Ray Lee

world mind sports games – women’s bridge quarterfinal preview

I wonder what I could get for a slightly used crystal ball on eBay?  I got only 5 results right out of the 8 round of 16 matches in the Women’s event, correctly calling Germany, China, USA, England and Russia to make the quarterfinals.  However, I thought Poland would get closer to China than the 136-IMP final margin, and suggested Spain might even be able to upset the USA (they lost by 88).  I did say that France-Sweden would be close, but my prediction of a mild upset for Sweden did not come to pass (France won by 18).  Likewise Group winner Finland fell by 18 IMPs to Turkey.  The biggest upset, however, was the very experienced Dutch team going out to Denmark.  I thought this one would be tight too, but I thought the Dutch, who had all been there before many times, would pull it out.  Denmark prevailed by 12 IMPs, however.

In the quarters, Germany seem to be still firing on all cylinders, and I’m taking them to get past China, overcoming home field advantage.  Auken and von Arnim on form (which they appear to be right now) are the best women’s pair in the world, and are quite capable of carrying the team to a gold medal.  I was impressed with the Danish women’s performance against the Netherlands, and I think they can take the USA — especially since as usual the US team is carrying a client.  I’m also a little worried by England’s giving up 122 IMPs against Singapore.  If they do that tonight, they won’t be playing tomorrow, I would venture.  I think England-France will be a very close match, but Nicola Smith and Sally Brock seem also to be in top form at this event, and I’m going to pick them to go through.  Russia-Turkey is a match between two teams that can never be counted out, but Turkey gave up more IMPs than any other team that won in this round, and I would think that Russia will emerge the winners.

I watched the first quarter of the Round of 16 match between Denmark and the Netherlands, a set that saw the Danes end 19 IMPs ahead. The remaining quarters were very tight, and the match was essentially decided by those first 14 boards.  It was hard to tell that from the first deal, however, where the Dutch got to a nice slam that very few pairs in any of the events reached.

North   S  Q65  H AKQ92   D K982  C 2

South  S AKJ1072  H 1053  D A6  C J9

The Danish auction was simple:  1H-1S; 2D-4H.  Not a sniff at slam.  Compare the Dutch auction, where after an opening 1H Bep Vriend treated the South hand a strong jump shift (perhaps one of the few pairs to be playing them!).  So after 1H-2S; 3S-4D it was Carla Arnolds with the North hand who launched into Keycard and simply bid 6S.  Perhaps the Dutch pair play the jump shift as showing a self-sufficient suit and/or a heart fit – that would certainly help North picture the South hand very well.  Then once she hears a diamond cuebid, it’s off to the races.

So first blood went to the Dutch, but 3 boards later their opponents pushed their own noses in front — for good, as it turned out — with a pretty piece of defence.  Stense Farholt held, as East:

S 6  H A874  D Q953  C  9543

and heard the auction 1NT (on her right) – 2H (transfer); 2S – 3H; 4S all pass.  What would you lead?

Farholt found the winning lead of a low heart.  This could work two ways — declarer could misguess with KJ in dummy, or partner might hold a spade entry and a side winner.  The latter was close to the actual case — partner had a doubleton heart, and both minor-suit aces.  North held KQJ tight of spades, and with the suit breaking 4-1 declarer had to let the opponents in when trying to return to hand to draw a fourth round of trumps. The defense were able to score three aces and a heart ruff.  In the other room, the Danish pair were playing weak notrumps, so the auction was different:  1D- 1S;  1NT – 2D (checkback); 2S – 4S.   West was on lead here, and had no particular reason to lead her doubleton heart.  After the trump lead, this declarer had an easy time.  A well-deserved swing.

The other deal that impressed me was the following, which illustrates some of the nice judgment that is required in competitive auctions.

North  S  72  H AQJ852  D 2  C AJ75

West  S J954  H 3  D KJ6  C KQ642                               East  S A3  H 964  D AQ87543  C 9

South  S KQ1086  H K107  D 109  C 1083

With N-S vulnerableand West dealer, the closed room auction started pass-1H-3D.  I’m not a big fan of this call with two aces and seven diamonds, but Jet Pasman has been around a long time, and maybe she was trying to walk the dog a little opposite a passed partner.  South doubled, and Anneke Simons made a superbly judged pass.  You or I might leap to 5D with this hand, but there’s time for that later if you decide it’s right.  And from her hand, there may be no defense against the slam you might push the opponents into by bidding.   North had a problem now: overbid with 4C, or underbid with 3H?  She chose the latter, no doubt not wanting to hang a partner who had been placed under pressure by the 3D call.  Now it was South’s turn to evaluate her hand.  Despite the undisclosed heart fit, she decided she had done enough with the three-level double, and passed.  She may have feared wasted diamond values opposite, and certainly expected two quick losers there.  So the Danish pair found themselves playing partscore when a vulnerable game was an easy make — although the par 5D save would be down only one, and would actually make without a spade lead or early spade shift.

The Open Room auction started differently: pass-1H-4D, a call on the East hand I like much better than 3D.  South might still have made a negative double, but why bother? — as Marty Bergen used to say ‘Support with support.’  Bep Vriend bid a simple 4H.  With the heart fit established, Maria Rahelt raised to 5D and put Carla Arnolds to the question.  With a singleton diamond, aces and an extra heart it is easy to see why she decided to bid on to 5H — indeed, she didn’t think very long about it at all.   This was passed out, and the defense had no trouble collecting their three tricks.  So aggressive bidding in both rooms, and 7 IMPs to Denmark as a result.

The Danish women won this match the old-fashioned way — they earned it.  If they play the same way against the USA, they may well earn a win there too.

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