We have arrived in Turkiye in time for the final stages of the trial to select the open team for the upcoming European Championships, which will be held in Denmark in June. Turkiye is one of the European countries with the largest and most active BBO membership. Their national teams have also become ever more competitive in recent years, particularly in the Women’s game, with two consecutive appearances in the final of the Venice Cup.
The two teams that would eventually contest the final of the open team trial both had close calls in the Round of 16. KUBA (Ozgur Sakrak, Bulent Aslan, Soner Cubukcu and Ilker Cubukcu) narrowly defeated QUATTRO 167-156. ARMA (Serkan Unal, Levent Imamoglu, Hakan Peyret, Tezcan Sen, Erdogan Kaya and Erdinc Erbil) survived with a 148-125 win against BAYBARUT.
The margins in their quarter-final matches were even smaller, KUBA seeing off SINANTOS 133-123 and ARMA edging past UNDERDOG by just 6 IMPs, 156-150. In the semi-final, KUBA scored their third consecutive victory by 11 IMPs or less, beating SENYOR 180-172, while ARMA advanced in relative comfort, 123-97 over RED SKY.
So, the final would be between ARMA and KUBA in a 60-board match divided into four 15-board stanzas.
As usual, we start with a couple of problems. Firstly, with both sides vulnerable, you are West holding:
What do you bid?
Next, with neither side vulnerable, you are sitting in the West seat with:
What do you bid?
While you mull those over, we begin our coverage midway through the opening stanza, with a deal that caused problems for both E/W pairs.
Ozgur Sakrak’s 1♠ overcall seemed to cause all sorts of problems for E/W. Serkan Unal (left) started with a negative double, and then had to decide how to answer the first of the problems posed above at his second turn. To me, showing support for partner’s suit with 3♣ looks like the obvious way forward. Do you mind if partner thinks 3♣ is non-forcing? Not at all. If he has a minimum opening, what are you worried that you have missed?
Unal chose instead to move with a nebulous double, although quite what he was expecting to hear that would help him is unclear. One thing is for sure, and that is that Levent Imamoglu’s 3♠ cue-bid did not solve Unal’s problems. What now? Perhaps showing club support is again the right way forward, but Unal opted to play game in the known Moysian heart fit.
North led a spade and now Unal had to justify his bidding. He won the spade lead with dummy’s ace and immediately led a low trump to the queen and king. He then ruffed the spade continuation, crossed to the dxA, and took a second spade ruff with the remaining low trump in his hand, denuding North of spades in the process. Unal drew a second round of trumps with the jack, then crossed to the ♣A and drew a third round with the hxA (throwing a club from his hand). North was left with the only outstanding trump but, of course, he had no spades left. When diamonds behaved, declarer could just play winners. North would come to a club trick and his trump winner, but that was still only three tricks for the defence. E/W +620. Nicely played!
Looking at both of the E/W hands, it seems clear that 5♣ is the best game. You can even cope with a 4-1 trump break if both red suits behave. Indeed, with trumps 3-3, diamonds coming in for four tricks and the heart finesse working, twelve tricks can be made in clubs by ruffing two spades in the West hand.
At the other table, E/W did get to 5♣ at one point, but something had clearly gone wrong with the auction…
South did not overcall here, so the Cubukcus had the auction to themselves. Soner Cubukcu seems to have responded with 1hx and then shown club support in response to his partner’s 2NT rebid. Ilker Cubukcu’s 3dx seems very sensible, focusing his partner’s attention on the spade weakness. However, that message does not appear to have made it across the table, as Soner bid 3NT anyway, despite his singleton spade. (Yes, 3NT would make, luckily, with diamonds producing four tricks and the heart finesse winning.)
It seems to me that West should be able to picture his partner’s hand after the 3dx bid, and jump to 5♣, ending the auction. East’s subsequent bidding suggests that something has gone badly wrong. Perhaps there is something about West’s 3♣ bid that is not apparent to me. Did it show diamonds? Did Ilker think his partner bid 3dx rather than 3♣? Indeed, it is hard to fathom why East kept insisting on playing in his three-card suit despite his partner’s lack of encouragement. All very strange. Twelve tricks can be made in clubs, but not in diamonds. E/W -100 and 12 IMPs to ARMA.
The same pair had more trouble with diamonds on the very next deal…
This auction seems very sensible: Levent Imamoglu (right) bid his diamonds twice and then showed a heart stop when his partner asked. Yes, East has a good hand but, with his partner bidding his short suit, discretion is certainly called for.
There are nine effective top tricks, the eight you can see plus one that can be established by force with the ♠J-10. In fact, Imamoglu got away with a misplay, winning the heart lead and immediately playing a spade to the jack without first unblocking the dxQ. If North wins with the ♠Q and continues hearts, declarer is potentially cut off from his third diamond winner and could potentially go down, although as the cards lay he would be saved by the 4-2 spade break.
Declarer should win the heart lead, cross to the dxQ, and play spades from the top, establishing his ninth trick (and his tenth once spades are not 5-1).
At the table, North ducked the ♠Q, so declarer then began cashing winners. When diamonds broke 3-3, he found himself with 12. E/W +490.
After an identical start to the auction, I am at a loss to explain Soner Cubukcu’s jump to 4hx. Perhaps it was Kickback Blackwood agreeing diamonds (although quite why he would think his hand is worth that is a mystery). East’s 4NT response would be consistent with a 3 key-card response, although quite what West’s 5♠ is then meant to be is anyone’s guess. Surely not an attempt to play there!
Amazingly, South has to find the right lead to beat 7dx. On a heart lead, for example, declarer can win, cross to the dxQ, come back to hand in hearts and draw trumps. He can then play on spades, taking a ruffing finesse against the ♠Q, eventually returning to dummy with the ♣A to pitch his heart losers on the winning spades.
Hakan Peyret ensured that declarer had no chance by leading the ♣10, removing that vital late entry to the spades. Declarer won with the ♣A, unblocked trumps, crossed to hand in hearts and drew the remaining trumps. He then had no choice but to take the losing spade finesse, so that was one down. E/W -50 and another 11 IMPs to ARMA.
6dx essentially needs trumps 3-3, so it is not a slam you want to reach. However, with trumps breaking, the defence cannot stop 12 tricks, so the Cubukcu auction was the winning one, at least right up until the very last bid.
ARMA won the opening stanza but, despite those good boards, only by a margin of 39-38.
Early in the second stanza, both West players had to answer the second of this week’s problems.
Soner Cubukcu’s raise to 4hx seems like a very sensible solution to the problem.
Declarer duly discarded a spade and a diamond on dummy’s club winners. He lost just the two high trumps: E/W +450. A flat board if ever there was one, surely…
It never ceases to amaze me how often players, even at the top level, find ways to abuse Blackwood. Hopefully, my students, reading about such efforts in this column, will learn from the mistakes they see without actually having to suffer through the agony themselves.
Unal was not willing to shut up shop in game at his second turn, so he advanced with a forcing quasi-natural third-suit 3dx at his second turn. Note the importance of considering what awkward problem you might be faced with on the next round before making a bid. Can you see the danger of bidding 3dx?
Imamoglu liked diamonds, so he understandably raised. Now things quickly spiralled out if control. Unal tried to offer 4hx as an alternative contract but, with such good trumps and controls, Imamoglu had visions of a slam in diamonds, so he continued with a 4♠ cue bid. What this meant was that diamonds were now the key suit when Unal rolled out RKCB. (After 4♠, would 5hx have been understood as an attempt to play there?) Imamoglu had two key cards plus the trump queen, so whether he decided to show his void too in response to RKCB made no difference. Both 5♠ and 5NT would have carried the partnership beyond its last making contract. E/W -100 and 11 IMPs to KUBA.
I know readers enjoy seeing that experts are as capable as they are of getting stupid results, but how often do you see RKCB used and then a slam still bid off the A-K of trumps?
This deal proved to be very easy after Soner Cubukcu had upgraded the West hand to a 15-17 1NT opening. Ilker’s jump to 3♠ showed shortage with exactly three hearts and game-forcing values. With five-card support for one of his partner’s suits and a minimum, Soner jumped to game, ending the auction.
5♣ needs the heart finesse and two diamond tricks. Declarer might well have got the diamonds wrong, but Erdinc Erbil started by cashing the ♠A and then switching to the dx7 at trick two. The dxJ lost to South’s king, and declarer successfully finessed when a heart came back at trick three. When Cubukcu drew trumps, North discarded a diamond. After this sequence of plays from North, what odds would you give on a finesse against the dxQ working? Cubukcu correctly played a diamond to the ace and ruffed a diamond, bringing down South’s queen. The dx10 now provided a discard for declarer’s heart loser and Cubukcu had eleven tricks. E/W +600.
Serkan Unal started with 1♣ on the West cards, and Bulent Aslan (left) decided that his hand, with perfect shape, merited an ultra-light takeout double. I cannot tell you whether the E/W play inverted minor-suit raises after a takeout double, so East’s jump to 3♣ could have been either a minimum limit raise or a maximum pre-emptive raise. Either way, Unal was not particularly interested with his weak no-trump hand. He might have competed to 4♣ after South’s 3♠ bid, but game was no longer in the frame.
Even worse, the defence to defeat 3♠ is not that easy to find. Unal cashed a high club and then correctly switched to the dx4. To beat the contract, Imamoglu has to play low on this trick. Declarer can play a trump to dummy, dropping East’s ♠Q, but he cannot then get back to his hand to finesse against West’s ♠J without allowing the defenders in to take a diamond ruff.
When Imamoglu won with the dxA at trick two, there went the entry for the ruff. Ozgur Sakrak won the diamond continuation, crossed to dummy with the ♠A, then played a heart to the ten and queen. At the table, Unal exited with his low spade. Sakrak ran that to the ♠10, drew the last trump, and claimed nine tricks, conceding the hxA. E/W -140 and 12 IMPs to KUBA.
West does best to play a second round of clubs, forcing dummy, after winning with the hxQ. Declarer must then be very careful. If he plays a heart to the king, West can win and return a heart to dummy’s jack, and dummy is then endplayed, ensuring a trick for the ♠J. Declarer has to play the hxJ after the second club ruff. If West wins and exits with a third heart, declarer gets to his hand with the hxK to take the trump finesse. If West ducks the second round of hearts, then a third round of hearts endplays him to lead a black suit, again giving declarer entry to his hand.
This was a fairly one-sided set, with KUBA winning the stanza 53-8. That gave them a 44-IMP lead (91-47) at the midway point of the match,
We will be back soon with the best of the action from the second half of this final, and to see if ARMA can mount a comeback.