2006 Buffet Cup in Ireland

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 11/02/2006
Level: Intermediate to Advanced

U.S. Wins 2006 Ryder Cup (of bridge)

Larry Cohen Playing in Dublin at the 2006 Buffet Cup
September, 2006: U.S. Ryder Cup golf team loses to Europe in Ireland. But -- the U.S. bridge team defeated Europe in the inaugural Warren Buffett Cup. Both events pitted 12 of America's best against 12 of Europe's best.

Personally, I was impressed with the overwhelming hospitality. From the moment our plane landed in Dublin, we were tended to like royalty. This included a 4-motorcycle police escort each day from our hotel to the playing site (see photos ).

Sadly, on the last day, one of our police guards (while escorting us) slid under a truck, severely injuring himself. We hear he is expected to make a full recovery. We sent him an autographed team photo. Our team had a chuckle when Zia signed. He wrote: "Best wishes sweetie, with love...Zia." Weary from signing things all week, Zia thought he was being asked to sign something for one of our hostesses. When he realized he had signed for the policeman, we all had a good laugh (and ran for the white-out).

There were dozens of on-site kibbitzers (in addition to thousands on-line). This made for an electric atmosphere. I drew some amused looks from the audience on this deal:

Vul: Both
Dlr: West
?K Q 10 6 4 2
?Q J
?A K
?J 9 2
?9 5 3
?9 7 3
?J 10 9
?10 8 7 4
?10 5 4
?Q 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
?K 3
  ?A J 8 7
?A K 8 6 2
?A Q 6 5

You can see that 7? is easy, but this was "board-a-match" scoring-- not IMPs. So, if one table is in 7NT for 2220, that is a full win if the other table makes only 2210 in 7?. My partner, David Berkowitz, opened the North hand with a strong 1?. East jumped preemptively to 3?, and I bid 3?. West bid 4?, David passed and RHO bid 5?. That was a lot of bidding. I wanted to check the backs of the cards. Anyway, I had 18 HCP and David's strong club is usually at least 17. I figured we must have a grand slam--but where? Hearts? Spades? Maybe notrump. So, I decided to bid 7?! This drew some chuckles. It obviously couldn't be to play, and must be offering David a choice of grand slams. With the ?AK, David chose notrump and we scored 2220 (for a tie on the board).

In the individual, my partner, Jill Meyers defended this deal brilliantly:

Vul: Both
Dlr: West
?A K 10 9 4 2
?10 5 3
?K 6 4
?J 7 5
?A 9 8
?K 4 3 2
?A Q 2
  ?Q 6 3
?K 2
?A J 10 5
?J 10 9 8
?Q J 7 6 4
?Q 9 7 6
?7 5 3
Sabine Auken Jill Meyers Justin Hackett Larry Cohen
1? 2? 3? All Pass

                                                                She led her top spades and gave me a spade ruff. I returned my highest club and declarer finessed. We had the first 4 tricks, but needed one more. I remained with ?Q97. Left to her own devices, declarer would no doubt have picked up this suit. Playing the preempter for shortness, she would lay down dummy's ?A and finesse against my ?Q. Meyers was having none of this. At trick five she led another spade, intentionally giving a ruff-sluff. What could declarer do? If she ruffed with dummy's ?A, I would have a trump trick. Ruffing low would allow me to ruff with the 9 to drive out the king--and I'd have Qx left to take a trick. Ruffing with the jack was also no good. I discard and have to get a trump trick. Sadly, down one was a loss on the board for us, because the East-West pair at the other table reached a reasonable three notrump, down two.

Another partscore deal featured a world-class defensive play by our Italian opponent, Giorgio Duboin:

Vul: E-W
Dlr: West
?A K 3
?K 9
?J 6 3
?10 8 7 6 2
?Q 10 9 5 4
?10 5 2
?A K 4 3
  ?8 7 6
?A J 10 6
?K 9 8
?J 9 5
  ?J 2
?Q 8 7 5 3 2
?A Q 7 4
N. Bocchi L. Cohen G. Duboin D. Berkowitz
-- -- Pass 1?
1? 2NT Pass 3?
Pass Pass Pass  



Against 3?, Bocchi led a top club and switched to a diamond. This went to the 8 and queen, and Berkowitz cleared the diamonds (ace and another). East won and played a spade. Declarer won in dummy, ruffed a club, and played a heart to the king. We can see that declarer has to lose only 2 trump tricks. East wins the ace, and declarer can go to dummy to run the ?9. If East covers, declarer uses the 8-7 to drive out the 10. If East ducks the ?9, declarer has a sure thing to let it run (not caring if it loses).

But, East made a spectacular play. On dummy's ?K, he ducked smoothly! Another heart was played from dummy to the 10 and ... Put yourself in declarer's shoes. Expecting from the play and bidding that West might have a doubleton ?A, declarer played low on the 10. He expected the ace would drop on air and this would produce a valuable overtrick for 170 and a potential win on the board. Disaster! East's 10 held the trick, and East had to get 2 more trump tricks for down one and a win to Europe (the other North-South made 140 in 3?). This in-tempo defensive gem was indicative of the high-level bridge that was played throughout this tournament.

There was something special about playing for your country (with no money involved). My favorite part of the event was the individual. Everyone on our 12-person team played a match partnering each of the other team members. Imagine getting to play a match with Zia, then a match with Soloway as partners. Then, to end the event, my partner was some guy named Bob Hamman. It doesn't get any better.

Buffett Cup Photos