We remain in the Southern Hemisphere this week, but we have travelled halfway round the planet from Australia to South America and, specifically, to Brazil. Many countries are already finalizing their teams for the Bermuda Bowl and Venice Cup that will take place in Morocco this summer. For Brazil, though, the first priority is the South American Championships in April.
By far the most successful South American country Brazil have produced many world-class players but are perhaps not the force that they once were. The two teams that have reached the final of the trials to represent Brazil in Buenos Aire in April are PAIVA (Marcos Paiva, Mauricio Figueiredo, Marco Toma and Rafael Dias) and HENRIQUE (Henrique Salomao, Roberto Mello, Jeovani Salomao and Jorge Sampaio). The final will be contested over 90 boards, split into six 15-board stanzas played over two days.
As usual, we start with some problems. Firstly, with both sides vulnerable, you are North holding:
What action, if any, do you take?
Next, with neither side vulnerable, you are sitting in the West seat with:
What action, if any, do you take?
Finally, with both sides vulnerable, you hold as East:
What do you bid?
While you mull those over, we begin in the opening stanza, with both North players being asked some variation on the ‘Man or Mouse’ question posed by the first of this week’s problem hands.
At this table, Jeovani Salomao did not raise his partner’s pre-emptive opening on the West cards, which left Marcos Paiva to decide whether to enter the fray at the four-level. Paiva declared himself Mus, leaving Jorge Sampaio to play peacefully in 3♠. With the heart finesse working for declarer, the defence could never take more than three tricks: N/S -170 and a possible game missed by E/W?
By far the most experienced player involved in this final, Roberto Mello (left) made his international debut representing Brazil in the 1969 Bermuda Bowl on home soil in Rio de Janeiro. He has collected Bermuda Bowl medals of all three colours, winning in Perth in 1989, finishing third in 1993 in Santiago, and losing in the final against USA in Bermuda in 2000. He also collected a bronze medal in partnership with Gabriel Chagas from the 1982 World Open Pairs.
On this deal, Mello heard Marco Toma raise to 4♠ on his right. With the opponents’ game destined to make, his decision to come in with a takeout double was sure to produce a better outcome than defending, if only by leading to a cheap sacrifice. Henrique Salomao offered his partner a choice of the minors, so Mello landed in 5♦.
Rafael Dias led the ♣6, the only opening to give the defence a legitimate chance, Mello winning in hand with the ♣A and playing a diamond to the queen. Toma won with the ♦A, but he could not read the club position so, rather than delivering his partner’s club ruff, he exited with a second round of trumps. Having started by playing to the queen, could Mello possibly get the trumps right? Yes, he rose with the king, felling East’s jack. It was now a simple matter to cross to dummy with the ♦10, drawing the last trump in the process, and run the ♥J. The finesse lost but, when the suit divided 3-2, declarer had the rest of the tricks. A cheap save indeed against 4♠: N/S +600 and 13 IMPs to HENRIQUE, who led 33-24 at the end of the opening 15-board segment.
One West faced this week’s second problem on this deal from early in the second stanza. It is a situation from which any aspiring player might learn a valuable lesson.
West has a close decision after South’s 1♠ opening, and I don’t think there is much to choose between a takeout double and a 2♥ overcall.
Mauricio Figueiredo (right) made his first international appearance in Brazil’s Junior team at the 1991 World Youth Championships. He made his debut in his nation’s Open team at the 1996 Olympiad and has played regularly for more than two decades. At the 2009 South American Championships, he won a pair of bronze medals, finishing third in both the Open Teams and the Open Pairs in partnership with Gabriel Chagas.
Figueiredo chose to start with a takeout double, and Roberto Mello raised to 4♠ on his passed hand. Figueiredo saw no reason to take further action and opened the defence with the ♦Q. The defenders quickly collected two diamonds and the two rounded-suit aces for one down. N/S -50.
In the replay, Jeovani Salomao chose to start with a 2♥ overcall. Rafael Dias also raised to game, but he did so via a 4♣ splinter bid, which allowed Jorge Sampaio to bid 4♥. Permitting your opponents room to find their fit is not generally a winning tactic but, sometimes, if you give them enough rope, they will find a way to hang themselves, which is exactly what happened here. Marco Toma duly bid 4♠ on the South cards, and one would have expected that to end matters to flatten the board.
The values in this West hand are primarily defensive, and it has relatively poor offensive potential. Bidding 5♥ really has little to recommend it and will often turn a plus into a minus. Indeed, this is the sort of error that I may spend a couple of weeks eradicating from the game of students new to my intermediate classes. It is not the sort of bid I would expect from a player at this level.
Dias duly applied the axe, but he then gave declarer a chance to make his contract by opening with his singleton club rather than leading a spade. Not that it was an easy chance: declarer needs to cash the ♥A and then play on diamonds. With North holding both remaining trumps and four diamonds, declarer can then get his spade loser away before knocking out the ♥K.
When, instead, Salomao played the ♥A and a second trump, North won with the ♥K and crossed to the South hand in spades. The ♣K then enabled North to ruff away declarer’s ♣A. There was still a club trick to be lost to the jack later, so declarer was two down. N/S +300 and 8 IMPs to PAIVA.
Indeed, this deal seemed to set the tone for the set, and it was mostly one-way traffic. PAIVA outscored their opponents 42-6 over the 15 boards to lead by 27 IMPs, 66-39 with two sets played.
The last set of boards on the first day of this final were quiet. The last of this week’s bidding problems generated the stanza’s only major swing on this early firework.
The objective of bidding is often to describe the nature of your hand. Having forced to game with 2♣ at your first turn, what would you consider to be the most descriptive bid on this East hand?
Years of experience screamed ‘no-trumps’ at Roberto Mello – hands with aces and kings will generally play best in a suit contract, whilst those with queens, jacks and intermediate cards tend to be most useful in no-trumps. Looking at these East cards, with no aces or shortages and packed with potential slow winners, it is hard to imagine a hand less suitable for a high-level suit contract. So, Mello bid no-trumps and, when his partner showed his 5-5 shape, he bid no-trumps again.
South led a heart to dummy’s singleton ace, and Mello set about establishing his club suit. South took the ♣A on the second round and played a heart to his partner’s king, but declarer had the rest. E/W +660. Bridge really is an easy game!
Jeovani Salomao (left) made his first appearance at an international event in the Transnational Teams at the 2009 World Championships held on home soil in Sao Paulo. He was a member of the Brazilian team at the 2015 Bermuda Bowl and at the 2016 World Bridge Games in Wroclaw.
After the same start to the auction, Marcos Paiva chose to rebid his six-card club suit. With a club fit and great controls, it is hard to criticize Figueiredo’s decision to raise. Paiva refused to encourage his partner with a cue-bid, but the damage had already been done, and Figueiredo carried on to slam anyway.
Not that the contract was without chances, as Salomao still had to find the winning lead. When he tabled the ♥3, declarer was in trouble. On any other lead, declarer is destined to make twelve tricks whether he chooses to play on spades or diamonds.
On a heart lead, declarer not only needed to find trumps 3-2, but South had to hold the ♥K too. Paiva won with the ♥A and played dummy’s low club to his ten. Salomao could have won with the ♣A and played a second heart – if declarer ruffs with the ♣Q, the ♣9 will then be promote into the setting trick. Not that it mattered. When he ducked his ace, declarer then had to take the ruffing heart finesse himself anyway. E/W -100 and 14 IMPs to HENRIQUE.
HENRIQUE won the low-scoring stanza 18-5, reducing the deficit to just 14 IMPs (57-71) at the midway point of the match.
We will be back soon with the best of the action from the second day’s play, and to discover who will be heading for Buenos Aires in the autumn.
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