|THE FINAL Boards|
There was an explosive start to the Final between the holders from France and the winners of the Dutch Mixed Teams Championship who, as their prize, became the official Dutch team in Aachen.
On Vugraph East overcalled only Two Spades and the French were allowed to play in Five Hearts. This is defeated by a minor suit lead, but West had not suggested an alternative and East led a fatal spade. Chemla was able to discard his losing club, and gave up only a trump and A for 450 to France.
At the other table Veronique Bessis overcalled Three Spades on the East cards, and that encouraged Michel to go on to the Five level and he took the chance to indicate a lead other than a spade.
"The five level belongs to the opponents" is good advice, but only if you find the right lead! Various leads beat Five Spades doubled but not ace and another club. Declarer won, ruffed a heart and led a trump. So Five Spades doubled made for another 650 to France. A swing of 15 IMPs on the first board.
The next board was also a thriller, though it produced no swing:
Take the Dutch auction first. After the fourth suit 2 East's raise implied the singleton club. 4 was a cuebid, 4NT Roman Keycard Blackwood, a response showing three keys, an enquiry about kings and East showed one outside trumps. West now knew that either East held AKx or K, making the grand a good proposition.
South led J. Bakker won, led a trump to dummy, returned with a club, ruffed a spade, unblocked the hearts, cashed another top trump and led A. North ruffed, and was over-ruffed. A spade ruff was followed by a club ruff and then A felled the suit. Whew!
At the other table after the same first three bids, West was able to make a forcing raise to 3. The lead was the same, but we have no details of the play except that the slam was made for a flat board.
Two Clubs doubled did not prove very profitable for the Dutch North-South pair who collected only 200. This was poor exchange for the easy game made at the other table despite the 4-1 trump break. Saul lost only one club and two trumps. A further 6 IMPs to France.
Board 4 was a normal game which failed at both tables when the trumps were 5-0. Board 5 saw France gain an overtrick IMP and two more came on the next deal:
Both Easts opened 3 and were raised to game. Chemla and Wanner both found a brave 5 bid with the North cards and played there, the only difference being that Michel doubled while Begas did not. Both Norths must have been quite impressed with the dummy, I think. They took the normal line in trumps by starting with the queen in case of a 3-0 break onside. Both went one down now, losing a club and two diamonds; -50 for Chemla and -100 for Wanner - 2 IMPs to Bessis.
The key decision fell to the respective East players over their partners' 2 rebid. The hand is slightly short of the values to force to game if you play an aggressive opening style but most of us would shrug our shoulders and bid 3 anyway, as did Veronique, who soon became dummy in 4. Ellen Bakker preferred to repeat her clubs and 3 ended the auction.
In 3 the lead was a heart. Bakker won and played her spade to the ace then passed the jack of spades, pitching a diamond. Saul promptly switched to ace and another diamond and there were three trump losers to come for two down; -200.
Trump leads might have put 4 under some pressure in the other room but the actual defence was to lead diamonds and declarer could lead towards the clubs and soon had ten tricks; +620 and 13 IMPs to Bessis, ahead by 37.
In the Closed Room, Wanner passed the North hand on the second round and Gielkens balanced with 3. Perhaps a double would have been better but 3 was not a horrible call, it just suffered a horrible fate - doubled for three down and -500.
In the Open Room, Chemla rebid 3 and that would have kept Saul quiet even had Bakker not competed further with 3. Begas converted that to 4, ending the auction. The defence took three diamonds and soon had a spade also for one down; -50 and 11 IMPs to Bessis. The lead was up to 48.
The two auctions were identical - East opened 1, South overcalled 1 and everybody passed. The contract was two down for -100 in the Closed Room but Catherine Saul did rather better on vugraph. The lead was the Q to East's bare ace. Bakker switched to ace and another club and Saul discarded a heart while Begas won the queen. He switched to the 2 and Saul won the ace and cashed the two club winners, throwing her remaining heart then a diamond. Now she played a spade to her queen followed by a low spade. Begas won the 9 and gave his partner a diamond ruff. Saul ruffed the heart return and played another spade and had the rest; +80 and 5 IMPs to Bessis.
The loser on loser play on the club at trick three was good play but perhaps if West had ducked this, holding declarer to one club winner, that would have been a nice counter and would have led to one down.
Both Easts played in 3NT. In one room the lead was the Q , in the other the 2 to North's king. How should you play? It looks to us as though on the spade lead a club to the queen gives an extra chance. If the club is onside you get to take the diamond finesse, while if it is not you can fall back on trying to drop the K. On a heart lead you need to judge whether hearts will be 4-4, when the same logic applies, or 5-3, when the only hope is to play to drop the diamond. Both our declarers cashed the ace of diamonds at trick two and had five losers; one down for a push.
There was a decent slam for East/West on the next board, missed at both tables, though it was reached by Croatia in the third place match. Then Bessis went even further ahead with a quick one-two on the next two deals.
Disaster for the Dutch. Whatever the double should have meant, they were clearly not reading from the same page of the system file. Even if double is penalty, it is questionable whether West should pass it. There was no problem in defeating 2 doubled, but one down for +100 was hardly adequate compensation for the cold slam. The French sailed into slam at the other table:
The double of 1 was a support double, showing three-card heart support. When Veronique jumped to game, Michel had no trouble in bidding six; +980 and 13 IMPs to Bessis.
When Wanner led the nine of hearts and Michel put in dummy's ten, he had no heart loser. There were just two diamonds and a spade to lose; +710.
In the other room Saul opened 1 rather than 1 and Begas punted 3NT. That was not a success. The lead was a low heart to the queen, king and ace. Begas returned a heart towards the ten and Chemla ducked. The ten scored and Begas led dummy's diamond. When the king appeared he won and cashed a hopeful queen but when South showed out he had nowhere to go for tricks and was two down; -200 and 14 more IMPs to Bessis.
There were a couple of small swings to come for Bessis and at half-time in the final they led by an incredible 85-0! The third place play-off saw even more swings, but at 65-64 to the French team, it was nicely poised for a fiercely competitive second half.
Teams, Round 14
Teams, Round 15
Teams, Final, Playoff
Auf Wiedesehen, Aahen!
Semifinal, 2nd half, by Brian Senior
Presidents Farewell Speech
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