2nd European Open Bridge Championships Page 6 Bulletin 8 - Saturday, 25 June 2005

The Mixed Pairs Final, Session 2

by Jos Jacobs

Halfway through the Mixed Pairs Final, the Helness couple from Norway were leading the field with a small margin over Sylvie Willard and Hervé Mouïel from France and a relative big margin over the rest of the field. So an eventual win by one of these two pairs was in the air and therefore the Bulletin team split up to watch at both their tables. The French did not have a particularly good start, but the Norwegians, after their first 10 boards, looked almost sure of achieving a remarkable double after their win in the Mixed teams the day before.
A fair share of luck and good play is all you need to win a pairs event. Below, I will present some of the boards played by the winners in the order they had to play them. This not only seems logical, but as we shall see there is also a very special reason for it.
Board 19, the third board played at the Helness table, was typical for their combination of luck and good bridge.

Board 19. Dealer South. E/W Vul.
  7 3
Q 8 4 2
K 10 4
A 10 5 4
K 10 5 2
10 9 7
J 5 3 2
J 2
Bridge deal J 6
K 6 3
A Q 8 7 6
K 7 3
  A Q 9 8 4
A J 5
Q 9 8 6

West North East South
Jansma Helness Arnolds Helness
Pass 1NT 2 Pass
3 Pass Pass Dble
All Pass      

Their luck of course was that Jansma made a rather adventurous raise, and the good bridge was that Gunn Helness reopened with a double happily converted by Tor.
On a club lead to the ace and a heart return, down two was nearly inevitable when Arnolds put up the king to lose three quick heart tricks. Probably she had to, as the difference between –200 and –500 would have been marginal anyway. Needless to say that 500 was worth all the matchpoints.
In the next round, they inflicted another penalty upon their vulnerable opponents:

Board 22. Dealer East. E/W Vul.
  8 7 6 2
K Q 8 7
J 9 8 7
A K Q J 5
9 6 4 2
8 3 2
Bridge deal 9 4 3
J 10
K 4 2
Q J 9 7 4
A 5 3
A Q 6 5 3
K 10 6 5

West North East South
Trapani Helness Popa Helness
    Pass 1
1 Dble 2 3
3 Dble All Pass  

Once again, Tor did not bother about a possible game or even slam (yes, it makes!) but went for the sure plus against his vulnerable opponents. He led the A and immediately shifted to a trump to ensure three undertricks and +800 for 47 m.p.
On the following board, we saw a remarkable effect of opening four-card majors:

Board 23. Dealer South. All Vul.
  J 4 2
Q 6 4
J 9 6
9 8 4 3
10 9 8 5
K 7 5
A Q 10 3
7 6
Bridge deal K 6
10 9 8
K 7 5 4
A K J 10
  A Q 7 3
A J 3 2
8 2
Q 5 2

West North East South
Fantoni Helness Scalamogna Helness
Pass Pass 2 All Pass

It’s as easy as this: if South opens 1, as would happen at many tables, EW can never end in 2. It may be true that East has a difficult decision about how to reopen, but South’s systemic 1 made it almost impossible for her to find a double or a 1NT balancing bid.
This way, the Helness couple score another 40 m.p.
Over now to a zero for the Helness couple, a plain a zero as I have ever seen and a fully unjustified zero too:

Board 3. Dealer South. E/W Vul.
  8 7 5
J 8 6 4 3
K 10
Q 10 8
A K 4
A K 9
Q 9 6 4 3
J 5
Bridge deal 10 3
10 2
A J 8 7
A K 9 7 3
  Q J 9 6 2
Q 7 5
5 2
6 4 2

This board was the 13 th board played by the Helness couple in the afternoon session and look at what happened:

West North East South
Wladow Helness Nehmert Helness
1 Pass 2 Pass
2NT Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass 4 Pass
4NT Pass 6NT Pass
7NT All Pass    

Though this bidding does not seem to make any sense at all when you see the cards, this is by no means true. Pony Nehmert was kind enough to explain to me what really had gone wrong. She and Dr. Wladow are playing Precision, so until 3 everything was according to system. The problem arose from the 4 bid: this was RKC for one of the bid suits, but Pony was unsure if it was the first or the second agreed suit. Her 4 then showed 3 keycards for one of the minors as trumps. To end the auction she next decided to go all out to 6NT over the further inquiry (4NT), but Wladow was not to be content with it and raised to the grand.
Tor Helness led the 3 and then the director was called. He removed the board from the table and summoned the players to play the next board first.
After the completion of board 4 the TD came back and next ordered the dummy, Nehmert, to come over and play the hand! What had happened? Wladow thought he would be dummy and had exchanged hands with Gunn Helness, his screenmate.
So it was now up to Nehmert to show her ability in finessing. She won the heart lead, played a diamond to the ten and jack, followed by the A felling the king. After the run of the diamonds and the A her next move was to run the J. When this held, an unlikely grand slam had come home for all the matchpoints (no doubt about that!).
It also turned the tide for the Helness couple. From that moment on, their luck seemed to have left them almost completely until near the end.
At their penultimate table, this was the second board:

Board 14. Dealer East. None Vul.
  9 8 6 2
K 7
Q J 10 8
J 5 2
A J 10 5
6 4
A Q 10 8 7
Bridge deal A 10 5 4
9 8 6 3 2
K 9 4
  K 7 3
Q 4
A K 9 7 5 2
6 3

West North East South
Golebiowski Helness Zalewska Helness
    Pass 1
1 1 2 Dble
3 All Pass    

Finally, their luck had come back when their opponents voluntarily missed a game. The real reason to include this board in this report, however, has to be found at another table:

West North East South
Versace Berendregt Cuzzi Chorus
    1 1
2 4 4 (?!) All Pass

As South told me: “I went down five smiling all the way, and it was contagious too, as Alfredo eventually joined in the laughter.” Anyway, 38 m.p. for NS on the board, the last of the tournament at this table.
The Helness couple needed a reasonable final table, so it proved, to win the event. They had a chance to do very well on the first board of the two:

Board 15. Dealer South. N/S Vul.
  10 5 3
K 10
Q J 10 9 2
A K 4
A 7 5
K 6 2
8 6 5 3
Bridge deal Q J 9 7
Q 9 4
9 8 4
A 7 4
  8 6 2
J 8 6 3 2
10 7 5 3

West North East South
Svendsen Helness Thoresen Helness
1 Pass 1 Pass
1NT All Pass    

North leads the Q and your K wins. What next? Taking the bidding into account a diamond shift is far from obvious, but does a heart shift make sense?
If you play a diamond you get 37 m.p. for defeating 1NT. Returning a heart only scores 20 m.p. as it allows the contract to be made. At our table South played a heart and thus missed the chance to settle the issue with one board to play. The last board was no disaster for them either, so they had managed to perform a very fine double indeed! Congratulations again to them!

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