36th World Team Championships, Monte Carlo, Monaco Tuesday, 11 November 2003

Not singing yet

There are lots of ways to say never give up. Yogi Berra, the famous baseball player, is often quoted as saying, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Some people say, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”

However you say it, real competitors always keep trying no matter the odds, as demonstrated by USA II, who managed to scratch and claw their way into the knockout phase of the Bermuda Bowl.

As the teams sat down for the final match of the round-robin, the situation did not look good for USA II.

Early in the day, the Americans lost to India in match 19. They rallied with a 50-7 win over China in match 20 and faced New Zealand in the final match, 13 Victory Points behind Canada, who occupied eighth place.

Things looked great for USA II, who surged to a 36-0 lead against the Kiwis through 13 boards. Little by little they had closed in on the Canadians, who had scored only 1IMP against Poland and trailed by 35 IMPs with three boards to play. USA II had actually moved into eighth place.

On boards 14 and 15, however, the Canadians gained 17 IMPs and moved back into eighth place. They seemed certain to make it through.

The nervous VuGraph audience could see that the final board of the set was a routine 3NT that everyone would bid, so if USA II was going to make a move, it had to be on board 15.

Miraculously, they managed a 9-IMP swing, and their 44-1 win was just enough to push them past Canada with 339 VPs to 338.

This was the key deal.

Board 15. Dealer South. N/S Vul.
  ª Q 8 4
© A Q J 10 5
¨ 2
§ K Q 5 3
ª 10
© K 9
¨ K Q 9 7 6 4 3
§ J 10 2
Bridge deal ª J 9 3 2
© 8 6 3 2
¨ A J 10
§ A 4
  ª A K 7 6 5
© 7 4
¨ 8 5
§ 9 8 7 6

West North East South
  Woff   Morse
3¨ 3© 4¨ 4©
Pass Pass 5¨ Dble
All Pass      

The diamond preempt pushed Bobby Wolff and Dan Morse into the vulnerable game, and New Zealanders were more or less forced to save. The friendly lie of the cards meant Wolff was going to make his contract. He and Morse took the expected four tricks against 5¨ doubled for plus 300.

West North East South
Landen   Pratap  
1¨ 1© Dble Pass
2¨ Dble 3¨ 3ª
All Pass      

VuGraph commentator Eric Kokish predicted that Steven Landen would open the West hand with 1¨ instead of 3¨, and the decision served his side well and made the play of 3ª much more dffficult.

Landen started with the ¨K, overtaken by Pratap Rajadhyaksha with the ace to return the jack, forcing dummy to ruff. Curiously, the declarer played the ©A, followed by the queen. Landen won the ©K and exited cleverly with the §2 – declarer was never going to get this one right after Landen opened only 1¨. Pratap won the §K with the ace and fired the suit back to the 10 and queen.

Declarer played the ©J, discarding a club, but Landen ruffed with his singleton ª10 and cashed the §J as Pratap threw his last diamond. Landen was down to all diamonds, so when he exited with that suit and declarer discarded from dummy, Pratap ruffed low. The overruff allowed declarer to pick up the trump suit for no losers, avoiding minus 200. Down one for minus 100 was still a 9-IMP loss. Had declarer made the contract – a task that was not overwhelmingly difficult – Canada would be playing in the quarter-final. The swing would have been only 4 IMPs to USA II, and they needed at least 8 IMPs to earn enough VPs to qualify.

Senior Skill

Egypt v Denmark

Board 6. Dealer East. E/W Vul.
  ª A Q J
© 5 3
¨ A 10 8 6 5 3
§ A 3
ª 10 8 2
© 10 8 7
¨ K J 2
§ K 5 4 2
Bridge deal ª 7 5 4
© A Q J 9 6 4 2
¨ -
§ 10 9 8
  ª K 9 6 3
© K
¨ Q 9 7 4
§ Q J 7 6

West North East South
Norris Wattar Dahl Askalani
    3© Pass
4© Dble Pass 4ª
All Pass      

The same contract failed by two tricks in the other room.

At our featured table, George Norris, for Denmark, led a heart to Flemming Dahl’s ace and Dahl continued with a second heart, forcing Amr Askalani to ruff. Askalani continued with the queen of diamonds to the king and ace and Dahl ruffed. Now Dahl switched to the ten of clubs for the queen, king and ace. Askalani cashed two rounds of trumps then reverted to diamonds. Norris correctly ducked one diamond but had to win the next round. He played his last heart, obliging declarer to ruff. Askalani ruffed in dummy and could cross to the jack of clubs to draw the last trump, after which he could run the diamonds. Ten tricks made for +420 and 11 IMPs to Egypt – nicely played, the key of course being the first diamond play.

It may appear that West could have saved the day for the defence by not covering the club, as there would then be no entry to declarer’s hand to draw the last trump. Of course, that is just an illusion, as if the §A was still in the dummy declarer would have simply ruffed the third heart in his own hand then crossed to it to draw the trump.

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