We are back at the RAC Club in London, for the final two rounds of the 2023 Lederer Memorial Trophy.
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.
After seven of the nine matches, these are the standings
The final two matches for BLACK will be against IRELAND and HARRIS, whilst the leaders have still to play two teams languishing near the bottom, HINDEN and DeBOTTON.
As usual, we start with some problems. Firstly, with only your side vulnerable, you are sitting in the South seat with:
What action, if any, do you take?
Next, with neither side vulnerable, you hold at West:
What action, if any, do you take?
While you consider those, we start with the match between BLACK and IRELAND. There was certainly an element of luck about the swing on our first deal.
To open or not open, that is the question. Tom Hanlon decided that the North hand did not meet his requirements for a vulnerable weak two. With Fredrik Volcker showing a balanced 11-14, Hanlon not unreasonably decided that he wanted to play in 2♥.
With the trumps breaking 2-2 and the spades guessable, declarer can make ten tricks by endplaying West unless East can find an opening club lead. Andrew McIntosh led a spade, effectively solving declarer’s guess in that suit. When trumps behaved, declarer removed West’s spades before playing a club to the ten. Tom Paske had no good solution: leading either minor into the tenace gave declarer this tenth trick. N/S +170.
It seems that a non-regular partnership had a misunderstanding at the other table…
Peter Bertheau (left) finished fourth in the 1999 World Junior Pairs playing with Fredrik Nystrom and reached the semi-finals of the 2002 Rosenblum Cup in his first international tournament at the Open level. He made his debut in the Swedish Open team in 2003 and won a silver medal at the 2004 European Championships. It was silver again at the 2006 Rosenblum and he became a World champion at the 2012 World Team Olympiad. More recently, he claimed a bronze medal at part of Team Black at the 2022 Rosenblum Cup in Wroclaw.
On this deal, Simon Hult did open the North hand, with a Multi 2♦. Bertheau inquired with 2NT and Hult’s 3♣ showed any minimum. Bertheau self-alerted his 3♥ continuation as pass-or-correct, but Hult presumably thought that 3♦ asking for his major would be the way to stop at the three-level, as he raised Bertheau’s 3♥ to game.
There is no winning defence with South as declarer, and Adam Mesbur’s ♣K opening lead gave declarer an easy ride. Bertheau won with the ♣A, crossed to the ♥A, cashed the ♦K, and then played a second round of trumps. Winning with the ♥K, there was nothing Mesbur could do other than cash his two black-suit winners. N/S +620 meant the BAM points and 10 IMPs to BLACK.
Both South players had to deal with a variation on the first of this week’s problems in the other VuGraph match from this round, KNOTTENBELT v PERICULO.
After the auction begins 1♣-Pass-1♥ (responder’s 1♥ showing spades), what are the options for South? The usual principle over a transfer response is that a double shows the suit actually bid on your right (i.e. hearts here) and 1♠ is a takeout double. 1NT would show something like 15-18 balanced, so what can Maggie Knottenbelt bid with this monster?
At the table, she chose to start with a double, and Alexander Allfrey jumped to 3♠, which was passed back to her. She might perhaps have tried 3NT now but, with her initial double having presumably shown hearts, it seems that Kieran Dyke would probably pull to 4♥ anyway. When she actually continued with a second double, was North’s 4♥ bid then not almost inevitable? Knottenbelt removed to 5♦, but the partnership was already beyond anything makeable. 5♦ had to lose two hearts and a spade: N/S -100.
At this table, East responded with a natural 1♠, but the problem facing South was essentially the same. Double here would be for takeout, and thus suggesting both red suits, which has potential dangers when holding only a doubleton heart. Patrick Lawrence (right) found the pragmatic solution by jumping to 3NT.
With 3NT destined to make nine tricks, Ben Handley-Prichard did the right thing by taking the save in 4♠-X. All lines of play lead to eight tricks: N/S +300 meant the BAM points and 9 IMPs to PERICULO.
PERICULO beat KNOTTENBELT 29-21 and BLACK lost 22-28 against IRELAND. With EDMONDS scoring close to a maximum win, 43-7 against HINDEN, the leaders were now almost a match clear. But, PERICULO had led HARRIS by a similar number going into the final match last year. Could lightning strike twice?
Board 33, a battle between natural weak two openings and the Multi, caused chaos in both VuGraph matches.
It is usually the best strategy to bid to the limit of your hands as quickly as possible, which is exactly what N/S did here. The problem with this approach is that sometimes you force the opponents into doing the right thing. Tom Townsend (left) had to deal with the second of this week’s problems. He doubled South’s 4♥ (what else can he do?) and David Bakhshi had no reason to do anything but pass. Bakhshi led the ♠J and the defenders duly make two spades and three clubs: N/S -300.
Playing a Multi often hampers responder’s ability to pre-empt to the limit right away, which is what happened here. The result was that this slower auction gave E/W just enough room to get into trouble. Jodi Edmonds started with a double of South’s pass-or-correct 2♠. Thor Erik Hoftaniska revealed his suit and Edmonds doubled again when 3♥ came back to her. It seems clear for Joel Wooldridge to remove to 3♠ but, when Thomas Charlesen then raised to 4♥, was it not inevitable that Edmonds would bid a fourth spade? Charlesen doubled on the way out to add insult to injury.
The defenders quickly took two heats, two diamonds and a diamond ruff to beat the contract by two: N/S +300 meant the BAM points and 12 IMPs to DeBOTTON.
DeBOTTON’s 32-18 victory handed the leaders their worst result of the entire weekend, but it was too little, too late for the rest of the field to get close to them. They had led from start to finish and were worthy winners.
Curiously, although the auctions on this deal in the other VuGraph mirrored those we have already seen, the exact opposite outcome resulted.
I asked the question above, “What else could he do?”, and Andrew Black provided the answer to that question by overcalling 4♠ on the West hand.
You do not need to look under the bonnet (that’s the ‘hood’ for Americans) to see that the Rimstedt brothers are a well-oiled machine. Ola led the ♥Q against 4♠-X. Mikael overtook with the ♥K, cashed the ♦K, getting a count signal, and then played two more rounds of diamonds for his partner to ruff. Regaining the lead with the ♥A, Mikael then continued with a fourth round of diamonds, forcing declarer to guess the trump position. Ruffing high will only be right when North was dealt specifically a doubleton queen, so it is no surprise that Black opted to ruff low, enabling Ola to score his ♠Q to extract the absolute maximum. N/S +500.
Bertheau started with a 2NT inquiry facing the Multi and Zia came in with a double. Hult showed any minimum with 3♣ but Bertheau was undeterred and continued with a game-forcing 3♦ relay. Suitably warned off, Zia kept stum and the Swedes were thus left to play peacefully in their doomed heart game. With South as declarer, the defence is trickier. Zia started with a top club and two high spades. When he then cashed his other high club, declarer had avoided one of his five losers. However, the extra 50 was irrelevant today: N/S +50 meant the BAM points and 11 IMPs to HARRIS.
BLACK lost the match 8-42 and thus missed out on a podium place. HARRIS repeated their feat from last year, winning big in the final round (and collecting 84 VPs from their last two matches to climb up into second place).
These were the final standings:
Congratulations to the EDMONDS team: Zach Grossack, Jodi Edmonds, Joel Woodridge, Piotr Zatorski and Michal Klukowski.
We will be off around the world again next week, heading for the US Spring Nationals from where, as usual, we will be bringing you the best of the action.
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