BBO Vugraph - The France-v-Sweden practice match - Part 3

Vugraph #402

On previous visits, we have seen the best of the action from four stanzas of the 96-board exhibition/practise match between teams representing France and Sweden, as they prepare for the 2024 European Championships, which will be held in Denmark in June/July. The stars in action in this match are, for SWEDEN (Ola Rimstedt, Mikael Rimstedt, Peter Bertheau and Simon Hult), and for FRANCE (Thomas Bessis, Cedric Lorenzini, Leo Rombaut, Jerome Rombaut, Jeremie Tignel, Jean-Luc Aroix, Julien Bernard, Nicolas Lhuissier, Lionel Sebbane and Paul Seguineau).

When we left things at the end of the fourth stanza, SWEDEN had opened an enormous 145-IMP lead, 213-68. Of course, the result is immaterial, as the objective off the match is for players to get practise against top-class opposition and to entertain those watching on BBO VuGraph. Let’s see what the final two sets of the match have to offer.

As usual, we begin with a couple of problems. Firstly, with both sides vulnerable, you are East holding:

What action, if any, do you take?

Next, with only your side vulnerable, you are sitting in the North seat with:

What action, if any, do you take?

While you consider those, we start this visit midway through the fifth stanza.

Peter Bertheau passed the South hand initially, then doubled East’s Stayman 2♣ at his second turn. After two passes, Jen-Luc Aroix redoubled for takeout. Having found a diamond fit, Aroix saw no reason to advance beyond the two-level.

North led his club and Jeremie Tignel (left) won with the ace. Ace and another diamond saw the trumps split 3-2, so declarer could claim, losing just two trumps and a trick in each black suit. E/W +110.

For the French, Leo Rombaut (right) chose to open 1♣ on the South cards. The Rimstedt twins play old-fashioned methods, so Mikael’s double of 1 showed four hearts and some values. Ola’s double of 1♠ suggested extra values rather than particularly good spades, which presented Mikael with the first of the problems posed above. He solved it with an adventurous jump to 3NT, leaving Leo to find the winning lead.

Had Jerome Rombaut found a raise to 2♠ at his second turn, the opening lead would have been easy. Without that assistance, Leo opted for a low club, which was all the help Mikael needed. He won with the ♣J, played a diamond to the ace, and a second diamond. Winning with the Q, Jerome switched to the ♠Q, but it was too late. Mikael held up dummy’s ♠A until the third round, pitching a diamond from his hand. He then cashed four rounds of hearts. This was the position when the last heart was played:

Declarer needs three of the last four tricks. When the Q is cashed, what can South do? He is squeezed in three suits. If he throws the K, declarer makes two diamonds and the ♣A for an overtrick. If he throws his spade, declarer exits with a diamond to the king and South is endplayed to lead into the club tenace at trick 12. At the table, Leo threw his low club, but Mikael knew exactly what was going on, and he cashed the ♣A to bring down the king. Four hearts, three clubs and the two pointed-suit aces added up to a spectacular nine tricks. E/W +600 and 10 IMPs to SWEDEN.

It is easy to doze off when you have a bad hand, not realizing that you are going to have to make the key play on the deal. That’s what happened on this deal late in the stanza.

At both tables, North declared 3NT after the simplest of auctions, and both East players gave declarer an eighth trick by leading a low spade around to the queen. Both declarers crossed to the A at trick two and then called for the ♣J from dummy.

For the Swedes, Ola Rimstedt (left) was wide awake. He hopped up with the ♣A and returned a spade to put the contract one down. N/S -100.

At the other table, Tignel played low on the first round of clubs. Having successfully stolen a club trick, Simon Hult cashed his remaining six winners in the red suits and claimed his contract. N/S +600 and another 12 IMPs to SWEDEN.

SWEDEN won the fifth stanza 43-10, extending their lead overall to 178 IMPs (256-78).

A difference is styles and hand evaluation generated a swing early in the final stanza.

West’s 2NT response was alerted and described as showing three spades, although we were not told whether it was game-forcing or just ‘invitational or better’. East’s jump to 4♠ suggests the latter – he surely would not describe this East hand as a minimum facing a game-forcing 2NT.

The 2NT response takes up a lot of bidding space. Even when it is game-forcing, you need fairly sophisticated methods to be able to show all the various hand types in the limited space left to you. To my mind, trying to incorporate an invitational raise into the mix seems to be overburdening the 2NT response far too much.

Admittedly, slam was on the club finesse here, but would East have bid differently had the ♣Q instead been the king? Frankly, if 4♠ is the correct system bid on this East hand, you should really look at changing your system. E/W +480.

The Swedes adopted a more scientific approach…

Peter Bertheau (right) started with an artificial, game-forcing 2♣ relay. When Simon Hult showed a sixth spade, Bertheau raised to set the suit. Hult’s 3NT then showed serious slam interest and they cue-bid their way to Blackwood. Hult even had a look at a grand slam, asking if his partner held the ♣K in addition to the A-A-K he was already known to hold. The final contract depended on finding the ♣K onside, but I have to say that I feel justice was served when the finesse worked. E/W +980 and 11 IMP to SWEDEN.

A couple of deals later came a deal that just about summed up how the match had gone. It was a layout on which it looked as if N/S were likely to get into trouble, and the French did indeed manage to do exactly that…

Jerome Rombaut chose not to open a weak 2 in first seat, which would probably have worked out better. So, it fell to Leo Rombaut to get the auction rolling with a third-seat 1♣. With one of his long suits claimed by the opponents, Peter Bertheau had to start with a 1 overcall on his monster. Jerome Rombaut now showed his hearts with a transfer double. Simon Hult (left) joined the party by introducing his spades, which left Bertheau with a tricky bid.

With no option attractive, he opted for a 2♣ cue-bid, ostensibly showing a good spade raise. Quite where the Swedes are now headed is unclear but, with no fit and Bertheau probably expecting a better hand from his partner, it seems likely that they will get to some contract they cannot make.

This is where I left you, in Jerome’s seat with the last of this week’s problems. Or, is it a problem? With partner having failed to show any interest in hearts and a void in the suit he has bid, is there any reason to think we should be bidding at all here? When Jerome stuck his oar in with a 2 bid, he quickly got the answer to that question. Peter Bertheau showed his extra values with a double and Hult was quite happy to defend with his good trumps.

Declarer won the second round of diamonds and played a trump to the king and West’s bare ace. Not that it would have helped declarer to guess the hearts. Winning with the A, Bertheau could cash his diamond winner, but was then endplayed. He exited with the ♣K, giving declarer access to dummy for a spade discard on the ♣A, and enabling him to lead towards the ♠K. The defenders duly make four trumps, two diamonds and a spade for two down. E/W +500.

In the replay, neither Swede opened the bidding, but they still looked to be headed a similar fate after Ola Rimstedt had overcalled in hearts. Mikael Rimstedt (right) had a tricky decision and he decided to show a constructive three-card heart raise via a 2♣ transfer cue-bid.

It is much harder to catch the opponents in 2 in this auction. With the opponents having apparently found a heart fit, surely most people would bid their second suit on that West hand. However, quite why Paul Seguineau thought he needed to jump to the four-level is a mystery. It is interesting that Lionel Sebbane did not give preference at the four-level, probably correctly judging that anything undoubled was okay at that point. Do you think Mikael was happy with this development?

Needless to say, 4♣ was not a happy spot for declarer. Indeed, with the trumps 6-1, he did well to get out with eight tricks: E/W -100, but still 12 IMPs to SWEDEN.

The final stanza went much the same way as every other set in this match had, SWEDEN winning it 46-11 to give them victory in the match by a massive 213 IMPs (302-89). Whilst perhaps this French team had not provided the sternest opposition, the Swedes seem to be in great form. Teams around Europe will be noting that they have put down a marker that they may be potential contenders when the big party gets underway in Denmark in June.

Check back soon, as we will be staying Europe to see some of the other contenders for the European Championship title in action, in the knockout stage of the Dutch Premier League.

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