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A Taste of Junior Bridge: The White House Finals 2017
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On the 27th-31st March, 24 junior teams from 17 countries met in Amsterdam to compete in the White House 2017, the annual open junior tournament hosted by the Netherlands. 

It started off with a pleasant 110 boards to determine the top 12 teams who would then play another 60 boards in hopes of finishing in the top 7. Meanwhile the bottom 12 teams had to play 60 extra boards with only 1 spot up for grabs. After a gruelling 170 boards only 8 teams remained and knockout was the name of the game with top seeds choosing their next opponents and a ½ imp advantage.

But this didn’t seem to help them. Seed 2 was eliminated in the quarter finals and seed 1 was eliminated in the semis. The 2 teams left standing were Netherlands White and Poland. Poland, making it all the way from the losers' bracket. At 11:00 on 31st March, the two teams faced over 42 boards to determine the winner.

West
973
Q
85
AKJ10762
North
AJ8542
J8
K103
Q9
East
Q6
A54
AQJ64
853
South
K10
K1097632
972
4
W
N
E
S
 
1N
2
2N
P
3
P
P
3
P
4
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X East
NS: 0 EW: 0

On this deal from the first set, Netherlands pulled off a psychological coup. Initially West was happy to play in 3 over their partner's 1NT opening but when the opponents came back into the auction and bid to 4, West chose to sacrifice in 5. North doubled and partner held the damage to a minimum when they led the K, holding the contract to 11 tricks and -550.

Keeping the auction going in the pass out seat, only to see the opponents bid and make a doubled game can’t be good for morale but NS didn’t have to feel too bad. In the other room their teammates had them covered.

The Polish pair in the other room had a mostly uncontested auction to 6 after South bid 2 over 1. North was on lead this time and (obediently) led a heart. With the aid of the diamond finesse, declarer made all 13 tricks and with 940 in the bag Poland won 9 imps on the board.

After the first set of 14 boards the scores were 41-39 to Netherlands. Not surprising from a junior bridge event.

In the second set only 52 imps changed hands, with 40 of them going to Poland, giving them a 26-imp lead heading into the final stanza. Was Poland really about to win the tournament, all the way from the losers bracket or was there still some fight left in the Dutch?

West
A8
107643
AJ8742
North
KJ9743
A
K5
AJ87
East
Q106
K985
Q10
10943
South
52
QJ2
963
KQ652
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
X
1N
2
2
2
P
3
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

On this deal, West opened 1 and North, viewing his hand as too good to just overcall, doubled. In view of the double and their soft values, East elected to shade their 4 card heart suit (a decision they likely came to regret). South bid 2 and now North’s double paid off in an unexpected way as this allowed them to find 5.

Against 5 West started with the A and upon seeing the dummy, switched to the 8. Suddenly all the pressure in the world found their way onto the Dutch South’s shoulders. After much soul-searching declarer called for the K and after this successful manoeuvre 5 was an easy make.

In the other room the auction followed a different course.

West
A8
107643
AJ8742
North
KJ9743
A
K5
AJ87
East
Q106
K985
Q10
10943
South
52
QJ2
963
KQ652
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
P
1NT
2
4
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
4X North
NS: 0 EW: 0

Apparently hearts were a taboo subject at this table as well as NS had a relatively uncontested auction to 4. But the auction didn’t finish there as West doubled, possibly as a lightner double. If it was a lightner double, then East didn’t read it as such as they led the Q, unless they thought their partner was playing a very deep game, rebidding their void at the 2 level.

Perhaps West’s double was an action double, telling partner that they wish to sacrifice but giving them the choice to defend. You know, the type of double that usually asks partner to choose between -800 and -790.

Even after failing to find the club lead 4 still went off. West won the opening lead with the Ace and played another. Declarer couldn’t cross to hand to take a spade finesse and ended up leading the K off dummy, thus losing 3 trump tricks. A total swing of 800 points and 13 imps to the Netherlands.

Even after this Poland still held their own throughout the final. With 2 boards to go they were 14 imps ahead. And then this happened:

West
765
75
AKQJ6
Q43
North
Q92
10642
4
AJ972
East
J4
Q93
1087532
108
South
AK1083
AKJ8
9
K65
W
N
E
S
 
1
2
2
P
4
P
4
X
XX
P
4N
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

In the closed room, Poland had an uncontested auction to 4 and made a calm 680. In the open room, the auction was not calm.

West over called 2 and now East had a decision to make. At the table, East passed hoping the opponents wouldn’t realise the extent of their diamond fit but the recommended call is 4. 4 puts south into a position where they can’t really search for slam without going past 4 so it’s your best bet for getting the opponents to play at that level.

Even after passing it was far from clear whether South would make a slam going bid. In the end they made a splinter bid of 4 and North bid 4. This was last train. With no room to cue bid effectively the last bid before game is often used as a general slam try and this was implemented here.

But East was having none of this. It was now the perfect opportunity to break their long silence with a lead directing double on Qxx! South was having none of that! South redoubled and the commentary booth exploded!

Were NS about to play in 4XX for 1880? Were EW about to play in 5X for 1100? Either way, Polish supporters were holding their breath. In the end, North took the redouble out and bid blackwood, settling in 6. Of course, 6 isn’t the best of slams but with Qxx of clubs onside (and the marked heart finesse!) it rolled in for 1430 and 13 imps to the Dutch.

With 1 board to go the Dutch were 1 imp behind (1/2 imp after the carry over) and in the final board they reached the mundane contract of 3 and made 3 overtricks for a 2-imp swing. The venue erupted with cheers from the local supporters and Netherlands were crowned the winners of the 25th Dutch junior tournament.

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