Neymar at the table

It is summer, which means that the local club opens its doors 3 times a week for a summer drive. Matchpoints, entries open up to 1 minute before game-time, and the winner gets a bottle of wine. No seeding or flighting, so everybody from bright beginner to very seasoned player plays against everybody else. And, with players vacationing, lots of non-established partnerships. Lots of fun too, click here for details if you’ll be in the Arnhem area before the end of August and want to play. Here are a few problems from this week.

Against one of the least experienced pairs in the field, you pick up this hand. 2is not alerted, nor is the 3bid, but you do know that they have been taught transfers from their first lesson onwards so 2can’t be natural. Your bid, and if you pass, the auction comes back to you and you have a second shot.

Partner leads the3 for the2,10 and7. Now what and if you decide to cash theA, the trick will be9,6 and5. You play that a low discard in a suit encourages.

And finally this one. 1Walsh, that is it denies a 4 card major if less than a game force. 1NT did not deny a 4 card major, responder could have bid 2to check for a potential 4-4 major suit fit. You lead the2, 3rd and 5th, for the5,8 andJ. Declarer returns the4. Plan the defence.

Of course, there is more sport going on this time of the year: the Tour de France, Wimbledon, and the World Championships Soccer. I don’t care much for the latter but it is a world championship and all the best players are there. That included a Brazilian guy called Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, or Neymar for short. When he changed clubs last year, his new club paid a mind-blowing 220 million euro’s to his old club. If a player is worth that much money, he must be good, right? No, not only did he fail to score any goals, he also made a joke of himself by constantly falling down after being barely touched by an opponent, faking some kind of injury and hoping for a penalty. In fact, one report says he spent 15 minutes on the ground complaning in the 5 matches his team played before being eliminated. That is about 3% of the total playing time for his team. Did it help? No, the referees quickly noticed his tactics and simply ignored them.

What does all this have to do with bridge? Well, the tactics employed by Neymar seemed have moved to the bridge table. The favorite one: a failure to alert, even if you know an alert is due, then claiming damage. I’ve written about this before (click here) and this week, this hand popped up:

2showed a long minor in a weak hand. That is, of course, alertable. So is the 3_ response. Anyway, this didn’t happen, nobody asked anything and the hand was played, making 4 on aQ lead. By the time the dummy came down, EW realised that there were a couple of failures to alert. Of course, it is now too late to do anything about that. By the time the hand was over, EW saw that they are could for about 9 tricks in 3. Director!

When asked, south admitted her failure to alert. As I wrote before, NS were one of the least experienced pairs in the field, while EW is a very experienced pair. Do we adjust the score?

The question is, of course, if EW are damaged by the failure to alert. I seriously doubt it. First, the EW pair is very experienced and they know that about every pair in the club plays transfers over a strong NT, thus 2cannot be natural. What it is, isn’t clear but if this affects east’s bid, she can ask. Then, if 2is indeed some sort of transfer, then I doubt if anybody would make a call over 2♠.The same applies to 3, if don’t overcall over 1NT, you are certainly not going to bid at the 3 level in a live auction. Finally, when the bidding died at the 3 level, both players had a chance to ask and bid. In short, yes, failure to alert, but no, no damage as a result, EW should have known better.

OK, so I ruled that the score stood. You may disagree with me on that one, but that is my decision and you’ll have to live with that. Claiming damage when there really isn’t, sounds like a Neymar coupe to me.

The3 looks like a singleton, but should we cash theA? Probably not, as it will set up theK and declarer figures to have a few entries to dummy. And if you do and continue diamonds, the third round of diamonds can be ruffed high by declarer, if partner can overruff, that will be with a trump trick he is going to get anyway. Cashing theA does have an advantage though, partner can signal something and that might help you. The 6 looks like a small one, so you switch to a heart. Not a success.

Over to west: the 6 probably qualifies for one of the most unreadable cards of the evening. Yes, you cannot afford a higher one, but give declarer the _A and 1052 or something, and it is suddenly the lowest. A small club on the other hand cannot cost, partner has 4 or 5 of them, so there is no risk that we set up something for declarer.

Looks simple enough, but this was missed at all 5 tables playing a spade contract, the other 2 were in a minor suit contract in the other direction. 4was doubled once, at my table, by west. East has said to me that he’ll never double one of my contracts again, as I seem to be always making them. Fortunately for us, west was not aware of this.

This time you are playing against Mrs. Neymar. As west, she found herself on lead after a routine auction. Spade lead to the jack and2 back from declarer. West ducked and declarer’sJ won the trick. Declarer later cashed theAK, dropping herQ and scoring the3 as an overtrick, leaving Mrs. Neymar with egg on her face. In true Neymar style, she tried to blame her partner, then complained that this was impossible to get right.

There is little partner could have done here, but could she have seen what was going on?

This is a matter of counting points; declarer has about 13, dummy 12 and 10 in your hand, leaving about 5 for partner. The heart suit is likely to be 4-333 around the table. Thus, even if you go up with a high heart, you are unlikely to crash theK in partners hand. Declarer won’t have the10 either. In short, going up with theQ hardly can cost. If you don’t, that is an expensive overtrick gone away. No theatre claiming an injury is going to help.

Note the heart position, while here the defence could have worked out what was going on, that isn’t always the case and withAK in the closed hand, playing small from the closed hand is often a succesful line for 3 or 4 tricks.

So much for today, time to switch to the TV and the Tour. Another sport were Neymar’s tactics are not accepted. In fact, Lawson Craddock, one of the cyclists, fell and broke his shoulder in stage 1. He didn’t notice it at the time, which is already amazing, but when it was discovered, he decided to continue to race as some of his sponsors had promised to donate to a local charity for every stage he finished. So far, he has done 13. His salary is probably less than 1% of Neymar’s but this is an athlete that deserves respect.

Henk Uijterwaal 2019