BBO Vugraph - The Dutch Premier League - Part 2

Vugraph #404

We return to the Dutch Premier League, and the semi-final match between the current holders of the Bermuda Bowl and the reigning European champions. It is BC de LOMBARD 1 (Pierre Zimmermann/Franck Multon, Sjoert Brink/Bas Drijver and Jacek Kalita/Michal Nowosadzki) against BC ‘t ONSTEIN 1 (Bauke Muller/Simon de Wijs, Joris van Lankveld/Berend van den Bos and Tim Verbeek/Danny Molenaar).

The format is an 80-board match divided into five 16-board segments. At the end of our last visit, we left things with the Swiss leading by 12 IMPs (126-114) going into the final stanza.

As usual, we begin with a couple of problems. Firstly, with only your side vulnerable, you are North holding:

What action, if any, do you take?

Next, with only your opponents vulnerable, you are sitting in the East seat with:

What action, if any, do you take?

While you consider those, we start early in the final stanza with the Swiss beating par at both tables.

Bas Drijver (left) opened the marginal 4441 shape in first seat, and Sjoert Brink’s 1♠ response left Tim Verbeek with the first of this week’s problems. When Verbeek passed, Drijver raised the spades. Which of the Dutch players was supposed to get their side into the auction now?

Even if someone does, it is just about impossible to bid these N/S cards to exactly 3. Here, they got shut out of the auction entirely but, if either player bids, their partner is surely likely to carry them too high.

Verbeek kicked off with four rounds of trumps and a club switch. Declarer could make three club tricks and a pair of red-suit ace-kings, but had to lose a diamond at the end. A meagre N/S +50.

Bauke Muller also opened 1 on the East hand, but Simon de Wijs quite sensibly did not like the idea of bidding a spade suit headed by the seven, so he responded 1NT. The North hand looked much more promising now, and Michal Nowosadzki (right) came in with a 2♣ overcall, showing both Majors. Having declined to overcall 1 at his first opportunity, Jacek Kalita was sufficiently encouraged to jump to game.

Now the spotlight fell on De Wijs to find a winning opening lead. Muller’s 1 opening in their Tarzan system is something of a catch-all, catering for all 11-15 HCP hands without a five-card major, saying nothing in particular about the minors. Without a natural 1 opening opposite, the A looks like a fairly unlikely choice of opening lead, and de Wijs did indeed opt for the ♣10. That was all the help Kalita needed – he won with the ♣A and promptly cashed four rounds of spades, discarding three diamonds from his hand. There were now just two trumps and a club to lose. A spectacular N/S +620 and 11 IMPs to LOMBARD to get the scoreboard rolling again.

When planning the defence, you often have to ask yourself, “What do I need partner to hold?” It would seem that the less you require from partner, the more like it is that he will have what you need. On that basis, it seems that one player was particularly unlucky on this deal…

After identical auctions, both West players declared 3NT on the ♠J lead. Against De Wijs, Jacek Kalita won with the ♠K and returned a spade at trick two. De Wijs won in dummy with the ♠A and played a heart to the queen and king. Michal Nowosadzki continued spades and declarer had nowhere to go for a ninth trick. E/W -100.

In the other room, Danny Molenaar (left) won with the ♠K and switched to a diamond. Declarer won with the king and had nine tricks to cash. E/W +600 and 12 IMPs to LOMBARD.

Those watching might have concluded that Molenaar erred and that Kalita’s defence was ‘obvious’. However, it is worth looking more deeply into the position. West’s 1NT opening means that there is room for North to hold 4-6 HCP and you have so far seen the ♠J. You also know that declarer holds the ♠Q, and he therefore has two spade stoppers.

What do you need from partner if we return a spade? Suppose you give partner the K. Is that enough? Declarer would be left with something like Qxx/AQJx/10xx/AKJ. Declarer wins the ♠A at trick two and takes a losing heart finesse. Partner can switch to a diamond and you can win with the jack, but you can take no more than the A. In addition to the K, you also need partner to hold either the J or the 10.

Now let’s give declarer something like Qxx/AKQJ/10xx/AJ10. If you return a spade, declarer will make the contract easily. Returning a diamond at trick two will defeat the contract if partner has the ♣K and nothing more than a second diamond to play when he gets in. Perhaps Molenaar’s diamond return was not so silly after all. In fact, I’d suggest that a diamond offers the most chance of defeating the contract. That it wasn’t the winning play on the layout at the table was, I think, a tad unfortunate for the Dutch.

The next deal was a battle of the mini no-trump openings.

A word, first, about penalty doubles of weak no-trump openings. I grew up in an environment where almost everyone played weak (12-14) 1NT openings, and the standard for a penalty double was slightly more than opener’s maximum, so any good 15 HCP or better. When the mini (10-12) no-trump opening came along, there were two schools of thought. Either a double showed slightly more than opener, so 13+, or it still showed 15+, which of course makes it easier for the doubler’s partner to know when to defend. At both tables here, the 1NT opening showed 9-12 and both North players adhered to the more aggressive of those two schools, and doubled on their balanced 13 counts.

At this first table, Bas Drijver simply retreated to 2♣ after Tim Verbeek (right) had doubled. Danny Molenaar competed to 2, and no one had anything further to add. The bad trump break meant that declarer could amass only seven tricks. N/S -100.

After the same start, Bauke Muller (left) redoubled on the East hand. There is no alert or explanation in the Vugraph record, so there are possibilities. One if that Muller made an aggressive natural redouble, to play. As the cards lie that is very well judged as, with diamonds 3-3, declarer does not even need to guess the clubs to make seven tricks. The other possibility, is more likely as does it not seem likely that Brink would have doubled 2 for penalties if redouble had been strong? So, 2NT was for takeout, showing two places to play.

Here, too, South essayed 2, which was passed back to Muller. Would you choose to defend or to try to find a fit for your side? It does seem fairly clear for Muller to more forward with 2NT, presumably asking partner to choose a minor. De Wijs duly settled in 3♣, but the last making contract was 1NT. The defenders cashed their five top tricks and exited. When De Wijs got the trumps wrong, losing to South’s doubleton queen, that was two down. N/S +100 and 5 IMPs to LOMBARD.

Before we move on from thus hand, a word about what are known as wriggles when 1NT is doubled for penalties. Having played weak and mini no-trump for many years, my advice is do not play them. Consider this: When you have been doubled in 1NT, to make it profitable to go to the two-level to find a better spot, you will need to make TWO more tricks. Playing a 4-4 fit rather than no-trumps is usually worth one extra trick so, even if you find a fit, you only rate to break even. If you do not find a fit, you are just increasing the penalty by raising the level. If you have a five-card or longer suit, by all means take your chances at the two-level, but having a method that forces you out of 1NT and up to the two-level with 4432 and 4333 hands is a terrible idea. Sometimes the best you can do is to go two, three or four down at the one-level. Thus, ends today’s sermon 😊.

I think we all recognize that defence is the most difficult part of the game. Average players always like to see that experts are also capable of making a pig’s ear of things. On the penultimate deal of the match, both North players declared 3NT on the lead of the ♠10. Let’s see what happened…

Both East players led the ♠10. Against Nowosadzki, Simon de Wijs (right) won with the ♠A and returned the ♠J at trick two. The defenders took their four spade tricks and the A and waited to get a club trick. N/S +200 and what surely looks like a flat board.

One of my major faults is that I can get fixated on a particular idea in defence, usually the location of a particular card either in partner’s hand or declarer’s. Having made that decision, every subsequent action is based on the original faulty assumption, and that is what happened to Sjoert Brink on this deal.

Sjoert is a triple Bermuda Bowl winner, one of the stars featured in World Class – 21st Century, and a really wonderful player. He also has a self-deprecating sense of humor and I class him as a friend, so I suspect he won’t mind me using a hand on which he was the goat to illustrate for readers that it happens even to the best.

When Bas Drijver led the ♠10, Brink clearly got it into his head that declarer held the ♠K-Q. Not wanting to relinquish control of the suit right away, he followed with the ♠J as trick one, allowing declarer to score a trick with his queen. With clubs 4-1, declarer still did not have nine tricks. Verbeek cashed the ♣A at trick two and continued with a second club, playing low from dummy when East discarded a heart. (Readers should note how much better this is than playing the ♣K-Q and then conceding a trick on the fourth round of the suit.) If you let West see that many discards, even my dog would work things out.

In again at trick three with his club trick, Brink took the only chance he had to beat the contract (still assuming that declarer held the ♠K), and he played his partner for the A. Brink switched to the Q and now declarer did have enough tricks. Indeed, with the defenders having to find so many discards on the clubs, enough spades were thrown that declarer did not have even to rely on the diamond finesse, and could simply knockout the A at the end. N/S +600 and 13 IMPs to ONSTEIN.

The Dutch gained 19 IMPs on the final two boards, but it was all too late. LOMBARD won the final stanza 50-28 and the match by 34 IMPs, 176-42. So, it will be the Swiss who advance to the final. There, they will take on BC ‘t ONSTEIN 2 (Ricco van Prooijen/Bob Drijver and Guy Mendes de Leon/Thibo Sprinkhuizen), who defeated ‘t ONSTEIN 3 comfortably in the other semi-final.

The final of the Dutch Premier League will take place at the end of February, and we will be sure to return to the Netherlands to bring you the best of the action from that match.

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