BBO Vugraph - The Lederer Memorial Trophy - Part 4

Vugraph #418

Ten invited all-star teams congregated at the RAC Club in London to contest the 2024 Lederer Memorial Trophy. The format is a complete round-robin of nine 10-board matches with a scoring method that is an unusual hybrid of Board-a-Match and IMPs. Each board is scored BAM style, with 2VPs for a win and 1 for a tie, giving a possible total of 20 VPs from each match. The IMP difference is then also converted to VPs on a 15-15 scale and each team’s two VP tallies are added together to produce an overall score for the match, with a maximum win of 50-0.

We left things with just two matches remaining, and these were the standings:

IRELAND236 VPS
CROCKFORDS211
DE BOTTON203
BLACK ADDERS177
EDMONDS174
LONDON171
HARRIS161
KNOTTENBELT160
PERICULO154
GILLIS114

In the last two rounds, IRELAND will play BLACK ADDERS and DE BOTTON whilst CROCKFORDS play DE BOTTON and LONDON. Advantage to the Irish, but still all to play for.

As usual, we start with some problems. Firstly, with both sides vulnerable, you are East holding:

What action do you take?

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

What do you bid?

Finally, with both sides vulnerable, you hold in the East seat:

What action, if any, do you take?

While you consider those, we begin this visit with the Round 8 meeting of IRELAND and BLACK ADDERS. Early in the match, both East players heard the auction posed in the first of the problems above.

Nick Fitzgibbon’s pre-emptive jump to 3♠ left Andrew McIntosh with a tough decision. Although the odds are surely high that the opener will hold the K, Tosh chose to advance with what looks like a very ambitious 4♠ cue-bid. Even so, it was still impossible for Peter Fredin (left) to know that he had exactly what was needed. Tosh could hardly raise to slam with a doubleton spade and nothing to suggest that the opponents held more than a nine-card fit. Indeed, even a heart lead or switch might defeat game if the diamonds are not running.

It was a perfect fit. With trumps 2-2, even the 4-1 diamond break did not unduly bother declarer, and making twelve tricks was much easier than bidding them. E/W +620.

After the same start, Tom Hanlon (right) tried his luck with a responsive double, perhaps hoping to find his partner with ♠K-x for 3NT.

Andrew Black used up some bidding space with his raise to game, but Frederick Volcker advanced with 4NT, presumably trying to get his hearts into play. Partner’s willingness to commit to the five-level was all the encouragement Hanlon needed to take a shot at the slam. Hanlon had remembered to pack his four-leafed clover this weekend.  E/W +1370 and 13 IMPs to IRELAND.

IRELAND won a very low-scoring match 17-0 in IMPs, which translated to 36-14 in VPs. With DE BOTTON defeating CROCKFORDS 29-21, that left the top of the leader-board looking like this.

IRELAND272 VPS
CROCKFORDS232
DE BOTTON232

CROCKFORDS would need a miracle to win, but DE BOTTON’s fate was at least in their own hands as they were playing IRELAND in their last match. ‘All’ they needed was a win by a score of 45-5 to tie with the Irish and win by virtue of victory in the head-to-head match. The Irish needed just three winning boards (or six flat boards) to accrue enough VPs on the BAM to ensure victory, no matter what happened with the IMP score. The action began on the opening board…

Frederic Volcker (left) began with a natural weak 2. Tom Hanlon advanced with a natural and forcing 3♣ and Christian Bakke came in with a 3 cue-bid, showing majors, on the East cards. That left Volcker with the second of this week’s problems. Volcker jumped to 5♣, and Hanlon might have raised but it was hard for him to tell that his side has no losers in the majors. Anyone for a 4 splinter on the South hand?

Hanlon won the heart opening and ruffed a heart. Then came three rounds of spades, ruffing in dummy. The A and a diamond ruff returned to lead to declarer’s hand, so Hanlon ruffed his last heart and, finally, played a trump. Declarer knew that East held a singleton club, so he went up with the ace. No dice! N/S +620.

Nicolai Heiberg-Evenstad did not open the South hand, so it was left to Thor Erik Hoftaniska (right) to get things started with a third-seat 1♣. Adam Mesbur’s 2 jump overcall showed both Majors, and Evenstad’s 2♠ cue-bid was a limit raise (or better, although he is a passed hand) in clubs.

It is said that there is a fine line between genius and madness, and Thor Erik Hoftaniska often seems to walk that line. Perhaps he is just crazy, or was he merely toying with Nick Fitzgibbon on this deal? Fitzgibbon competed to 3 over Evenstad’s club raise, and the Norwegian star settled for a somewhat eccentric 3NT.

Tempted into what he hoped would be a cheap save by the vulnerability, Fitzgibbon elected to continue with 4 when 3NT came back to him. Now Hoftaniska knew his partner held short hearts. Rather than settle for the obvious vulnerable game bonus in clubs facing a passed partner, he jumped to the slam.

Dummy could not possibly have been more suitable. Hoftaniska won the opening spade lead with dummy’s king and took a winning trump finesse. He then crossruffed his way to thirteen tricks. N/S +1390 and 13 IMPs to DE BOTTON on Board 1. The attempted Irish sacrifice had turned out to be not only not cheap, but very expensive. When your side is pre-empting and/or sacrificing, it is usually best to get to whatever level you are going as quickly as possible. Predictably, there are exceptions to every rule. Take a look at what happened at the two tables on this deal.

Thomas Charlsen (left) settled for a simple raise to 2♠ on the second round of the auction. When Tom Hanlon jumped to game in hearts, Charlsen then took what he expected to be a cheap save. Hanlon had bid his hand now, so he simply doubled, and thus technically absolute par on the board had been achieved. The defence made the A and two winners in each major for two down. N/S +300.

For the Irish, Nick Fitzgibbon overcalled 1♠ on the West cards. The result was that the Irish climbed to 4♠ much more quickly than the Norwegians had. Nicolai Heiberg-Evenstad (right) felt he still had something to say, so he advanced with 4NT and then corrected his partner’s 5 to hearts.

Theoretically, the Irish had pushed their opponents overboard. Looking at all four hands, it is easy to see that the defenders can take two clubs and a diamond against North’s five-level contract. However, actually making all three of those tricks was far from easy. Adam Mesbur led the ♣Q, which held the trick. Would you have found the diamond switch from K-10 doubleton at trick two?

Neither did Mesbur, he switched to a spade. Hoftaniska won, drew two rounds of trumps ending in his hand, and played a club to dummy’s seven and West’s ace. He was then able to claim, taking the marked finesse against East’s ♣J to establish a parking place for his diamond loser. N/S +650 and 8 IMPs to DE BOTTON.

When the penultimate board arrived at the tables, the match score stood at 25-4 in favour of DE BOTTON. Sadly, the bidding and play at one table are missing from the VuGraph records. We can see what happened by looking at the action from the one table that we do have plus the two tables in the other VuGraph match. East faced the last of this week’s problems at a couple of the tables. We start at the table in our featured match…

For the Irish, Adam Mesbur (left) elected to defend 4. There were four top tricks for the defence. E/W +100, but which side was happiest with that result? The defence needs to find a diamond lead to defeat 5♣ (and 6♣), and what about 4♠?

In the match between CROCKFORDS and LONDON…

At this table, Sally Brock opened a weak 1NT and Mike Bell’s 3♣ overcall ended the auction. David Burn led the ♠9, so declarer was soon claiming 12 tricks. E/W +170.

The auction here began as it had at the Irish table, but Mike Scoltock (right) elected to try his luck with 4♠. Ben Norton led the K, ruffed in dummy, and declarer now ran the ♠10. If Norton wins with the king and returns either major, declarer will score the rest of the tricks.

Things are a bit trickier if South wins and plays a club. Declarer can win and cash a second club winner, throwing a heart from his hand. He then crosses to the A and ruffs a heart with dummy’s remaining trump. He then exits with a diamond. The 3-3 diamond break means that the defenders can score a second diamond trick now or later, but declarer still makes ten tricks.

At the table, Norton did not take his ♠K at trick two. Declarer continued with  a diamond to the ten and South’s queen, and Norton exited with a second heart, ruffed with dummy’s last trump. Scoltock crossed to the A, cashed the ♠A, and successfully played a club to the jack. He then cashed the ♣A-K, discarding his penultimate red-suit loser as Norton ruffed with the master trump. Declarer lost just one trump and two diamonds. E/W +620 and 10 IMPs to LONDON.

At the second table in the IRELAND-v-DE BOTTON match, East also bid 4♠ and made ten tricks. That meant another 11 IMPs to DE BOTTON.

The scoring was a tense affair. IRELAND had one winning board and two pushes, giving them 4 VP from the BAM portion of the scoring. The IMP score on the match was 39-4, which translated to a 28-2 win for DE BOTTON. The result was a win for DE BOTTON by a score of 44-6 VPs. The Irish had hung on to win the title by just a single VP.

These were the final standings:

IRELAND277 VPS
DE BOTTON276
LONDON233
BLACK ADDERS228
CROCKFORDS227
PERICULO224
EDMONDS210
HARRIS208
KNOTTENBELT204
GILLIS163

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