Bridge World Extra! Newsletter
Bridge World Extra! Newsletter

CHALLENGE THE CHAMPS

Challenge the Champs is a continuing bidding battle in which leading pairs compete, bidding deals from actual play (taken from old tournament reports or submitted by readers). Awards assigned to final contracts are estimates of the matchpoint expectancy on a 12 top in a strong pairs contest. An award encompasses all unscored lower contracts in the same strain (e.g., the award for three spades also applies to two spades if that is not separately marked).

PETER BOYD and STEVE ROBINSON
vs.
TONY SOWTER and HENRY BETHE

Our Champs are Peter Boyd and Steve Robinson, then holders of the Rosenblum Cup, Reisinger Cup, and Vanderbilt Cup. They use a standard base, with several regional gadgets popular among experts from the Washington D.C. area: strong notrumps with transfers and Puppet Stayman; five-card majors with forcing notrump and very strong two-over-one; artificial two-club rebid by opener in suit-over-suit auctions.

The Challengers are a pseudo-British pair: Tony Sowter, author of several books, British international, and, believe it or not, a very good player in spite of his being a bridge-magazine editor (of International Popular Bridge Monthly); and Henry Bethe, who, before his company sent him on a tour of duty to the U.K., was one of the top American players (he appeared in Challenge the Champs in an earlier year). The Challengers also use a standard base with pet methods grafted on, but their methods are almost entirely different from the Champs': strong notrump with a form of Stayman leading to relay sequences, weak jump responses, and a collection of wild multi-way two-bids.

West dealer
Both sides vulnerable

WEST
S K
H A J 8 7 5 2
D 9
C A K 8 7 3
EAST
S A 9 6 4
H --
D A J 7 6 5
C 10 9 4 2
Boyd
1 H
2 C
3 H
4 D
4 NT
Pass
Robinson
1 S
3 C
4 C
4 S
5 C
Sowter
1 H
2 C
3 C
4 D
4 NT
Pass
Bethe
1 S
2 D
4 C
4 H
6 C

The Champs' auction, in which West thought four diamonds was Kickback (asking for key cards with clubs trumps) while East thought otherwise, raises a point of theory. Normally, a bid is not ace-asking if it would have had that meaning earlier and no significant information was passed in the meantime. Here, East's interim action was a signoff at four clubs, but West did learn that East was short in hearts.

The Challengers were closer to seven than to five after Bethe, East, took a series of aggressive views. First, he deemed his hand too strong for a raise from two clubs to three, so he used the fourth suit to show strength. Later, he accepted Sowter's general slam-try because of his good controls.

Awards:
6 C 10
5 C 8
7 C 3
4 H 3
3 NT 3

North dealer
North-South vulnerable

WEST
S K 10 8
H 8 5 3 2
D 9 3 2
C A J 4
EAST
S J 5 3
H A Q 9 7
D A K Q 7
C 9 3
Boyd
--
2 C
2 S
Pass
Robinson
1 NT
2 D
3 H
Sowter
--
Pass
Bethe
1 NT

Notrump ranges had a significant effect on the results when this deal was originally played (in the 1985 Epson teams). The same proved true in our match.

For the Champs, Boyd, West, thought his hand was strong enough to invite a game opposite his partnership's notrump, despite sterile distribution and an unpromising long suit. His two clubs was Puppet Stayman, for the moment asking for a five-card major; two diamonds denied one. Two spades turned two clubs into a routine Stayman inquiry, revealing responder's interest in hearts (two hearts instead would have shown spades; with two four-card majors, responder would have rebid in notrump). Three hearts was a "raise," and showed a minimum.

The Challengers' notrump range is lower, starting at 14 HCP, hence Sowter's pass.

Awards:
2 H 10
1 NT 7
3 H 6
2 NT 4
3 D 3
4 H 2
3 NT 1








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