We remain in South America for the second day’s play in the final of the trials to select the Brazilian team for the South American Championships that will take place in Buenos Aires in April. At the midway point of the match, PAIVA (Marcos Paiva, Mauricio Figueiredo, Marco Toma and Rafael Dias) hold a 14-IMP (71-57) lead over HENRIQUE (Henrique Salomao, Roberto Mello, Jeovani Salomao and Jorge Sampaio).
As usual, we start with some problems. Firstly, with only your side vulnerable, you are South holding:
What action, if any, do you take?
Next, with neither side vulnerable, you are sitting in the East seat with:
What action, if any, do you take?
While you mull those over, we begin in an opening stanza that contained five potential slam deals. The players had barely settled into their seats with their morning coffee when this bidding test arrived. One pair seemed to be still stumbling around in the dark, whilst the other made the hand look easy.
After Jorge Sampaio’s 1NT opening, Jeovani Salomao first transferred to diamonds and then showed his heart shortage. Sampaio’s 3NT showed no enthusiasm for a high diamond contract, but Salomao still had plenty to spare and he showed his slam interest with 4♦. There are no alerts or explanations in the hand records, so I cannot tell you definitively that 4NT was a second expression of East’s lack of interest. That would be the standard interpretation but, with such good controls, that seems like a particularly pessimistic view, so perhaps 4NT was actually Blackwood. Whatever the meaning, the unconvincing auction sputtered to a stop in 6♦ with 13 top tricks in either diamonds or no-trumps. E/W +940.
Marcos Paiva (left) started with 1♣ and rebid a 12-14 1NT over his partner’s 1♦ response. Mauricio Figueiredo then forced to game with an artificial 2♦. Paiva showed his spades and then, when Figueiredo rebid his diamonds, he raised, appreciating that his hand was excellent in context of what he had shown so far. The partnership was now well on the way and, after an exchange of major-suit cue-bids, Figueiredo checked for aces and bid the grand slam. E/W +1440 and 11 IMPs to PAIVA to get the ball rolling. And, once it picked up some momentum, it just kept gathering speed…
Mauricio Figueiredo (right) opened 1♠, which was doubled and redoubled. His jump to 3♣ then showed a distributional hand with little defensive strength. When Figueiredo showed spade support, there was only one more thing that Paiva needed to know. His jump to 5♦ was Exclusion RKCB, asking for key-cards outside of diamonds. When Figuiredo showed two key-cards, Paiva knew there was an ace missing and settled for a small slam. There was nowhere for the heart loser to go: E/W +1430.
Although I disagree strongly with Jorge Sampaio’s opening 2♣, the auction at this table still seemed to be headed for a flat board in 6♠. Spades were agreed at the three-level and, here too, East jumped to 5♦ to ask for key-cards in the other three suits. He then signed off in the best contract.
It was then that Sampaio’s choice of opening bid perhaps came back to bite him. I can only conclude that Salomao could not fathom how it was possible for there to be an ace missing when he held such a monster facing a 2♣ opening. Maybe he thought he had mistakenly given the wrong response to Exclusion, or that his partner had not understood the response correctly. E/W -100 and a massive 17 IMPs to PAIVA.
The lesson to be learned by all aspiring players is that when your partner takes control, particularly when he uses some form of ace-asking bid, you simply have to trust him. Whatever subsequent action he takes, it is not for you to guess that he has done the wrong thing.
PAIVA piled on the IMPs in the first set of the second day, winning the stanza 50-4. With just 30 boards remaining, they led by 60 IMPs, 121-61. It is a large, but not insurmountable, advantage. Could HENRIQUE stage a comeback?
It did not take long for those watching live on BBO VuGraph to realize that perhaps things were not yet over. HENRIQUE gained 6 IMPs on the first deal of the fifth stanza, and then both South players had to deal with the first of this week’s bidding problems…
Henrique Salomao (left) was a member of the Brazilian Schools team at the 2016 World Youth Championships. At the World Games a year later, he had been elevated to the Junior (Under-26) team.
When you saw the problem at the top of this article, did you start with a double, a 3♠ overcall, or even 3NT? Salomao chose to enter with a 3♠ overcall of East’s heart pre-empt. Mello had an excellent hand in support of spades, but Figueiredo’s 4♥ bid robbed him of the chance to show a raise with extra values. With no guarantee of safety at the five-level, Mello was not prepared to venture beyond game on his own, so he settled for a heavy raise.
Slam was better than a 50% proposition, simply needing the trump finesse into the hand with the long hearts. With the ♠K well placed, Salomao took the obvious 12 tricks: N/S +680 and a potentially missed slam.
After the same 3♥ pre-empt, Marco Toma preferred to show his strength via a takeout double. Here, too, West raised hearts and North essayed 4♠. When this was passed back around to Jeovani Salomao in the West seat, he was not prepared to go quietly. As we are all well aware, sacrifices on balanced hands are prone to be expensive, and this one is no exception. North could have collected an easy +800 by defending 5♥-X, declarer making only his seven trump tricks (and that with trumps 2-2 and the finesse working).
When, instead, Rafael Dias bid a five-over-five 5♠, can you blame his partner for taking him seriously? Surely declarer would hold a singleton heart for his 5♠ bid, wouldn’t he? Toma took the bull by the horns and raised to slam.
Whilst slam in spades at the first table was on the better-than-50% trump finesse, the same could not be said of the same contract played the other way up. Declarer now needed to find both the ♠K and the ♥A well-placed. When Jorge Sampaio opened the ♥Q, things looked bleak for declarer, and so it proved, with the defenders taking the first two tricks. N/S -100 and 13 IMPs to HENRIQUE. Almost a third of PAIVA’s 60-IMP lead had disappeared on the first two deals of the fifth set. Perhaps that comeback was not so unlikely after all.
The lead continued to diminish and, with ten boards played in the fifth stanza, the match score stood at 126-107. Then came a massive board that would arrest the momentum. How did you solve the second of this week’s problems?
Jorge Sampaio made a takeout double of spades after North’s constructive raise, and he then had to decide whether to have a second go when South’s 4♠ bid came back to him. I think the upside of a second double is huge. Perhaps you can make game, perhaps not. But, if 4♠ is making, you will often have a cheap sacrifice against it. The worst-case scenario is likely to be that you swap a small plus score for a small minus.
Sampaio chose not to take a second bid, but to take his chances on defence. Alas, the defence could score only one trick in each side suit: N/S +420.
The auction at this table began in similar fashion, albeit with North showing his spade raise via an artificial 3♥ rather than 2NT. Again, East doubled to show a takeout of spades. However, at this table, South did not bid over the double. Figueiredo could have passed the double of 3♥ but, instead, he chose to introduce his moderate club suit right away. You can hardly blame Paiva for raising, and Mello doubled on the way out.
Declarer had three finesses to take, one in diamonds and two in hearts. He needed two of them to win. When North turned up with both the ♦A and the ♥J, declarer was home: N/S -550 and a massive 14 IMPs to PAIVA to halt the slide.
HENRIQUE still picked up one more swing in the last few boards of the set. They won the stanza 55-20, reducing the deficit to 25 IMPs, 141-116, going into the final 15 boards. With the PAIVA ship righted, the final set was fairly close. PAIVA added a further 13 IMPs to their lead, and thus won the match by 38 IMPs (184-146).
Congratulations to the PAIVA team: Jose Marcos Paiva, Mauricio Figueiredo, Marcos Toma and Rafael Duque Dias. The winning team of four will be augmented by Adriano Rodrigues and Joao-Paulo Campos as they bid to mount a Brazilian challenge for the South American Open Teams title in April.
I now have a long flight to catch, as we will be in Belgium next week, bringing you the best of the action from the final of the National Open Teams.
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