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2018 Summer NABC: A Sin without Sinners

The team of Piotr Gawrys, with Geir Helgemo, Tor Helness, Michal Klukowski, Franck Multon, and Pierre Zimmermann, won the Spingold Trophy defeating in final Andrew R. Rosenthal’s. The runner up lined up Migry Zur Campanile, David L. Berkowitz, Eldad Ginossar, Aaron Silverstein, and Chris Willenken. The final result was 131-98; the segments scored 32-7; 19-18; 23-40; 57-33.

The final started badly for Rosenthal. In the very first hand of the first segment, Franck Multon had:

♠K10  AQJ109743  A  ♣107

That is to say, one of those hands in which the opener regrets that he’s not playing Strong Club: the one level opening was at stake of general pass, whereas 2♣ required less losers (he has five or little less; until better news, he can’t rely on entries in dummy to finesse). Multon opened 2♣, the lesser evil. This was the deal:

The auction. Love all; dealer West

The contract was losing, but the lead was diamond, not club, thereby giving declarer the time to establish the spade queen by a finesse to jack, throwing the club loser. The hearth of the matter is: did Migry’s double forced the club lead – and Berkowitz disobeyed – or just did she show her best minor? During the Vugraph in BBO, a journalist and strong player told me:  Berkowitz seems to have made a serious mistake. He was warned not to lead a diamond, by Mig’s double of clubs. Should she have doubled clubs? That is a different story, though it turned out to the right thing to do.

In my opinion, however, none of the protagonists of this story made a true mistake. The reading of the hand must start from a general consideration on leading and on the Conflict between the Economy of Honours and Time Factors; these terms come from the Red Book of Ely Culbertson.

Against the small slam, the time factor must prevail: “BE BOLD”, advised the same Culbertson in another book, his 1935’s Encyclopedia. The case letters are in the text. He wrote: hold that opponents aren’t dabblers, and that they will not lose two quick tricks on the lead. Also hold that declarer doesn’t have twelve tricks; if we think that he has, let’s spare time and concede the contract. Don’t lead trump; if there’s a drawback in the trump break, it must remain a surprise to be discovered by declarer as late as possible. Don’t lead the opponent’s side suit: that is the one that declarer must establish. Don’t lead in a suit were they could have a singleton, as defenders need two tricks, and there aren’t but one, if there is one. The suit which remains is the one to lead at.

In Multon’s slam, from leader’s standpoint, spade seems to be the side suit; then, is it diamond or club the singleton’s to avoid? Before to see the way the double at club helped or mislead the leader, let’s note that East’s redouble showed ace or void. In the former case, Migry’s double wasn’t lead directing, or, at least, could be a suggestion, not an order; in the latter case, despite her ace, Migry’s double shouldn’t be obeyed: there isn’t snowballs’ chance in hell.

However, did Migry really give an order? It is at least a rare case, I suppose, a command to partner, leading against slam, to land onto not an ace or void, not a king or singleton, but onto a queen; then, let’s read the same story from Migry standpoint. She, world champion, knows the Economy vs Time issue on leading, and that against the small slam the latter factor usually prevails. Thus, in my opinion, her double only informed the partner that, although the two minors were comparable for the time factor, they weren’t for the economy one.

Back to Berkowitz’s considerations: Partner has club support; this notwithstanding, because the leader’s KQJ holding, the economy factor still suggests diamond. The Time factor also suggests diamond, because partner’s diamond are equal or less than club, thus the singleton in opponents’ hands is more possible in club than in diamond.

All in all, all deserved the acquittal, apart a penance to Multon and Zimmerman for not playing Neapolitan Club.


Paolo Enrico Garrisi


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