This is our final visit to Richmond B.C. in southwest London for 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 five matches:
Only one problem this week. With both sides vulnerable, you are North holding:
Partner opens a Multi and his 2NT rebid shows 22-24 balanced. Your Stayman inquiry reveals that he holds at least four spades but not four hearts. What is your plan and what do you bid now?
The BBO VuGraph match for Round 6 featured the leaders, BLACK, against the team currently occupying the cellar, the always-dangerous DE BOTTON. It is surprising how often, when you are not doing well, you also seem to get the worst of the luck. That certainly seemed to be the case in this match. Witness these two potential slam deals.
Artur Malinowski and Janet de Botton (left) conducted what looks like a sensible, controlled auction to a good grand slam. 7♥ need either hearts 3-2 or the singleton jack, plus perhaps not worse that a 4-2 club split, so that is somewhere just North of 70%.
As typically seems to happen when you are at the bottom of the pack, trumps do not split and you go down. E/W -50, and a rough way to open the match.
By contrast, the auction here started in similar fashion, but Andrew McIntosh jumped in hearts at his third turn, making it clear that he held three-card support. Then, just as the auction was getting started, Tom Paske had a rush of blood and decided that he knew what the best contract was. Quite how he knew that his partner’s trumps were 10-x-x rather than J-x-x, I have no idea. E/W +980 and 14 IMPs to BLACK. This clearly inferior auction had been rewarded with a 25-IMP windfall.
A few deals later, both North players faced a variation on the problem posed at the top of this article.
David Bakhshi (right) opened a Multi and rebid 2NT to show a balanced 22-24. Tom Townsend inquired with Stayman, got a 3♠ response, and saw no reason to advanced beyond 3NT.
At IMPs, you would want to bid these hands to 5♦, although 3NT is certainly an excellent contract on anything but a club lead, which removes dummy’s outside entry. Of course, Tom Paske had a natural club lead here, so Bakhshi had to work for his plus score. Winning with the ♣Q, he immediately led a heart to the nine and king. Bakhshi won the club continuation and combined his chances, cashing the ♦A and crossing to the ♦K, catering for a doubleton queen in that suit. When that didn’t work, he had to rely of the heart finesse against the queen for his ninth trick. N/S +600.
The route was different but, here too, South showed a very strong balanced hand. David Gold also started with Stayman, but he decided to play game in his long suit rather than in no-trumps. Bidding 4♦ and then 5♦ over a discouraging 4NT, was perhaps slightly stronger than jumping to 5♦ immediately, and Andrew Black decided that was sufficiently encouraging for him to raise to slam.
With an unavoidable heart loser, this is not a great slam. You obviously need diamonds to play for no loser, which needs either a singleton queen or the queen onside and a 3-2 break, so slightly less than a 40% chance. Of course, when you’re at the top of the leader-board, the luck seems to run with you, so the diamonds behaved and Gold chalked up his slam. N/S +1370 and 13 IMPs to BLACK. Another 25 IMP swing on which DE BOTTON came out on the short end.
The DE BOTTON team actually played very well in this match.
Andrew Black quickly got the auction to the four-level after Janet de Botton’s Michaels overcall, and Artur Malinowski (left) advanced with 4NT, presumably asking which minor his partner held. David Gold’s 5♥ bid stopped De Botton answering that question, so Malinowski had to settle for judgement, and his leap to 6♠ closed the brisk auction.
Gold led the ♦A, but that was the only trick the defenders could get. E/W +1430.
After the same start, Tom Paske advanced with 5♥ on the West hand. Tom Townsend (right) was not willing to go quietly on his 6-5 hand, and he introduced his second suit at the six-level. Here, too, West bid 6♠, but Townsend was not prepared to defend and offered his partner a choice of red-suit saves at the seven-level.
The defenders had only three aces and a heart ruff against 7♦-X. Four down: E/W +800 and 12 IMPs to DE BOTTON.
Despite their opponents’ good fortune, DE BOTTON won the match 48-34.
The final VuGraph match of this first weekend was SENIOR v KNOTTENBELT. The auction and the opening lead were identical at both tables on this deal.
Ben Handley-Pritchard (left) and Brian Senior both opened the ♥9 against North’s 4♥ contract. On seeing dummy, both West players perhaps wished they had managed to summon up a responsive double to end the auction.
For SENIOR, Norman Selway won trick one with the ♥J and tried the ♦J from his hand. Handley-Pritchard was not fooled: he won with the ♦A and switched to a low club. Declarer tried the ♣Q from dummy, so Ed Jones won with the ♣A, cashed the ♣10, and then exited with a diamond. Selway won and tried the ♠J next, but East again hopped up with his ace. The defenders had taken four tricks and still had a natural trump winner to come. The result at this table looked normal enough: N/S -200.
At the other table, Michael Byrne (right) also won the first trick with the ♥J, but he tried the ♠J at trick two. Senior rose with the ♠A and Penfold followed with the ♠5. Perhaps expecting his partner to have signalled length, and thus placing the ♠10 with declarer, Senior continued with a low spade.
Byrne rose with the ♠K and discarded a club from his hand. When he then played a low spade from dummy, West panicked and ruffed in with the ♥10. Byrne discarded his second club and now had just the ♦A to lose. Five losers had magically become only three. A spectacular N/S +620 and 13 IMPs to KNOTTENBELT.
KNOTTENBELT won a fairly low-scoring match 36-24.
At the end of the first weekend, with every team having played one 16-board match against each of the other teams, these were the standings:
We will return to the English Premier League for the second of the three weekends in October. Next week, we hop across the Channel for a visit to Paris, from where we will bring you the best of the action from the national final of the French Inter-club Championships.
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