36th World Team Championships, Monte Carlo, Monaco Thursday, 13 November 2003

Hard at work

Going into the second set of the Bermuda Bowl semi-final round, USA II had some work to do. They weren’t desperately behind, but they were trailing by 37.5 IMPs, including USA I’s 13.5-IMP carryover.. If they couldn’t wipe out the entire deficit in one set, they at least wanted to reduce it.

With Bobby Wolff and Dan Morse putting up another good set, USA II managed a 34-21win in the second round to trim their deficit to 24.5 IMPs with 64 boards to play.

It didn’t start out all that well for USA II as they lost 6 IMPs on the first board of the set.

Board 17. Dealer North. None Vul.
  ª 6 2
© 9 8 6 5
¨ K J 9 3
§ A K 3
ª 4
© A 10 7 3
¨ A Q 6 2
§ 8 6 4 2
Bridge deal ª Q 9 7 3
© K J 4
¨ 10 7
§ Q 10 9 7
  ª A K J 10 8 5
© Q 2
¨ 8 5 4
§ J 5

In the closed room, Richard Freeman played in 3ª, making 10 tricks for plus 170.

West North East South
Rodwell Wolff Meckstroth Morse
Pass Pass Pass  

Eric Rodwell started with a low club, which Morse ducked to Jeff Meckstroth’s queen. Meckstroth played the ©K and a low heart to the queen and ace, Rodwell continuing with a third round, ruffed by Morse. He cashed a top spade from hand and entered dummy with the §A, cashing the king for a diamond discard before taking the spade finesse. When Rodwell showed out, Morse’s contract was about dead. He tried a low diamond from hand, but Rodwell flew with the ace and made no mistake, putting the ©10 on the table, which allowed Meckstroth to discard his second diamond, and Morse was down one.

Nick Nickell, USA1
Note that a club return would have allowed Morse to make the contract. He would ruff the club to reduce his trump length to that of Meckstroth, then a diamond to the king would put him in dummy with two tricks to go, and he would have been poised over East’s doubleton ªQ with the ªK J.

At any rate, one down put USA I ahead 60.5-17.

USA II drew closer on board 19, when foul breaks in two key suits doomed the 6§ that Nick Nickell and Freeman reached, while Wolff and Morse stopped in 3NT making 11 tricks. That was 11 IMPs to USA II.

Meckstroth and Rodwell usually get the best of the opposition in competitive auctions. On the following deal, Wolff and Morse did the damage.

Board 22. Dealer East. E/W Vul.
  ª 10 3
© J 9 8 7 4 3
¨ 8 7
§ A 5 3
ª J 9 8 6 4
© K
¨ 5 3
§ K Q J 7 6
Bridge deal ª K Q 7 5
© 10 6 5
¨ K Q 6 4
§ 8 2
  ª A 2
© A Q 2
¨ A J 10 9 2
§ 10 9 4

West North East South
Wildavsky Nickell Doub Freeman
    Pass 1NT
Dble 2¨ 3ª All Pass

Adam Wildavsky’s double showed a minor of at least five cards and a major of at least four cards. After Nickell bid 2¨ to transfer to hearts, Doug Doub reasoned that his partner’s major was spades, so he raised the ante with a jump to the three level. It was not difficult for him to take nine tricks for plus 140.

West North East South
Rodwell Wolff Meckstroth Morse
    Pass 1NT
Pass 2© Pass Pass
2ª 3© 3ª 4©
Pass Pass 4ª Dble
All Pass      

Wolff would have had to drop the singleton trump king offside to make 4©, but if the defense was conducted in such a way that East, a passed hand, was known to have started with two sets of K-Qs, Wolff would not have tried a finesse that had no chance. At any rate, in 4ª Rodwell had to lose one trick in each suit for minus 200, an 8-IMP gain for USA II.

The next deal was only a 1-IMP gain for USA I, but it was fun to watch the play in the open room.

Board 23. Dealer South. All Vul.
  ª A Q 10 8
© 10 5 2
¨ K 7 5 4 2
§ 5
ª 9 6
© A J 9 3
¨ J 10
§ J 9 6 3 2
Bridge deal ª K J 7 5 4 3 2
© 7 6
¨ A 3
§ 7 4
  ª -
© K Q 8 4
¨ Q 9 8 6
§ A K Q 10 8

West North East South
Wildavsky Nickell Doub Freeman
Pass 1¨ 2ª 3©
Pass 3NT All Pass  

Nickell took 10 tricks after Doub led a low spade. Wolff did one better.

West North East South
Rodwell Wolff Meckstroth Morse
Pass 1¨ 2ª 3ª
Pass 3NT All Pass  

Doug Doub, USA2
Meckstroth also led a low spade to the 9 and 10, and Wolff played a diamond to the queen and 10, returning the 9 to the king and ace. Meckstroth could have prevented the ending that produced 11 tricks if he had exited with a club, breaking up the inevitable squeeze, but he got out with the ©7 to dummy’s queen, ducked by Rodwell.

Wolff then ran his diamond winners, coming down to §A K Q 10 and the ©K 8 in dummy, while Rodwell held ª9 ©A §J 9 6 3. When Wolff cashed the ªA and discarded the ©8 from dummy, Rodwell lost his exit card. Wolff was then able to enter dummy with a high club, cash a second winner just to be sure of his contract, then play the ©K to endplay Rodwell for plus 660. It would not have helped Rodwell to win the ©A. With Wolff holding the ©10, Rodwell could not play that suit, and if he played a spade, Wolff would win the ace, cash the ©K and run his diamond winners, squeezing Rodwell in clubs and hearts for the same 11 tricks.

USA I managed another 10 IMP gain when they played a spade game from the correct side of the table, which made all the difference.

Board 25. Dealer North. E/W Vul.
  ª Q 10 8 7 4
© 9 4
¨ J 9 3
§ A 9 7
ª J 5 2
© K 10 8 6 5 3 2
¨ Q 7
§ 8
Bridge deal ª K
© Q J 7
¨ A K 6 5 2
§ 10 6 3 2
  ª A 9 6 3
© A
¨ 10 8 4
§ K Q J 5 4

West North East South
Wildavsky Nickell Doub Freeman
  Pass 1¨ 2§
Pass 3§ Pass Pass
3© Pass Pass 3ª
Pass 4ª All Pass  

Nickell’s spade suit isn’t all that great, and he did have a fit for partner’s overcall, so it’s hard to fault him to for raising. The way the auction developed, however, it was very easy for Wildavsky and Doub to defeat the game. Wildavsky started with the ¨Q and continued with a diamond to partner’s king. When Doub cashed the ¨A, Wildavsky discarded his singleton club, defeating the contract with a club ruff at trick four. The situation was radically different in the open room.

West North East South
Rodwell Wolff Meckstroth Morse
  Pass 1¨ 2§
2¨ 2ª 4© 4ª
All Pass      

Rodwell’s 2¨ showed at least five hearts in a limited hand. Wolff knew he was safe bidding spades because he could always go back to clubs, so he trotted out the mangy spade suit, striking gold.

The only way to defeat the contract was to lead a low diamond from the East hand. Would anyone find that lead? Perhaps where they always fourth from their longest and strongest, but this is the Bermuda Bowl, so Meckstroth started with the normal lead of the ¨A, followed by the ¨K and a ruff. The only question was how Wolff was going to play the trump suit. Rodwell had ruffed with the 5, and if that was from an original holding of ªJ 5, Wolff could made the contract by playing the ªQ, smothering Rodwell’s now-singleton jack.

After ruffing, Rodwell exited with his singleton club. When Wolff played the 9, Meckstroth played the 6, giving Wolff the opportunity to be in his hand for the play of the ªQ. After due consideration, however, Wolff played the ª10, claiming when Meckstroth followed with the king.

USA I suffered a mild setback on the following board.

Board 27. Dealer South. None Vul.
  ª Q 10 2
© Q 9 8 7 6 2
¨ A 2
§ K 4
ª K 8 4
© J 10 5 3
¨ K 8 6 4
§ 10 9
Bridge deal ª J 9 3
© K
¨ 7 5
§ A 8 7 6 5 3 2
  ª A 7 6 5
© A 4
¨ Q J 10 9 3
§ Q J

Nickell and Freeman had played the very reasonable contract of 3© by North, just making for plus 140.

West North East South
Rodwell Wolff Meckstroth Morse
Pass 1© 2§ 2¨
Pass 2NT Pass 3NT
All Pass      

Morse’s free bid of 2¨ is questionable considering that Meckstroth’s intervention could not have improved the South hand. The hopeless game was reached, and Wolff won the opening club lead in dummy with the queen, then took his best shot (a singleton ¨K off side rather than a doubleton ¨K onside) by playing to the ¨A. Wolff continued with a diamond to the queen and Rodwell’s king. Meckstroth had six clubs to cash from that point for three down and a 7-IMP swing to USA I.

Still, the team that nearly didn’t make round-robin cut was alive and kicking in the semi-final round.

They picked up another 7 IMPs in the third round to enter the second day of semi-final play down only 14.5 IMPs.

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