We return to the sweltering heat of southwest London and the first weekend 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 three matches:
As usual, we start with some problems. Firstly, with both sides vulnerable, you are North holding:
West’s double shows a hand that wants to bid 5♦, but caters for East wanting to defend. What action, if any, do you take on this North hand? What is your plan? If you pass or double, East removes to 5♦, which is doubled by your partner. What then?
Next, with only your side vulnerable, you are sitting in the South seat with:
What action, if any, do you take?
Finally, with both sides vulnerable, you hold as East :
What action, if any, do you take?
The BBO VuGraph match for Round 4 featured the teams currently lying first and third, MOSSOP and HINDEN. This early deal set the tone.
Things were relatively straightforward at this table. John Atthey (left) opened a 20-22 2NT. Neil Rosen started with simple Stayman and raised his partner’s 3♥ response to game.
Justin Hackett led a diamond, declarer winning and running the ♥10 to East’s king. West won the diamond continuation and switched to a club. Atthey won, cashed a high heart to reveal the 4-1 break, and then played the ♠A, ♠K and ♠J. East won with the ♠Q but had no winning option, as dummy’s trump protected declarer from a third round of diamonds. N/S +620.
Things were completely different at this table, where Graham Osbourne (right) opened 3♦ on the West hand. Gunnar Hallberg started with a double and Frances Hinden upped the pre-empt to the four-level. David Mossop joined in with 4♠ and Osbourne doubled to show a hand that wanted to bid 5♦ but catered to partner having enough to beat 4♠.
That left Hallberg with the first of this week’s problems. One option is to wait and see if partner can provide any assistance, but are you interested in defending if you pass and partner doubles 5♦? Hallberg decided not, and he advanced with RKCB. Mossop showed an ace and Hallberg even made a grand slam try on the way to 6♠.
Osbourne led a top diamond, exposing declarer’s loser in that suit. With both majors lying poorly for declarer, ten tricks were the limit. N/S -200 and 13 IMPs to HINDEN. It turned out to be a 24-IMP decision, as the defence gets five top winners and club ruff against 5♦-X for +1100, which would have been 11 IMPs to MOSSOP.
Later in the set, both South players had to answer a variation on the second of this week’s problems…
Gunnar Hallberg opened 1♣ in third seat and then showed three hearts via a support redouble at his second turn. It thus fell to David Mossop (left) to decide whether to compete over East’s 2♠ bid. Mossop chose to pass. Osbourne raised to 3♠ on the West hand and Mossop saw no reason to take any action when that came back to him.
Hallberg won the opening heart lead with the ace and cashed a top club. To collect the maximum, Hallberg needs to switch to a diamond now, whilst his partner still has a heart entry. When he instead returned a heart to Mossop’s king the defenders were restricted to one trump trick in addition to their five top winners. Two down: N/S +100
Neil Rosen (right) was effectively in the same situation in the replay. When he decided to complete with 3♥, John Atthey had at easy raise to game.
With trumps 3-2 and clubs behaving, declarer had to lose only one trick in each major suit. A relatively painless N/S +650 and another 11 IMPs to HINDEN, who won the match emphatically, 57-16.
Hinden moved up into second place overnight, just 1 VP behind the leaders, BLACK.
HINDEN again featured in the VuGraph match on Sunday morning. Their opponent this time was SENIOR.
After a routine start to the auction, Alan Mould (left), a member of the BBO expert bidding panel, found himself with the last of this week’s problems. Presented to the panel, I suspect Mould’s pass would garner a large majority along with “This is a problem?” type comments.
Of course, Mould held exactly what was needed opposite this West hand, and John Holland duly made 11 tricks: E/W +150.
John Atthey was effectively faced with the same problem in the replay, and he could have bid 2♦ to show a hand that would have passed a natural 2♦. Instead, he made a game try with a natural 3♣. Again, Atthey might have passed 3♦, but his hand had been improved by news of a fifth diamond opposite, and the rest of the auction was kind of inevitable.
Five diamonds can be beaten in theory – opening with the ♦Q (a singularly unlikely lead) or a club would defeat it by removing an entry to declarer’s hand prematurely. Penfold understandably led the ♥Q. Rosen won, crossed to the ♠A, and ruffed a spade. A club ruff back to hand then allowed declarer to ruff a second spade with the ♦J. With the spades in his hand now good, Rosen simply cashed his top trumps. The 4-1 break meant that Penfold had two winners, but that was all the defence was destined to get. E/W +600 and 10 IMPs to HINDEN.
On our final deal for this visit to Richmond, both South players landed in the same contract. Curiously, one West found a lead to beat the contract, but it was made. In the replay, West’s lead theoretically let the contract through, but here it went down.
Alan Mould took advantage of his opponents’ transfer methods to show hearts via a double, and he then supported diamonds at his second turn. This encouraged John Holland (right) to open the ♥Q. If declarer is allowed to win with the ♥K, he has a choice of losing options. Suppose he plays on clubs: West wins and continues hearts, and East then sets up his long hearts while he still holds the ♠A. If declarer plays on spades, East wins and plays a diamond, then regains the lead with the ♥A and plays a second diamond through declarer, who then has only eight tricks.
When Mould overtook the opening lead with the ♥A and switched to the ♦J at trick two, Graham Osbourne was in control. He covered with the ♦Q. Holland won with the ♦K and returned the suit. Osbourne won and drove out the ♠A and thus needed the majors to produce one extra trick. Although spades failed to divide, the fall of the ♥10 was all declarer needed. He had three hearts and two tricks in each of the other suits: N/S +600.
Neil Rosen opted for a jump overcall on the West hand, the result of which was that Brian Senior was installed in 3NT in double-quick time.
Rosen opened a diamond to the jack and queen which, theoretically, allowed declarer to make the contract. All Senior had to do was to knockout West’s entry before the diamonds were established. Looking at all four hands, it is easy to see that ducking a club at trick two gives declarer an easy nine tricks. (The defenders can never take more than one trick in each suit).
Entry considerations make it more convenient to play on spades first, with the chance of a 2-2 club break in reserve. That is exactly what Senior did, the ♠J was taken by the ace at trick two. Atthey returned a diamond through declarer’s tenace and Rosen played a third round to clear the suit. Senior tested the spades, throwing his low heart on the third round. When they failed to behave, he fell back on clubs. Declarer had two tricks each in spades, diamonds and clubs, but that was all. Three down: N/S -300 and 14 IMPs to HINDEN
HINDEN won the match 44-27. The other significant result in this round was BLACK hammering MOSSOP. These two results moved the top two teams clear of the rest.
With five matches played, so just two remaining in this first weekend, these were the standings:
We will be back soon with the best of the action from the final two matches from this first weekend.
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