We are back in Turkiye, to bring you the best of the action from the final of the trials to select the open team for the upcoming European Championships, which will be held in Denmark in June. The two teams that have reached this stage are KUBA (Ozgur Sakrak, Bulent Aslan, Soner Cubukcu and Ilker Cubukcu) and ARMA (Serkan Unal, Levent Imamoglu, Hakan Peyret, Tezcan Sen, Erdogan Kaya and Erdinc Erbil).
When we left with half of the 60-board match played, KUBA had jumped out to a 44-IMP lead (91-47). Could ARMA mount a comeback, or would the KUBA foursome be installed as Turkiye’s representatives in Denmark in the summer?
As usual, we start with a couple of problems. Firstly, with only your opponents vulnerable, you are South holding:
What do you bid?
Next, you are again in the South seat with only your opponents vulnerable:
What action do you take?
While you mull those over, we begin our coverage early in the third stanza, with both South players facing the first of the problems above.
The auction started normally, but Tezcan Sen’s 3♣ bid seems woefully inadequate with a good 17-count facing what should be at least an 8-count. With little to spare for his two-level negative double, Levent Imamoglu (left) had no reason to take another bid and all four of the making games had been missed.
With clubs breaking, it was easy enough to win the diamond lead, draw trumps, and set up the long heart for an eleventh trick. N/S +150
After the same start, Ilker Cubukcu was more ambitious. With no obvious natural bid to make, he moved forward with what looks like an obvious 3♦ cue-bid. They toyed with playing in both 3NT and 5♣ before eventually settling for 4♠ in the rather flimsy seven-card fit.
Soner Cubukcu won the opening diamond lead and immediately played dummy’s three high hearts. West ruffed the third round with the ♠9, and declarer overruffed with the ten (although pitching the diamond loser would have been equally effective). He then played a spade to the ace and a second trump. West won with the ♠K, but declarer had the rest apart from East’s high trump winner. N/S +420 and 7 IMPs to KUBA.
A couple of boards later, both South players had to deal with a variation on the second of this week’s problems.
Bulent Aslam (right) opened with a Multi 2♦, showing a weak two bid in one of the majors, and Tezcan Sen overcalled with what looks like a normal, natural 2NT on the South cards. Imamoglu transferred to spades and then offered his partner a choice of games. All very sensible.
The defence started with three rounds of hearts. When declarer started clubs by leading low towards dummy, West discarded and all was crystal clear. Declarer was not hard-pressed to take the rest: N/S +460.
Erdinc Erbil (left) started with a natural weak 2♥ opening at this table, but the N/S bidding problem is essentially the same. What is wrong with a natural 2NT overcall by South? If you tell me that you have 18 HCP and 2NT shows 15-17, perhaps this is a good time to realize that 2NT in this situation needs to show something in the 16-19 range, and you should even be prepared to bid it on stronger hands if the alternative is not attractive.
Tezcan Sen’s decision to make a takeout double on this hand was an accident waiting to happen. Is it not entirely predictable that partner will bid spades facing a takeout double of 2♥?
With North holding a good five-card spade suit, it is perhaps unlucky that 4♠ ran into a 6-0 trump break. You may convince yourself that it is unlucky, whilst I would say that justice was duly served. Making takeout doubles with the wrong shape is fraught with danger, and the higher the level the less chance you will have to extricate yourself from any undesirable position in which you find yourself. On this layout, 4♠ went three down: N/S -150 and 12 IMPs to ARMA.
The third set finished in a tie at 23-23, so the margin remained 44 IMPs in favour of KUBA going into the last 15-board stanza. The final nail in the ARMA coffin was not long in coming.
When the 2♣ opener’s hand is so strong, it is seldom easy to find out if partner holds exactly the right cards. Ozgur Sakrak (right) was certainly helped when Bulent Aslan raised clubs immediately. Partner’s spade cue-bid and East’s double dampened ambitions somewhat and Sakrak gave up higher ambitions and jumped to the small slam. Would North have bid any differently if he had held the ♥Q rather than the jack, or if his red-suit holding had been switched? Surely not, which illustrates how difficult it can be to bid hands of this nature.
West led a spade, at least solving the problem of how to get to dummy’s ace. Sakrak pitched his diamond loser and played a trump. The 2-1 break meant there was a trump left in dummy to take care of one of declarer’s heart losers. N/S +1370.
At this table, Serkan Unal (left) did not get a free ride with the big hand. Ilker Cubukcu’s third-seat 1♠ opening meant Unal had to start with a double. Soner Cubukcu raised spades on the West hand, and Erdinc Erbil’s pass did nothing to help his partner. Now Unal continued with a 3♠ cue-bid and heard his partner bid 3NT. Finally, he introduced his suit at the four-level, and Unal then had to decide whether his partner’s 4♠ cue bid was good news or bad. He rolled out Blackwood and got confirmation that his partner held the ♠A.
Does that help? Not really. With three potential red-suit losers and no spades, it is not clear to me why Unal thought he would be able to make 13 tricks. Indeed, it is only because partner holds the ♥J, that the grand slam has any play at all.
On a spade lead, it seems right to pitch the diamond loser on the ♠A and hope that the ♥Q comes down doubleton. Instead, Unal chose to throw a heart at trick one and take the diamond finesse. Even if the finesse wins, would declarer not still need the ♥Q to fall?
With the ♦K offside, that was a quick one down: N/S -100 and 16 IMPs to KUBA. Surely, it was all over now. However, there was still time to admire a nice piece of card play…
Erbil opened a natural weak 2♥ on the North hand and Ilker Cubukcu overcalled 2NT. Soner did not think he had quite enough to raise.
South led a heart around to declarer’s king. Declarer played a club to the king and ducked the club to South after North had shown out on the second round. South’s spade return ran around to declarer’s queen and Cubukcu guessed to play diamonds from the top. When South’s queen came down, declarer cashed out for eight tricks. E/W +120.
The stakes on both the card play and the defence were higher in the replay.
Aslan did not open the North hand, but he showed his hearts via a transfer after his partner had overcalled in spades. Imamoglu’s 2NT bid in this auction was a bit stronger so Tezcan Sen decided he had enough for a raise here.
Here, too, South led a heart, ducked to the king. A club to the king then a club to the nine and ten followed, North pitching a spade. A diamond switch, whilst not attractive, would have left declarer with no chance. So, too, would a club return as it only gives away the eighth trick. However, Sakrak switched to a low spade, giving Imamoglu the chance to display his talent as declarer.
Imamoglu ran the spade switch to his queen. He then crossed to the ♠A and played a diamond to the ace. The ♦K dropped South’s queen and declarer cashed the ♦J. Imamoglu now had two spades, three diamonds, one heart and one club so far, seven tricks. He now exited with a spade to South. Sakrak could cash three spade winners, but he then had to lead away from his ♣Q into declarer’s tenace at the end. An impressive E/W +600 and a consolation 10 IMPs to ARMA.
ARMA won the final stanza, but only 28-27. Team KUBA won the match by 43 IMPs, 141-98, to claim their seats on the flight to Denmark in June.
Congratulations to team KUBA, Ozgur Sakrak, Bulent Aslan, Soner Cubukcu and Ilker Cubukcu, who will form the nucleus of the Turkish open team at this year’s European Championships.