Note: This article by Mark Horton was written before the earthquake that hit Morocco on 8 September 2023.
The World Bridge Championships in Marrakech produced some outstanding and historic performances.
- Switzerland retained the Bermuda Bowl, the first time it has happened since 2003.
- In the Venice Cup, Israel added a new name to the trophy, while Sweden broke the record for the most consecutive wins in a Round Robin.
- Denmark won the d’Orsi Trophy for the second time in four years.
- USA1 just got the better of France in a memorable Wuhan Cup final.
- Paco performed the unusual feat of winning all 10 matches in the Transnational Open Round Robin, but it was Amistad who lifted the trophy.
- Vinciguerra took the BAM.
A tournament like this contains a vast array of exceptional deals. Here are just a few of them:
The Top One
Opinions differ as to what constitutes a brilliant piece of play or defence, but for me, one indicator that something special has occurred is if that result is achieved at only one table.
Welcome to Board 4 from Round 7 of the Wuhan Cup and the match between USA2 and Italy.
Board 4. Dealer West. All Vul.
In the Open Room, North led the ♦️8 against 4 Spades and declarer took eleven tricks for +650.
Alesssandro Gandoglia made the same opening lead as his counterpart. Declarer won and immediately played a Heart to the Jack, which held the trick!
It is hard to blame declarer for what followed. She cashed the ♠️AK, came to hand with a Diamond and played a Heart to the Queen. South won and played the ♦️Q, forcing declarer to ruff. With only one entry to dummy she tried a Heart to the Ace, ruffed a Heart and exited with a Spade, but North won and exited with a Club, South winning and cashing a Diamond for one down – the only occasion across the four events on which fewer than ten tricks were recorded. I’m not saying that’s the most brilliant defensive play I have ever seen, but it’s in the top 1.
Two for the price of One
Because of its never ending complexity, opportunities for brilliant play or defence are frequently overlooked at the bridge table. Here are two such examples from the qualifying rounds:
Board 26. Dealer East. All Vul.
The popular contract on the EW cards was 3 No-Trump. If North is on lead, a Diamond lead will be a killer. If South is first to play, it looks normal to start with a top Diamond (the Ace, asking for attitude for instance). When partner discourages, South needs to find partner’s entry. Clearly a Heart is a killer, but at one table South switched to the ♠️7. When declarer let that run to her hand there were only eight tricks.
Suppose declarer takes the Spade switch in dummy and cashes the Clubs. This will be the position as the last one is played:
Declarer discards a red card and South is in trouble. She must hold on to three spades, and discarding a Heart allows declarer to play three rounds of Spades. However, discarding a Diamond allows declarer to cross to hand with a Spade and exit with a red card – South eventually having to give declarer two Spades, or North having to surrender two Hearts to dummy. A strip squeeze with a stepping stone variation!
Board 11. Dealer South. None Vul.
As you might imagine, this deal was frequently accompanied by a hotly contested auction. For example:
5 Hearts is making so bidding 5♠️ is a good move.
North led the ♣️A, cashed the ♥️A and switched to the ♦️6. Declarer won with dummy’s Ace, played a Spade for the Jack King and Ace and North exited with the ♦️9, endplaying dummy. With no route to hand declarer had to lose a trick to the ♠️10, two down, -300 (as in the other room).
Do you see how declarer could have saved a trick?
After taking the ♦️A, if declarer cashes a second trick in the suit, extracting North’s Diamond and then plays a Spade North will be forced to exit with a Heart, allowing declarer to take the Spade finesse and escape for one down.
A veritable Dentist’s Coup!
Here’s a fine piece of play from the Bermuda Bowl:
Board 26. Dealer East. All Vul.
Mayer started with a 12-14 1NT, and Danny Molenaar’s 2♣️ showed both majors. 3♣️ was a transfer to Diamonds, and Tim Verbeek closed the brief auction with an aggressive jump to the 21 point game.
Verbeek won the Diamond lead perforce with dummy’s Ace and played a low Spade to his Queen. Winning with the ♠️K, Mayer continued Diamonds. Verbeek ruffed in dummy, crossed to the ♥️A and took a winning Heart finesse. He then cashed the ♠️A and ruffed a Spade in his hand. After crossing back to dummy in trumps, Verbeek exited with a Spade, simultaneously establishing the long Spade in dummy and endplaying East to give him his tenth trick with the ♣️K.
Thrust and Parry
This deal from Round 20 might easily have been overlooked:
When partner opens 1♦️ you respond 1NT and then bid 3♣️ over partner’s 2♦️. When partner raises to 4♣️ you decide, despite the void in partner’s suit, to go on to game.
North leads the ♣️2 and this is what you can see:
That’s a very annoying lead, as after anything else you would have been able to pitch a Spade on the ♦️A and give up a Heart, intending to ruff two Hearts in dummy. When you play dummy’s ♣️6 South covers with the ♣️Q. That’s another blow on the same trick, as otherwise you could have played to establish dummy’s Diamonds, perhaps even emerging with an overtrick. Having taken the trick with the ♣️A, do you see any chance?
Chile’s Marcelo countered the tremendous opening lead found by Switzerland’s Michal Nowosadzki by continuing with the ♥️Q! It was brilliant example of avoidance play, hoping that an opponent would hold the ♥️AK but not the missing trump.
This was the layout:
Board 14. Dealer East. None Vul.
The match between Switzerland and USA2 was a classic. When the final session got under way, it did not take long for another special deal to surface:
Board 18. Dealer East. N/S Vul.
In the Closed Room, Kalita opened the East hand 2♥️ and when Moss overcalled 2♠️ Grue jumped to 3NT, scoring +630.
We can be sure about the early part of the auction, but Al Hollander’s notes stop after 3♦️.
East led the ♣️3 and declarer won with the Ace (a far-sighted move) and played the ♦️10. East went up with the Ace and exited with a Club, but now declarer could win, ruff a Diamond, draw the outstanding trump, cash dummy’s ♥️AK, come to hand with the ♠️A and cash the ♣️Q. West, down to ♠️108754 ♦️K, had no answer and when he pitched the ♦️K declarer claimed, +1370 and 12 IMPs.
If East plays low on the ♦️10, West wins and returns a trump. Declarer wins, ruffs a Diamond, draws the last trump with the ♣️J and carefully plays a top Spade followed by a Spade to the Ace. When East discards, declarer can advance the ♥️10 and survive the unlucky Spade break.
What a brilliant piece of play!
Norway was enjoying an excellent fourth session in the Bermuda Bowl final when along came:
Board 27. Dealer South. None Vul.
South started with two rounds of Diamonds and declarer discarded dummy’s ♣️2 as North won and fatally switched to the ♠️8. Declarer took South’s Jack and played a Spade back to the King and Ace. He could win the Spade return and play a Heart towards the ♥️1095, easily emerging with the tricks he needed and +470.
Here South went down what proved to be a much more successful route by rebidding his Clubs. NS sometimes employ 4♠️ as a transfer to RKCB, but North’s response to 4NT looks more like pick a slam. Whatever, the excellent slam was reached and when West started with two rounds of Hearts, declarer ruffed and claimed – a very sweet 16 IMPs.
The WBF in Majorelle blue
News of 28 July by Léo-Paul Hoffmann.
The 46th World Bridge Teams Championships will be held this summer on 20 August-2 September in Marrakech. In partnership with the Moroccan Royal Bridge Federation, the WBF is organising its most prestigious bridge events on the African continent for the first time in its history.
It is in Mohammed VI’s country that the 46th World Bridge Teams Championships (WTC) as well as the 13th World Transnational Open Teams Championship (WTOT) gathering teams from all over the world will take place. Eight European teams will participate. Registration for the WTOT is made via NBOs.
The WTOT will be organised during the second week and allows for a greater diversity among the teams. Its transational aspect is precisely what makes the game interesting. Players with different cultural backgrounds have to agree to play at the same pace and avoid mistakes.
Several renowned tournaments are scheduled. The Bermuda Bowl, which has existed since 1932, is seen as the Holy Grail by bridge players. So far, France got 11 medals in this competition. Another event is the Venice Cup. This tournament is for women only and has already been won by the French twice since its creation in 1974. There is also the d’Orsi Trophy, a big event for seniors.
And to close the competition, the Wuhan Cup launched in 2019 will be back in the Mixed Teams category. Reigning champion, France won the 2022 edition thanks to Bénédicte and Philippe CRONIER, Vanessa REES, Pierre SCHMIDT, Lionel SEBBANE, and Joanna ZOCHOWSKA.
Surrounded by the Atlas Mountains
Bridge addicts can expect fierce competition, passionate discussions and exciting games again. All this in the idyllic surroundings of Marrakech. Because lots of activities will be available to clear one’s mind there. Located at the base of the Atlas Mountains, the city offers many hiking routes to its visitors. No light pollution around, the starry sky will leave any hiker speechless. But be careful of the weather that changes rapidly in the desert, one can be easily surprised. Temperatures get high during the day but can drop very fast once the sun goes down.
Going hiking is not the only activity possible. Indeed, bridge players who can’t stand the Moroccan heat or sun can get a bit of fresh air at the aqua park “Oasiria” or even have a swim in Ouzoud waterfalls. Located in the Atlas mountain range, these waterfalls are a must-see to discover the natural environment of the area.
For those who are more attracted by cities, the city centre offers a whole range of activities and places to visit. The Majorelle Villa, known worldwide for its Moroccan inspired gardens dominated by the blue colour, is at the heart of the city centre of Marrakech. The medina (which means “old area”) is an inevitable stop for tourists. Its timeless architecture gives substance to the thousand-year-old city.
Very close to the medina souk you will find the Bahia Palace, built by the powerful and wealthy Vizier Si Moussa. Previously owned by the sovereign, the Bahia Palace is completely open to the public, unlike the Royal Palace, King Mohammed VI’s current residence. The city counts a lot of museums. Just a few steps from the Bahia Palace is the Dar Si Saïd Museum. Specialised in Moroccan art, it is reminiscent of a Thousand and One Nights fairy tale. Next to it is the House of Photography with its collection of testimonies and photos illustrating the Moroccan contemporary history.
From 20 August bridge players from all over the globe will gather in Morocco to play cards, but also to have something a little out of the ordinary and discover new landscapes and culture. The Palais des Congrès is close to the most impressive activities offered by the city, which will help our champions recharge their batteries while on a break. Meanwhile, they can play bridge from home with their next destination in mind: Marrakech.
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