We return to Lahore, Pakistan and the 22nd Bridge Federation of Asia and the Middle East Championships. We are approaching the end of the round robin qualifier stage of the week-long team events in Open, Women’s, Mixed and Seniors categories. With two of the three round robins completed, these are the standings in the Open:
And, in the Women’s event:
As usual, we begin with some problems. Firstly, with both sides vulnerable, you are sitting in the South seat with:
What action, if any, do you take?
Next, with only your side vulnerable, you are North holding:
What do you bid?
While you consider those, we begin in Round 11, with JORDAN v UAE in the Open. The bidding and play were both straightforward at the first table:
Mohamad Said wasted little time on the bidding, and not much more on the play: N/S +600.
Sakher Malkawi (left) made his first international appearance as a member of the Jordanian Junior team at the 2006 World Youth Championships. He made his debut in his country’s Open team at this event in 2009, finishing third.
Aaida Abu-Jaber started with a Multi 2♦. When West’s 2♠ overcall was passed back to him, he then disclosed his hand as strong with clubs. Malkawi immediately agreed trumps with a raise. Then came an exchange of red-suit cue-bids, South redoubling to show first-round heart control. Unless there is some special meaning for Malkawi’s 4NT bid that is not obvious, with no spade control it would seem that 5♣ is plenty on that North hand. Whatever it meant, Abu-Jaber was sufficiently encouraged to jump to slam.
The play’s the thing. Hussein Ibrahim cashed the ♠A and then switched to the ♥4 at trick two. How would you play?
Abu-Jaber won with the ♥A and ruffed a heart with dummy’s low trump. He then ruffed a diamond back to his hand, ruffed a second heart with the ♣Q and pitched his final heart on the ♦A. When he ruffed a spade back to hand and laid down a top trump, the 3-0 break was revealed and he had to concede a trump trick. N/S -100 and 12 IMPs to UAE.
There was a significant clue that declarer missed: the chances of a 3-0 trumps split are significant. Why? Because, was it not blindingly obvious for West to switch to a trump at trick two? The most logical explanation for his failure to do so is surely that he didn’t have a trump. If declarer assumed that trumps were 3-0, he might then have seen the alternative line of play. He can win the ♥A, ruff a heart with dummy’s low trump, cash the ♦A, and lead the ♦Q for a ruffing finesse. With a second diamond winner in dummy to take care of the remaining heart loser, declarer can then use the ♣Q to draw the first round of trumps.
We stick with the Open series, and JORDAN v PAKISTAN in Round 14. This early deal had plenty of potential.
Tahseen Gheewala (right) made his first international appearance as a member of the Pakistan Junior team at the 1993 World Youth Championships. He made his debut in his country’s Open team at the 2003 Bermuda Bowl.
Gheewala’s 4♥ opening on this deal left Clement Maamarbachi with the first of this week’s problems. Do you defend or are you willing to risk coming in, vulnerable at the five-level, to show your two suits with 4NT? Maamarbachi settled for defending.
The defence must score two aces and the ♣K, so they need to find their spade ruff to defeat the contract. George Kashami kept the defensive hopes alive by leading a top diamond, Maamarbachi signalling with the ♦10, presumably a suit-preference signal asking for a spade switch. However, the allure of the singleton club was too much for Kashami to resist. Gheewala correctly refused to risk the finesse, and won with the ♣A. He then drew trumps and conceded tricks to the ♠A and ♣K: E/W +620.
Amr Nimer’s 1♥ opening allowed Farrukh Liaqat (left) cheap entry into the action of the North cards. Zafer Jurrar raised hearts via a 2♠ cue-bid and Nimer jumped to game. When 4♥ came back to Mubashir Puri, he was in a similar position to his Jordanian counterpart at the other table. Although he had no fit for his partner’s spades, at least he knew there were values opposite and, presumably, short hearts. Puri backed in with 4NT, showing both minors, and thus Liaqat found himself declaring 5♦-X from the short side.
Jurrar led a trump, Liaqat winning in hand to play his club. Jurrar won with the ♣A and continued with a second round of trumps. Declarer won in dummy, cashed the ♣K, and was now at the crossroads. Ruffing a club would make the contract if the three remaining clubs split 2-1. The alternative, and what would have been the winning line of play at the table, was to play for spades to break 3-3. Of course, Liaqat quite correctly chose to play a club and, when West discarded, he was then one down. E/W +200 still meant 9 IMPs to PAKISTAN, who went on to win the match 51-15 to move into a virtual tie with INDIA atop the table with just one match remaining in the round robins.
Before we leave Round 14, let’s take a look at the action from the match between INDIA and UAE in the Women’s event. This was the penultimate deal.
Kalpana Gurjar (right) and her partner, Vidhya Kamal Patel, are the rising young stars of Indian Women’s bridge. They both made their international debut in the Indian Under-26 Women’s team at the 2017 World Youth Championships. They have twice just missed out on a medal in the team events, finishing fourth at the World Championships in both 2018 and 2022. However, they did earn silver medals from the 2022 World Under-26 Women’s Pairs in Salsomaggiore.
Patel opened with a Strong Club on the South hand. Ruby Kochhar’s 2NT overcall showed both minors, and Gurjar cue-bid clubs to show hearts ("lower cue-bid for lower suit"). This allowed Patel to bid 5♥ over Manju Law’s jump to 5♦. Gurjar was not done yet, she continued with a grand slam try of 6♣, eliciting 6♦ from Law. Perhaps a forcing pass from Patel would have been sufficient encouragement for her partner to bid the grand slam. Perhaps her 6♥ might have reassured Gurjar about her lack of trump quality? Very difficult. N/S +1460.
Chhaya Gandhi began with a strong/artificial 2♣ on the South hand and had to then rebid her spades at the three-level after Alka Kshirsagar had intervened with 3♦. What do you make of Bharati Dey’s pass on that West hand? It’s an interesting tactical decision – do you pre-empt and, if so, to what level, or is it better to pass and keep the opponents in the dark about your giant fit? A problem for the BBO expert panel at some point, perhaps. Her pass left Anshu Aggarwal with the second of this week’s problems.
I have to say that just raising to 4♠, with two first round controls, does seem a bit feeble to me. Does it not look right to start with a 4♦ cue-bid, intending to continue with 5♣ if partner cue-bids hearts? When 4♠ came back to her, Dey backed in with 5♦, perhaps giving the UAE pair a second chance to reach their slam. Aggarwal took one more bid on the North hand, but it wasn’t enough to encourage Gandhi to bid even a small slam. N/S +710 meant 13 IMPs to INDIA, who won the match 46-9.
The round robins in both the Open and the Women’s series finish with the last meeting of the pre-tournament favourites, INDIA and PAKISTAN. In the Open, India top the leader-board, but PAKISTAN needs just a 1-IMP win from this match to claim first place and thus earn choice of opponents for the semi-final stage. In the Women’s event, the final placings are all decided with a match to play, but it is their match that has been selected for VuGraph. An Indian pair who already have Venice Cup experience made this deal look easy…
Asha Sharma (left) has been a regular member of the Indian Women’s team since making her debut at the 2016 World Championships. On this deal, she responded in clubs then showed her hearts before jumping to 5♦, pinpointing her singleton spade. That left Puja Batra with an easy raise to slam. There was nothing to the play: E/W +1370.
The young Indians did just enough to make things more difficult for their opponents. After the same start, Kalpana Gurjar came in with a lead-directing 2♠ overcall on the North hand. Realizing that raising spades could only help her opponents, Vidhya Patel kept silent despite her five-card support. Having been unable to bid out her shape, Rubina Saeed Hai’s jump to game in diamonds did not carry the news of the all-important singleton spade, so there was no way for Durriya Vasi to raise to the good slam. E/W +620 and 13 IMPs to INDIA on what looked on the surface like a routine deal.
The match finished in a 37-37 tie that leaves INDIA top of the table. In the Open event, PAKISTAN won their final encounter with their neighbours by 2 IMPs, so they had an IMP to spare and they claim first place at the end of the round robin stage and thus will be entitled to select their semi-final opponents. In a close-run fight for the other qualifying places, BANGLADESH finished strongly and thus JORDAN were eliminated.
There are the final standings after the round robin stage:
In the Open event:
And, in the Women’s event:
You may be surprised to hear that the semi-final matches will be played over 96 boards, but the final over only 32. The reason for this is that the final will decide only the BFAME title, whereas the winners of each semi-final will earn a place in this Summer’s Bermuda Bowl and Venice Cup respectively. In the Open, PAKISTAN select UAE as their semi-final opponents, leaving INDA to play BANGLADESH.
In the Women’s event, INDIA select PALESTINE so, here too, it will be UAE v PAKISTAN for a seat on the plane to Morocco in August.
We will be back in Lahore soon to bring you the best of the action from the semi-final matches.
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