BBO Vugraph - Final of the French Premier League

Vugraph #225

We are back in France this week to see the finale of the opening event in the 2023 calendar, the French Premier League. After three weekends, over which 12 teams played a complete round robin, four teams emerged to contest the knockout stage. In one semi-final, ZIMMERMANN defeated S.A. BRENO by 34 IMPs, while the other went right down to the wire, SOULET coming from 32 down going into the final set against GAUTRET to win 154-153.

The final would, therefore, will be SOULET (Philippe Soulet, Marc Bompis, Bernard Payen, Michel Lebel, Eric Mauberquez and Christophe Oursel) against ZIMMERMANN (Pierre Zimmermann, Franck Multon, Michael Klukowski, Piotr Gawrys, Jacek Kalita and Michal Nowosadzki). The match will be played over two days, with one 32-board set and one 16-board set being played each day.

As usual, we start with some problems. Firstly, with only your opponents vulnerable, you are North holding:

What action, if any, do you take?

Next, with neither side vulnerable, you are sitting in the East seat with:

What do you open?

While you consider those, we begin early in the opening 32-board set, with both North players facing a variation of the first of those problems.

Michal Klukowski entered with a weak jump to 2 over Marc Bompis’s natural 1♣ opening. Piotr Gawrys jumped to 4♠ but Bompis was not prepared to go quietly. His 4NT showed diamonds with longer clubs, and Philippe Soulet retreated to 5♣. Now Gawrys had to decide whether to defend or to press on to the five-level. Hoping that his fitting heart cards would be of some use,  Gawrys took the push, but Klukowki’s hand was a disappointment. Soulet doubled on the way out and the defence started by cashing two clubs and two hearts. Soulet then exited with a trump, leaving declarer with a diamond loser at the end. E/W +500.

The partnership between Eric Mauberquez (left) and Christophe Oursel has been going for almost three decades, the pair having finished fourth together in the European Junior Pairs back in 1993. Mauberquez has twice collected silver medals at major events, from the Mixed Teams at the 2009 European Transnational Championships and, more recently, from the same event in Istanbul in 2019.

On this deal, Mauberquez jumped to 4♠ after Pierre Zimmermann had opened a natural, limited, Precision-style 2♣ on the East hand. Zimmermann also backed in with 4NT to show a side-suit of diamonds, and Franck Multon removed to 5♣. Facing a partner who had not spoken, Mauberquez elected to try taking three tricks rather than eleven. Well njudged!

Oursel led a spade and the defenders eventually came to two diamond tricks to beat the contract by a trick. E/W -100 and 12 IMPs to SOULET.

By the time Board 16 of the first stanza arrived at the tables, SOULET had already opened up a lead of 52-9. Was the worm about the turn?

Zimmermann showed a strong balanced hand and Multon explored for fits in both majors before settling for game in notrumps. The defenders led clubs but, when that suit divided 4-4, declarer had three winners in each of the other suits, so he was able to claim the rest: E/W +600.

In the replay, an intervention by Piotr Gawrys managed to jockey his opponents out of the only making game into one with no chance.

When Marc Bompis opened 2NT on his balanced 19-count, it looked as if the French pair were headed for a flat board. However, when Soulet started the major-suit investigation with 3♣, Piotr Gawrys (right) intervened with a lead-directing double. This created understandable panic in the E/W seats. Bompis bid what was, presumably, a natural 3, and Soulet, reluctant to bid 3NT with three low clubs, advanced with 3. With Bompis also holding no club stopper either, it was hard for him to foresee that 3NT was the winning contract, so he raised to game in hearts, presumably hoping it would be a 5-2 fit.

No dice! The defence began with two top clubs and, had Gawrys known declarer had only four trumps, he would probably have continued with a third club to shorten declarer’s already-inadequate trump holding. However, the switch to his singleton spade was equally effective. Declarer won and cashed dummy’s trumps, but could then not get back to his hand without allowing Gawrys to score a spade ruff with his third trump. A third round of clubs then forced declarer to ruff, ensuring that Klukowski would make a trump and a club later in the hand. E/W -200 and 13 IMPs to ZIMMERMANN, making a moderate-sized dent in the deficit,

Which suit should you open on 6-5 hands? I am a strong believer in bidding the longer suit first except in extreme circumstances, but that did not turn out to be the winning strategy on this deal.

“6-5, Come Alive”, they say. Having opened 1♣, I would have no problem reversing to 2 over a 1♠ response on this East hand, so I can see no reason to distort the bidding. However, the decision by Pierre Zimmermann (left) to start with 1 certainly worked like a dream on this layout. South passed, Multon raised to 2 and Zimmermann bid game. With only one entry to dummy, you cannot prevent North making two trump tricks to go with a top spade, so ten tricks are the limit. E/W +420.

In the replay, Marc Bompis opened 1♣ with the disastrous result that it allowed South an easy way into the auction:

Once Michal Klukowski had overcalled 1, East/West were always in trouble. There then appears to have been a misunderstanding that clearly didn’t help. Soulet’s 1 bid was, presumably, intended as a transfer to spades. When Gawrys raised to 5, the only way for E/W to go plus is to double and take the meagre +100 available. With Bompis presumably thinking that his partner held hearts, though, his decision to bid on is fairly clear. Soulet retreated to clubs, but the six-level was still one too high. E/W -100 and 11 IMPs to ZIMMERMANN.

The second half of this opening stanza was fairly close, so SOULET led by 44 IMPs, 100-56, with a third of the final played. There was one 16-board stanza remaining on the first day of play. ZIMMERMANN was ahead in the set when the penultimate board arrived.

Klukowski opened a 15-17 1NT, and Gawrys found out that his partner was 4-4 in the black suits. However, asking about opener’s shape had not uncovered the vital information needed on this deal (South's diamond fit), and Gawrys jump to 6NT left the Poles a level short. There were 13 top tricks: N/S +1470.

Philippe Soulet (right) has had a long and distinguished playing career, having made his international debut in the French team that won the 1980 Olympiad. He won the Rosenblum Cup at the 1982 World Championships and the European Championship the following year. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, he picked up a sizeable collection of silver and bronze medals from World and European championship. More recently, he won the Seniors Team at the 2018 European Championships and, at the 2019 European Transnational Championships, he won the Open Teams and finished second in the Open Pairs.

On this deal, after his partner had also opened 1NT, Soulet started by asking for five-card majors with 3♣ Puppet Stayman. Having failed to find one, he then switched tacks and showed a good hand with at least five diamonds. When Bompis jumped to 6, Soulet duly awarded himself a seventh. Nicely bid. N/S +2140 and 12 IMPs to SOULET.

This deal meant that, although ZIMMERMANN won the set, they only reduced the difference by 4 IMPs. At the midway point of the final, SOULET led by 40 IMPs, 129-89.

We'll be back soon with the second day’s play from the final of this excellent event.

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2 comments on “BBO Vugraph - Final of the French Premier League”

  1. How can Zimmermann make the decision to open 1h when he knows it is normally correct to open the longher suit with a 5/6 hand?

    1. I did say in commentary that I did not agree with 1H, but all I can do is to report what happened at the table and observe that it certainly worked well for him to do so. As to his reasoning for doing so, that I cannot answer 🙂

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