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Talk to Her: Interview to the Ladies of European Bridge

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On the occasion of last European Women Championship (2010’s Ostend) Neapolitan Club interviewed five women: Catherine D’Ovidio (France), Sabine Auken (Germany), Montserrat Mestres Rodriguez (Spain), Gabriella Olivieri (Italy), Elena Mihova (Bulgaria). The singularity of the interview was that we had submitted the same questions and invited them also to discuss the answers of each other.  We propose again here some interesting excerpts.

1. Neapolitan Club: Madames,  you, in West, have picked up these cards:

♠7 ♥AJ1082 ♦K82 ♣KJ94

IMP, All Vul. South opens 1♠; what do you do as West? Please, wait: before to respond, let me tell the entire story for our younger readers.

Canada and Usa was playing the final of 1995 Bermuda Bowl in Bejing. After 89 deals of 160, Canada was trailed by 141-172, still next; in the board 90, West had the above hand. The double could lose a 5-3 hearts fit; 2♥, instead of double, is an hazard: the suit looks inadequate and the hand is too weak. Nevertheless, with the duly help from East, 4♥ look not so far.

Mark Molson, Canada, bid 2♥. The Americans Freeman-Nickell doubled but didn’t find the best defence, then Molson paid -500 instead of -1100.

At the other table, the American Jeff Meckstroth doubled, finding the club fit; then the Canadians Kokish-Silver gave up the double and went on to game, for a net result of five IMPs for Canada.

[By my words from the fine book “Bermuda Bowl best deals”, Brian Senior & Henry Francis, 1999 Five Ace Books].

Now: double, 2♥ or pass? And why?

 Elena Mihova: It’s a tough hand. Double takes third place. I would hesitate between bidding 2♥ and passing. At teams, I probably would choose 2♥. I would take the risk of giving unforced 500 or 800 because I could have a game, especially in hearts, which we could miss if I don’t overcall.

Gabriella Olivieri: I double.

Montserrat Mestres Rodriguez: My bid is Double: I lose the imps in the event that my partner has three cards in hearth, but I won when he has 4 clubs or 4-5 dia, and never I will pay -800.

Sabine Auken: Whether I pass, double or bid 2H depends on what day of the week it is, whether I slept well or not, whether I have a headache or not and whether the sun shines or whether it is raining. And if you show me the whole deal I may be able to figure out, which action would work best, but maybe not.

Catherine D’Ovidio: My preference goes to pass but I think dble is ok. I don’t like 2 hearts.


2. Neapolitan Club: Catherine, the “General approach and style” of your system royally states: “5CM, 1♦ usually 4 unless 4-4-3-2”. In your Convention Card is written that the opening with five clubs and four diamonds sometime could be 1♦ instead of the longer club suit. When and why?

Catherine D’Ovidio: Look at this hand: ªx ©Axx ¨AKxx §Jxxxx

If we open 1§ we don’t any rebid after 1ª response so we decided this sequence ‘can be canape’

Montserrat Mestres Rodriguez: Me too used opening 1 dia with 5 bad club + 4 dia, since the opening of club has very bad rebid.

Gabriella Olivieri: Many open 1♦ with longer clubs, but we cannot. Our system is an artificial one: doing so, we could have problems if the auction would move onward.

Elena Mihova: It doesn’t sound strange to me to open 1♦ with 5 clubs and 4 diamonds. Playing Precision with the same kind of hand we open 1♦. This bid gives the flexibility needed to find a fit at 2nd level in the right suit which is of great importance when the play is at score level. I suppose that for natural bidders it’s more important to show their point range than to show particular distribution, so 1♣ – 1X – 2♦ probably would show stronger hand.


3.  Neapolitan Club: Sabine, you have superbly opened 1♣, saying “Any 16+ High Card Points (HCP)”; West passes, Daniela responses 1♦ (negative), or 1♥ (positive). In either cases, what call do you expect East does?

The duke Mark Horton is journalist, editor of Bridge Magazine, author, bridge champion and chess international master (a drawback in the heraldry are these tedious lists of titles). In his “Defences to a strong club” (1982), the duke Horton says that after North’s 1♦ response, East must be cautious because the opening side hasn’t yet the game visual, then entering the auction could drive to an useless sacrifice. On the contrary – the Duke says – after 1♥ it is advisable to enter, at least for disturbing.

His Majesty, the king Ely Culbertson, denied this. In his Blue Book (1934), he said that after the North’s 1♦ response, East can enter the auction because N-S haven’t enough knowledge of the strength in their line, then they aren’t yet ready for a business double. After North’s 1♥ they can double, then East must be more prudent.

Which one are you according to?

Sabine Auken: I don’t agree with either one. East’s action depends mainly on what hand he/she holds. even though I agree it could be fun to practice some blind bidding once in a while.

Catherine D’Ovidio: I prefer Mark version.

Montserrat Mestres Rodriguez: The opening strong club allows the overcall to a level of one, easily and without risk, I’m in favor of auction, agree with the old school, the law of the early auction is vital in this game.

Gabriella Olivieri: I think that, not vuln against vul, East has good reasons when he dare, but we must remember that any interference gives clues on shape, then it must be carefully valued.

Elena Mihova: I would agree with Ely Culbertson. Direct overcall after strong 1♣ opening is much more effective in disturbing opponents’ bidding. For example, 1♣(South) – 1M – double (GF ot not) – 3M could make South’s live difficult. Interfering with opponents game forcing bidding should be done with a sound suit or when holding good distribution.


4.  Neapolitan Club: Please, Montserrat: how do you use your magnificent takeout double? Michael Lawrence says that the “perfect hand” for the takeout double is a 4441, and that with such shape eleven HCP are enough for enter any opening at level one.

South has opened 1♥; as West, Lawrence doubles with:

♠A1094 ♥6 ♦K982 ♣K1094: ten HCP by heads and with “body”. Is it enough for you?

Having: ♠6 ♥A1094 ♦K982 ♣K1094, and being vulnerable, would you double an opening of 1♠?

Montserrat Mestres Rodriguez: Sure 10 points and 4-4-4-1 it’s a wonderful take out, when my partner can bid the major at level one. But in second case I’m respectful of the unfavourable vulnerability, if my partner to be auctioned at level two, then I pass and wait for reopen…or not.

 Catherine D’Ovidio: Yes for sure, if I’m not sleeping !

Gabriella Olivieri: it’s a good shape for a double, but it needs at least A K A, then in both cases, as West, I wouldn’t double.

Elena Mihova: My bid depends on two things: whether my partner has passed and which side is vulnerable. With the first hand I will double in most cases. This is quite good 10-point hand. We could find a good spade score or game and even a sacrifice over opponents’ 4♥. With the second hand, I wouldn’t bid if my partner has passed. If she has not – it’s 50/50.


5. Neapolitan Club: Gabriella, your partner has opened 1♦; the Barbarossa doubles – he’s sitting west – you redouble. How strong are you? Are you forcing to game or next, with good 12 HCP at least? Or are you just telling that your side has the majority, with 10 or more? Or have you given up strength redoubles after minors opening, for showing shape and suits?

Gabriella Olivieri: for me and my partner, the redouble is game inviting with support or game forcing without support.

 Catherine D’Ovidio: For us, rdble means 10 HCP and more ; no 5 cards Major

Elena Mihova: Our style of redoubling is to show 11+ points and penalty over at least two suits. It’s not game force except when responder redoubles and follows with a new suit. Redouble means: partner, together we have more than 20 points.

Montserrat Mestres Rodriguez: I play the redouble like most showing a minimum of 10 points without support.


6. Neapolitan Club: Elena, defending suit contracts your priority is Count first, then Suit Preference; there are not Attitude signals, or are by very low priority. Please, explain advantages and negative aspects of this method.

Elena Mihova: The exact style of carding is not of great importance. Of greater importance is decoding these signals and harmonizing the style of the partnership. The main advantage of the carding we use is that it’s easy to deduce declarer’s distribution. Of course, it’s good to know where the honours are but one can infer that from declarer’s play and from partner’s discards.

 Catherine D’Ovidio: We play the same defence and we don’t have any problem about it. Knowing declarer’s shape is for me the most important then you just have to think which honours you need in partner’s hand to beat the contract!

Montserrat Mestres Rodriguez: I like attitude in suit and count in nt.

Gabriella Olivieri: We play two way lead: on King’s lead we show the Count; on other honour’s lead we show Attitude or, with low priority, the Suit Preference. We try to show the count only when it could be useful. In this way, the declarer hasn’t an easy coming in view of our distribution.

 By Paolo Enrico Garrisi, consultancy by Laura Camponeschi

October 15, 2010

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