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Bermuda Bowl RR18: BULGARIA vs USA1
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The penultimate day of the round-robin saw a match between 4th place BULGARIA (Damianova, Aronov, Karakolev, Mihov, Stefanov, Nanev) and 6th place USA 1 (Nickell, Katz, Levin, Weinstein, Meckstroth, Rodwell).  In this match, only Levin-Weinstein would be playing 2/1; the other three pairs would be playing some form of Precision Club.

After both tables reached a game that failed in part due to duplication in values (AK opposite a void), board 18 featured a game decision:

West
109
Q72
A642
AKQ2
East
AKQJ
J98
8
J10643
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
X
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
?

2 was forcing to 3.  Opener showed a three-suited hand short in diamonds, with a good minimum.  Responder bid 4 and this was passed out.  The full hand:

West
109
Q72
A642
AKQ2
North
7654
A1053
KQJ103
East
AKQJ
J98
8
J10643
South
832
K64
975
9875
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
X
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
18
4 East
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
A
3
8
0
0
1
2
10
3
7
2
0
2
4
5
A
11 tricks claimed
E/W +150
3

11 tricks were easy: +150.  At the other table, the Bulgarians opened 1 (Precision, 0+) instead of 2 (showing 10-15, 5+ + 4cM), presumably because the clubs were so weak.  West bid 2 (4+, GF).  East splintered in diamonds and the pair chose game in clubs to win 6 IMPs for BULGARIA.

After a partscore push, both sides reached an excellent game:

West
9
KJ
K32
AJ109642
East
K102
AQ8763
Q6
Q8
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
2
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

South's 2 showed the other 2 suits.  After South led the K, Levin won, unblocking the Q.  Both defenders followed to the K, and North played the 10 underneath the J.  Levin overtook; when trumps split, he had all the tricks.  At the other table, declarer played low on the second round of trumps and led a diamond to the queen. The defense was able to cash its two aces to win 2 IMPs.

On the next board:

East
QJ8654
J
4
A10843
W
N
E
S
P
3
3NT
P
P
?

Both Easts preempted 3 in 2nd seat favorable and saw a 3NT overcall come back to them.  Would you bid on or defend?

East
QJ8654
J
4
A10843
W
N
E
S
P
3
3NT
P
P
?

Levin passed; Karakolev bid 4, which resulted in a final contract of 4-X.  The full hand:

West
10
AQ10743
98652
2
North
K97
865
Q103
QJ65
East
QJ8654
J
4
A10843
South
A32
K92
AKJ7
K97
W
N
E
S
P
3
3NT
P
P
4
P
4
X
P
P
P
D
21
4X East
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
10
7
4
3
1
0
K
2
3
4
3
2
0
A
5
10
5
2
2
1
Q
2
3
K
1
3
1
5
J
9
Q
0
3
2
A
6
3
2
0
3
3
4
8
6
K
2
3
4
4
7
2
5
3
4
4
7
8
Q
8
2
4
5
J
3
6
9
2
4
6
A
9
7 tricks claimed
E/W -500
11

4 doubled was a good save against 3NT making in the other room, 3 IMPs to BULGARIA.

After a couple of overtrick IMPs went to USA 1 in a partscore, the E/W pairs had a chance to bid a slam:

West
AQ8632
95
AK53
Q
East
K9
KQ874
92
AK43

Both tables started with 1 2 2.  The Bulgarian East, facing a limited 1 opener, relayed and didn't like what he heard (likely club shortness), signing off in 4. At the other table, Weinstein's 2 rebid didn't promise 6 but did show at least a decent 5. Levin, sitting East, raised to 3, and Weinstein bid 3NT serious. This gave Levin the confidence that there was enough strength for slam, and after checking on controls and keycards, he bid it.  Slam looks reasonable, and with everything lying well for declarer, it also had the virtue of making.  13 IMPs to the Americans.

Board 24 showcased a difference in preempt style:

West
A98
105
QJ10963
75
W
N
E
S
?

Neither West had a natural weak 2 in diamonds available.  Pass or bid?

West
A98
105
QJ10963
75
W
N
E
S
?

Mihov opened 3, which saw a 3 overcall and a 4 bid from partner., which bought the contract  Weinstein passed, and came back in with a double when the auction went 1 2 3.  This induced Levin to bid 4 as well, so the different openings still led to the same final contract.  With 3 top tricks, the defense established a spade winner before declarer could set up diamonds for down 1 at both tables.  Halfway through the round, the score was USA 1 17, BULGARIA 9.

After an identical 2NT auction led to a push in 4, board 26 was a partscore swing:

West
10432
J853
A85
102
North
Q97
A9742
J109
J7
East
KJ85
K72
KQ9853
South
A6
KQ106
Q643
A64
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
P
2
2
3
3
P
P
P
D
26
3 East
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
3
2
5
2
0
1
K
6
2
7
2
0
2
Q
A
10
J
3
1
2
10
J
A
8
2
1
3
9
4
5
7
1
2
3
J
7
4
A
0
2
4
2
9
J
A
3
3
4
Q
8
4
9 tricks claimed
E/W +140
8

Levin's standard 1 opening gave him another chance to bid, so he was able to show both black suits and find the 4-4 spade fit.  The defense forced the strong spade hand at trick 1, but Levin guessed clubs correctly and was able to use clubs as surrogate trumps to make 3, +140.  

The Bulgarians opened 2, Precision.  Meckstroth's hand wasn't good enough for 2NT, and 2 was the final contract.  Declarer played safe for 8 tricks, 2 IMPs to the Americans.

On board 27, after partner deals and passes and RHO opens 1NT (14-16, or good 14-17), would you act, neither vulnerable, with:

North
AK8732
J107
853
6
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
?

North
AK8732
J107
853
6
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
?

Rodwell overcalled 2, while Stefanov passed. No one else had anything further to say, so the Americans bought the contract at both tables.  

West
Q109
AQ3
A1064
A42
North
AK8732
J107
853
6
East
J54
K54
Q97
Q1093
South
6
9862
KJ2
KJ875
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
27
1NT West
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
4
6
10
0
0
1
A
6
3
5
0
0
2
4
8
9
J
3
1
2
9
A
7
4
0
1
3
2
5
10
K
3
2
3
2
3
10
K
2
2
4
Q
7
9
8
2
2
5
Q
K
A
3
0
2
6
Q
J
5
6
0
2
7
4
2
9
J
3
3
7
8 tricks claimed
E/W +120
10

In 1NT, declared by Weinstein (West), the defense set up spades at trick 1.  Declarer, who started with 6 tricks, played on clubs to set up his 7th and the defense could not do anything as the long spades had no entry.  In the endgame, declarer led the Q off dummy and South covered, allowing declarer to establish another trick in diamonds after he took his 7 winners: +120. 

Rodwell, declaring 2 from the North at the other table, got the lead of the 10: jack, ace, six.  West returned a club to the king, which gave an immediate heart discard. Declarer played three rounds of trumps, West winning, and another club came back.  This allowed declarer to set up clubs by discarding another heart. After guessing diamonds correctly, declarer could reserve his third-round diamond loser for a winning club, so the defense could only take 2 clubs and a trick in every other suit.  Making a partscore at both tables was worth 6 IMPs to the Americans.

The next two boards had critical trick 1 decisions in the club suit:

Dummy
AQ965
Q
653
J1073
North
2
952
J1084
AQ984
East
South
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
2N
P
3
P
3N
P
4N
P
5
X
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
28
6 East
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
3
1

As a passed hand, 2NT showed a 4+-card raise with an unspecified shortness.  3 asked, and 3NT showed a stiff heart.  4NT was RKCB 1430, and 5 was a queen-ask.  After partner leads the 5 (third from even, low from odd) in response to your lead-directing double, how would you plan the defense?

Dummy
AQ965
Q
653
J1073
North
2
952
J1084
AQ984
East
South
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
2N
P
3
P
3N
P
4N
P
5
X
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
28
6 East
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
3
1

The Bulgarian North chose to play A and return a club, hoping for a singleton.  This was not a success:

West
AQ965
Q
653
J1073
North
2
952
J1084
AQ984
East
KJ874
AJ107
AQ
K6
South
103
K8643
K972
52
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
2N
P
3
P
3N
P
4N
P
5
X
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
28
6 East
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
3
A
6
1
1
0
4
K
2
7
2
1
1
8
3
Q
2
0
1
2
A
5
4
10
0
1
3
Q
2
A
3
2
1
4
7
4
5
9
0
1
5
J
12 tricks claimed
E/W +980
7

Declarer won the king, drew trump, and used the lead-directing double to set up a club trick to discard his diamond queen.  Making 6, +980. As the cards lie, the slam goes down if North inserts the 8 at trick 1, because South can't be prevented from scoring the K, but that defense seems difficult to find when the alternative defense of playing for a club ruff doesn't require any further help from South.

At the other table, the Bulgarians conducted a strong club auction (also with a lead-directing double in clubs) to stop in 4.  Looking at just the E/W hands, this wasn't a terrible decision, but 11 IMPs went to the Americans just the same.

The next board saw the Americans in the trick 1 hot seat:

West
North
Dummy
J10872
A5
743
Q76
South
Q954
832
K952
K10
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2N
P
3N
P
P
P
D
29
3NT West
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
6
1

The lead is the 4, and dummy plays low.  What would you play?

West
North
Dummy
J10872
A5
743
Q76
South
Q954
832
K952
K10
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2N
P
3N
P
P
P
D
29
3NT West
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
6
1

South played the 10.  This was also not a success:

West
AK
QJ974
AQ108
J8
North
63
K106
J6
A95432
East
J10872
A5
743
Q76
South
Q954
832
K952
K10
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2N
P
3N
P
P
P
D
29
3NT West
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
6
10
J
0
0
1
Q
6
5
2
0
0
2
4
10
A
3
2
0
3
3
2
Q
6
0
0
4
7
K
4
8
1
1
4
5
7
K
8
3
2
4
9 tricks claimed
E/W +600
6

The 10 blocked the clubs, giving West leave to set up hearts and make his vulnerable game, +600.  Rising king and returning a club, on the other hand, would have killed the heart suit and sent the contract down 2.  At the other table, the Americans stopped in 2, making 2, 10 IMPs to BULGARIA.

An overtrick IMP went to the Americans on Board 30 based on systemic differences that caused 3NT to be declared from opposite sides.  Board 31 was a rare push in down 3 after both sides reached 2 after a notrump opening - spade transfer auction.

On the final board, at favorable vulnerability, both Souths saw:

South
10543
1073
A75
K92
W
N
E
S
1
X
1
?

1 was Precision at one table, natural at the other.

What would you do?

South
10543
1073
A75
K92
W
N
E
S
1
X
1
?

Meckstroth, whose LHO's 1 opener was Precision, advanced 1NT.  The full deal:

West
K
AJ4
KQ862
10764
North
A87
K92
1094
AJ83
East
QJ962
Q865
J3
Q5
South
10543
1073
A75
K92
W
N
E
S
1
X
1
1NT
P
P
P
D
32
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
10
J
5
2
0
1
3
7
Q
4
0
0
2
8
9
6
A
3
1
2
9
4
J
Q
2
1
3
5
3
J
K
1
2
3
3
5
K
6
3
3
3
2
7
A
2
1
4
3
5 tricks claimed
N/S -100
7

The defense set up diamonds with the opening lead.  After losing a finesse to the Q, back came a heart to dislodge declarer's last heart stopper as well. Cashing out before the defense could take lots of winners, declarer played clubs from the top and ended up with 5 tricks: down 2. 

At the other table, Nanev passed.  Opener rebid 1NT, buying the contract.  On defense, the club suit was an open book to N/S.  The 3 was led to the five, nine, and ten.  Declarer won trick 2 with the K, then switched to a diamond to the jack and ace.  South led a heart to the jack and king, and the defense then cashed out: +90 to push against the -100 at the other table.

The final score was USA 1 37, BULGARIA 19 (14.6-5.4 VP).  With 3 rounds to play, both teams would remain over 25 VPs ahead of 9th.  Barring catastrophe on the final day, both are heavy favorites to make the knockout stage.

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