CHALLENGE THE CHAMPS

Challenge the Champs is a continuing bidding battle in which 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.-

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EDDIE MANFIELD AND KIT WOOLSEY
vs.
MICHEL LEBEL AND PHILIPE CRONIER

Our Champs are world team champions Eddie Manfield and Kit Woolsey. Both rank high among the bidding theorists, and they were able to put theory into practice with great success. They formed the partnership when both lived in the Washington DC, area; the style (along with many specific treatments) they favor has become known as the Washington style. This consists largely of standard methods, with a slightly old-fashioned base including four-card majors and nonforcing one-notrump responses, but with lots of innovations.

The new Challengers are one of France's leading pairs, Michel Lebel and Philipe Cronier. As indviduals and as a pair, the Challengers were major forces in international events over a long period of time. They use standard French methods (which are much like Standard American), with five-card majors, forcing one-notrump responses, and a lot of supporting devices that Americans will find familiar. One concession to individuality is two-way transfer two-bids, showing the next suit up the line, either strong or weak.

North deals and opens three hearts
Neither side vulnerable

 

 

 

WEST
A
8 7 5 2
J 8 7 5
A 9 6 3

 

EAST
Q J 6 3
A K
A
K J 10 8 5 2

 

Woolsey
--
Pass


(3
)

Manfield
Double

Lebel
--
4 NT
5 NT
Pass


(3
)

Cronier
Double
5

6

When these cards were dealt in a local New York knockout event, neither team was able to cope effectively with the preemptive opening.

The first decision is East's. A takeout double will bring spades into focus and allow a club rebid to show strength. Against that, it precludes reaching three notrump; and it could lead to an awkward situation if partner likes diamonds.

Both our contestants chose to double, and the spotlight now shifted to West, who has no pleasant action. Without an obvious game in view, Woolsey decided to take his sure plus by passing. This worked out badly opposite East's unexpected, irregular pattern.

For the Challengers, Lebel, West chose to overbid slightly to find the right suit. His four notrump asked for minors. Cronier, East, was too strong merely to show his suit, so he cue-bid, then showed his long suit.

Awards:
6
♣ - 10
7
♣ - - 9
4 NT - 5
5
♣ - - 3
5 NT - -3
3
doubled 2.

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South dealer
East-West vulnerable

 

 

 

WEST
A K 5
K J
A Q 10 7 6 2
J 8

 

EAST
Q 10 9
A Q 7 5 2
K J 8
A 4

 

Woolsey
1

2 NT
3

4

5

7 NT

 

Manfield
1

3

4

5

7

Pass

Lebel
1

2 NT
3

4

Pass

 

Cronier
1

3

4

6 NT

For the Americans, Manfield's three clubs was a transfer to diamonds, and four hearts was a six-key-card-ask for diamonds. With both red kings counting as key cards, Woolsey, West, showed 0 or 3; then, in reply to an ask for the diamond queen, he showed that card while control-bidding the spade king. East drove to seven diamonds and invited seven notrump, which West accepted.

For the French, Cronier's three clubs was a relay. Lebel showed long diamonds and denied three hearts, then control-bid to show interest in a diamond slam. However, East did not visualize grand-slam possibilities. Is this not just another case of the offshape notrump? East expects West to have a club honor, not a sixth diamond.

Awards:
7 NT 10
7
♥ - 8
7
♦ - 7
6 NT 4
6
♥ - 3
6
♦ - 2

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