This auction can create some problems for the intervening side. A suggestion for dealing with them follows.
At the start of the 3rd segment of 14 boards, the score was JEOVANI 66, BARBOSA 44, with Barbosa-Rodrigues facing Mello-La Rovere in the Closed Room while Campos-Tomasini played against VillasBoas-Brenner in the Open Room.
Many times at the Bridge table, a player can commit a very costly error: trying to guess his opponents' cards based on his own beliefs and judgment about what is correct.
Sometimes, a defender can paint a misleading picture for declarer, giving him the wrong impression of the hand by discarding – or not discarding – a suit.
The Brazilian Trials for the selection of the team that will represent Brazil in the next World Championship (Salsomaggiore, Italy, in August 2020) were disputed between January 18th and 25th. The team of Roberto BARBOSA, Adriano Rodrigues, Diego Brenner, Miguel Villas Boas, Marcelo Branco & Gabriel Chagas won the final match against the team of Jeovani SALOMÃO, Henrique Salomão (only 19 years old!), João Paulo Campos, Stefano Tommasini, Roberto Mello & Emilio La Rovere.
Let us follow the hands in the 84-board final (divided in 6 stanzas of 14 boards each). In this first round, JP Campos and S Tommasini were in the Open Room, in North-South, facing D Brenner and M Villas-Boas. In the Closed Room, G Chagas and M Branco, in North-South, tackled H Salomão - J. Salomão.
Board 1 was an interesting push:
In the Open Room, JP opened the North hand. I would have opened it too. After 1 Club - 1 Spade, though, he had an uncomfortable rebid problem, and picked 2 Clubs. Now Stefano had a decision to make, and he decided in favor of aggressiveness, bidding 3 Hearts, showing invitational values and 5-5. It worked out well in the end when North raised to the easy 4 Hearts. Note how it is easy because of the fitting club honors (no doubt this was a major factor behind South's decision to push).
In the Closed Room, Chagas, perhaps foreseeing rebid problems, preferred to pass as opener. Jeovani Salomão opened the East hand with a 12-14 NT. This actually simplified the bidding for N-S when South, Branco, had a bid that depicted a major two-suiter. He bid 2 Clubs, West bid 2 Diamonds, and North ended the auction by jumping to game in hearts. Different roads, same landing spot, no imps exchanged.
In the Open Room, Miguel and Diego went overboard when East opened a 12-14 NT. Especially at this vulnerability, I think this is a very good choice of opening bid, but the hands fitted badly when Diego could not deliver a 2nd club. They landed in 3NT and went down 3 when South hit on a spade lead, attacking declarer's entries to the long clubs. Miguel made the expected misguess in clubs -- if clubs are 3-3, it is a straight guess, but if they are 4-2 with South having the doubleton, playing the Queen picks up the suit if South has Jx, while playing the 10 does not pick up the suit in the symmetrical situation of Kx in South. Without being able to bring the clubs home, the contract was hopeless.
In the closed room, E-W stopped low, after 1 Club by East, 1 Diamond (=Hearts) by West, 2 Clubs by East, and a well-judged pass by West. (Note how the singleton in partner's long suit influenced his choice). SALOMÃO might win 6 imps (-150 in one room, + 90 in the other), but North-South found the best defense of a heart lead and the diamond Queen return. Try as he might (even if he guessed clubs right!), declarer would lose 2 diamonds, 2 hearts, and 2 clubs. Still, it was good enough for 3 imps (-150 vs. -50), tying the match, since BARBOSA started with a 3 imp carryover.
You are in second position, Vul against Not. Do you open this hand? Diego did, Henrique Salomão did not. Score one for light opening bids -- the opponents reached 3NT in both tables, but the diamond lead ended declarer chances. 10 imps to BARBOSA.
The spotlight was on the same players in the next board.
Your right-hand opponent starts with 1NT (15-17). They bid to 4 Hearts, showing a 4-4 fit after a Stayman-like auction. What do you lead? In one table, dummy showed both majors. Does it influence your lead?
Both leaders went with the in-your-face lead of the Ace of Diamonds, but this not only helped declarer establish his 5-card (!) diamond suit, but also helped him guess spades (he had an Ace-Queen guess there, and played you to not have the Ace, once you showed AK of diamonds). A club lead would have made him work harder. The hand can always make, though. It goes to show something. Or perhaps nothing at all.
SALOMÃO gained 4 imps in the next board when they stopped safely in a part-score while Miguel-Diego bid a hopeless (as the cards were) nonvulnerable 3NT, going down one.
Board 6 was another interesting push:
In the Closed Room, West, Henrique, opened a 12-14 NT, which shut North up. They were allowed to play in 3 Hearts after a transfer auction, making an overtrick.
In the Open Room, Diego opened 1 Club. JP overcalled 1 Diamond, with his hefty diamonds. East-West had the right tool for this hand -- East's double of 1 Diamond showed 5+ Hearts. When South jump raised his partner to 3 Diamonds, East could bid 3 Hearts, being assured of 8 cards in the fit.
3 Hearts might go down in some other day, but as the cards were -- and particularly since the possible spade trick for the defense could not be established by direct leads -- 9 tricks were taken here, too.
West in the hot seat again. All vul, 2nd-in-hand. Do you or don't you open? Being consistent with Bd. 3, Diego opened, and Henrique passed. The board was passed out in the Closed Room. The Open Room ended in 1NT, and made only 6 tricks (it might have been 5). 3 imps to SALOMÃO. Score one for sound openings.
West again has the problem, but this is a systemic victory for BARBOSA, rather than a judgment one. Diego had available a 2 Hearts opening showing hearts and a minor suit. Henrique didn't -- so, he passed, heard his partner open a 12-14 1NT, and South doubled. The partnership was no longer in "game searching mode" by then, so they stopped in 3 Hearts (over 2 Spades by the opponents). At Diego-Miguel's table, the hand was quickly bid to 4 Hearts, which was made with a successful (and indicated) trump handling. 6 imps to BARBOSA.
The score was BARBOSA 19 x 10 SALOMÃO at this point. After a push in a well-bid 4 Hearts, the spotlight turned on South, for a change.
Stefano and Marcelo had to lead against 3NT. Stefano heard a Gazzilli auction in which declarer, having opened 1 Heart, showed 15+ hcp and either a balanced hand with 3 spades or a 5431 (unknown suits besides the 5 hearts). Dummy showed long diamonds and 8+ hcp. He led a spade.
Marcelo heard a 1 Heart opening too, but then declarer showed a non-descript game forcing hand (denying 55 or other extreme shapes), and responder broke a relay chain to show long diamonds, upon which opener picked 3NT as the final contract. He led a club. The spade lead gave nothing away (the opponents had AQxx opposite KJ10), but the club lead cost a trick (it ran to declarer's AK109). 12 fat imps to SALOMÃO.
West had to hog all the attention again in the next board.
Both players heard the same bidding: LHO opened, third-in-hand, with 1 Diamond. Partner passed, RHO bid 1 Heart, and they passed again. LHO then bid 3 Spades, a heart raise with shortness in spades, and RHO ended the bidding with 4 Hearts. What is your lead?
Diego tried a club, the unbid suit. Henrique led a diamond. The club lead gave up a trick and a tempo (dummy had AKxx, declarer let it run to his J9x), the diamond lead gave nothing away (partner has AJ9x, dummy had K10xx). 10 imps to SALOMÃO, which had gained 22 imps in consecutive boards after two ineffective leads by BARBOSA. The score was now SALOMÃO 32 x 19 BARBOSA.
The next board was a possible slam (requiring only one loser, combined, in these two suits: AKJxx opposite xxx, and AJ7xx opposite K10xx), but no team got close. Stefano and João Paulo had to face more preemption and landed in 5 Diamonds (the 9-card fit). Gabriel and Marcelo had less obstruction to deal with, and stopped in 4 Hearts, but Marcelo misguessed the play and made 10 tricks, to get a pushed board.
The last 2 boards of the round were not recorded by the Vugraph. BARBOSA gained one imp in them, and so the round ended with SALOMÃO 12 imps ahead, 32x20.
This will be a quick one. Our experts are playing in the finals of the Brazilian Trials, and we are building a backlog of interesting hands to comment upon in the coming days. This next hand, in the semifinals, struck my eye:
Miguel Villas-Boas picked up this nice collection, vulnerable, 3rd in hand. He was already thinking about how to deal with spade preempts when his partner pleased him by opening 1 Spade, himself. He bid 2 Diamonds (game forcing), and partner rebid 2 Spades.
I gave this hand as a problem to some intermediate and advanced players, and none of them chose Miguel's bid, 4 Diamonds. I think his bid is clearly the best. This little digression shows how people are reluctant to jump in a forcing auction even when they have the hand for it (setting trumps, asking for cuebids). This creates problems in the later auction. Not in Brenner-Villas Boas table, though (at least not yet!).
Diego Brenner bid what was probably the best thing Miguel could wish for -- 4 Hearts (cuebid), depicting either the King of hearts or shortness. East could perhaps bid 7 Diamonds now, but he chose to go through 4NT. Partner showed one Ace, and he bid 7 Diamonds. This was Diego's hand:
Excellent bidding, wasn't it?
But the auction was not over yet. Diego had a thoughtful idea. Since he had an undisclosed source of tricks, (and a nice hand of his own), perhaps 7NT would be safer, protecting against some bad break in diamonds. (He would have two bites at the apple rather than one -- if diamonds did not ran, perhaps spades would). And so he bid 7NT.
He picked an unfortunate time to do that, since his hand had no entries!
Luckily for them, South had a tough problem in picking the lead, and he picked... a spade. A happy ending for our experts, and 13 imps when the other table ended in 6 Diamonds (after East did not jump to 4 Diamonds over 2 Spades).
Only one hand today. You are North and have to play 6 Spades with these cards, after this bidding (you can't see the last few bids, but North replied to the key-card ask with 5 Hearts, showing 2 KC without the Queen, and South bid 6 Spades):
You are playing against our own experts, Miguel Villas-Boas in East and Diego Brenner in West. The lead was the 9 of clubs, upon which West played the Queen.
This setup is how Diego Brenner presented the hand to me. First of all, what is going on in the club suit? Is East really leading from small cards in declarer's first bid suit? These guys are tricky and East can easily have led from the King. I ask Diego about this, and he gives me a frank "it looks like East has led from the King". At the table these feelings count for a lot.
In any case the technical line appears to be cashing 2 top spades and, if nothing strange happens, trying to guess diamonds. If the Queen of trumps drops, the hand becomes a laydown.
So I cash the 2 spades and East shows out.
Now I have to decide how to play the diamonds. This 4-1 split makes it harder for me to win the contract through a ruffing finesse in diamonds; if East covers with the hypothetical King, I ruff in dummy and run hearts (after pitching dummy's club in the 3rd diamond), but this will require West to follow suit to at least 3 hearts If West has 2 hearts only. I will end up with: 4 trumps in hand (overruffing/pitching as West ruffs hearts with a low/high trump), 2 ruffs in dummy, 2 hearts, 2 Aces, and a diamond honor = 11 tricks.
I could try to slip past East's diamond King by playing the Ace and Jack for this finesse, but these guys are too good to fall for that. If it were the only chance, I`d surely try it, but as the cards stand now the straight diamond finesse (low to the Queen) looks like the best bet. That's my announcement, and I get lucky when the full cards are:
At the other table, East leads a diamond against Marcelo Branco in the same contract, so this is a big swing for our experts.
(Updated Jan 20, 2020 - Diego Brenner pointed out a winning line for the 2nd hand, even after the best defense)
I am not playing in the Trials this year, having moved to the US last July. But I am still following the results closely, and I ask my colleagues there for interesting hands. These are their first two hands.
Diego Brenner gave me the following play problem in 6 Hearts from North, with the Ten of diamonds lead:
My best shot is to establish diamonds in dummy, pitching the club loser in the spades. I'll need to avoid losing a trump and favorable diamonds. There are extra chances (such as a singleton club Queen), but it is important not to risk the main chances while pursuing unlikely positions.
In any case we should begin with a spade. West wins the Ace and leads the 6 of hearts. You cover with the 7, and West follows with the 2.
You will always go down if trumps are 4-1, so this trick is a bit of a trap. You need to keep on ruffing diamonds. So I said I would win in dummy, ruff a diamond, and if nothing weird happened, lead a club to dummy (picking up a singleton Queen), ruff the 3rd diamond, and draw trumps, pitching one or two losers from dummy on the spades first (depending on whether diamonds are established or not).
The Queen of diamonds shows up in the 2nd round of the suit, and so the hand makes easily:
Everything was so favorable (even the club Queen falls doubleton, in front of the AK!), that any sensible line wins the contract. One interesting variation is if, on West's trump lead, East plays the Jack. You should probably follow the same line, since trumps 4-1 are very hard to handle. Win in dummy, ruff a diamond, etc.
Marcelo Branco gave me this one:
South has a very tough bidding problem in the first round, after partner's (Gabriel Chagas) natural weak-two opening... Branco picked the right choice when he bid 3 Spades (many players passed), and now he was at the helm in 4 Spades. The lead was the 4 of clubs. East won with the King, and played the Jack of hearts.
When I was given the problem, I figured that the best chance was to establish diamonds, with some extra chances on the side (the hand might become a crossruff). The plan I announced to Marcelo was to win with the Ace, play Ace of diamonds, diamond ruff, and then play a club, pitching a heart. East would win and, if he had the heart King all along, he would be a bit stuck for a return. (Note that I would not be able to make this club play if the heart finesse lost). He would probably play back a club, or perhaps a trump, both of them being good for me. (If he played a heart and my Queen lost to the King, there was nothing I could do anyway).
I was rewarded by the actual lie of the cards:
Once the diamond King shows up at the 2nd round of the suit, the hand becomes easy.
Marcelo tried the finesse. It is always hard to eschew a finesse. Hard to second-guess such a great declarer, who was at the table. In any case if Marcos Thoma had played a club back he would have to play the cards in the right order (check Diego Brenner's comment below!) to make the contract. When he instead played a 2nd heart, Marcelo was able to make the hand without breaking a sweat.
So far my armchair playing has been OK... but these players have a knack for finding difficult problems. We will post other interesting hands as they come along.