Main Article 7A41 by Richard Pavlicek
|Meltzer Team||Diamond Team|
|Rose Meltzer Kyle Larsen||John Diamond Brian Platnick|
|Fulvio Fantoni Claudio Nunes||Geoff Hampson Eric Greco|
|David Berkowitz Alan Sontag||Brad Moss Fred Gitelman|
In the first quarter Diamond jumped out to a 34-11 IMP lead, then widened it slightly to lead 70-43 at halftime. Both sponsors (Rose Meltzer and John Diamond) had played the entire first half, so they could retire and let the big guns fight it out to the finish. Big guns indeed, as Fantoni-Nunes (Italy) are the top-ranked pair in the world, and the other three pairs (U.S.) are equally tough in my opinion. As the story goes, you could start the bidding with four aces against any one of them, and wind up with a Yarborough.
The third quarter was a nightmare for Diamond, taking the wrong view on almost every decision, while Meltzer got them right. With the momentum of a freight train, Meltzer converted a 27-IMP deficit into an 18-IMP lead. At the whistle stop, Meltzer led 96-78.
In the fourth quarter the momentum shifted to Diamond, but gains were only mild. With just two boards remaining in the Closed Room, Meltzer still led by 12 IMPs. Play in the Open Room had concluded, and the last two boards, both partscore deals, seemed flat. No one could see any way for Diamond to pick up 12 IMPs; it just wasnt in the cards.
|N-S Vul|| 4 3|
Q J 8 6
Q 7 6 5 2
| K 10 6 5|
K 6 2
K 10 5
J 9 3
| Q 9|
9 5 3
4 3 2
A K 10 8 4
| A J 8 7 2|
A Q J 10 8
A 9 7
Greco opened a strong club (16+ HCP), and after a negative response (0-7 HCP) the rest of the auction was natural. Hampsons preference to 2 was routine, since Greco only promised 5-4 in the majors.
After a club lead, Greco handled the forcing defense in typical expert stride. Eventually he scored three club ruffs (the last by ruffing a good heart to reach dummy) together with the trump ace and four red winners to land his contract. Plus 110.
The drama begins. Despite playing a strong club system, Sontag chose to open the South hand 1 . No doubt this was based on the vulnerability, as preemptive actions by his nonvulnerable opponents could be awkward after an artificial club. True of course, but this seems more like a reason to change systems than a cause to deviate unilaterally. I much prefer Grecos straightforward approach to follow his agreed methods.
When 1 was passed around, Gitelman came to life with 1 NT. This might seem eccentric, but its based on sound logic. Moss was marked for values after the limited (usually 11-15) opening, and if notrump is ever to be in the picture, East must declare to gain the positional value of the Q. To emphasize, if Moss held A-x-x J-x-x-x K-Q-x Q-x-x, youd have a better chance of making three notrump from the right side than 1 NT from the wrong side. Most experts are loose about point-count minimums for a balancing 1 NT, requiring only that the maximum be less than a strong notrump.
Given a second chance, Sontag was happy to show his heart suit, and the decision to jump is well-judged. A key factor was having the right spade holding (ace) to offer great prospects for a successful heart contract. Indeed, even if Berkowitz held a Yarborough, e.g., x 9-x-x-x x-x-x x-x-x-x-x, there could be an excellent play for game. Sontag was unlucky on this occasion, to be sure.
With equal length in Sontags two suits, Berkowitz took the usual action to return to the first suit about which I strongly disagree. This was not a typical preference situation as in the Open Room, where opener could be 5-4. Sontag had to be at least 5-5 (else he would never jump) and his hearts rated to be stronger by the logic of my previous paragraph. Further, the North hand has better hearts than spades (7-4 vs. 4-3), so the only merit in a spade preference is to allow Sontag a chance to bid again. Yikes. The wise course is to leave well enough alone; check out while the checkings good.
|East leads|| 4|
J 8 6
Q 7 6 5
| K 10 6|
A K 10 8
| A J 7|
A J 10 8
Declarer seems destined to lose a diamond and two more trumps (down one), but the play took some strange turns in the heat of battle. Almost certainly this was due to fatigue, as it was well past midnight following nine grueling days of bridge. Gitelman (East) fell from grace by returning a high club, allowing declarer to ruff. Now the contract could be made*; and from my experience, such an offering to Sontag is like dangling a pork chop over a crocodile.
*Cash the A, ruff a heart, ruff a club, cash the A, and lead hearts to endplay West when he ruffs.
Alas, Sontag also fell from grace, as he next cashed the A and led hearts. When Moss ruffed in he was able to draw Sontags last trump and exit in clubs for Gitelman to claim the rest (a club had been pitched from dummy). Ouch. Minus 800 meant a whopping 14 IMPs to Diamond the new leader by 2 IMPs.
A night to remember.
© 2010 Richard Pavlicek