This is our final visit to the Paris suburb of Saint Cloud, the venue for the national final of Division 1 of the 2023 French Interclub Teams Championship. The format for the final is an eight-round Swiss of 12-board matches played over two days.
On our previous visits, we have seen the highlights from the first six rounds. Now we bring you the best of the action from the final two matches.
As usual, we start with some problems, and we begin with an opening lead. With neither side vulnerable, you are South holding:
What do you lead?
Next, with only the opponents vulnerable, you are the Dealer in the South seat. First, consider what you would open:
If you start with 3♥, the bidding proceeds as shown. What do you lead?
Finally, a straightforward bidding problem. With neither side vulnerable you hold as South:
What do you bid?
While you consider those, we start our coverage with the Round 7 meeting between two teams we have seen before. This is the match between the representatives of Bridge Club Garches Vaucresson, captained by Hilda Setton, and B.C. Nancy-Jarville led by Francois Michel Sargos. The action began on the very first deal.
Hilda Setton (left) made her international debut at the 2012 World Bridge Games in Lille. She won a silver medal in the Open Teams at the 2017 European Transnational Championships. At the same event earlier this year in Strasbourg, she won gold in the Mixed Teams, along with two of her teammates in this event, Pierre Franceschetti and Cedric Lorenzini.
On this deal, she opened her system strong bid and then essentially bid slam once she had forced a suit preference out of her partner. That left Bernard Doussot with the lead problem posed at the top of this article.
Doussot led the ♥K, giving declarer a chance. Franceschetti won with the ♥A, cashed the ♠A, and ruffed a spade. A heart ruff returned the lead to dummy, and he ruffed a second spade with his last trump. With dummy’s spades now good, Franceschetti ruffed another heart, drew trumps, and claimed twelve tricks. E/W +980.
To beat the contract, South has to lead a trump, or a club to his partner’s ace followed by a trump switch.
Philippe Koeppel essentially did the same thing on the West hand, but there was a crucial difference here. Koeppel’s system strong opening was 2♦, which meant that 6♦ was played from the West seat. Perhaps Lorenzini would have found the winning lead from the South hand, but Thomas Bessis unerringly selected the ♦10 from the North cards. Declarer had now had no winning line: E/W +50 and 14 IMPs to SETTON to start the match.
Bernard Doussot opted for a 3♥ opening on the South cards. Hilda Setton doubled and Pierre Franceschetti (right) closed the brief auction with 3NT, leaving Doussot to find an opening lead.
Did you pick a diamond? If so, you would have taken the first six tricks (assuming you remember to cash the ♥A when you are in with the ♦K). The ♥A and a diamond shift obviously works too, but Doussot’s choice of the ♥7 was not so successful. Franceschetti was soon claiming his ten tricks: E/W +630.
In the replay, Cedric Lorenzini side-stepped the lead problem by opening 4♥.
Three passes followed and Lorenzini was playing for 50s. The defenders made three black-suit winners and two trump tricks. Two down: E/W +100 and another 11 IMPs to SETTON, who led 25-0 after just three boards. The match was not completely one-way traffic…
Francois Michel Sargos opened 4♥ on the East cards after two passes. Lorenzini started with a double and Bessis moved with 4NT, showing two places to play. With his monster hand, Lorenzini jumped to a small slam in his long suit, and was perhaps surprised to find that clubs was one of his partner’s two suits.
There were twelve top tricks and a winning diamond finesse provided declarer with an overtrick. N/S +940.
In the replay, David Harari opened 3♣ on the North cards. After East’s 4♥ overcall, Bernard Doussot (left) again found himself in the hot seat, facing the last of this week’s problems. French pre-empting style has not deteriorated as fast as the rest of the world, so his jump to 7♣ is not an unreasonable shot.
At this table, the location of the ♦K was worth much more than a 20-point overtrick. When East turned up with that card, Harari was able to claim his grand slam. N/S +1440 and 11 IMPs to SARGOS.
SETTON won the match 41-25. That left the top of the leader-board looking like this going into the final match:
|B.C. Garches Vaucresson (Hilda SETTON)||113.66 VPs|
|Bridge Club D ANTONY (Jean Paul BALIAN)||109.65|
|Bridge Academy (Olivier GIARD)||97.70|
|B.C. Nancy - Jarville (Francois Michel SARGOS)||94.58|
|B.C. Ciotaden (Nicole PEREZ)||91.73|
|The Bridgerie (Eric GAUTRET)||89.46|
|B.C. De Gradignan-Bordeaux (Xavier DUPUIS)||88.53|
|Club Djeun'S Yvelines (Laurent THUILLEZ)||86.59|
In the final match, it was SETTON v GIARD, with the latter needing close to a maximum win to overtake their opponents. At Table 2, it was BALIAN v PEREZ, with the second-placed team capable of winning the title with a decent-sized win and a favourable result from Table 1.
SETTON steadily built a lead, but a late hand put the brakes on a runaway victory, and perhaps also provided a salutary warning to those watching…
Hands in the 15-17 range with a singleton spade often proved difficult to bid. Perhaps 1♣ intending to reverse to 2♦ might work on this hand, although that would be an overstatement of this hand’s strength. Lorenzini opted for the only other sensible alternative (no, opening 1♦ is not sensible), and off-shape 1NT.
Bessis transferred to spades and then came a series of alerted bids that were not explained. Bessis alerted his 5♣ bid as showing specifically 5-1-4-3 shape. Lorenzini might have converted to game in the 4-4 fit, although there is a great deal of work for declarer to do if he is to make eleven tricks in diamonds. Even so, that contract would at least have had a chance. With the ♥A off and North holding two guaranteed trump winners, Lorenzini had no chance in 5♣. E/W -100.
I regularly praise these top-class players for their excellent play. I think it only fair to kibitzers and readers, many of whom are trying to learn, to point out when a player does something completely barking mad.
There can be little doubt that Quentin Robert’s 2♥ opening made life very difficult for his opponents. 3♣ on a five-card suit is hardly ideal on the West hand, but what else is Olivier Giard to do? 2NT has a couple of glaring flaws. Passing just accepts that you are going to get stolen from with great regularity, and double is unthinkable with a singleton spade.
Franceschetti’s raise simply increased the obstruction and, when Dutch expert Gert-Jan Paulissen joined in with 3♠, E/W were in serious trouble. How likely is it, do you think, that West would bid 3NT now, allowing the defence to cash the first five tricks in hearts? Is that not almost certainly what will happen if South passes?
The question I have is “Who invited South to bid again?” When you have pre-empted, it used to be a golden rule that you did not bid again unless forced to do so by your partner. To bid 4♥ in this auction seems to me completely undisciplined, particularly on this South hand, which was hardly a sound vulnerable weak two to start with. The hand also has a much higher defence-to-offence ratio than would be normal in a weak two, and bidding demonstrates a lack of judgement in terms of hand evaluation. It might take me two classes to stop students making this sort of bid, and it is certainly not the sort of action I would expect to see from a player of Robert’s pedigree. Thus, endeth today’s rant 😊
Suffice it to say that I think the 4♥ bid got exactly what it deserved. Rather than collecting a plus score defending 3NT (or perhaps 5♣), South made seven tricks in 4♥-X. E/W +800 and a completely gratuitous 14 IMPs to GIARD.
SETTON won the match 30-17 and the VPs lost on that last board served only to narrow the gap between the top two teams to less than 3 VPs. After two days and eight matches, the top of the leader-board looked this way:
|B.C. Garches Vaucresson (Hilda SETTON)||127.37 VPs|
|Bridge Club D ANTONY (Jean Paul BALIAN)||124.80|
|B.C. Nancy - Jarville (Francois Michel SARGOS)||114.22|
|B.C. De Gradignan-Bordeaux (Xavier DUPUIS)||105.44|
|Bridge Academy (Olivier GIARD)||103.99|
|Club Djeun'S Yvelines (Laurent THUILLEZ)||101.05|
|M le Bridge (François COMBESCURE)||99.60|
|B.C. Ciotaden (Nicole PEREZ)||96.58|
|The Bridgerie (Eric GAUTRET)||95.00|
|B.C. Saint Honore (Pierre SCHMIDT)||93.90|
Congratulations to the 2023 French Interclub Teams Champions: SETTON, Hilda Setton, Thomas Bessis, Cedric Lorenzini, Quentin Robert and Pierre Franceschetti.
We are now headed back across the English Channel to Coventry for the final the prestigious Crockfords Cup, the English National Team Championship.