Cavendish 2009 Report

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 05/15/2009
Level: Intermediate to Advanced


In May, 2009 the high-stakes Cavendish took place in Las Vegas. The main event is the Cavendish Pairs, which was won for the (record) 4th time by Bobby Levin & Steve Weinstein.Steve Weinstein & Bobby Levincelebrating their 2009 Cavendish win
Steve Weinstein & Bobby Levin celebrating
their 2009 Cavendish Pairs victory
There wasn't much suspense as they ran away from the field with a record score. The "owners" of the pair (it was split up into pieces) earned almost a quarter of a million dollars.

While doing the on-line commentary on BBO, I observed some deals of interest.

First, came a theoretical issue called a "thrump double." What does that mean? "Thrump" is an abbreviation for 3NT. My friend Marty Bergen believes that certain "negative doubles" on the 3-level are really not "for the other major."

Such doubles should show "cards" and beg opener to bid 3NT (not a major) if he has a stopper in the opponent's suit.

For example, consider that East holds:

?  J 6 4
?  K 2
?  A J 4
?  A Q 8 7 4
, and the auction begins:

    1?     3?  ??  


What should East bid? If he bids 4?, there will be no way to ever reach 3NT opposite, say: ?K 9
? Q 8 7
?K Q 10 8 7
? K 6 2.

In the "Bergen-Bergen" partnership (I would pay to kibbitz!), East would Double (not promising 4?) and West would bid 3NT. There is a downside to these "thrump" doubles--it isn't always easy to locate a 4-4 fit in a major.

That brings us to this deal from the Cavendish Pairs:

Vul: Both
Dir: South
?7 5 3 2
?A 7 4 3
?A Q J 8 3
?A K 10 9 8 4 3
?9 6 5 2
?10 2
  ?6 5
?A Q 10 9 6
?K 9 7 6 5
  ?Q J 7 2
?K J 8 4
?K Q 10 8
     3?      Dbl      Pass      4?
     Pass      Pass      Dbl      Pass
     Pass      Rdbl  (All Pass)  

This time North had a more normal "Negative" Double in that he held 4 cards in the other major. South, if playing the Bergen style (Thrump Doubles) would have bid 3NT because he had spades stopped. Surely, North can be stuck at this high level and might not always deliver the 4th heart. Still, South chose to bid 4? and East doubled. North redoubled and an exciting contract was reached.

According to double-dummy software, any non-spade lead beats the contract. However, West made the normal lead of the ?A. After ruffing in dummy, declarer played a trump. East rose with the ace (nothing is better) and ended up taking only 3 trump tricks (the play was very slow). The score was 1080 for North-South and a ton of IMPs exchanged hands.

On the following deal, I thought surely the Vugraph operator (or Zia) had made an error. As dealer, with neither side vulnerable, Zia held:?9 6
?9 8 4
?A K 8 7 4
?A J 2

Zia opened the bidding with 2NT!  Yes--2NT. Was this a psyche? A typo? An error?

None of the above! 

Zia and his partner (Charles Wigoder) were playing a 2NT opener to show a balanced 12-14 HCP.  Nobody would recommend this as a winning method but it is surely a swingy way to play. Thinking they were underdogs, they wanted a bid that would create action. Many of you may know that a 12-14 1NT opening is part of the ACOL system. This 2NT opening to show 12-14 should be called ALCOHOL! It is very flammable. On this particular occasion nothing funny happened, because Zia's partner held a balanced 19-count and after a Stayman auction, 6NT was reached:

  ?A Q 10 8
?A K Q 5
?Q 3
?Q 6 4
  ?9 6
?9 8 4
?A K 8 7 4
?A J 2

How would you play on the lead of the ?10 (Standard)?

Zia won the ?A and played 3 rounds of diamonds (they were 4-2). He then surrendered a diamond to East (West discarded clubs). East returned a club and Zia finessed. Do you like this line of play?

Many declarers failed. There are ways (as you will see below) to make the contract, but it is far from clear how to play this hand when looking at only 26 cards. Notice that the lead was a falsecard--hearts were coming in for 4 tricks. The spade suit also could have produced 4 tricks. Making the slam would have been worth the equivalent of a 9-imp gain (when averaged against all 24 tables). Going down one was like a 10-imp loss. This was the full deal:


Vul: None
Dir: South
?A Q 10 8
?A K Q 5
?Q 3
?Q 6 4
?K J 3
?J 10 2
?10 2
?K 10 8 5 3
  ?7 5 4 2
?7 6 3
?J 9 6 5
?9 7
  ?9 6
?9 8 4
?A K 8 7 4
?A J 2

Zia thought that when East won the 4th diamond, he was endplayed. He presumably (from the lead) had started with ?Jxxx, so had to break a black suit. Maybe he was leading away from the ?K, so Zia finessed. It was a much better chance than hoping hearts and spades could combine to produce all the needed tricks. For me, the most exciting feature of the deal was the "alcoholic" opening--don't try it at home!

  Wigoder   Zia
 ---  ---  ---     2NT!!
    Pass     3?    Pass     3?
    Pass     6NT    All Pass)  

This deal from the Cavendish features the winners in a display of beautiful card reading. Steve Weinstein happens to be one of the world's best poker players, and he used those skills here:

Vul: N-S
Dir: West
?A Q J 7 5 2
?8 5
?Q 10 5
?Q 3
?10 6 4
?K J 10 6 3 2
?K 10 5
  ?K 9
?K J 9 8 7 6 4
?J 9 4
  ?8 3
?A 9 7 4
?A 2
?A 8 7 6 2
Gitelman Levin Moss Weinstein
    2?     2?     Pass     3NT
    Pass     Pass     Pass  

West was the developer of Bridge Base Online (which is a wonderful vehicle to play on-line bridge or watch events like the Cavendish), Fred Gitelman. After his weak two-bid, North, Bobby Levin, overcalled  2?. East, Brad Moss, passed, and South, Steve Weinstein's 3NT ended the auction.

Gitelman got off to the fortunate lead of a low heart. Declarer ducked and East was on lead at trick two. East tried a diamond which ran around to dummy's 10.

This extra diamond trick, was not a big deal (eventually declarer could have set up club tricks if needed). The key to the deal is the spade suit. How can declarer use dummy's spades?

If declarer leads spades from hand and finesses, East should make the skillful play of ducking smoothly. Now, declarer would probably come back to hand and repeat the finesse--he would end up with only one spade trick (by the time he could later reach dummy with the ?Q, it would be way too late).

Because he was in dummy after trick two with a diamond, declarer couldn't conveniently enter his hand. So, he played the ?Q off dummy at trick 3. He didn't mind losing 1 spade trick to either player. Had Moss (East) taken the ?K, declarer would have had an easy time. However, Moss produced a smooth duck. Declarer had no idea where the ?K was. He came to hand with the ?A (getting the news of the 7-1 break) and played another spade towards dummy. Should he finesse (playing West to have ducked with ?Kxx)?  Should he go up with the ace (playing East to have ducked with ?Kx)? After long thought, and a stare-down with RHO (on the same side of the screen), Weinstein got it right. He went up with the ace and ended up with 11 tricks for 660 and a huge gain. Had he finessed, he would have been down 4 (-400) for an equally huge loss. Was this poker or bridge?

Final 2009 Cavendish Pairs Standings:

 1  Robert Levin - Steve Weinstein
 2  Geoff Hampson - Eric Rodwell
 3  Roy Welland - Chris Willenken
 4  Sam Lev - Jacek Pszczola
 5  Josef Piekarek - Alex Smirnov
 6   Curtis Cheek - Joe Grue
 7  Fred Gitelman - Brad Moss
 8  Geir Helgemo - Tor Helness
 9  Michel Bessis - Thomas Bessis
10 Gunnar Hallberg - Michael Moss