CHALLENGE THE CHAMPS
Challenge the Champs is a continuing bidding battle. Each month, two 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. Readers can match themselves against the experts by bidding the deals for each month in advance (the deals for next month's match are printed elsewhere in the magazine).
Nick Nickell & Dick Freeman
Fred Stewart & Steven Weinstein
Based on the April, 1995, match. The Incumbents are Nick Nickell, of New York, and Dick Freeman, of Atlanta, members of one of the dominant teams in American nationals over the past few years. Their recent tournament record includes wins in the Bermuda Bowl, three consecutive Spingold knockouts, and other national championships. They use standard American tournament methods, not quite Bridge World Standard but perhaps as close as any "standard" expert pair actually gets to using the full system.
The Newcomers are Fred Stewart, a stockbroker from Andes, New York (we'll save you the trouble of searching; Andes is a small town in the Catskill Mountains, roughly west of Kingston), and his stepson, Steven Weinstein, an options trader from Glen Ridge, NJ. They are one of the few pairs to have outstanding records in both pair and team events at the national and international level. During the past 15 years, they have won, among other titles, the Life Masters' Pairs, the Blue Ribbon (they narrowly missed a rare second victory in that event last fall), and the Reisinger teams. They also have the best lifetime record in the Cavendish Invitational, one of the world's strongest pairs events; they won most recently in 1996. The Newcomers use a home-grown big-club system, most of which is recognizable as Precision: big club, nebulous diamond, five-card majors, natural two clubs for minimum opening hands with long clubs. It won't show up much in their Challenge the Champs matches, but Stewart and Weinstein prefer an active, aggressive style, with light opening bids and threadbare preempts.
Running Score: Nickell-Freeman 8; Stewart-Weinstein 15
South deals and bids one notrump, 15-17
♠ K J 10 6 4
♥ Q 9 5 3
♦ A K 8 7
♠ Q 5
♦ 10 2
♣ A K Q 8 7 6 4 3
|2 ♦||3 ♣|
|2 ♥||3 ♣|
In both rooms, West's overcall was artificial, showing length in the majors. In view of the possible misfit (in particular the danger of West's being void of clubs), the high requirement of 11 tricks for game in clubs, and the lack of an efficient investigatory tool, both Easts took a conservative view and settled for a simple correction to three clubs, something they could reasonably expect to make.
No technical criticism can sensibly be levelled at those decisions, but if we were able to speak frankly we'd say we consider those actions pretty chicken. And that's before we note the vulnerability. We don't know what aggressive action we'd take (probably three notrump, with an ugly result, but perhaps an invitational four clubs--and we don't pretend to know how West should react to that). But we'd surely do something.
|1 NT doubled||7|
|1 NT passed||2|
Running Score: Nickell-Freeman 28; Stewart-Weinstein 48
South deals and bids one spade
Both sides vulnerable
♠ J 7
♥ A K Q J 6
♦ J 9 8 5 4
♠ A 5
♥ 10 8 4
♣ A K Q 10 6 5 2
|2 ♥||2 ♠|
|3 ♦||4 ♣|
|4 ♥||4 NT|
|5 ♠||6 ♥|
|2 ♥||2 ♠|
|4 ♥||4 ♠|
|5 ♥||6 ♥|
It would be hard to decipher the Newcomers' highly scientific auction without a scorecard. Weinstein's cue-bid advance of the overcall promised heart support. Stewart's jump to four hearts denied a side-suit ace. Four spades asked for key cards with hearts agreed, and the reply promised two plus the heart queen. Since West had denied the ace of diamonds, East knew he was facing ace-king-queen of hearts, so he could sensibly place the slam in that suit for the higher matchpoint score.
The Incumbents reached a similar position by an entirely different route. Freeman's cue-bid was a general force, so Nickell's later four-heart bid was natural, guaranteeing good hearts.
Final score: Nickell-Freeman 59; Stewart-Weinstein 74.
A strong performance by the big clubbers gives them a solid win. They will return to face new opponents next month, bidding the deals on pages . . .
Here's a sampler of the features, articles and columns that you will find in the pages of The Bridge World each month.