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Beijing Hua Yuan Cup World Women Elite Bridge Tournament
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The third “Beijing Hua Yuan Cup World Women Elite Bridge Tournament” took place in Beijing from November 8 to 14. Eight top teams from seven countries were invited. After the team competition, 24 pairs competed in a barometer pair tournament. The participation was very strong; someone counted more than 50 world championship titles among the players. I was – coincidentally – in the vicinity and could, therefore, follow the event.

 The organization and management of the tournament was simply flawless in all aspects: accommodation, catering, time-keeping, playing area and direction. The Chinese organizers not only managed to raise sufficient funds (more than $700,000 according to my calculations) from various sponsors, but they also managed to utilize these funds to maximize the impact of the tournament on bridge in modern China, including media coverage and visits of high-ranking policy makers and sponsors, such as Ms Chen Zhili, former vice-chair of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. But, in my view, the highlight of the tournament was the visit of 70 school children and teenagers to the tournament, the majority of which were girls. But more about that later.

In my view, it is clear that the pair of the tournament was Liu Yan and Lu Yan of the Beijing team. They scored nearly 1.6 imps per board in the Butler (Willard-Cronier came second with 0.4 imps!) and, actually, made very few mistakes. You will see their names popping up again and again below.

Finally, the liaison officer for the US team was Dunga Liu who is already one of the best players in China, barely 30 years old. He is a razor sharp player and analyst; a name to remember. The US team was grateful for his assistance on various issues during the tournament.

 

TEAM TOURNAMENT

The eight teams played seven rounds of 16 boards and the result was

  1. Beijing
  2. Italy
  3. France
  4. Netherlands
  5. China
  6. Indonesia
  7. USA
  8. England

 

First place gave a money prize of $30,000. It is perhaps a sign of the times that the very strong teams from England, China and the US were all in the bottom half of the tournament.

The US team didn’t play all that badly; the flow was simply never with them. Two good examples (both deals were runners-up to the best bidding award). First, we see Irina Levitina and Kerri Sanborn bid with confidence to a vulnerable top contract against France (Cronier-Willard):

 

 

 

West
J1062
J8652
A73
A
North
A53
K4
J864
9432
East
874
1093
K10952
85
South
KQ9
AQ7
Q
KQJ1076
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
1
2
2
2
3
3
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

Clearly, 5C is a great contract as 3NT is down on a diamond lead from east (ducking, of course, the return of the seven on trick two). But four of the five in 3NT made it; only Liu Yan and Lu Yan (Beijing) had the technique to beat it. Apart from Irina-Kerri, only Sun Ming and Wang Ping (Beijing) bid also 5C

The second example is the loss of 11 imps that Lynn Deas suffered for her top quality bidding on this hand:

West
10952
74
K52
J1065
North
76
A1098
J963
972
East
3
K63
Q10874
KQ83
South
AKQJ84
QJ52
A
A4
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

 After Disa’s 4H bid, Lynn knows that Disa has 4+ hearts, no controls in the minors, 5 – 10 hcp and, therefore, one or both of A/K of hearts. If she has both, 7H would make even in most 4-1 breaks. So Lynn checked on the key cards and went to 6H. Needless to say, west led a club and the king was offside. Only two players out of eight went to this slam.

 

The award for best bidding went to Liu Yan and Lu Yan of the Beijing team. Their bidding on this grand slam was simple, clean and practical. Believe it or not, this was the only pair in 7D. After getting the three card support, three cue-bids followed and then Liu had enough to take charge by launching KC and discovering K of clubs on the way. Nice. The hand:

 

West
5
A1092
AKQJ3
KJ5
North
J1097
QJ875
95
73
East
AKQ832
4
876
A82
South
64
K63
1042
Q10964
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
7
P
P
P
D
7 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

On the positive side for the US, Disa got the $1,000 prize for declarer play on this hand. What impressed the panel was not only this non-simultaneous double squeeze but also that Disa found it at the speed of light. At trick 4 she wrote +620 on her scoresheet even before East ruffed her king of diamonds. The deal was against Indonesia:

West
84
AJ
J952
J10765
North
J
KQ10542
AK10
KQ4
East
K97653
763
Q
A92
South
AQ102
98
87643
83
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
1
1N
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 North
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

3H from Disa asked Lynn to select the game. East led her stiff Q of diamonds. Disa played King of clubs, East took it and returned a trump. At trick four, Wang Ping correctly played diamond (any other lead gives Disa easy 10 tricks). It was at this moment that Disa played her King of diamonds and wrote +620 on the score sheet even as East ruffed and played her last trump. Disa’s argument went as follows: I take all my trumps, reducing East to one club. Then I take two spade tricks, via the finesse, reducing West to one club. The 4 of clubs is my tenth trick.  Purists will notice that East can make it more difficult for Disa by playing low on the king of clubs, thereby cutting the link between the hands. However, by finding the J of diamonds, she can still make 10 tricks. As the defence was, Disa didn’t care if her king was ruffed or not: she always had her 10 tricks. Of the three declarers in 4H, Disa was the only one making it.

 

 

Rury Andhani from Indonesia got the medal for this board. The ending is very neat because your natural intuition is to somehow use your two trumps separately but here Rury is collapsing the two last trumps to squeeze east out of any hope. This was against China:

 

West
KQJ9642
1095
5
J5
North
107
76
98643
10432
East
5
K832
J107
AKQ98
South
A83
AQJ4
AKQ2
76
W
N
E
S
1
3
P
P
X
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 North
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

East took only one club tricks and shifted to her stiff spade. Rury took the top three trumps, played her club to weast who took a spade trick and played another one, ruffed by North and, thereby, squeezing East. Throwing the Q of clubs, North took the heart finesse and continued with the 2 of diamonds to the 9 and East has to give up. Very neat. Purists will notice that East can beat the contract by playing three rounds of clubs to begin with, thereby promoting the five of diamonds!

Two safety plays by Fiona Brown (England) received awards. Both should be included in all 101 books on safety plays for beginners in decades to come. Did I write “beginners”? Well, actually Fiona was more or less alone in this group of world class players in finding these safety plays; yet they are both so pure and beautiful in their simplicity. The first one:

 

West
AJ532
K9
7543
96
North
106
J108
J109862
42
East
A76542
AKQJ1075
South
KQ9874
Q3
AKQ
83
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
1NT
P
3
P
3NT
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 East
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

Five pairs were in 6C (Cronier-Willard (France) in 7C and two in 4H). Three of them ruffed the lead and played K and A of hearts and making seven when the heart broke 3-2. But Fiona played the K and small, insuring against the 4-1 break. Her reward: loss of 1 imp. This play was also found by Liu Yan (that Yan name again!). Well done Fiona and Liu Yan.

The second safety play:

 

West
1072
653
QJ862
AJ
North
Q9863
10972
K4
64
East
AJ
AKJ8
93
KQ972
South
K54
Q4
A1075
10853
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT North
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

3NT at all eight tables; three times by West and down in all cases after the spade lead; five times by East, down in two cases. Of the three making it (one of them was Liu Yan (not that Yan name once again?!)), Fiona took the club lead with the Ace, playing A and K of hearts, planning to go to dummy and play a heart towards J8. Not needed as the Q came down. Reward: 14 imps. Nice and pure. I didn’t see how the other two players made 3NT. These two players were Henrietta Pasman (Netherlands) and, of course, Liu Yan(!)

 

 

 

 

THE PAIRS TOURNAMENT

Fiona Brown and Catherine Draper led the pairs tournament – more or less – for 22 rounds out of 23 but Laura Dekkers and Doris van Delft (The Netherlands) took the lead at the right moment with a massive score at the last round. The score was relatively low, Laura and Doris having 56.5%.

Of the US pairs, Deas - Disa were all the time in the top five, sharing the 2nd place with the Dutch girls after the first day, but they didn't really make it in the end. Deas-Disa finished fourth with 55.5%.  Irina Levitina and Kerri Sanborn were briefly in the fifth place but dropped slightly after that. Cheri Bjerken and Rozanne Pollack had some difficulties this time and ended with less than average. And the stars of the tournament, the Yans, had about average score.

 

THE BEIJING BRIDGE ACTION FOR CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS

If I have understood correctly, some 70 schools in Beijing offer bridge as a part of their regular curriculum. A small group from seven schools was selected to visit the Elite Tournament and sit down with experts and discuss bridge. The youngest were only eight years old and the oldest 15-16 years.

It was a pleasure to see how well the children have been brought up and how well many of them have managed to grasp this very complicated game. And it was a pleasure to see how much some of the world’s top women players enjoyed giving lessons to the children. I saw big smiles on faces like Cheri, Rozanne, Fiona and Catherine.

Four 15 years old asked me to sit down with them and play a few hands. You could see that they were pretty competent by the way in which they held their cards and used the bidding box. But, as you will see, I don’t think I will get another invitation in the future. This board came up:

West
x
xxx
A10xxxx
xxx
North
QJx
Axx
xxx
QJ109
East
A10xxx
xx
Q
Kxxxx
South
Kxxx
KQJ109
KJx
A
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

The schools encourage them to play a natural system (privately they tell me they prefer a strong club system), which is very sensible. So, my girl opened 1H and partner bid 2H (constructive raise). My girl whispered to me that she would like to bid 3NT. I put up that expression that somehow manages to show both surprise and repugnance at the same time. She got the message and threw 4H on the table, politely shaking her head.

You can just imagine what happened. Spade was led to the ace, ten of spades back, ruffed, ace of diamonds, another diamond, ruffed, spade, ruffed and diamond, ruffed. Down three. And my girl looked at me with an expression that somehow managed to show both surprise and repugnance; and probably thinking: “3NT good, you no good”. I got the message. Cry

 

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