Killmouski and Chascatski at the Europeans

Over the last 2 weeks, the European Championships were played in Oostende. By the time you read this, you have all seen the final results with the open championship decided on the last board. After 527 boards, Israel led by about 2 VP’s over Norway, on board 528, Israel lost a 7 imp swing, while Norway picked up 8. That was sufficient to flip the two teams in the ranking. If you want to see the hand, read the bulletins.

The Dutch open team ended 5th, which is about what they expected themselves although the country had high hopes when they took over 1st place halfway through the event. 5th is, of course, sufficient to qualify for next year’s Bermuda Bowl. I’d be worried about this a bit, the team seemed to do well against weaker teams but wasn’t very convincing agaist the teams in the top 8, losing 4 matches. Runner-up Israel did much better in this respect, they won 6 out of the 7 matches against top 8 but dropped points against the weaker countries who won’t be in the Bermuda Bowl.

The women’s and senior team did also qualify for their world championships next year, the first was to be expected though it didn’t look like this halfway through the event. The latter is more surprising as 4 of the players had no international experience so-far. That makes the Netherlands one of the 4 countries qualifying the teams in all series (the others are England, Norway and Sweden).

A few curious hands I saw on BBO. First, from the match between Italy and the Netherlands. Incidentally, the Italians seem to have abandoned their attempts to make their selection process more open and just fielded the old Lavazza team again. Which still looks like the strongest team they can field. Their regular 6th man wasn’t available (Bilde, who is Danish), so they added the biggest talent in the bridge world at this moment, Donati, At 19, this is already his second European event.

Closed, the Dutch bid a solid 3NT making with 2 overtricks but open the Italians were more ambitious. Interestingly, in the old days, the Italian systems used to incorporate a 2opener to show a strong 4441 hand. After couple of relays, west would know that opener had a singleton diamond, 16-20 and 5 controls (A=2, K=1, so 2 aces and a king, or 1 ace and 3 kings). That makes slam a pretty bad proposition, there is no clear fit and one has to find at least a king or queen onside. West would sign of in game. Unfortunately for Donati, the Italians abandoned this convention some 20 years before he was even born and in 2018, east had to start with 1, west responded 1to deny a 4 card major, 2from east, 2artificial, 3natural. All this apparently convinced west that east had 5-431 or 5440, as he steamed on to 6.

Double dummy, this 6in a 4-3 fit is makeable: win the lead, cash 3 rounds of spades discarding a heart. Next theAK and a heart ruff. CashAK discarding a heart and finally play trumps. This requires hearts to be 3-3 and spades 4-3. That is, of course, against the odds, but it would have worked. Duboin simply took a heart finesse, for down 1 and 11 Dutch imp’s.

This play of the day was missed by all the vuegraph commentators and it shows that single dummy and double dummy are 2 different kettles of fish. First look at the single dummy version.

1was strong, 1negative showing at most 4 ZZ-Points (A=3, K=2, Q=1, J=0), 4NT asked for aces with a 1 ace response. You lead theA, ruffed and declarer cashes theA, partner showing an even number. Next, declarer plays a diamond to theA, ruffs a club, cashes theQAK. So-far, you have just had to follow suit, so where is the problem?

Well, you missed it, as declarer continues with a spade you find yourself on lead in this position. The ruff and sluff provides declarer with this 12th trick. Nicely done by Nystrom for Sweden, combining his legal chance (KJ,KQ ofQJ tight) with the chance that north couldn’t see that he had to drop theK on the first round of the suit. The latter is almost impossilbe to see, as the bidding is also consistent withQ9xx/xx/Axxx/xxx in west and then dropping the spade K would look rather stupid, to say the least.

Of course, the problem disappears when westis dummy, now when a spade is led from west, it cannot be wrong to play theK on the first round.

The commentators called the first round play of the7 by North “astonishing”, it took them a couple of boards to realize that west was the closed hand and cashing theA in trick 2 was probably the play of the day. Note that anything but theA at trick 2, may give the defenders a chance to signal something, which is what you don’t want.

Probably the best bid hand was this one by the Dutch pair Tim Verbeek and Danny Molenaar. The late Sonny Moyse wrote a book about 4-3 fits, hence their name of Moysian fits, and basically, a 4-3 fit works whenever you can score a ruff or 2 in the hand with the short trumps before you have to draw trumps. That typically requires a singleton with the 3 card trump suit. For more details, read the book by Moyse.

This was diagnosed very well by Tim and Danny on this board. 2multi, 2NT showed 8+ points, reversing the well-known Lebensohl approach, 3showed a game-force with 4. Tim didn’t like the prospect of playing 3NT from his side, so jumped to game in spades. Danny raised. 12 tricks were simple when declarer could ruff a heart.

For the record, this was repeated by the Russian and Croation open pairs and Bulgarian senior pair.

Note that this is not the only 4-3 fit on the board, there is also a 4-3 diamond fit. Now, last time I mentioned a Polish player by name in this blog after a not quite succesful action, about half the population of Warsaw jumped on my back, claiming that I didn’t show respect for their fellow countryman. I don’t want that to happen again, so I’m going to refer to the players as Killmouski and Chascatski, leaving it up to the reader to figure out their real names.

After a Polish club and a rebid showing 21-23, they found the wrong 4-3 fit: 3showed 54 minors, 3NT denied a fit, 4showed the 5th club (and hence, 4), 4preference, 5NT pick a slam. Unfortunately, it was the wrong one. Not only was theJ missing, there is no way to take any ruffs in the south hand. Down 1.

Note that, double dummy, there is a line to make 6, but that is against the odds.

That’s my list of hands from the Europeans.

Henk Uijterwaal 2019