BBO Vugraph - Marc Smith visits the 22nd BFAME Championships

Vugraph #272

We are in Lahore, Pakistan, where we have reached the knock-out stage of the main events at the 22nd Bridge Federation of Asia and the Middle East Championships. The semi-finals will be played over two days, and 96-board matches divided into six 16-board stanzas. These are the most important matches, as the two winning semi-finalists in each category will qualify to represent BFAME in the Bermuda Bowl and Venice Cup later this year in Morocco. A 32-board final for the BFAME title will follow.

In the Open event, PAKISTAN won the round robin and selected UAE as their semi-final opponents, leaving INDA to play BANGLADESH. In the Women’s event, INDIA had the right to choose their opponents, and they selected PALESTINE. So, here too, it will be UAE v PAKISTAN for a seat on the plane to Morocco in August.

In the Seniors and Mixed events, there is still one day remaining in the round robin, and from there the top two teams will go straight into the final.

As usual, we start with some problems. Firstly, with only your opponents vulnerable, you are sitting in the South seat with:

What do you bid?

Next, with neither side vulnerable, you are North holding:

What is your plan?

Finally, a lead problem. With both sides vulnerable, you hear this auction from the West seat:

What do you lead?

While you contemplate those, we begin our semi-final coverage in the opening stanza of UAE v PAKISTAN in the Open. Both South players faced the first of the problems above on an early deal.

Imran Abedi chose to rebid 2NT on the South hand, and Mohsin Chandna simply raised to game in no-trumps. Hussein Ibrahim led the K and declarer ran for home with his nine top tricks: N/S +400.

Abdelrahim Mehilba (left) made his early international appearances as a member of Egypt’s Junior teams at the World Youth Championships in 2005 and 2006. He made his debut in the UAE Open team at the Bermuda Bowl in Salsomaggiore last year.

After the same start to the auction on this deal, Hazem Gloneim rebid 2♠ on the South hand. Mehilba advanced with a 3 cue-bid and then showed both slam interest and his diamond fit with 4 after Gloneim’s 3NT. When Gloneim co-operated with a 4 cue-bid, Mehilba Blackwooded the partnership to slam.

 Gloneim won the heart lead, drew one round of trumps, cashed a high club, returned to hand with a second trump, then followed with another high club and a club ruffed high. With both minors behaving, he had club winners on which to dispose of three major-suit losers and a trump entry to reach them. The defence scored one trick at the end: N/S +920 and 11 IMPs to UAE.

Midway through the set came another decent slam, this time in the other direction.

Although given a free run, this auction never really got off the ground. Mehilba is maximum for his 2♣ rebid, but the singleton heart is not an asset. Try as he might, he could never get anything from heart bids from Gloneim and slam was never in the picture. With both hearts and clubs 3-2, declarer had an easy 13 tricks: N/S +510.

Imran Abedi (right) made his international debut in the Pakistan Junior team at the 1993 World Youth Championships.

On this deal, N/S had to deal with an opening 3 pre-empt from Hussein Ibrahim. Mohsin Chandna overcalled a natural 4♣ on the North cards and Abedi rolled out Blackwood, ostensibly agreeing clubs. Finding all four of the missing key cards opposite, he then asked for the ♣Q. When Chandna denied it, Abedi settled for the small slam in hearts.

That was +1010 and 11 IMPs to PAKISTAN. Honours even at the slam level, and the match tied at 31-31 after the opening segment.

In the other match in the Open, INDIA led BANGLADESH 32-26 after the first set. This deal may not have looked particularly interesting when it appeared on the VuGraph screen, but the players are here to entertain the viewers and one demonstrated how to get the most out of the limited assets he had been given.

Raju Tolani chose to play things straight, transferring to hearts at the two-level and hoping to buy the contract there. Shah Zia Haque was having none of it, and he protected with 2♠ when South’s 2 was passed back to him. Tolani made one more attempt to buy the hand, but this time it was Moshuir Rahman chose not to defend.

Ajay Khare led the K, establishing the defensive trick in that suit, but the Indian pair could score no more than one heart and South’s three high trumps. E/W +140.

A H M Kamruzzaman (left) made his international debut in the Bangladesh Open team at the 2017 Bermuda Bowl. On this deal, he opened a routine 15-17 1NT on the South cards. Asifur Rahman was not prepared to allow the Indian E/W a cheap entry into the auction. Having no idea who the hand belonged to, Rahman opted for pre-emption, and he had a four-level transfer in his armoury. The first good news was that no doubled 4.

There was more good news too, as Sumit Mukherjee understandably was not attracted to a minor-suit lead from his honours into a strong no-trump opener, so he opened a spade. Away from dummy went declarer’s two club losers. Kamruzzaman ruffed a club in dummy and played a trump to his king. Mukherjee won with the A and had one more chance to beat this contract that had started out with six potential losers. Could he find his partner’s diamond ruff? No, he exited with a trump. With diamonds lying favorably, declarer was now able to built a diamond winner as an unlikely tenth trick. A spectacular N/S +420 and 11 IMPs to BANGLADESH, who won the second stanza 40-32 to take a 2-IMP lead (66-64) against the favourites after two sets.

We return to the UAE v PAKISTAN match for our final deal on this first day of the semi-finals. PAKISTAN led 69-64 after two close sets. With boards running out, either side might have gained a substantial swing on this late deal:

The auction began sedately enough, but Mohamed Said’s jump to game at his second turn was followed immediately by a game bid from Imran Abedi on the South cards. Abdelrahim Mehilba opened the ♣K, and now declarer was in control. He ruffed, cashed a top spade, but then for some reason started on diamonds without drawing a second round of trumps. The Indians were not going to miss their second chance to beat the contract: Said won with the A and played a heart to the king and ace. Mehilba duly returned a diamond for his partner to ruff and the Q was the fourth defensive trick. N/S -100.

After an identical start to the auction, Khaled Hassan’s 4♠ bid seemed to light the blue touchpaper at this table. Hassan Askari backed in with 5 in the pass out seat, and South doubled. Tamer Eissa might have passed, but would he have found the club lead needed to defeat the contract? With five-card support for his partner’s second suit and a fitting diamond honour to boot, it looked clear to declare, so Eissa took out the insurance. When 5♠ came around to Tahseen Gheewala, he doubled, leaving himself with the lead problem presented at the top of this article.

Looking at all four hands, it is easy to see that a diamond lead would enable to defence to take five tricks for +800. A mundane black-suit lead would hold declarer to ten tricks, as the defence can take two heart winners when East gains the lead with his A. The one lead that is disastrous is a heart, and Gheewala duly tabled the ace. That was curtains for the defence, and all the Pakistan pair could take was their two aces. That was a massive N/S +850 and 14 IMPs to UAE, when it could have been +800 and +620 in the Pakistan column. The combined 30-IMP swing on this board left the stanza tied at 23-23, giving PAKISTAN a 5-IMP overnight advantage, 92-87. If there is such a thing as momentum, though, surely it was with UAE.

In the other match in the Open, INDIA had moved 15 IMPs ahead, 108-93, so both matches were still close enough that any two teams could be on their way to Morocco.

In the Women’s matches, the margins were already becoming significant. At the midway point, INDIA led PALESTINE 112-60 and UAE led PAKISTAN 121-80.

We will be back in Lahore soon with both the best of the action from the second half of the semi-finals and the key news of who will be representing Asia and the Middle East in Morocco in August.

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