The Battle of Atlanta

NABC Atlanta

The NABC, organised by the American Contract Bridge League (ABCL), will be held from 23 November to 3 December. For the occasion, this article will be updated regularly to keep you informed about the rest of the competition. Don’t hesitate to come back to this article!

Sommaire :

“Georgia on my mind”*

*Reference to the famous Ray Charles song

Article of 23 November 2023

The ACBL organises three big events every year: the Spring Nationals, Summer Nationals and Fall Nationals. In each of them, avid players from all over the world find some main pairs and teams events and then there are several side events for players who have been knocked out of the big ones or who prefer to play only in the “small” ones.


Atlanta, the capital of the US State of Georgia, last played host to an NABC when it staged the 2018 Summer event.

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind described in detail the burning of the city on November 15, 1864, by Northern forces under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman. The premiere of David O. Selznick’s famous film adaptation of the book took place in Atlanta on December 15, 1939.

Bank of America Plaza 

Atlanta derives its name from that of the Western and Atlantic Road, which was one of the many railroads that converged on the city, and transportation has played an essential role in the maintenance of its position as a national industrial centre ever since.

The Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is renowned as the busiest in the world by passenger traffic, a title it has held almost without interruption since 1998. The influx of thousands of bridge players from across North America, and around the world will contribute in no small part to the maintenance of that record.

The major championships at the fall classic commence with the Soloway Teams, which last year went to Simon Cope, Kevin Rosenberg, Finn Kolesnik, and Ishmael Del’Monte and the Nail Life Master Pairs where the holders are Kevin Dwyer and Shan Huang.

The venue for this year’s fall NABC is the Marriott Marquis. Its conference facilities offer space not only for all the tournaments but also for meetings and seminars like a workshop for teachers and beginner’s lessons.

The Millennium Gate Museum Atlanta

Make no Mistake

Article of 7 December 2023

The Soloway Knockout attracted 62 teams who played two qualifying sessions under the Swiss system to determine the 32 that would contest the knockout rounds. Seeding for the KO phase was a combination of how each team performed in the round Robin with seeding points that were assigned to each squad at the beginning of the contest (based on the experience and records of the team members).

Although the squad led by Laurence Leibowitz (Adam Grossack, Zachary Grossack, Michael Rosenberg, Agustin Madala and Dennis Bilde) finished third in the round Robin, their assigned seeding points boosted them to the number one position for the KO phase.

Make no Mistake

The early rounds of the Soloway Knockout Teams featured several testing deals that defeated some of the world’s best players.

Board 3 Dealer South. All Vul.

Open Room

2♦: transfer.

East led the ♥10 but declarer won in dummy and played on Spades, East taking the second round and switching to a Diamond. West won and played a Club and when the defenders played three rounds of the suit declarer emerged with an overtrick, +140.

Closed Room

2♦: transfer

North found the only lead to keep the defenders in the game by selecting the ♦3. Declarer won in dummy and ducked a Spade, North winning and continuing with the ♦8. Declarer took that in dummy, cashed the ♠A and ruffed a Spade, North pitching the ♥7. The ♣10 was covered by the king and ace, declarer ruffed another Spade and ran the ♣9 for 11 tricks, +400, recovering 12 IMPs.

Did you spot North’s missed opportunity?

On the third round of Spades, he must discard a club! Declarer can come to hand via a Club finesse and ruff another Spade, but now North discards his remaining Club and will be able to score a Club ruff.

Board 9 Dealer North. E/W Vul.

Open Room

1♣: + 2♣, 11-14 points or 14-16 points (5♥/♠) or 11-22 unbalanced.
1NT: Game forcing relay.

North led the ♠7 to dummy’s King, won the next trick with the ♣A and exited with the ♥5. Declarer cashed the ♣J and took three more rounds of the suit, pitching Diamonds. Two Hearts ending in dummy were followed by the top Spades. Declarer played dummy’s ♦7 for the nine (drum role)….Queen and King. Two down, -200.

I leave you to decide how declarer should interpret North’s failure to switch to a Diamond at trick three, which would have broken up the impending squeeze.

Closed Room

1♣: Strong.
2NT: 14+ balanced.

North led the ♣10 and declarer won with the Queen, played a Spade to the King and a Club to the Jack and Ace. Back came the ♥3, keeping declarer in the game. He won with dummy’s King, cashed the Clubs, South astutely pitching the ♦8 on the first of them, took two Hearts and the top Spades before taking the Diamond finesse.

As Al Hollander remarked, it was a pity we only got to see this deal twice.

Board 60. Dealer East. None Vul.

Open Room

North led the ♣6 and declarer won with the ace, cashed the ♠A and played the ♦7, North taking the Ace and exiting with the ♦4, declarer claiming the balance after South had ruffed, +450.

Closed Room

2♣: Strong.
2♦: Waiting.
3♥: Transfer.
4♣: Super accept.
5♣: 4 keycards.

Was 4♥ Last Train, or a fake cue bid?

Whatever, when North led the ♣6 declarer was still in the game.

He won, cashed the ♠A and then played the ♦7, but North took the Ace and returned the ♦3, South’s ruff adding another 11 IMPs to Fleisher’s total.

The 3-0 trump break was unlucky, but as long as the Clubs are not 6-1, declarer can ensure 12 tricks by pitching a Heart on his other master Club, ruff a Club high, come to hand with a Spade, ruff a Club high, play a Heart to the Ace, ruff a Heart, draw trumps and claim.

It was one of the many missed opportunities that both sides had encountered during an always tense encounter that had finally gone Fleisher’s way, 118-86.

The Once and Future Kings

Article of 11 December 2023

By defeating Street 108-23 in the final of the Soloway Knockout, the reigning World Champions Pierre Zimmermann (Michal Klukowski, Michal Nowosadzki, Jacek Kalita, Sebastiaan Drijver and Sjoert Brink) ensured that they would end the year on a high note as they added another ACBL title to their CV, which already includes the Vanderbilt, Spingold and Reisinger.

Most players never experience the fatigue, both mental and physical, that is the inevitable consequence of playing a long series of matches day after day. If you survive to the end, it is almost inevitable that some uncharacteristic errors will start to appear. This deal from the third session of the final illustrates that even these great champions are not immune:

Board 38. Dealer West. None Vul.

West led the ♥Q and declarer elected to win (as the cards lie ducking twice in Hearts is essential) and played the ♦5 for the Queen and King. East continued with the ♥J but when it held he switched to the ♣6. Declarer won with the Ace and convinced the Hearts were 5-2 played the ♠K! East won and exited with the ♣J and declarer had 10 tricks, +430.

‘It’s a funny old game Saint’, as Jimmie Greaves would have said.

East led the ♠A and switched to the ♥2, but declarer could win in dummy, cash two Clubs to dispose of a Heart and then play two rounds of trumps, +400, an IMP changing hands.

The Italian Job

The final of the Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs saw the three pairs that had led the field at the end of the semifinal maintain their positions to the end. That meant a narrow victory for Italy’s Aldo Gerli and Andrea Boldrini their 58.64% and 53.23% sessions ensuring that they just stayed ahead of Tom Townsend and Ben Hadley-Pritchard of the UK and Australia’s Liam Milne and James Coutts. Boldrini was celebrating his first NABC title but Gerli took his total to two, having won the Wernher Open Pairs at this this year’s Summer NABC in Chicago.

Here is a deal from the second qualifying session:

Board 21. Dealer North. N/S Vul.

West led a Heart and East took the Ace and made the natural (but fatal) play of cashing the ♣A followed by the ♣3. Declarer took the ♣K, cashed the ♠AK and then played the ♣10. If West ruffed he would be forced to give declarer an entry to dummy, allowing the losing Diamonds to go on dummy’s Hearts, and discarding was no better, as declarer would ruff, and play winning Hearts, West being endplayed if he ruffed at any point.

Having missed the play of a low Club at trick two, East should have tried dropping the ♠J at trick three! If declarer then leads the ♣10 West can ruff with the Queen and play a Diamond, allowing East to score the setting trick with a ruff. Making 4 Spades was a 95% score.

The Battle of Atlanta

Article of 13 december 2023

The final of the 2023 Reisinger Trophy was a close-run thing, with less than a single board covering the top three teams. When the dust had settled it was Aldo Gerli, Padova (Italy), Alessandro Gandoglia, Rome (Italy), Norberto Bocchi, Barcelona (Spain) and Leonardo Fruscoloni, Brooklyn (NY) whose total of 31.17 was just enough to hold off Nick Nickell, Water Mill (NY), Ralph Katz, Burr Ridge (IL), Geoff Hampson, Las Vegas (NV), Eric Greco, Frisco (TX), Robert Levin, Henderson (NV) and Steve Weinstein, Cedar Grove(NJ) who finished on 30.64, just a whisker ahead of Mike Rippey, Orinda (CA), Piotr Marcinowski, Wroclaw (Poland), Jakub & Patryk Patreuha, Boleslawiec (Poland), Kamil Nowak, Kielce (Poland) and Grzegorz Narkiewicz, Chapel Hill (NC) on 30.48.

Crédit ACBL

When you are competing in a BAM event every deal is a potential minefield, every trick a potential point, so you have to be on top of your concentration at all times. Here’s a sample of the deals the players had to face in the first session:

Board 6 Dealer East. E/W Vul.

Reaching 6 Hearts is a possibility on the NS cards. The layout in the Club suit is such that you are unlikely to go down. Would you overcall 1♠ with the West hand? One player who did found himself in 4♠ doubled, two down for -500 and a loss against the +480 at the other table. The ♣Q had a role to play on this deal:

Board 10. Dealer East. All Vul.

Fleisher lost this board, stopping in 6 No-Trump against the 7 Hearts that made at the other table. If you are going to bid a grand slam then 7 No-Trump is possible – it was the contract at both tables in the match between Marcinowski and Goldberg. This deal from the final session helped the winners on their way:

Board 10. Dealer East. All Vul.

Open Room

North made the well-reasoned lead of the ♥9, but when dummy produced the ♥J, declarer continued with the ♠K and a Spade to the Jack for +710.

Closed Room

(*) 4NT: RKCB.
(*) 5♦: 3 keycards.

When West bid 6♦ he was offering a choice of contracts. South led the ♥5, so the defenders took a trick, declarer naturally playing South for the ♠Q. This was the most exciting deal from the last session:

Board 22. Dealer East. E/W Vul.

How should declarer play a Club contract?

On a trump lead against 6 Clubs, declarer has time in hand and can cash the A♥ and ruff a Heart before drawing trumps. He then has two entries to dummy, one (♦A) to run the ♥Q, the other (♠A) to enjoy the extra tricks for +940. If you are in 7 Clubs on a trump lead, you have to decide if Hearts are 3-3 or 4-2.

If West leads a Diamond, the only way to make at least 12 tricks is to rely on the ruffing Heart finesse – and that gets you all the tricks.

Thanks to his victory in the Reisinger, Aldo Gerli won the Goren Trophy for the most masterpoints won in Atlanta with a total of 456.99. Apart from winning the Reisinger and the Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs he finished fourth in the Mitchell Open BAM and scored points in the Soloway.

After this successful event in Atlanta, we can now look forward to the three Nationals in 2024: Spring NABC March 14-24 in Louisville (KY), Summer NABC July 18-28 in Toronto (ON) and the Fall NABC Nov 28-Dec 8 in Las Vegas (NV).

Winners of the events of the 2023 Fall Nationals in Atlanta:

  • Nail Life Master Pairs : Oscar Nijssen et Luc Tijssen
  • Mitchell Open BAM : Mikael Rimstedt, Shan Huang, Cecilia Dwyer Rimstedt, Kevin Dwyer et Ola Rimstedt
  • Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs : Aldo Gerli et Andrea Boldrini
  • Soloway Knockout Teams : Fernando Piedra, Michal Klukowski, Michal Nowosadzki, Pierre Zimmermann (capitaine), Jacek Kalita, Sebastiaan Drijver et Sjoert Brink
  • Whitehead Women’s Pairs : Shawn Quinn et Nancy Passell
  • Senior Mixed Pairs : Charles Miner et Janice Seamon-Molson
  • NABC Mixed Teams : John McAllister, Sophia Baldysz, Matthew Brown et Lilly Justman
  • Keohane North American Swiss Teams : Leonardo Cima, Giorgio Duboin, Franck Multon, Marc Bompis, Francisco Bernal et Miguel Villas-Boas
  • Reisinger BAM Teams : Aldo Gerli, Alessandro Gandoglia, Norberto Bocchi et Leonardo Fruscoloni

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