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The 1995 Bali Invitational Teams Tournament
By: Fred Gitelman

Originally Published in American Contract Bridge League BULLETIN, September, 1995


An International Invitational Bridge Tournament was held in Bali, Indonesia from July 12-16 in conjunction with the World Junior Championships. Besides a $10,000 US first prize, the winning team was to be awarded the Merdeka Cup. Merdeka is the Indonesian word for freedom - a fitting name since this year marks the 50th anniversary of Indonesian independence.

To help celebrate this anniversary, the Indonesian Contract Bridge Association invited 8 teams from around the world for a bridge tournament. My team consisted of four of Canada's Bermuda Bowl representatives, Fred Gitelman-George Mittelman and Eric Kokish-Joey Silver. Marty Caley and Peter Schwartz, one of Canada's most successful pairs over the past few years, were added to our team for this event. Canada was not the only country with a Bermuda Bowl team in Indonesia - Egypt and China both brought their international teams. There were also many international stars on teams from The Netherlands, Great Britain, Australia, India, and Japan. Three Indonesian teams rounded out the field with their Bermuda Bowl representatives split between two teams. As you will soon see from the results, this was quite a sporting gesture.

Everything about this tournament was perfect:

The Location: Bali is the closest thing to an "island paradise" I have ever experienced. Despite being close to the equator, the temperature never went above 90 degrees. Every day was beautiful. The host hotel was right on Kuta Beach - one of the most famous beaches in the world. The hotel itself, the Bali Garden, was luxurious, spacious, and clean. Bali is an ideal choice for a vacation. On top of everything else, it is a very affordable place.

The People: The Indonesians are the friendliest and warmest group of people I have ever encountered. Wherever I turned there was a smiling hotel employee happy to serve me in any possible way. The Indonesian bridge players were a delight to play against. They never had any unpleasant words to say to their partners, teammates or opponents. Perhaps these good feelings rubbed off on the rest of the field as the sportsmanship and comradery of this event were second to none.

The Tournament: The playing conditions were excellent. Chief Tournament Director Otto van Schranvendijk and his assistant, Inger Verheul, both from The Netherlands, saw to it that the event was run without a single glitch.

Did I say everything was perfect? Well, perhaps the opening lead might have been a little better on this hand:

The tournament began with a complete round-robin of 16 board matches between the eleven teams (with duplicated boards). The auction aboved occurred in the round-robin match between Canada and Great Britain. The best contract is 6 by East! Two East-West pairs actually got to this unlikely contract (after a Namyats 4 opening by West). Can you see the one card South can lead to defeat this contract? It is the J! Understandably, neither South found this lead, preferring to lead Ace and another spade instead. The contract still failed as both declarers tried to get to the dummy (in order to draw trump) by playing on clubs. South ruffed the first club to defeat the slam.

In the auction above, Eric Kokish's Lightner double requested a club lead, which, as you can see, would quickly put the slam down. Joey Silver, after looking at his own hand and reviewing the auction thought that declarer might also be void in clubs. He decided to lead a spade, the suit that Kokish had previously doubled. Unfortunately for Canada, Silver chose the 2 to lead. Kendrick quickly played low from dummy and now Kokish had a problem. Kendrick was obviously short on high cards for his Acol two bid. Perhaps his hand was:

or something similar. Kokish played the A and tried to give Silver a spade ruff! At this table, Kendrick knew how to get to the long heart hand. He won the K, ruffed a spade, drew trump, and claimed. A less than perfect -1210 to Canada. Perhaps if Silver chooses not to lead a club, he should choose the Q instead of the 2 (this inference was an additional part of Kokish's reasoning in choosing his line of defense).

Despite this setback, Canada managed to finish the round-robin in second place. The top four were:

  1. Indonesia Harimau (The Tigers) 193
  2. Canada 190.5
  3. India 182
  4. Indonesia Banteng (The Buffaloes) 177

By winning the round-robin, Harimau had earned the right to select its semi-final opponents from the next three finishers. They selected Banteng, perhaps to ensure that at least one Indonesian team would reach the finals. Both semi-finals (48 boards) were close matches. Harimau beat Banteng 83-75 while Canada defeated India 75.5-59. The matches to decide the medals were not close. In the battle for third place, Banteng crushed India 127-56. Harimau had little trouble defeating Canada 179-111 to take the Merdeka Cup.

I have to admit that this was one bridge match that I did not mind losing (yes, second place also received a generous cash prize). Not only did Harimau play a great match, they also played with great class. I will never forget the reaction of Giovanni Watulingas, one of the rising young Indonesian stars, to the third deal of the final (64 board) match.

After my partner opened 1 and Giovanni overcalled 1, Giovanni and partner Sance Panelewen conducted an intelligent auction to 4. 4 was an excellent vulnerable game that would make on most days. As my trump holding was QJ973 over the overcaller, I suspected that today was not one of those days. I doubled and was pleased when dummy hit with 842 of trumps. My partner's discard on the first round of trumps revealed the horrendous trump break. Now, I suspect that most Americans (and Canadians) when confronted with these circumstances would display some mixture of disgust, anger, and despair. This would be especially true given the presige and money associated with success in this tournament. Giovanni displayed none of these emotions. Instead, he started laughing and exclaimed to his bewildered partner, "trumps are 5-0, I am going for my life!". In fact, he later endplayed me in trumps and got out for -500. We ACBLers have alot to learn from this type of attitude. Giovanni (and all of the Indonesians) play bridge like they actually enjoy the game. Very refreshing!

I had a difficult decision to make on this board from the final:

Franky Karwur, East, found the excellent lead of the A. He continued the 5 (suit preference) for West, Denny Sakul, to ruff (with the 6). Denny returned a low diamond to Franky's J and Franky played back the 4, ruffed in the dummy. I played a high club from dummy, trying to look like I had losers outside of the trump suit. Denny ruffed with the 7 and I overruffed. I ruffed my last diamond in dummy (A from Franky) and played another top club. This time Denny refused to ruff. When I played dummy's last trump, Denny followed innocently with the 10. Should I finesse or play to drop the offside singleton K?

Denny had already demonstrated that he was a fine card player. I knew he was easily capable of not ruffing my club winner with either his actual trump holding or if he had started with 1076. As inferences from the defense were of no use I had to find something else to go on. The odds clearly pointed towards playing to drop the singleton king offside. This did not seem to be a hand about odds, however. What about the lack of enemy bidding? East had already turned up with a good six card club suit and at least AJx, yet he had passed over my opening bid. Would Franky be more likely to take action with his actual hand or with something like:

I decided that despite the impressive point count of this hand, a good player (like Franky) would be more inclined to bid with a similar hand including a heart void (the singleton K on the above hand rates to be useless on offense). Confident in my decision, I went up with the A and down in my contract. The only consolation I received was that my teammates could not manage to stay quiet as East and West. At the other table, the final contract was 4X. After a similar defense, Panelewen had little troubled placing the cards and easily made his contract.

Congratulations to Denny Sakul, Franky Karwur, Giovanni Watulingas, Sance Panelewen, Taufik Asbi, and Ong Ken Hien for winning the Merdeka Cup. Do not be surpised by a high finish by the Indonesians in the Bermuda Bowl this fall. My teammate, Eric Kokish, deserves some of the credit for Indonesia's fine performance as he has been working hard as their National Coach for the past few years. Congratulations are also in order to the Indonesian Contract Bridge Association and especially Mr. Amran Zamzami for putting together a great tournament. I understand that the World Junior Championships were also a huge success. As I have been making predictions, here is another one: do not be surprised if Indonesia gets to host a Bermuda Bowl/Venice Cup in the near future. All of the ACBL's international stars should keep their fingers crossed in the hope that this event comes to pass.

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