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A New Blue Ribbon Pair
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In the April 2007 Bridge World, Larry Cohen wrote an excellent article called "A Blue Ribbon Pair," in which he followed around a pair of hands in the Blue Ribbon Pairs final and reported what happened at the 13 tables in the section. Having failed to qualify for day three of the event in San Diego, I decided I’d give it a go myself. I chose to kibitz Boards 13 and 14 in section Y.

That took me to Table 7 at the start of the session, where Dan Jacob and Robert Lebi sat North-South against Bill Cole and Beth Palmer. This was Board 13:

Cole
A
984
KQJ964
763
Jacob
6
Q32
A10832
KQ102
Palmer
KQ875
K765
7
AJ5
Lebi
J109432
AJ10
5
984
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1NT
X
2
P
3
P
P
P
D
13
3 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

Jacob was the only North player in his section to pass as dealer. Palmer opened 1, and lacking a way to invite in diamonds, Cole tried a semiforcing 1NT. Jacob doubled, Palmer rebid 2, Lebi passed, and Cole bought it for 3.

Jacob led the Q, Rusinow, which Cole ducked as Lebi discouraged. Jacob continued with a club, so declarer hooked, unblocked the A, and led the J, ducked. Next, he played a club to dummy and tried to cash a high spade, discarding a heart, but Jacob ruffed. Jacob played a heart to the king and ace.

Cashing a heart before leading another spade would have led to an easy down two, but this was the first board of the session and Lebiwas not totally focused. He had missed declarer’s heart pitch, and he fatally played another spade without cashing the J. That allowedCole to discard his last heart loser while Jacob ruffed with a natural trump trick. Down one: -100.

That figured to be a decent result for East-West, as it would be easy for East-West to get in trouble on these cards.

From there I moved to Table 6, where Veri Kiljan and Luc Tijssen as North-South faced the eventual winners, EricGrecoand Joe Grue.

Greco
A
984
KQJ964
763
Kiljan
6
Q32
A10832
KQ102
Grue
KQ875
K765
7
AJ5
Tijssen
J109432
AJ10
5
984
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
13
2X West
NS: 0 EW: 0

Kiljan opened 1, showing an unbalanced hand with either five-plus diamonds or 4-4-4-1 distribution. Grueovercalled1, South passed, andGrecochose to pass. After North reopened with a double, Tijssenpassed for penalty andGrecoran to 2. After two more passes, Tijssen doubled, ending the auction.

Kiljan led the K, ducked, then shifted to the 6 to Greco’s ace.Grecofinessed in clubs, led the K, throwing a heart as North ruffed. North continued with a low heart to the king and ace, and Tijssen got the defense right, cashing the Jbefore playing another spade. Down one: -200.

Table 5 featured another pair of contenders: VinceDemuy-Brad Mossagainst DavidBakhshi-StanTulin.

Tulin
A
984
KQJ964
763
Demuy
6
Q32
A10832
KQ102
Bakhshi
KQ875
K765
7
AJ5
Moss
J109432
AJ10
5
984
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P
D
13
2 East
NS: 0 EW: 0

Demuyopened 1,Bakhshiovercalled1, and Moss passed. At this table,Tulinchose a 1NT advance, then passed Bakhshi’s 2 rebid. That was hardly an ideal contract, but at least it wasundoubled.

Moss led the 4 to the queen and ace, andBakhshiled a diamond to the king and ace.Demuycashed the K and continued with the 10 to declarer’s jack.Bakhshiled a spade to the ace, then led a heart, accurately putting in the 7, not that it helped him. Moss returned the 4, ruffed with the 8 andoverruffedwith the Q.Demuyplayed another heart, so declarer lost two more trumps and a spade at the end. Down two: -200.

At Table 4, YeshayahuLevit and Amos Kaminskisat North-South against John Lusky and Allan Falk.

Lusky
A
984
KQJ964
763
Levit
6
Q32
A10832
KQ102
Falk
KQ875
K765
7
AJ5
Kaminski
J109432
AJ10
5
984
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
X
P
P
2
X
P
P
P
D
13
2X West
NS: 0 EW: 0

After the familiar start of 1 - 1 - pass, Lusky chose pass. After the reopening double was passed for penalty, Lusky ran to 2, and at this table it was opener who doubled.

Levitled his stiff spade to the ace, and Lusky advanced a low club. North did not split, and perhaps declarer should have finessed the jack. If the J had lost, declarer would still have plenty of losers to throw on the high spades. At the table, though, Lusky went up with the ace. He tried a high spade, pitching a club, as Levit ruffed. Levit cashed the K and continued with the Q, ruffed, and declarer led the K to the ace.

North played his last club, and Lusky ruffed, then cashed the Q, getting the news. He tried a heart to the king, but Kaminsky won the ace and continued with the J. North should have overtaken with the Q to return a heart, getting off the trump endplay, but he played low. South played a third heart, so North won the Q and had to lead a diamond into the J9. Down one, -200.

Overtaking the J is a 100% play, because it at worst breaks even if it sets up declarer’s 10—North will get a trump trick instead of a heart trick. For this reason, South should never play the J here without the 10. With an original holding of AJx, he should continue with his low heart, so he will be in position to win the third round of the suit.

Next was Table 3: Steve Garner-Mike Whitman vs. Robin Bjorkstrand-Borje Dahlberg.

Dahlberg
A
984
KQJ964
763
Garner
6
Q32
A10832
KQ102
Bjorkstrand
KQ875
K765
7
AJ5
Whitman
J109432
AJ10
5
984
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P
D
13
2 East
NS: 0 EW: 0

The auction was the same as Table 5's: West advanced 1NT over 1, so East became declarer in 2.

Whitman led his partner’s suit, and Garner shifted to a tricky Q. Declarer asked about the defense’s honor leads and shifts, but North-South played standard—this was just a falsecard.

Declarer won the A, crossed to the A, and led the Q, pitching a club as South ruffed with the 10. South continued with the J. Declarer chose to pitch a club from dummy, so Garner got a ruff with the 2. He cashed the K, and then the defensecrossruffedthe next three tricks for down two: -200.

Table 2 presented a new variation. Here, Gavin Wolpert and Paul Fireman were North-South against Ed Ulman and Jean Barry.

Barry
A
984
KQJ964
763
Wolpert
6
Q32
A10832
KQ102
Ulman
KQ875
K765
7
AJ5
Fireman
J109432
AJ10
5
984
W
N
E
S
1
X
1
X
2
X
2
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
13
4 East
NS: 0 EW: 0

Wolpert opened 1. Instead of overcalling 1,Ulmanchose an offbeat takeout double. This might have allowed East-West to escape the looming -200 or more. South, Paul Fireman, responded 1, and Barry made a responsive double. That’s a mildly atypical agreement to have on this auction and a rather more atypical (or should that be “less typical”?) hand for that action.

Wolpertrebid 2, and Ulman doubled, presumably for penalty. Fireman rebid 2. Defending that contract would have been successful for East-West, but Barry jumped back into the fire with 3. Ulman tried 3, and West raised to 4, mercifullyundoubled.

Fireman led the 5, and the play was ugly. The defense took one trick in each minor plus the same five trump tricks taken at Table 3: down four, -400.

Next I moved to Table 1, where Dan Morse and Venkatrao Konerufaced Bernard Cabanes and Eric Gautret.

Gautret
A
984
KQJ964
763
Morse
6
Q32
A10832
KQ102
Cabanes
KQ875
K765
7
AJ5
Koneru
J109432
AJ10
5
984
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
X
P
P
2
X
P
P
P
D
13
2X West
NS: 0 EW: 0

Board 13 began in familiar fashion: North opened 1, East’s 1 overcall was passed back to opener, who doubled. South passed for penalty, West ran to 2, and North doubled: all pass.

Morse led the K, ducked by declarer, and then the defenders demonstrated how to collect 500 legitimately. He shifted to a heart: king, ace. Koneru cashed the J, then continued with another heart to Morse’s queen. Morse got out with his spade.

Gautret won the A perforce, finessed the J, cashed the A, and led dummy’s diamond to the queen, ducked. Declarer continued with the J, also ducked, then a low diamond to Morse’s 8. Morse played the thirteenth club and collected the last two tricks with the A10. Nicely defended! Down two, -500.

I rounded the corner to Table 13, where Jim Munday-Richard Pavlicekwere North-South and Mark Ralph-Bruce Noda were East-West.

Noda
A
984
KQJ964
763
Munday
6
Q32
A10832
KQ102
Ralph
KQ875
K765
7
AJ5
Pavlicek
J109432
AJ10
5
984
W
N
E
S
1
X
1
P
2
P
2
P
P
P
D
13
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Munday opened 1, and Ralph chose the same takeout double Ulman had, with considerably more success. Pavlicek responded 1, and Noda passed. Munday rebid 2,Pavlicek rebid 2, and played it there.

West led the K to dummy’s ace. Pavlicek called for dummy’s 6: 7, J, A. Noda shifted to the 9, ducked by Ralph. Pavlicek ruffed a diamond as Ralph pitched a heart, then led the 10 and was disappointed to see West show out.

East won the Q and led the 6. Declarer finessed the 10, led a club to the king, ducked, and played another diamond. East discarded the K as South ruffed. Pavlicek tried the A, ruffed by Ralph, who cashed the K and exited with a spade. Declarer won the 9 but had to concede the last two tricks to East’s AJ. That was down one and -100, the first plus score on this board for East-West.

At Table 12, North-South were Chien-Yao Tseng and Wei-Bung Wang. East-West were Ari Greenberg and Li-Chung Chen.

Chen
A
984
KQJ964
763
Tseng
6
Q32
A10832
KQ102
Greenberg
KQ875
K765
7
AJ5
Wang
J109432
AJ10
5
984
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
X
P
P
2
X
P
P
P
D
13
2X West
NS: 0 EW: 0

Here, Tseng opened a Precision 1, and Greenbergovercalled 1, passed back to North, who reopened with a double. After Wang passed for penalty, Chen ran to 2, doubled by North.

Tseng led the K, ducked, then switched to the 6. From there, declarer won the A, finessed in clubs, and threw a heart on the K as North ruffed. Tseng shifted to the Q, king, ace. Wang cashed the J, then played the J, ruffed with the 9 and overruffed with the 10. North got out with a heart, ruffed by declarer. Chen crossed to the A and led the 7. Down one, -200.

I arrived at Table 11 to see Mark Perlmutter and Mitch Dunitz against Alex Hudson and Jonathan Steinberg.

Hudson
A
984
KQJ964
763
Perlmutter
6
Q32
A10832
KQ102
Steinberg
KQ875
K765
7
AJ5
Dunitz
J109432
AJ10
5
984
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P
D
13
2 East
NS: 0 EW: 0

After the usual start to the auction, Hudson advanced with 1NT, so Steinberg declared in 2.

With a strong trump holding, Dunitz chose to lead a club rather than his singleton diamond. Steinberg won Perlmutter's Q with the ace and led his diamond: low, king, ace. Perlmutter cashed the K and continued with a third round of clubs to Steinberg's jack. Declarer crossed to the A and led the Q, discarding a spade on it while Dunitz ruffed with the 10.

Dunitz returned the 3. Based on South's ruffing with the 10, it looked like North had the 32, so Steinberg could have embarked on a sort of cross-ruff. If he had ruffed this spade in dummy, North could overruff with the Q and play a trump if he chose, but the defense could just take four trump tricks, the A, and a club trick. If the defenders didn't continue trumps, declarer could keep ruffing "high" in dummy and throwing spade on high diamonds. Instead, Steinberg discarded a diamond from dummy, letting Perlmutter ruff with the 2. North-South subsequently scored their remaining three trump honors for down two: -200.

Next was Table 10. Nicholas Lhuissier and Romain Tembouret were North-South against David Grainger and Roger Lee.

Grainger
A
984
KQJ964
763
Lhuissier
6
Q32
A10832
KQ102
Lee
KQ875
K765
7
AJ5
Tembouret
J109432
AJ10
5
984
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
X
P
P
2
X
P
P
P
D
13
2X West
NS: 0 EW: 0

The auction was typical. Grainger ran to 2 after Lee was doubled in 1, and opener doubled.

North led his stiff spade to Grainger's ace. Grainger led the J, ducked, then the K to North's ace. Lhuissier shifted to the Q, ducked, then played the 2. Declarer could have gotten out for 200 by ducking this in dummy, but he flew with the K, allowing South to win the A, cash the J, and lead the 10 to North. Declarer finessed the club on the way back, but he couldn't avoid losing two more trump tricks: down two, -500.

The penultimate round took me to Table 9, where Steve Weinstein and Dennis Bilde played against Pierre Franceschetti and Marc Mus.

Mus
A
984
KQJ964
763
Bilde
6
Q32
A10832
KQ102
Franceschetti
KQ875
K765
7
AJ5
Weinstein
J109432
AJ10
5
984
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P
D
13
2 East
NS: 0 EW: 0

Mus advanced with 1NT over 1, so Franceschetti declared 2 on the lead of a diamond to the king and ace. Bilde shifted to the K, won with the ace. Declarer then crossed to the A and led the Q, pitching a club as Weinstein ruffed. Weinstein played a club to Bilde's Q, and Bilde played a third club, ruffed by declarer. Franceschetti led the Q from his hand and discarded a club on it as Bilde ruffed with the 2. The defense later scored the A, J, and 10: down two, -200.

The last round brought Chip Martel and Martin Fleisher to Dave Caprera and Anne Brenner's table.

Martel
A
984
KQJ964
763
Brenner
6
Q32
A10832
KQ102
Fleisher
KQ875
K765
7
AJ5
Caprera
J109432
AJ10
5
984
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P
D
13
2 East
NS: 0 EW: 0

Fleisher declared 2 after a common sequence. Caprera led his stiff diamond to Brenner's ace, and she returned the 2. Fleisher discarded a club as Caprera ruffed with the 10. Caprera led a club to the queen and ace, and Fleisher crossed to the A to lead a high diamond, discarding his last club as Caprera ruffed again.

A second club went to the king and ruff, and Fleisher led the K, discarding a club, while Brenner ruffed with the 2. Brenner played a fourth round of diamonds. Fleisher ruffed with the K, and Caprera overruffed. The Q was the defense's last trick. Declarer ended down one: -100.

Summary

In section Y, five tables played 2x by West, down one three times and down two once. Five Easts declared 2, down two at every table except Fleisher's. The other three tables played 2 by South down one, 3 by West down one, and 4 by East down four.

The other sections' results on this board were quite different. In section X, 2 down one was the modal result, occurring at six tables. Only one table played 2 down two. 2x was a relatively rare contract, occurring only twice, once down 500 and once down 200. 3 undoubled down two happened twice, and there were a couple other doubled partscores: 2x by North, making two, and 2x by South, down one.

The section Z scores were remarkably consistent. North-South went plus at every table, all in the range of +90 to +200. East played 2 eight times, half down one and half down two. 2x down one occurred three times, 1NT by West failed by a trick once, and one North-South pair played 2 making.

The matchpoints for Board 13 (38 top):

Contract N-S Score Frequency N-S Matchpoints
2x E-W +500 3 37
4 E-W +400 1 35
3 E-W +200 1 25.5
2x E-W +200 7 25.5
2 E-W +200 9 25.5
2x N-S +180 1 16
2 E-W +100 11 9
3 E-W +100 1 9
1NT E-W +100 1 9
2 N-S +90 1 2
2 N-S -100 1 1
2x N-S -200 1 0
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