BBO Vugraph - English Premier League Div 1 - Part 2

Vugraph #328

We are back at Richmond B.C. in southwest London, venue for the first weekend of Division 1 of the English Premier League. On each of the three weekends, teams will play a complete round robin of seven 16-board matches. By the end of the competition, teams will have played 48 boards against each other team.

These were the standings after the opening two matches:


As usual, we start with a couple of problems. On this visit, it is all about the opening lead. With both sides vulnerable, you hear the following auction from the East seat:

What do you lead?

Next, with neither side vulnerable, you hold in the North seat:

What do you lead?

Finally, a bidding problem. With neither side vulnerable, you are South holding:

What action, if any, do you take?

The BBO VuGraph match in Round 3 features the teams currently installed in first and third place, SENIOR and BLACK. And what a ding-dong match it turned out to be.

David Gold led a heart. Brian Senior won, cashed his eight minor-suit winners and then played the K and a third heart. David Gold won and then had to lead away from the ♠A at trick 12, giving declarer an eleventh trick. N/S +660. 

Simon Cope (left) upgraded the North hand to a 20-21 2NT opening and Peter Crouch advanced with 3♠, showing both minors. Cope’s 4 response was alerted as ‘Optional RKCB’, and Crouch chose to show his two aces. Cope decided that was enough and bid slam, leaving Alan Mould with the first of the lead problems posed above.

25 IMPs hung in the balance. If Mould led anything but a spade, half of those IMPs would go into the SENIOR plus column. When the ♠A appeared on the table, the ♠K had become Cope’s twelfth trick. N/S +1370 and 12 IMPs to BLACK.

Those IMPs did not last long…

Sandra Penfold (right) reached the final of the Olympiad in 1988 and in 1992 as a member of the Great Britain Women’s team. More recently, she collected a silver medal at the 2017 Venice Cup playing for England.

Penfold and Brian Senior play a fairly basic form of Acol, so the 2 response did not show as good a hand as most would be used to in a 2/1 system. When Senior bid his second suit, Penfold bid a non-forcing 3 and Senior produced dummy.

Andrew Black led a sneaky ♣8, dummy’s ten losing to David Gold’s queen. Penfold then pitched a heart on the club return. Black scored his ace, but the ♣K now provided a discard for another heart from declarer’s hand. Once Penfold reached her hand, she cashed the A and continued with the J. West’s 9 was thus promoted into a fourth defensive trick. A quiet N/S +110.

Peter Crouch had to start with a 1NT response on the South hand. He then had the option of passing when Cope advanced with a 2 transfer, showing hearts and denying a game-forcing hand. Crouch chose to make a game try with 3, but he was not enamoured with his partner’s choice of 3NT. Spades was known to be a 5-2 fit, so Crouch took a shot at game in that denomination, and Alan Mould increased the stakes with a red card on the way out.

Defence is the most difficult part of the game. Only a trump lead ensures five tricks for the defenders, but finding that is asking a lot, and Mould understandably opened the K. Cope won with the A, pitching a club from his hand, and led a club towards the king. John Holland (left) rose with the ♣A and now had to switch to hearts to defeat the contract legitimately.

Bravo! The 2 appeared on the table. Declarer put in the 10, forcing East’s king, and a second heart was returned to jack and ace. Declarer cashed the ♣K, throwing a heart from dummy, and then tried to cash the Q. (How was he to know that West had led his low heart from J-x?) Holland ruffed and switched to a trump, covered all round and won in dummy with the ♠K. A diamond ruff returned the lead to declarer’s hand and brought down the Q, so Cope ruffed his club loser in dummy and played the 10, throwing his last heart. Mould had still to make two trump tricks, so that was two down after all. N/S -500 and 12 IMPs to SENIOR.

Brian Senior entered with a weak jump overcall in spades on the North hand, and David Gold showed a good heart raise via a 3♠ cue-bid. Sandra Penfold’s jump to 4NT then showed both minors. That left Andrew Black (right) with the decision to play or defend. "Double," said Black.

The defence started with two rounds of hearts and a spade switch against Senior’s 5-X. Declarer played a club immediately and was able to score two club ruffs in the process of drawing trumps. With clubs behaving, that was E/W  +100.

Simon Cope overcalled only at the one-level, which allowed Alan Mould to show his heart raise via a diamond splinter. Peter Crouch got both of suits into the auction and, here too, the ‘play or defend’ decision fell to West. John Holland chose to bid on, which left Cope with the second of the lead problems posed earlier.

Could Cope find either the ♠A, or perhaps the J and then read his partner’s signal for a spade switch? No, he started with his singleton club, and that was the end of the defenders’ spade ruff. Holland thus lost just the two pointed-suit aces: E/W +450 and 8 IMPs to SENIOR.

There seemed little point in presenting John Holland’s hand as a lead problem against 3NT. How many would have even considered the only winning option, which is two rounds of clubs. Not that declarer was home and dry after Holland’s spade opening.

Alan Mould took dummy’s ♠K with his ace and returned the suit, declarer ducking to West’s seven. Holland switched to a heart, declarer winning cheaply in his hand. Peter Crouch (left) now had five tricks in the majors, so needed four from the minor suits. He led a low diamond to the king and ace, and won Mould’s diamond return perforce in hand with the queen. Now he led a low club.

Holland hopped up with the ace, not wanting to be endplayed with it on the second round of the suit. The effect, though, was to solve declarer’s guess in the suit. “Sorry, partner,” said Holland, through the screen. N/S +400.

The scenario was completely different in the replay, where South had to answer the last of this week’s problems…

Penfold opened with a weak (12-14) 1NT and Black overcalled 2♣ (showing both majors) on the West cards. Senior perhaps had a natural and game-forcing jump to 3 available now, but he chose to wait and see what happened. Had Mould’s 2♠ preference been passed back to Senior, perhaps things would have worked out, but Black’s raise made things particularly tricky. Senior doubled, and now Penfold had to work out what sort of hand her partner had.

As we have already seen, bidding 3NT would probably have worked. Passing the double will get you +100 or maybe even +300. Penfold seems to have decided that the most likely explanation for her partner’s silence on the first round and now this delayed double was a weak hand with both minors, as she removed to 4♣. David Gold was not hard-pressed to find a double of that on the East hand.

The defence was accurate, Andrew Black starting with a heart for his partner to ruff. Now came the A and the ♠A, a diamond ruff, another heart ruff, and a third diamond. Black ruffed with the ♣A and delivered a third heart ruff. The defenders had taken the first seven tricks: N/S -800 and a massive 15 IMPs to BLACK.

BLACK won this exciting match 52-30, which moved them up into second place whilst SENIOR slipped back to mid-table.

These were the standings after three matches:


We will be back soon with the best of the action from another couple of matches from the opening weekend of the EPL.

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