Friday, March 26, 2010

Tx is a Stopper

This hand comes from the final of the Vanderbilt KO where at this table Chip Martel and Lew Stansby, 2 long-time American experts, are going against Michel and Tomas Bessis, a father-son pair from Paris. Michel and Tomas are fairly new to the big spotlight in bridge, but this hand helped seal their victory.

Tomas’s youth (and flare) really showed in the bidding as he took a chance on 3NT after a couple of weak responses from partner and lacking a stopper in the opponents’ suit. The whole match was being broadcast online on Bridge Base so I was able to see it from home along with thousands of other people.

Anyway, Martel led the 3 of spades (they lead 5th best) so Tomas was marked with 2 spades. Stansby thought surely one of his spades is the ace so he inserted the 9, losing to the 10. Tomas, now looking at 7 tricks needed something really good to happen to reach 9 tricks so he established a couple of club tricks by playing the AK and then another club, which Stansby won with the K. At this point, he has to figure out what’s going on with the spades. Did Tomas bid 3NT without a stopper or did Martel overcall on a 5 card suit headed by the jack. In the end, he believed the young Bessis and led back a low spade, thinking Tomas’s ace would pop up. This actually blocked the spade suit and allowed the defense to take only 2 spade tricks. If Stansby plays the K of spades, and then a low spade, Martel has 2 more spades to cash and the contract would go down 1.

Sometimes you get lucky and Tomas Bessis certainly did here, the defense would have had to do very well to beat him on the board. Given Martel and Stansby’s system, they could have gotten it right. According to their convention card, they play Smith echo, which means that at your first opportunity, you play a high spot card if you liked the opening lead and a low spot card if you disliked the opening lead. At Martel’s first opportunity, on the second round of clubs, he played the 8 of diamonds, followed by the 6 of diamonds to confirm that the 8 was high. That should indicate that his opening lead was from the ace instead of just the jack.

1 comment:

  1. The fine line between "verve" and "foolishness" is usually drawn by luck.