan Shearer would say, “It’s a game of two ‘afs, Gary”. Both West players had to deal with the last of this week’s problems on this deal:
I would guess that most players would take another bid with Adam Grossack’s hand. Weak trumps, a shortage in partner’s first suit, and the likelihood that some of his high cards would be wasted opposite partner’s shortages all persuaded Grossack to back his judgement and pass. A foul trump split did not hurt Grossack’s case, and declarer managed only nine tricks: E/W +110.
After the same start, Leslie Amoils raised to 3♦. Sandra Rimstedt then decided that was all she needed to hear and took a shot at game. Renee Cooper expressed her opinion regarding the viability of the contract in the traditional way. Nine tricks here too: E/W -500 and 12 IMPs to REASON, back in the match, and The Great Dealer still had one firecracker in store.
Cooper opened a fairly heavy 20-22 2NT and Ben Thompson started with Muppet Stayman, the 3♥ response denying as many as four cards in either major. Thompson then offered his partner a choice of slams with 5NT, and they eventually meandered their way to no-trumps.
Declarer won the diamond lead and played the ♥A and a second heart to East’s king. She won the diamond continuation and eventually came down to a three-card ending with three spades in both her hand and dummy. However, with West known to still hold a diamond, there was no guess and, when Cooper cashed the ♠A, West’s discard then enabled her to claim on the marked finesse. N/S +1440.
Rimstedt also started with 2NT. Here, though, Dwyer transferred to hearts and then bid his spades. There then seems to have been some confusion about the meaning of North’s jump to 4NT. It looks as if Rimstedt intended it as natural, showing a maximum without a fit. Judging from his continuations, though, it appears that Dwyer thought it was Blackwood for spades, his 5♣ then showing one key card (the ♠K) and 5♠ denying the ♠Q. Rimstedt clearly had a completely different interpretation.
With the ♥K offside, there was no chance at all: N/S -100 and 17 IMPs to REASON, who came from behind to win the match 35-24. With only three matches to play before the split, both were still safe. At the end of qualification, DONNER advanced in 5th place and REASON in 12th. Neither will be high on the list of teams anyone wants to draw in the knockout rounds.
We will be back shortly with the best of the action from the early knockout matches in the Mixed Teams.
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