2020. Confined in their respective countries, the champions were deprived of the Vanderbilt, which was to take place in Columbus (Ohio). Paul Street, an American sponsor and captain of a team that regularly includes French champions Thomas Bessis, Cédric Lorenzini and Frédéric Volcker, reacted quickly and created an alternative event, the “Columbus Alt”, with eight high-level teams. It took place over several days, online. The players were delighted, everything going well in a good atmosphere and with confidence. The Lavazza team won this beautifully improvised invitation tournament hands down.
Hand 1: An auction full of twists and turns
► What do you lead as West?
Your marks♥️2 or ♥️10: 100 points
♦️9, ♦️8 or ♦️2: 60 points
♠️4: 40 points
♣️K: 20 points
Be careful, do not think that your opponents are in the middle of a misunderstanding, the North Americans Kranyak and Demuy form a young and talented pair; they certainly often play on the edge, but they know what they are doing. What have you learned at the end of this long sequence? In order to suggest Six Spades without confirmation of a fit, North must have a very one-sided two suiter with seven good Spades, a Club void that he clearly showed with his 6♣️ bid and, as a corollary, a two card Diamond fit. South has a solid Diamond suit (he repeated his suit five times: 2♦️, 3♦️, 4♦️, 6♦️ and 7♦️), a stopper in Clubs and no interest at all in playing a Spade contract. He would have been happy to play 6 Diamonds but certainly not 6 Spades. Voilà. Now you have all the elements, and you are in the seat of Thomas Bessis, firmly convinced that the choice of opening lead will be decisive. To find the right opening lead you have to imagine declarer’s plan and fight effectively against it. Leading the King of Clubs is neutral – not a good idea here. Leading a trump deprives dummy of one of its possibilities to ruff. This trick can make the difference at the time of comparing scores. But the analysis is incomplete. Declarer has a much better plan than ruffing in the short hand: establish dummy’s Spades. If you remember that his trumps are solid and that there is little risk of a trump promotion, he will most probably succeed despite the bad (7-4-1-1) Spade split. In order to prevent that you have to attack his communications and start with a Heart, which Thomas did brilliantly.
The full deal
South’s Club stopper was thin. On a trump lead, South wins, plays a Spade to the Ace and a Spade ruffed high, Club ruff, another Spade ruffed high, and the Heart Ace is still there to get back to dummy and cash the established Spades. On a Heart lead, South can ruff two Clubs, but that is not enough: only twelve tricks, one down.
Information rich. Detailed auctions that lead to game contracts or, especially slams, are always rich in information, so use that to your advantage. Being neutral is not the top priority anymore when you think about the goal of your opening lead.