We are back in Lahore, Pakistan and the 22nd running of the bi-annual Bridge Federation of Asia and the Middle East Championships. We are at the round robin qualifier stage of the week-long team events in Open, Women’s, Mixed and Seniors categories. With one of the three round robins completed, these are the standings in the Open:
And, in the Women's...
As usual, we begin with some problems. Firstly, with only your side vulnerable, you are sitting in the West seat with:
What do you bid?
Next, with only your side vulnerable, you are West holding:
What action, if any, do you take?
Next, an opening lead. With both sides vulnerable you hear the following auction from the East seat:
What do you lead?
Finally, with only your opponents vulnerable, you are North with this meagre collection:
What action, if any, do you take? What would you do if West had bid only 3♥?
While you mull those over, we begin with our first look at the Seniors event, with a Round 6 meeting between INDIA and PAKISTAN. INDIA had won the first meeting between the teams, 39-24 in Round 3.
Early in the match, both West players had to answer the first of the problems above:
Hemant Jalan (left) made his first international appearance at the 2013 World Championships in Bali. Having passed initially, he had then to decide how to advance after Samir Basak’s 1♠ overcall. Too strong for a pre-emptive jump to 3♠, Jalan started with a cue-bid. Imran Gardezi showed a good hand when he competed to 3♣ opposite a silent partner, but Basak was undeterred and introduced his second suit. With strong five-card support, Jalan was quite happy to raise hearts.
With 4♥ surely going to make, even if declarer loses a trump trick to the singleton king, Saeed Akhtar’s decision to sacrifice rated to save a couple of IMPs.
Basak led a heart to the ace, and Jalan switched to spades. With three major-suit tricks in the bag, the defenders could wait for the ♣A and their trump winner. E/W +500.
After the same start to the auction, Ghias Malik’s simple raise to 2♠ surely suggested a much less-suitable hand than this. Here, too, North competed with 3♣. Shahid Hameed might have passed, and he certainly had no reason to do more than compete to 3♠, which at least pushed the Indian pair one-level too high in clubs.
If the defence begins with a heart lead and a diamond switch (or an unlikely opening diamond), the defenders can score two spades, one heart, the ♣A and two diamond ruffs for three down. The defence here was not optimum, East starting with the ♣A and then cashing the ♠A. They still had the ♥A and a natural diamond trick to make, so that was one down: E/W +50 and 10 IMPs to INDIA to get the scoreboard ticking.
Despite this early setback, PAKISTAN won this encounter 55-37. That meant that honours were about even after the first two meetings, but there were still four more cycles to play before a potential showdown in the final at the end of the week.
Back to the Open series for Round 7, and a meeting between INDIA and UAE. The Indians coped well with this tricky combination:
Rajeshwar Tewari (right) made his debut in India’s Open team at the 1992 Olympiad, and he has now been a regular fixture in that team for three decades. In 2009, he was a member of an all-Indian sextet that collected bronze medals from the Open Teams at the European Transnational Championships. He has twice reached the final of the World Open Pairs: playing with different partners, he finished 13th in 2010 and 8th in 2022.
On this deal, Tewari advanced with a natural and game-forcing 3♣ after North’s 2♦ overcall of the 1♠ opening. Sumit Mukherjee introduced his hearts but, when Tewari repeated his clubs, he simply raised to the minor-suit game.
A spade lead might have been more challenging, but why would Hazem Ghoneim not lead his partner’s suit? Declarer won with the ♦A, unblocked the ♥K, crossed to the ♠A, and pitched his diamond loser on the ♥A. When he then led the ♥Q, North ruffed with the ♣J. Tewari pitched his spade, ruffed the diamond continuation, and laid down the ♣A. He had to lose the ♣K but that was all: E/W +600.
In the other room, the UAE certainly contributed to their own downfall, but they were also harassed by South’s pre-emption…
Mohamed Said’s decision to make a negative double on the East cards seems fraught with danger. Left with the second of this week’s bidding problems, Tamer Eissa had to decide whether his partner’s 5♣ bid was natural and to play, or some sort of slam try agreeing hearts. With Said’s negative double having strongly suggested heart length, it was no great surprise to see Eissa bid again. Said retreated back to clubs, but he was now one too high. E/W -200 and 13 IMPs to INDIA.
This match was a real drubbing for UAE, INDIA picking up maximum VPs with victory by 81-12 over the 16 boards.
In Round 9, we join the Open again, this time with PAKISTAN taking on JORDAN.
With a combined 27 HCP, it is just about impossible to stop in a contract with a legitimate chance of making. The Jordanians investigated various potential fits before alighting at the destination where such auctions usually finish, thus leaving Mubashir Puri with the lead problem posed earlier.
With dummy known to be short in the suit, it is hard to criticize Puri’s choice of the ♥6. Perhaps his partner could have helped in some way? Just a thought. Of course, declarer won the heart and cashed another ten tricks: N/S +660.
Amr Nimer (left) obviously attended the school of “What does partner need to know?”, his 2♣ overcall ensuring that the Jordanian East was not left with a lead problem against 3NT.
The Pakistan N/S did as best they could, reaching the only game that had any chance. Game in the Moysian fit needed a 3-3 trump break, but it was not to be. A club lead is also needed against this contract (or the ♥A and a club switch), but Zafer Jarrar was not overly taxed. The third round of club forced the long trump hand and East eventually scored the setting trick with the thirteenth trump. N/S +100 and 13 IMPs to JORDAN, who won the match 50-34.
Our final match on this second visit to Lahore is the Round 10 meeting of INDIA and PAKISTAN in the Open series. The last of this week’s problems occurred on the final deal of the match.
Ajay Khare jumped to game on the West hand, leaving Mubashir Puri with the decision. Attracted by the favorable vulnerability, he opted for the five-level sacrifice, despite the sparsity of his trumps. Declarer had two hearts to lose, and one trick in each of the other suits: E/W +500.
Mohsin Chandna’s competitive 3♥ seems to have worked out better for his side. Having taken the chance to show some interest in competing at the four-level, Rajeshwar Tewari felt he had done enough by the time 4♥ came back to him. With a partial club fit, perhaps Sumit Mukherjee might have bid again but, having already pre-empted on a bad hand and a dreadful suit, I can fully understand his reluctance to take another bid on such a poor hand.
North won the opening club lead and tried the effect of a low diamond. No dice! Declarer went up with the ♦Q and, when he then later dropped the bare ♠K, he had 12 tricks. E/W +680 and 5 IMPs to PAKISTAN.
Another close encounter between these two teams saw INDIA emerge with a 37-29 victory, consolidating their place atop the leader-board. With two of the round robins now complete, these are the standings in the Open event:
And, in the Women’s event:
We will be back in Lahore soon to bring you the best of the action from the final matches in the qualifying stage.
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