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The 1997 Cap Gemini World Top Pairs
By: Fred Gitelman

Originally Published in The ACBL BULLETIN, March & April, 1997


The 11th edition of the Cap Gemini World Top Pairs was held January 16-19 in The Hague, The Netherlands. Once again Cap Gemini, the Dutch Bridge Federation, Chief Organizer Henk van Dalen and his team showed the world how a bridge tournament should be run. As usual, the elegant and historic Hotel Des Indes provided the perfect setting for this event. Once more, the field was exceptionally strong. Sixteen of the world's strongest pairs would play a complete round robin of 10 board IMP matches.

To be invited to the Cap Gemini is a great honour and I was somewhat surprised when Eric Kokish phoned me early in December and asked me to play with him in this event. Having played in the 1996 Cap Gemini (with George Mittelman, my regular partner), I eagerly accepted Eric's offer. Although we did not end up very high in the standings (11th out of 16), I was pleased with how we played, especially considering we were a first time partnership. The Cap Gemini is one event in which it is no shame to finish near the bottom. This article is a collection of my favorite deals from the 1997 Cap Gemini.

Eric is well known as a great bridge writer, theorist, coach, and player. I can tell you that he is also a great partner. Part of being a great partner is having the right temperament at the table. The other part is making bridge easier for the guy across the table from you:

Opening lead: 4

French Olympiad Champions Henri Szwarc and Marc Bompis reached 3NT and my club lead went to the 2, 10, and K. Bompis tried a low diamond, 10, Q, K. Eric realized that it was necessary to get hearts going and, catering to my actual holding, switched to the K. When I encouraged, Eric continued the 10. It was obvious for me to duck Bompis' J (Eric would not have played this way with KQ106). Bompis did his best with another low diamond to the 8 and Eric's 9. Bompis now had enough tricks for his contract (with finesses in both minors). We had preserved communication in hearts, however, and were able to cash 2 hearts tricks and defeat 3NT.

Notice that if Eric had switched to the 6 or 10 it is much harder for me to duck when declarer plays an honour. Full marks to Eric for making life easy for me.

Two pairs of Italy's European Champions, Andrea Buratti-Massimo Lanzarotti and Lorenzo Lauria-Alfredo Versace continue to impress in just about every event they play in. The 1997 Cap Gemini was no exception as Buratti-Lanzarotti finished 2nd while Lauria-Versace were 4th. Here are 2 interesting deals featuring the Italians in action:

Opening lead: 5

Buratti played 3NT on a spade lead to Eric's Q which Buratti ducked. Eric switched to the K but had trouble reading my (upside down attitude) 8 and switched back to spades. Buratti finessed the 9 as I discarded a heart. Can you see a way for declarer to come to 9 tricks?

Suppose that declarer cashes 2 top hearts, unblocking the 9 and 8 from dummy. A diamond to the A is followed by 2 more rounds of spades and the K. The following position remains with declarer needing 2 more tricks.

West exits with the J. If my Q is allowed to win this trick, I will have to lead away from my J after cashing my diamond winner. If Eric overtakes my Q with the A, he can cash his long spade but declarer's 10 and Q will take the last 2 tricks. Buratti did not find this 3-suit winkle at the table but a small misdefense allowed him to make his contract anyway.

The other Italians, Lauria-Versace made no mistake here:

Opening lead: J

Lauria started off well by overtaking the J with his Q. Fearful of a heart shift from Lauria's side of the table, I won the A and continued the suit. Lauria overtook his partner's 9 with his K to play a low heart, to the 8, J and small. Versace continued the 7, but of course Lauria did not cover dummy's 10. I won my bare A and continued spades. Versace won the 10 and returned his remaining heart. Lauria's 2 heart winners defeated the contract.

Very nice defense but a clear misplay by me. The Italians may be great players but they cannot see through the backs of the cards. If I had allowed Lauria to hold the first trick with the Q, how could he know to shift to hearts? I had done well concealing my 7 card spade suit in the auction. By playing spades the way I did I gave Lauria the information he needed to find the winning defense.

The winners of the 1997 Cap Gemini were the great Brazilian pair of Gabriel Chagas-Marcelo Branco. Chagas and Branco were almost never out of the top 3 throughout the event. I would like to report one of their triumphs, but I am sure my Brazilian friends will forgive me for reporting one of my own triumphs (at their expense) instead:

Opening lead: 8

I arrived in this hair-raising 3NT after an 11-14 1NT opening and a forcing Stayman sequence. Chagas led the 8 (fourth best) around to my 10. I played a heart and, when Chagas ducked, I put up dummy's K. When this held, I crossed to a spade to play a diamond to dummy's J. Branco won the Q and came back a club, Chagas ducking. When Chagas's K appeared on the second round of the suit I had my 9 tricks.

Had Chagas somehow known to go up with the A and continue a low club, I would have had to drop Branco's doubleton Q to make the contract.

Each year Cap Gemini invites one pair of women who have distinguished themselves during the previous year. The 1997 Olympiad Silver Medalists Sun Ming and Wang Hong Li received that honour this year. The Chinese women were in the thick of things most of the way and quickly became the audience's favorites. After a devastating 33 IMP loss to Poland's Martens-Szymanowski in the 3rd last match, Sun-Wang showed great character by rebounding to defeat Eric and myself by 14 IMPs in the 2nd last match and Zia Mahmood-Bobby Levin by 25 IMPs in the last match.

Although Sun-Wang played flawlessly against Eric and myself, there were no deals that were worthy of reporting in our match. Their last match victory contained this huge result for Sun and Wang:

Opening lead: 6

Perhaps Zia's double was based more on the sound of the opponents' auction than his own hand. He was right in that Sun and Wang were slightly short on values. He was wrong in that they had judged very well that their good spot cards and Wang's 5 card suits would make up for a lack of high card strength. Thinking it likely that partner held spade length, Zia started the 6 to Levin's A. Levin naturally continued spades to Zia's Q. Declarer was probably going to get home even if Zia played a club here. When Zia switched to a low heart, Sun was able to make 2 overtricks by guessing diamonds and hearts. +1150 was worth 12 IMPs to the Chinese. Congratulations to Sun and Wang for their fine performance!

Sun-Wang's victory over Zia-Levin was enough to bring them up to 5th place and to knock their opponents out of the top 6. Not only are there substantial cash prizes for the top 6 finishers, but there is a further bonus - an automatic invitation back to next year's event. The top 6 were:

1. Chagas Branco Brazil 871
2. Buratti-Lanzarotti Italy 840
3. Martens-Szymanowski Poland 830
4. Lauria-Versace Italy 800
5. Sun-Wang China 797
6. Berkowitz-Cohen USA 796

The Cap Gemini has a strong tradition of luxury, hospitality, and bridge at its best. We are fortunate that these things don't change from year to year. Cap Gemini also believes in innovation, however, and each year there are a few new things. This year my company was hired to produce an internet presentation of the Cap Gemini. For the first time in history, every board of a tournament at every table, was available to the public in the form of online vugraph. During the tournament we had over 4000 visitors a day! Our presentation of the 1997 Cap Gemini will remain on the internet. You can watch each deal bid by bid, and card by card. This is a tremendous resource for studying how the world's best are playing bridge. Complete results and daily bulletins are also available through our web site.

I would like to personally thank Henk van Dalen and Cap Gemini for their foresight in recognizing how important the internet can be for publicizing our game. Henk and his company seem to be doing everything right and we are very fortunate that they have taken an interest in our game.

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