North American Bridge Championships: Big fourth quarter propels Monaco to Spingold title

This year the Summer NABC was played in Philadelphia from July 12-22 2012. As usual the most important event of the Summer NABC is the Spingold KO Teams and this year 74 teams were part of the show. After a first day of qualifying matches to reduce the field from 74 to 64 squads, the Spingold Knockout Teams got underway led by the top-seeded Pierre Zimmermann: Monaco team, the defending champions. Four days after the top two seeds met in the final: Pierre Zimmerman’s “Team Monaco,” the No. 1 seed and the No. 2 seed led by Nick Nickell. The clash of these two powerful squads was a reprise of the 2011 Spingold final, in which Zimmerman prevailed.

Team Monaco playing with Pierre Zimmerman, Franck Multon, Geir Helgemo, Tor Helness, Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes.

Nickell Team , playing with Nick Nickell, Ralph Katz, Jeff Meckstroth, Eric Rodwell, Steve Weinstein and Robert Levin.

 After the first 48 boards Monaco trailed Nickell by 10 IMPs…when the last quarter begun. The first swing was board 53, in one of the tables: He-He (Helgemo Helness) reached a 3NT contract that Weinsten doubled. The contract is lead-proof and He-he scored 550. In the other table Meckstroth-Rodwell played 2 spades and scored 140. First 9 IMPs for Monaco…

  Board 54: Rodwell opened his hand with a 1NT call, Fantoni showed his heart suit and Meckstroth his diamond suit. Nunes closed the heart game and Rodwell decided to penalize but when his partner prefered to continue showing his spade suit, he prefered diamonds as trumps. The first 4 tricks were for the defense: A and K of spades, a spade ruff and the club ace. Two down.

 On the other table the bidding was:

  Helness opened 1 club, Levin also showed his hearts and Helgemo his diamonds. When Weinstein support his partner, Helness showed his good heart stoppers, but when Helgemo decided to play the game in spades his partner accepted. Of course that the club ace lead defits the contract but Weinstein leaded a heart, and the declarer could get rid of his club looser in a dummy top heart, later he only lost two spades and claimed 11 tricks…he always has 10 tricks with a heart lead. 13 IMPs for Monaco. Boards 55, 56 and 57 were pushes. And board 59 arrives to the table:

 Helness opened 1 diamond, Levin showed his spade suit, and Helgemo Doubled showing the other suits. Weinstein redoubled, Helness passed and accepted the 1NT Helgemo reopening, Levin went for more with a Double and Helgeno asked for help with a redouble…but his partner silently passed…final contract 1NTXX!!!

 Reisig, a BBO comentator wrote: A test of guts 🙂 and Jan Martel de BBO VG operator wrote:

  Levin: «humph» – asks Helgemo about the RDBL – not sure what he said, and Helness: «who knows» 

 Weinstein asks: «am I allowed to know what you thought RDBL was, Helgy?» Helgemo: «takeout for sure» Helness: «I had shown my hand by passing 1spade»

 The lead was ♠Q.  Dinos1 another VG commentator wrote: 1000

 Helgemo played ♠K and Warren Spector wrote:

 warrens:  is it clear that S will win this? and David Burn (dburn) answered:  not entirely, no

 warrens:  I think it’s very reasonable for Levin to duck.

Levin ducked…and the defense lost a trick. Dinos1 wrote: 400.  The declarer continued with a little diamond from dummy, Levin played his ♦9, Helgemo  his ♦10 and Weinstein won the trick with his ♦K, to continue with the ♠10. Now Levin won the trick with his ♠J and continued with the  ♠A, Weinstein discarded the ♣J. Levin tried another spade, and his partner discarded the ♥8. And this was BBO VG dialog:

Vugraphzfv: Levin: «hum» again

reisig: Yes – but 400 is GREAT

dburn: not entirely impossible for there to be a huge accident here

warrens:  not easy for N to discard.

sybarra: and cashing more spades will only squeeze N

dburn: the defenders need to cash diamonds, and neither of them knows it yet

sybarra: no clue how they would know it

Dinos1: if XX was t/o – could West have 3 diamonds?

dburn: North can actually afford a heart, but he doesn’t know it

Levin, with a lot of pressure and trying not to squezze his partner, changed to a ♣…The declarer won in dummy, played a little heart to the  ♥J, cashed the ♥A and when he saw the ♥Q over the table claimed 7 tricks: 4 hearts, 1 spade and two clubs…

reisig: Oops

osvaill83:  -1000 became +760 🙂 what a thriller

Things were very different in the other table: Here N/S played 1NT and didnt have any problem to score +120. Another 13 IMPs for Monaco.

 The rest of the match were a consequence of two major aftershocks after the 1NTXX quake.

Board 59 was a push and board 60 was another two digit swing…Weinstein opened the bidding but let opps play 2♥. In the other room:  Fantoni – Nunes played 4♠ done and 11 IMPs more for Monaco.

 These were the VG comments:

 dburn: Fantoni and Nunes did bid and make 4♠ on 60, so this match is over – well done Monaco
Dinos1: this segment 46-0 so far, really wd

 Boards 61, 62 and 63 were pushes. and before the last board arrived to the screen Jan Martel wrote: Helness: «last board … for the whole tournament»…Levin: «well done, guys, we gave it to you» Helness: «I’m not sure about that … I think it is very close»

 The last board gave another 6 IMPs to Monaco when Nickell played a NV 4♣ partscore and Monaco played and won 5♣.         

And for two consecutive years Monaco managed to win the final of the Spingold to the same team…the  Nickell team…Can it be a curse?