Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Zia in top form

Did you catch this hand (segment 3, board 12) from the Bermuda Bowl finals - N/S vulnerable, West deals?


The U.S. gained 17 imps over Italy on a double doubled game swing. I saw it played first in the closed room where Meckwell bid to 5♠X, making six for 1050 . It's one of those hands where the underdogs, in terms of high-card points, actually own the hand. In this case, the points are distributed 17 to N/S, 23 to E/W. But N/S can make 6♠ while E/W can make only 4. Thus the par result is 7X by W down three. Meckwell didn't redouble the Striped-tailed Ape double (although I don't really think it was meant as such) but they made 12 tricks easily.

I was anxious to see how events would unfold at the other table. At the start of this segment, the USA (team 2) was 21 imps down, having lost the previous segment 57 to 1! Well, Zia (W) and Hamman bid to 5 and this was doubled by the Italians. The lead was the ♣Q, ruffed by South. This is now the critical moment for N/S. If South takes the obvious action of cashing a high spade, it rectifies the count for a minor-suit squeeze against his partner. The winning defense is to immediately play a diamond, thus setting up a diamond trick (the spade trick isn't going away). Duboin cashed the spade, then switched to the diamond – but it was merely a three-imp error at this point. Zia rose with the Ace, ruffed his last spade and then there was a pause of maybe half a minute or so. During this time it seemed obvious that he'd go down one, and I'm pretty sure the commentators were saying the same thing. Then the result 5X making came up on the screen and the vugraph operator commented "Zia made it on a squeeze against North".

Usually, I'm extremely happy just to find and make a squeeze, but of course at the club it saves time just to play it out. At this level of play, declarer can claim the squeeze after only four tricks and it works just fine. Kudos to Zia!

In this case, declarer runs another four heart tricks and cashes a high club in hand such that his hand is now ♠– 2 5 ♣9 while dummy is down to ♠– J ♣A8. On the play of the last heart, North will have ♠– K ♣JT. Whatever he pitches, will promote a winner in that suit in dummy. It seems to me that he made a slight error at trick one by not unblocking the 9. But I admit I can't see any layout where it would actually cost in this case.

This board helped USA win the set 47-17 which put them back in the lead by 9. The final margin of victory (not vittoria) was 36, including 8 carried over from the round-robin. So the 17 they picked up here was not insignificant!

So, which of the Italians were "to blame" for this result? At the closed table, the double of 5♠ risked a redouble which might have been quite painful but in practice, "only" cost 1 imp. At the open table, I think Sementa (N) overbid his hand when he overcalled 1 with 2♣. I think this suggested (given Duboin's void in clubs) more of a misfit and perhaps an opportunity to punish the opponents, even at red-on-white. Sementa followed this up by passing over 4 in the second round, despite having three-card spade support and a void in hearts (and clearly a more offensively-oriented hand then his first call suggested). After seeing Sementa takeout his double to 4♠, Duboin was ready to pull the trigger on 5, presumably not imagining his partner could have three cards in support.

One final note. Kim and I played a round against Zia and Hamman last fall in Boston. On one board I overbid slightly, ran into a vile distribution and didn't do so well. On the other we defended a partial which Bob Hamman played brilliantly thus earning us a little below average. But I'll never forget the thrill of sitting down against two of the world's best players.

No comments:

Post a Comment