2013 NEC Cup: The Hand of Yokohama

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18th NEC Bridge Festival – Yokohama City (April 16-21, 2013). The hand we are going to deal with was played in the third round of Swiss Team. Pharon (England, Ireland) was playing against Yoshida (Japan); at board 10th, all vulnerable, the deal was:

Yokohama hand 1

The players in open room were: Jason Hackett, Masaru Yoshida, Justin Hackett, Tina Cho; their auction was:

Yokohama 2

The South’s opening looks normal in these times, however he only has two defensive tricks, one by ace and 0,5 each king, whereas it’s advised to have 2,5 at least. The risk is to be forced to rebid 2 on the responses 1♠ or 1NT, a sequence which might entice the partner into raising too much, relying upon a good hand or a chunky suit at least. The Neapolitan Club and other sound systems have the “constructive” weak two opening, that is in the range 7-12, to contain these hands with long suits but poor defensive strength.

In closed room there were: Kim Sun Young, Paul Hackett, Takeshi Higashiguchi, Tom Hanlon; the auction was different:

Yokohama 3

Here the aggressiveness award isn’t for the Opener but for the Overcaller: the 2o1 overcall with the five card suit usually needs a good suit, AQ432 for example, and good thirteen points. The safe expectancy for the Overcaller is to find in partner zero tricks and two card support, and this notwithstanding to pay -2 vuln or -3 love; the Kim Sun Young’s hand – we rewrite it here: ♠106534 KQ932 ♣KQ8 – might be too much expensive, -800 or even worse.

The lead was K in both tables. In Open Room Justin followed by eight and Cho dulled, executing the Bath Coup; it’s a coup born in Whist era in Bath, in southern England, the thermal town which is the leisure place of the English wealthy society since the seventeenth century (there Catherine, the heroin of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, met her love in a dancing room).

The Justin’s eight on king lead looked high, then encouraging in Manchester’s twins agreements, thus Jason hadn’t way to read the right message: was it from A-8? Or was it from singleton? Or, as it actually was, from the miserable 10-8?

Also it must be noted that West had the nine, so the eight discarded by East looked him the highest of the normal signal card set, 2 to 9; but it was the same changing the nine with one of the Declarer’s smaller cards; in this case the Declarer would have deceived the discard, throwing his highest card to show it to West: “Do you see, darling? Your partner’s eight is right the highest card he has; he strongly want you to continue”. The rule of deceptive discard is as follows: expose the card which in opponents’ agreements would signal what you want for your purposes.

Jason might have shifted to another suit, waiting the partner take the lead and returning diamonds; but not only the partner might have been singleton in diamond, also there was the club problem: K-Q under A-J looks a platform to discard a loser, as it was indeed. So Jason, in West, continued by little diamond, conceding two tricks in the suit and allowing Tina Cho to make.

In closed room, with the same lead, the declarer Tom Hanlon immediately drew the ace; he didn’t make the Bath Coup because the auction: Tom – we guess – having the ace and the knave in overcalling suit didn’t expect it would be only fifth; therefore, from his view point the hand only depended on which side had the trump ace: if East had it, he wouldn’t have been able to give the lead to partner to get the ruff.

After the unexpected diamond ruff, Tom still had the nerves to try the last forlorn chance: a squeeze ♣KQ-♠QJ10, which of course failed. But it’s worthwhile to watch the final that would have been if West had had ♠QJ103 instead of ♠10653:

Yokohama 4

At first sight the squeeze only appears to aim at West because the isolated menace (♣J) lies opposite to the squeeze card, but thanks to the ♠K, a supplementary entry, and to the ♣10, it’s an enlarged “cross heads squeeze” (play the spade ace and it becomes better recognizable in its essential shape), able to aim at both opponents. But it was only theoretical because East couldn’t have had all those points.

The same key card, ♣10, independently from the ♠K, which might even be drawn, allowed to make a yet more elegant manoeuvre, unblocking the club ace beforehand, thus coming to another final:

Yokohama 5

Now the isolated menace isn’t longer the ♣J, which will be discarded on the squeezing card, but the ♣10, and the squeeze becomes automatic, toward both opponents. This is the true Vienna Coup, namely unblocking to transfer the menace.

This hand was outstanding indeed, so much that we think it deserves a name: “The Yokohama Hand”, for example. There are seven great themes inside it:

– The Sound Opening linked to the Constructive Weak Two Opening

– The strength of the suit in the safe overcall and its expectancies

– The Bath Coup

– The Deceptive Play

– Three kind of squeeze in the same hand: left side directed, Crossed Heads, and Vienna Coup.


Paolo Enrico Garrisi


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