BBO Vugraph - English Premier League

BBO Vugraph #181

Vugraph #181

We left the first weekend of the 2022 English Premier League after four of the seven matches in the opening round robin. These were the overnight scores:

HINDEN59.95 VPs
MOSSOP56.01
BLACK49.38
DE BOTTON44.87
PENFOLD41.34
SMALL25.94
PHOENIX21.28
AARDVARK21.20

Both HINDEN and MOSSOP remained unbeaten at the end of Saturday’s play.

As usual, we start with some problems. Firstly, an opening lead. With neither side vulnerable, you are North and hear the following auction:

What do you lead?

Next, with only your side vulnerable, you are North holding:

What do you bid?

Finally, another lead problem. You are sitting South with both sides vulnerable:

What do you lead?

For some reason, there was no coverage of Sunday’s opening match on BBO VuGraph. Partial coverage returned for Round 6, with details of the bidding and play from one table recorded along with the result from the other table, so we shall have to make do with what information we have. The two teams on VuGraph in Round 6 were MOSSOP and DE BOTTON, which meant that there were plenty of familiar faces on show.

David Bakhshi’s pre-emptive jump to 3 effectively shut East out of the auction. Phil King had no reason to take a second bid, and thus Tom Townsend was left to play peacefully at the three-level. There were just four obvious losers: N/S +110.

Thor Erik Hoftaniska

Gunnar Hallberg’s raise to only 2 allowed Thor Erik Hoftaniska to introduce his hearts relatively cheaply. David Mossop competed to the three-level in diamonds, and Espen Erichsen jumped to game. Now Hallberg had to decide whether to sacrifice. Yes, it was likely that 5 would be a cheap save against a vulnerable game, but was 4 making? Hallberg had little defence, so he took the push to the five-level. Same nine tricks here: N/S -300 and 9 IMPs to DE BOTTON.

Would declarer have made 4? It looks like he can knock out North’s only entry (the A) early and then subsequently establish a spade winner in dummy on which to discard his club loser. Entries may prove to be a problem for declarer, although it is perhaps easier if South opens with a top spade rather than the K. Perhaps the sacrifice saved a couple of IMPs.

There was only one other major swing board in this match:

Espen Erichsen

When Hoftaniska raised to 3, Erichsen knew that he was facing either a 4-1-4-4 or 4-0-4-5 shape. With a sufficiently robust heart holding, he bid what rated to be a safe game. Hallberg led the ♠6, declarer playing low from dummy and South having to win with the ace. With nine tricks now guaranteed, declarer held up the ♠K until the third round and could then safely take the club finesse for an overtrick. E/W +430.

At the other table, West declared 5, which it appears can be made by ruffing two hearts in the East hand. North led the ♠Q, which held, and declarer covered the continuation of the ♠J. South won and switched to a diamond, and declarer drew trumps. With trumps having split 3-1, the 5-2 heart break then left declarer a trick short. E/W -50 and 11 IMPs to DE BOTTON, who won the match 27-13.

This was a first defeat for MOSSOP, but they remained only just behind the leaders, whilst DE BOTTON climbed up to fourth. These were the leading scores with one match remaining in this first weekend:

HINDEN77.95 VPs
MOSSOP76.44
BLACK70.86
DE BOTTON70.38

The final match of the round robin pitted the two leading teams against each other head-to-head. With ten of the 16 boards played, HINDEN led 10-9, but then all hell broke loose.

Differing opening no-trump ranges were a factor in the first major swing of the match, where Frances Hinden faced the first of the opening lead problems posed at the top of this article. This was the full deal:

Frances Hinden

Theoretically, leading either major can defeat 4♠, but Hinden gave her partner no chance to go wrong by opening the 7. Chris Jagger duly took his two top hearts and dealt his partner a ruff. With the ace of trumps still to come, that was a quick one down: E/W -50.

At the other table, N/S were playing 5-card Majors and a 15-17 no-trump: 

Of course, Phil King might have led a heart, but he had no particular reason not to lead his partner’s bid suit, which was all the help John Atthey needed. He won in hand with the Q, crossed to the ♣A, and cashed the ♣K discarding a heart from his hand. Then came two top diamonds, and away went a second heart. The defenders could now make no more than two Major-suit aces: E/W +450 and 11 IMPs to HINDEN. 

Chris Jagger

Hinden opened a natural weak two in diamonds and, trusting partner to have a good suit in second seat at ‘red’, Jagger simply raised to game. Yes, perhaps game in clubs is marginally better, but 5 is not such a bad spot either.

East led a heart to dummy’s bare ace and declarer started on spades. West won and forced dummy with a second round of hearts. Declarer now cashed his top trumps, crossed to dummy in clubs, and discarded his remaining hearts on the K and the third round of spades. The defenders had a high trump to come, but that was it. N/S +600.

Phil King either did not have a natural weak 2 opening available or decided for some reason not to use it. That, though, was not where this auction went wrong. I try not to be too critical of bids or plays made by good players, but I do feel a duty as a writer to educate my readers too. When this North hand was posed as a problem at the top of this article, anyone who responded 1 presumably did so as "that is what their system says they should do”. Well, do not be a slave to your system when your judgement tells you (and, on this hand, it should tell you) that 1 is the wrong bid. Yes, if your hand was xx/AKxx/109xxxx/J, then 1 would not be an unreasonable choice. If your system says you should bid 1 on this hand, though, change your system and, if your partner insists that the system is right... Well, you know what to do.

I recently read an interview given by Jeff Meckstroth in which he said that the objective of bidding was to describe his hand as accurately as possible so that his partner could steer the partnership into the best contract. Well, if anyone thinks that 1 describes this North hand better than does 1, then I can only suggest they take up backgammon. Frankly, anyone who bids 1 on this hand deserves exactly what happened at the table here. The partnership found themselves in an almost hopeless 3NT with game in two other denominations an easy make.

East duly led his five-card heart suit to dummy’s bare ace. Declarer went for the only chance he had, to drop a doubleton ♣Q. When that did not work, he switched to spades. West ducked the first round, took his ace on the second, and played the Q. When that held, he cashed the ♣Q and played his third heart. East took his heart tricks, exited with a diamond, and waited for his diamond trick. N/S -300 and 14 IMPs to HINDEN.

The next deal produced another double-digit swing when both South players had to find the winning opening lead on this week’s last problem hand. This was the full deal:

Chris Jagger found the only lead to give declarer no chance, a trump. It does not help declarer to rise with the A at trick one, as he has no other fast entry to dummy in order to reach the K. Declarer had little choice but to finesse. Frances Hinden won with theK and promptly returned a spade through declarer’s king, allowing Jagger to take three black winners to defeat the contract. E/W -100.

At the other table, the auction was the same except that East bid only 2 rather than 3 at his second turn. Derek Patterson kicked off with the ♣A and a second club. Declarer won, unblocked the A, crossed to the A, and discarded a spade on the K. Declarer then played a trump and the defenders could score the K and one spade trick, but that was it. E/W +620 and another 12 IMPs to HINDEN.

HINDEN won the match 53-27 to open a not insignificant gap at the top of the leader-board. At the end of the first weekend, with the one of three complete round robins played, this is how the table looks:

HINDEN95.40 VPs
DE BOTTON81.29
BLACK79.95
MOSSOP79.86
PENFOLD76.78
AARDVARK64.78
SMALL51.27
PHOENIX31.34

We will be back next week with the best of the action from the English Premier League. The second weekend of the EPL will be next month, and we will be there to bring you the highlights when it happens.

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One comment on “BBO Vugraph - English Premier League”

  1. Very nice commentary, thankyou. (I do think Frances Hinden is famous enough to have her name spelled correctly though!)

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