1st European Winter Games by Maurizio Di Sacco

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Coaching a team is a new experience to me, which I am really enjoying, even though I have already lost a few kilos

Lavazza Team
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Montecarlo, Febrery 7, 2016

Maurizio Di Sacco

Maurizio Di Sacco

Coaching a team is a new experience to me, which I am really enjoying, even though I have already lost a few kilos (which I should certainly be grateful for), and eaten all my nails. Believe me, watching is much more stressing than playing.

But having the chance to stay close, and watch the game of some of the best players in the world is something a lover of the game like me can usually only dream of.

My team is Lavazza, one of the most successful of all times, which, thank to the great love of Mrs. Maria Teresa Lavazza for the game,  has been around the world ever since 1969 (the year where the team made its first appearance). Many world champions have been in the team during the so many years, and many youngsters have grown in it to become top guns. It was the case of Norberto Bocchi and Giorgio Duboin, who started when they were barely twenty (they are now just a bit older), and is now the case of Dennis Bilde, the most recent acquisition, and Agustin Madala, who joined the team ten years ago. Both are not thirty yet.

I’ll be offering a report of two entire matches, plus a fascinating hand to start with.

“Agus” is well known to find solutions where nobody else is able to do it, and he proved it once more in the match of the third round against a Dutch team.

The young team Netherland White was a tough challenge for Lavazza. Most of the boards were a push, even though the hands were not at all flat. With Lavazza leading 9-6, the last chance for a swing hit the table:

Bd: 30, Dlr: East – Vul: None

 Q 3
Q J 8 5 
 7 5 4 3 
 7 6 2
9 7 6 
 A 6 3
9 8 2
 A Q 10 8 
K J 8 5 4
 K 9
 A J 6
K 5 4
A 10 2 
 10 7 4 2
 K Q 9 
 J 9 3

The Auction, Open Room:

West North
East South
Duboin Verbeek Bilde Molenaar
1NT Pass
3NT Pass Pass Pass

Close Room:

West North
East South
Nab Madala Drijver Bianchedi
1 Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3NT End

The auction started differently, but the conclusion was the same. To have a chance, the defense has to find the heart lead, and both South duly did it, tabling the seven, whereas a high diamond, the second choice, would have been fatal.

Dennis Bilde

Dennis Bilde

The play proceeded then in the same way: declarer’s A won the trick after a small from dummy and the J from North. Both Bilde and Drijver reached dummy with a club honour to play a spade up, and both South won the J with the ace to continue the heart attack.

To legitimately make the hand, East should now win, but both declarers decided to duck. However, whilst Verbeek simply played a third round of the suit, unerringly Madala led the 5, and the defense was a tempo ahead.

Declarer ducked, but Bianchedi won, and correctly reading his partner’s card as high, went back to hearts. Winning the ace would not have been good either, since the defense could then count on five tricks. 10 well deserved IMPs for Lavazza, and a 19-6 win.

Since I don’t want to be considered biased, I’ll offer you a match that we won, as well as one we lost. I’ll start with the latter, the clash of the titans (or at least of two of the many titans present here) with Zimmermann in the fifth round.

The match started slowly: a flat board was followed by two small gains for Lavazza, who piled up a total of 3 IMPs. Zimmermann took the lead scoring 4 IMP in the following hand, then another flat board. Then the fireworks started.

Bd: 16, Dlr: West – Vul: EW

 A 10 7 5 3
 A Q 9
 K 6
 A Q 4
 K 9 6 4
 —
 Q 10 8 3
 J 7 5 3
 Q J
 10 5 4 2
 J 7 5 4 2
K 6
 2 
 K J 8 7 6 3
 A 9 
 10 9 8 2

Open Room

West North
East South
Duboin Martens Bilde Filipowicz
Pass 1 Pass 1
Pass 1 Pass 2
Pass 2 Pass 3
Pass 4 End

Closed Room:

West North
East South
Helgemo Madala Helness Bianchedi
Pass 2NT Pass 4
Pass 4 Pass 5
Pass 5 Pass 6
Pass Pass
Pass

Martens and Pilipow didn’t even sniff at slam, while Bianchedi-Madala went all the way up to six hearts. The contract is decent, and actually could have been made with a particular good view, and a brilliant ending.

Giorgio Duboin

Giorgio Duboin

Helgemo led a club, which was ducked in dummy and won by East’s king, who played a club back. Bianchedi went on the right track playing a spade to dummy’s ace and ruffing a spade before cashing the K. Here came the fatal move, a diamond to dummy’s king, which, as we’ll see, cut the transportations for the winning line.

What was needed, was to play another heart a trick six for one of dummy’s high honour, then cash the remaining one. Now South can plays a spade to ruff in hand and cashes two more hearts to reach:

 10 7 
 
 K 6
 A 
 K 9 
 —
 Q 
 J 7 
 
 
 J 7 5 4 2
 
  
 3
 A 9 
 10 9 

Declarer now follows up with A and a diamond to dummy’s K, and West is powerless:

Alejandro Bianchedi

Alejandro Bianchedi

If he throws a spade, South ruffs one of those and reaches dummy with A to enjoy his twelfth trick in the suit, whilst if he ditches a club declarer cashes the and his 10 becomes high, with the last as transportation to cash it. A classic trump-squeeze with a rare variation: it acts using as squeezing card a transportation one.

Since Filipow made just ten tricks, Zimmermann scored 10 IMP.

After having scored 1 IMP, Lavazza regained the lead two boards later, when Filipow-Martens had an accident and bid a slam off the diamond control, playing it from the wrong side: a transfer auction left West on lead with A K.

Lavazza extended its lead winning a further overtrick IMP, then came the third failing heart slam of the match.

Bd: 20, Dlr: Ovest – Vul: Both

 4 3
 K 9 7 4
 9 7 4
 10 9 3 2
 Q J
 8 5 3 2
 A 6 5 3
 K 7 6
 A 7
 A Q J 10 6
 K Q 8 2
 A 8
 K 10 9 8 6 5 2 
 —
 J 10 
 Q J 5 4

Open Room:

West North East South
Duboin Martens Bilde Filipowicz
Pass Pass 1 3
4 Pass Pass 4NT
5 Pass 6 End

Closed Room:

West North
East South
Helgemo Madala Helness Bianchedi
Pass Pass 1 3
4 Pass 4 Pass
5 Pass Pass End

Six diamonds from East is where you would like to be, but it is indeed very hard to get there, and six hearts is, once more, not such a bad spot. However, the cards did not cooperate, and Zimmermann had the last laugh. The 13 IMP gave it a 28-17 win, which translated to 13.72-6.28 VP.

Agustin Madala

Agustin Madala

My last offer for the day is the match of the eight round, versus another powerful team, Mahaffey, which fielded the Polish Bermuda Bowl holder Gawrys-Klukowski, and the French stars Bessis-Volker. One veteran (Gawrys won the Olympiads in Seattle in 1984), and three young ones: Klukowski is barely twenty, Volker twenty-eight, and Bessis is just over thirty. Very promising for bridge.

The match was fought hard, even though looking at the scoreboard you wouldn’t believe it: eight boards ended up in a push. However, at least three of those were very honorable ones, including a slam and a grand slam missed by many at other tables. In the two remaining hands, only Lavazza scored.

The first blood was spilled on board twelve, thank to a Bianchedi’s brilliancy on one side, which combined with a Bilde’s good guess on the other .

Bd: 12, Dlr: West – Vul: NS

 J 9
 J 10 3
 K 5 4
 K J 6 3 2
 A 8 6
 A K 8 4
 J 9 8 7
 9 5
 5 2
 9 7 6
 A Q 6 2
 A Q 7 4
 K Q 10 7 4 3 
 Q 5 2
 10 3 
 10 8

Open Room:

West North East South
Duboin Gawrys Bilde Klukowski
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 2NT Pass
3 Pass 3NT End

Closed Room:

West North
East South
T. Bessis Bocchi Volcker Bianchedi
1 Pass 2 2
Pass Pass 3 Pass
3NT End

In the Open Room, the first one to shine was Klukowski, who kept silent all the way, and then tried to deceive declarer leading the 4 away from his holding. Bilde withdrew his ace for two rounds, then won the third and presented the J to North’s king and his ace, before ducking a heart to North, which led a club.

Norberto Bocchi

Norberto Bocchi

With no other options available, the young Danish finessed the queen, then played a heart to dummy’s king and cashed the ace being relieved at the sight of the suit splitting 3-3. Not needing anymore four diamonds tricks, Bilde simply played a diamond to his queen to not risk South winning and enjoying his spade winners, and was rewarded with an overtrick.

In the closed room, Bocchi led the J, and when Bianchedi overtook, Bessis ducked. Here came the sting: South tabled the Q!

West won and duly led the J to North’s K and dummy’s ace, then played the 9 and let it run. North played back a second spade. Declarer won, but uncertain about the heart situation finessed the 9, and the roof fell in. -3, and 11 IMPs to Lavazza.

Two boards later, 10 IMPs more rolled in, and once more thank to a 3NT made on one side, and not on the other. This time, was Bocchi who showed his skill, sparing himself a guess that Gawrys got wrong.

Bd: 14, Dlr: East – Vul: None

 Q 7 4
 A 6 2
 A K Q J 5
 8 7
 8 6 2
 K J 7 3
 8 4 3 2
 Q 5
 A 10 9 3
 9 4
 10 9
 A J 6 3 2
 K J 5
 Q 10 8 5
 7 6
 K 10 9 4

Open Room:

West North East South
Duboin Gawrys Bilde Klukowski
Pass 1NT Doblo 2
Pass 2 Pass 3NT
End

Closed Room:

West North
East South
T. Bessis Bocchi Volcker Bianchedi
Pass 1NT Pass 2
Pass 2 Pass 3NT
End

Both East led an encouraging club, and both West won and played back a discouraging spade. Here the path diverged. Bocchi put up his queen, ensuring transportations to dummy, and once East ducked, simply played a club towards dummy’s king to add to nine tricks. Gawrys, instead, ducked from hand, and so did Bilde. When the Polish played a diamond to his hand, and a club toward the king, Dennis Bilde won the ace and played back a small spade, putting declarer to a test which he did not pass. He ducked, but this way was never able to enjoy the §K. The match ended 21-0 for Lavazza, 16.18-3.82 VP.

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