BBO Vugraph - The opening matches of the Lederer Memorial Trophy

Vugraph #238

Ten invited all-star teams congregated at the RAC Club in London to contest the 2023 Lederer Memorial Trophy. This prestigious event was first played in 1945 as a tribute to Richard Lederer, an important writer, teacher and international player in the formative years of the game in England. The current format was adopted in 1978, with an eight-team field and the Young Chelsea Bridge Clubs hosting the event. It expanded from eight teams to ten when it relocated to the RAC Club in 2013.

Scotland’s Victor Silverstone holds the record for appearances in the Lederer, having played in the event an incredible 31 times. Both Andrew Robson and Zia Mahmood are playing in the event for the 24th time this year. Last year’s winners, captained by Jonathan Harris, return to defend their title. The HARRIS team includes Zia, whose victory last year moved him into a tie with Robson for most wins in the event. Each now has nine, with Silverstone third on that list with seven victories.

The Lederer has been shown live on BBO VuGraph for more than a decade. This year, there was one table shown from each of the opening two matches, and then two tables for the rest of the event. We will take a look at the best of the action from those matches.

The format is a complete round-robin of nine 10-board matches with a scoring method that is an unusual hybrid of Board-a-Match and IMPs. Each board is scored BAM style, with 2VPs for a win and 1 for a tie, giving a possible total of 20 VPs from each match. The IMP difference is then also converted to VPs on a 15-15 scale and each team’s two VP tallies are added together to produce an overall score for the match, with a maximum win of 50-0.

Just one problem hand this week. With only your side vulnerable, you are East holding:

What action, if any, do you take?

We start in Round 1, with the defending champions, HARRIS, taking on the experienced HINDEN. This early deal saw ultra-aggressive action by one West player and an ultra-conservative stance by the other. Which won the day?

Steve Root (left) and Johnathan Harris have been sitting opposite each other for more than a decade. In addition to winning the 2022 Lederer, they reached the Last 16 in the Open Teams at the 2020 European Winter Games.

Root certainly made the most of this moderate West hand, bidding the spots off the cards, perhaps on the assumption that his toothpaste would dazzle the opponents if his card play didn’t.

As it happened, there was no need for wizardry as, like all the best partners, Harris produced exactly the dummy required to justify his partner’s bidding. The Q falling singleton under the bare ace simplified the play and Root quickly rounded up eleven tricks: E/W +660.

In the replay, Frances Hinden failed to make the ‘obvious’ (not!) 1♠ overcall. Never mind, as Chris Jagger got his side into the auction with a 2 overcall. Ola Rimstedt doubled for takeout and Hinden had nothing obvious to contribute at this point. That left Mikael Rimstedt with no option but to support his partner’s suit. When 3♣ was passed around to Hinden, might she not have expressed an opinion now? Pass was certainly on the conservative side.

3♣ was not a comfortable spot for the young Swedish star but, at only 50 an undertrick, did he care? Declarer managed to scramble five tricks: E/W +200 meant the BAM points and 10 IMPs went to HARRIS.

Our next deal comes right out of Kipling, as one pair met with triumph, whilst the other found only disaster. There was, presumably, a misunderstanding at our first table, although the lack of alerts and explanations makes it unclear exactly what happened.

Jonathan Harris started with 1NT and Brian Senior’s 2 overcall showed spades and another suit. It looks as if Steve Root intended his 2NT as a transfer to diamonds (as it presumably would have been without the overcall). Clearly, though, Harris did not think that’s what it was, or he would surely have broken the transfer. After all, how much better could his hand be facing long diamonds? Harris’s 3 bid is consistent with thinking that 2NT was some sort of pick-a-minor scramble. Root presumably thought his partner’s 3 bid was the weakest action he could have taken, and thus his pass is quite understandable. Declarer made eleven tricks: E/W +150.

Chris Jagger made his debut in the England Open team at the 2018 European Championships, and he was a member of the England team that reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 Bermuda Bowl. He has twice reached the final of the European Open Pairs playing with Jeff Allerton, finishing 16th in 2017 and 11th in 2019.

On this deal, Jagger decided his hand was too strong for a 15-17 1NT, so he started with 1. Ola Rimstedt overcalled 1 and Frances Hinden’s 2 showed an invitational or better diamond raise. Brushing aside Mikael Rimstedt’s competitive raise to 3, Jagger advanced with 3♠ and then jumped to slam when Hinden showed a heart control.

Jagger won the club lead with the ace and immediately ruffed a club. A trump to hand and a second club ruff eliminated that suit. He then returned to hand in trumps to play the J. South covered, so declarer won with the ace, played a second heart back to his nine, and claimed. E/W +1370 meant the BAM points and 15 IMPs to HINDEN.

Jagger won the club lead with the ace and immediately ruffed a club. A trump to hand and a second club ruff eliminated that suit. He then returned to hand in trumps to play the J. South covered, so declarer won with the ace, played a second heart back to his nine, and claimed. E/W +1370 meant the BAM points and 15 IMPs to HINDEN.

HARRIS won a close match 29-21. Elsewhere, the biggest win of Round 1 went to EDMONDS (Jodi Edmonds, Piotr Zatorski, Joel Wooldridge, Michal Klukowski and Zach Grossack), who defeated LONDON 44-6. Behind them on the early leaderboard came IRELAND, who beat DeBOTTON 37-13 and BLACK, with a 33-17 win against PERICULO.

The BBO VuGraph match in Round 2 was DeBOTTON against KNOTTENBELT. Both East players had to answer this week’s bidding problem.

Michael Byrne (left) represented England as a junior in 2004 and 2005. More recently, he has narrowly missed winning medals at the 2019 European Mixed Teams (losing in the quarter-finals), in the Mixed Teams at the 2019 World Championships (finishing fourth) and at the 2022 Bermuda Bowl (again, reaching the quarter-final stage).

On this deal, Byrne did not think his hand worthy of action after North’s pre-emptive 3 overcall. But, when David Bakhshi raised to 4, he backed in with a penalty double.

Byrne led a club to his partner’s ace and Kieran Dyke switched to a low spade. The defence therefore came to three aces and its natural trump trick: N/S -100.

It is possible to beat the contract by two. One way of doing so if for West to cash the ♠K at trick two, and then force declarer with a second spade. After the low spade switch, dummy’s spade holding protects declarer from repeated forces.

At the other table, Janet de Botton was much more gung-ho, making a negative double of the same 3 overcall. Here, too, South raised to the heart game, but Artur Malinowski now essayed 4♠ on the West cards. The only good news for E/W was that Maggie Knottenbelt did not double on the South hand. Not that it mattered much. Declarer drifted three down: N/S +300 so the BAM points and 9 IMPs went to KNOTTENBELT.

KNOTTENBELT won a low-scoring affair 18-6 in IMPs, and by 32-18 in VPs. Elsewhere, EDMONDS won big again, 36-14 against BLACK, opening a significant gap on the field with 80 VPs from their first two matches. Trailing in their wake is GILLIS, in second place with 63 VPs, and IRELAND, third with 56.

In Round 3, the VuGraph audience got its first look at the leaders, EDMONDS, as they took on the event’s most successful player, Andrew Robson, and his PERICULO team. In a match without a single flat board, the score was already at 28-27 in favour of EDMONDS when Board 9 arrived.

Zach Grossack wasted little time on the auction, raising directly to slam when Jodi Edmonds made a jump shift rebid into spades.

North led a club around to declarer’s bare king. Edmonds’ first move was to cash two high diamonds, throwing dummy’s club losers, and ruff a diamond. After cashing the ♣A to pitch her remaining low diamond, she then played a trump to the queen. South now had two natural trump tricks and declarer ended up two down. E/W -200.

The auction was far more tortuous here, but the destination was the same. And, although played from the other side, the opening lead here was also a club, so Andrew Robson (right) faced the same play problem. Getting the trumps right is a prerequisite but, even then, declarer still has plenty of work to do.

Robson got off to a good start, winning with the ♣K and playing a spade to the jack, king and ace at trick two. Klukowski switched to a heart, so Robson won in dummy and ruffed a diamond. A spade to the eight confirmed the trump position, so Robson cashed the K and took a second diamond ruff with the last trump in his hand. Now came the ♣A, discarding dummy’s remaining heart. When Robson then played winning hearts through South, there was nothing that Klukowski could do. If he ruffed in, declarer would take the rest with dummy’s winning diamonds. If he didn’t, his trump holding would fall foul of a trump coup at trick 12. Beautifully played!

E/W +1430 so the BAM points and 17 IMPs went to PERICULO.

PERICULO won the match 44-30 in IMPs and 29-21 in VPs, but EDMONDS remains atop the leaderboard. With three matches played, these are the standings:

EDMONDS101 vpS
GILLIS93
HARRIS85
KNOTTENBELT82
PERICULO75
LONDON74
IRELAND71
BLACK67
HINDEN53
DeBOTTON49

We will be back soon with the best of the action from the remaining Saturday matches.

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