Friday, 27 September 2019

World Championships Updates - England Mixed Team captain's reports - Quarter-Final (Paul Barden)

Quarter-Final, Monday 23rd and Tuesday 24th September

We learn that we are playing for the "Wuhan Cup", named along the lines of the "Bermuda Bowl" and "Venice Cup".  You can read the bulletins online here.

Board 1 of our quarter-final against Latvia looks like a good omen.  Both tables have the auction 3D by North, reopening double by West (the normal action at this level of play), all pass.  Sally leads a top spade, gets a count signal from Barry, and switches to hearts.  In due course she gets a heart ruff for two off.  The same contract goes only one off at almost all other tables in the four events, and we win five IMPs.

But it's not a good omen.  On the second board Frances comes in aggressively at the three level on a promising hand - passing is risky too - and goes four off in hundreds on a defensive cross-ruff.  On the third board Barry judges poorly to bid 5H over their 4S save and goes off instead of taking 500.  And on the fourth board they double Frances in a 6-3 fit at the two level.  This is an unavoidable one off, with our game contract at the other table also going off.  After four boards we are 26 IMPs down.  But there are still 92 boards to play.  We pick up 9 IMPs on board five when the Latvian East makes a huge underbid, and 12 more on board 6 when the Latvian South makes a passive opening trump lead, giving herself a later guess of which king to play her partner for, which she gets wrong.  But we bid a lot of non-making contracts for the next few boards, and lose a part-score swing, to trail by 30 IMPs after the first set of sixteen.

The second set starts with Latvia bidding a hopeless slam.  But then they open 3S at favourable on AQJ1098 J3 J852 6, while we open 2S.  The higher pre-empt makes it too risky to overcall on 7642 AQ6 4 AKJ83, so they get to play in 4S in one room, which could be beaten but isn't, and 5C in the other, which can't be touched, and we lose 14 IMPs.   We get 9 back by doubling them when they pre-empt too high on the next board, and recover 10 on the set to trail by 20 IMPS.

In the third set we get a game swing when Frances and Graham bid a sensible 3NT while the Latvians play a hopeless 5C, and another when they lead the right suit against 3NT but can't read the signal, and wrongly switch.  We are temporarily in the lead in the match, but then go wrong on two boards near the end and trail by 4 IMPs overnight.  Nevertheless, we have been gradually gaining IMPs.  We talk through the boards over dinner, and feel cautiously confident that the match is there to be won.

In the morning, Michael gets the chance to do something good on this deal.  He opens 3S, West doubles, North raises, and West doubles again in the pass-out seat.  West leads the king of hearts and continues the suit, East overtakes and switches to diamonds.  Whatever the merits of that, West really ought to have cashed the ace of  spades at trick two, as Michael swiftly demonstrates.  Ace of diamonds, diamond ruff, heart ruff, diamond ruff, spade, and West is endplayed for +590.  That gives us a double-digit lead for the first time in the match, and we end the set 20 IMPs ahead.

In a scrappy fifth set we extend our lead by 11 IMPS, so we're a fairly comfortable 31 ahead with 16 boards to play.  But the Latvians come out swinging - on this deal they bid 7H by South with J98532 of trumps in dummy opposite AQ6.  Declarer tries the technically inferior but psychologically effective line of leading the jack off dummy - that loses against on sivngleton king onside, but has the idea that RHO will probably not cover with Kx, so if she does you can finesse against the ten next.  K10x are onside so the contract makes.  That's admirably bold bidding and play, and lucky with it.  There are two more hands in the set where 7H can be made, one of them is a good contract but flat in 6H+1, the other one needs a finesse and guess of which squeeze to play: it's flat in 6H making.  But we lose a game swing when our declarer tries an obscure endplay instead of a winning finesse, while picking up a few bits and pieces.  The match is settled on the penultimate board: Fiona is on lead with Q96 Q104 103 AQ1086 against the auction 1H-1S, 3D-3NT.  She chooses the queen of clubs, logical when dummy is expected to be short in the suit.  In fact dummy has the singleton jack, and the defence is easy from there.  We win by a nervous 12 IMPs:  We start again tomorrow against USA1 in the semi-final.

Paul

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