In the Venice Cup, the ISRAEL team seem to be running away with it, more than 100 IMPs ahead of TURKIYE, who will collect their second consecutive silver medals from this competition. SWITZERLAND, the reigning champions from Salsomaggiore a year ago, led NORWAY 118-107 overnight in the final of the Bermuda Bowl. In the first stanza of this final day, they added another 17 IMPs to that advantage and thus, with 32 boards remaining, they lead by 166-138. Let’s take a look at the action from the penultimate stanza of this World Championship.
As usual, we start with a couple of problems. Firstly, with both sides vulnerable, you are West holding:
You open a multi-way Polish Club. Partner’s 1♦ shows any 0-6 HCP hand plus a few positives. Your 2♦ bid is then artificial showing any 18+. What action do you take over partner’s natural, non-forcing 2♥?
Next, with only your opponents vulnerable, you hold in the North seat:
What do you open?
We begin our coverage with a deal where the thousands watching live on BBO VuGraph witnessed some superb bidding judgement, spectacular play and excellent defence. All truly Bermuda Bowl quality!
Sjoert Brink led the ♠K and, although the contract could always be made in theory, when declarer took the ♠A at trick one, he was down. The defenders still needed to be very careful. At trick two, Grude played a diamond to the ten and queen, and Drijver returned a spade. Winning cheaply with the ♠8, Brink now exited with the ♣10. Declarer took three high clubs (East and South both throwing hearts) and cashed the ♥A-K. He then exited with a low diamond to his jack and Brink’s king. The defenders have three tricks, so Brink exited with his heart. Declarer won and could cash one more heart winner, but he then had to lead away from ♠J-x into Brink’s ♠Q-10 at the end. One down: E/W -100.
Michal Klukowski (left) opened with a multi-way Polish Club, and Jacek Kalita’s 1♦ response included all 0-6 HCP hand and a few positives too. Klukowski’s 2♦ was then artificial, showing the ‘any 18+’ version of the 1♣ opening. Kalita now advanced with a natural 2♥, leaving West with the first of the problems posed above. Klukowski thought for some considerable time before raising to game on his doubleton A-K.
Brogeland also led the ♠K. Playing in hearts, it is not essential for declarer to duck at trick one, but Kalita did anyway. After some thought, Brink continued spades, declarer winning with the ♠7. Two rounds of trumps revealed the position in that suit, and now it was Kalita’s turn to take time to consider his next move.
There are a number of routes to 10 tricks from here. (Three high clubs throwing a diamond, or two high clubs, the ♦A, and then a third high club throwing a diamond, all work.) Befitting the occasion, Kalita chose the most elegant of the successful lines of play. He took two high clubs and ruffed a low club with the ♥10. He then cashed the ♥9 and exited with his remaining heart to South’s ♥8. Dummy had three winners left for the final four tricks. E/W +620, 12 IMPs to Switzerland, and cue much applause from the peanut gallery.
On the very next deal, both N/S pairs had the chance to pick up a significant number on a deal where lack of a fit means they cannot make much despite plenty of high cards.
Grude opened a natural 1♣ and Helgemo contributed a lead-directing (well, maybe not) 1♦ after Brink’s double. Drijver jumped to 2♥ and Grude rebid his strong seven-card suit at the three-level. Brink doubled to show his extra values and Drijver correctly judged that defence was the best form of attack.
Brink kicked off with the ♦A and saw the ♦6 from his partner. One of the winning defences now is to play the ♥K and a second heart to North. A spade switch then enables South to take two winners in that suit before giving his partner a spade ruff. A third round of hearts then promotes the ♣K into the seventh defensive trick for +500. (The same effect can be achieved via ♠A at trick two, followed by spade ruff, heart to the king, spade ruff, and two rounds of hearts.)
When, Brink instead tried to cash the ♦K at trick two, declarer ruffed and laid down the ♣A, felling South’s king. After drawing trumps, Grude had time to set up a spade trick by force, so he ended with eight tricks. Only one down: N/S +100.
The Polish system meant that Jacek Kalita (right) opened with a natural but limited 2♣ on the East hand. When Kalita then competed to 4♣ over Bakke’s jump to 3♥, South’s double again ended the auction.
Brogeland also led the ♦A. Following the same defence outlined above would have resulted in a bounty of +800 for the Norwegians. When Brogeland also tried to cash the ♦K at trick two it was like a remake of “The Great Escape”. Again two defensive tricks had disappeared down the pipe. N/S +300 and 5 IMPs to NORWAY, but it still must go down as a chance missed.
There was more excellent declarer play for the large crowd to enjoy. Both North players had to decide what to open on the second of today’s problem hands.
Bas Drijver started with a 20-22 HCP 2NT. Brink’s 3♣ is not exactly a version of Stayman: their convention card says simply that it ‘asks for distribution’ and Drijver’s 3♦ was alerted as showing ‘1 or 2 Majors’. Brink clearly expected his partner to hold at least one major of at least four cards when he held only a total of four cards in the majors, so he was almost certain he would hear a 3♦ response. His judgement was simply that 3♦ would be a better contract than 2NT.
East led the ♥10 to king and ace, and Drijver tabled the ♦K. West won with the ♦A and continued hearts, declarer winning with the ♥Q and playing a second trump. East won with the ♦Q and played a third heart, but Drijver ruffed, drew West’s remaining trumps, and then ran the ♠J. East won with the ♠K and cashed a heart trick, but declarer’s hand was now high. N/S +110.
What do you think of Boye Brogeland’s judgement? Only a trio of jacks, but it turned out to be a great hand in the circumstances. Christian Bakke (left) rebid 2♣, which was Gizzilli, strong and artificial, but Brogeland’s 2♠ denied enough for game facing 17+. Undeterred, Bakke continued with a 3♥ game try, and now Brogeland decided that his hand was good enough for a jump to game.
Kalita had an unattractive hand from which to lead, and he eventually settled on the ♦Q. That was allowed to run to declarer’s king, and Bakke immediately returned a diamond to the jack and ace. The trump switch was ducked to East’s king, and Bakke won the trump continuation in dummy with the ♠9. He then ruffed a diamond high and crossed back to dummy with the ♠J, drawing the defenders’ last trump. Declarer’s two low hearts were now discarded on dummy’s diamond winners.
Bakke correctly realized that there was a better alternative to guessing which finesse to take. He played a club to the ace and exited with the ♣Q. East won and had no winning option. In fact, he only had hearts left, so had to lead into declarer’s tenace, but had he had a club that would not have helped him anyway, as dummy’s jack would have been a winner. A spectacular N/S +420 and 7 IMPs to NORWAY.
SWITZERLAND won this low-scoring stanza 31-21, padding their lead. That gave them a cushion of 38 IMPs, 197-159, with 16 boards remaining. The reigning champions made no mistake, winning the final stanza 67-35 to retain their trophy with a 70-IMP victory. ITALY defeated USA2 161-126 in the playoff for the bronze medals.
In the Venice Cup final, ISRAEL led TURKIYE 151-73 overnight and there was no dramatic comeback, The final score was 307-153. CHINA defeated NORWAY 189-134 in the playoff for the bronze medals.
In the d’Orsi Trophy for the Senior Teams title, USA1 led DENMARK 119-98 overnight, but the Danes won all three stanzas on the final day to win by 18 IMPs, 235-217. USA2 defeated POLAND 173-157 to win the bronze medals.
In the Wuhan Cup for the Mixed Teams title, FRANCE led USA2 117-65 overnight, but the Americans won the opening stanza of the second day 60-0 to take an 8-IMP lead. The last two sets were exactly even, so USA2 won 189-181. ROMANIA defeated BELGIUM 146-106 for the bronze medals.
Thanks to BBO for superb VuGraph coverage of the events from Morocco. Marrakech joins the ranks of excellent and memorable World Championships. Everyone will reconvene for the 2024 World Bridge Games, which are currently scheduled for Buenos Aires in October next year. The Bermuda Bowl, Venice Cup, d’Orsi Trophy and Wuhan Cup will next be contested in 2025, probably in Bermuda.
From the heat of Marrakech, we are now heading north to autumnal England, from where we will bring you the best of the action from the first weekend of the English Premier League.
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