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The 10th Cap Volmac World Top Tournament 1996
By: Fred Gitelman

Originally Published in American Contract Bridge League BULLETIN, March, 1996

Within 5 minutes of finding out I had lost in the final of the 1995 Bermuda Bowl in Beijing I got some good news to cheer me up. A gentleman named Henk van Dalen from The Netherlands introduced himself to me. Henk had travelled to China to scout the World Championship field. His mission was to find the strongest possible pairs to invite to the 1996 Cap Volmac Tournament. Henk must have been impressed by how my partner, George Mittelman, and I had played in Beijing for we received an invitation. Jeff Meckstroth, who was standing nearby and who had been to the Cap Volmac before, informed me that I was in for a real (dutch) treat. Jeff was right.

The 10th running of the Cap Volmac World Top Tournament took place from January 18-21 in The Hague. The venue was the elegant Hotel des Indes, one of Holland's finest. The fact that Cap Volmac, the Dutch software company that sponsors this event, was willing to send Henk to China is an example of the great effort they put out each year to make the Cap Volmac such a special event. The Cap Volmac has become known as "The Wimbledon of Bridge." This title is no overbid - the star-studded field made for the most difficult bridge event I have ever played in.

Bridge is doing very well in Holland. There are over 100,000 registered players in this small country. The Cap Volmac received extensive coverage from the media and hundreds of spectators came each day to watch vugraph and to kibitz. The players were treated like real celebrities. It is a great tribute to Cap Volmac and the Dutch Bridge Federation that a bridge tournament can be run so professionally and with such class. The Dutch seem to be doing everything right when it comes to marketing our game. They also know how to play. Their two entries in the 1996 Cap Volmac both enjoyed high finishes. Bauke Muller-Wubbo de Boer finished third while Berry Westra-Enri Leufkens came in sixth.

16 pairs participated in the 1996 Cap Volmac. Each pair played a 10 board match against each other pair with results being IMPed against a datum (high and low scores for each board were not counted).

After arriving in Holland, it was announced that Tim Cope from South Africa was involved in a serious car accident. Tim and partner Henry Mansell, a very fine young pair, would not be able to participate. The quality of the last minute replacement pair, David Berkowitz and Larry Cohen, gives a further indication of the stature of this event. All the players and organizers wish Tim a speedy recovery.

George and I did not do very well in this tournament, finishing 12th. The following deal provided one of our few happy moments (our opponents were Chemla-Cronier of France):


4NT was Roman Keycard Blackwood, 5 showed 1 or 4 keycards with hearts trump.

The defense leads and continues spades. After ruffing how do you plan the play?

The problem with drawing trump right away is that if trumps are 3- 1 or 4-0 you will be stranded in the dummy and unable to draw the last trump. The line of drawing trump requires trumps 2-2 (about 40%). Instead, you could take the club finesse (50%) before drawing trump in order to secure a hand entry in case trumps do not break. Based on this analysis, it looks right to play clubs first, but there is an additional chance in the first line that makes it correct. If you cash the A and K and trumps do not divide, you are not down yet. Try the top diamonds next. If the person long in hearts is also long in diamonds, you can ruff the 4th diamond high, draw the last trump and claim. This extra chance is enough to make it right to play on trump. I selected this line at the table and was pleased to see Chemla (on my left) show up with 3 hearts and 3 diamonds. I was less pleased to see that Chemla also had the CK so that finessing clubs would also work.

To my surprise, George and I were the only pair to bid 6 on these cards. I was surprised because up until that point it seemed almost impossible to get a good board in the Cap Volmac. Our opponents always seemed to play well and whenever we made a good decision, the rest of the field holding our cards had invariably duplicated our good result. The Cap Volmac is the only tournament I have ever played in where mistakes are the exception rather than the rule.

Here is another example in which the field really impressed me:

George and I bid and made 6 and confidently expected a swing in our favour. It was not to be as 7 of the 8 North/South pairs got to 6 on these cards! That's pretty tough bridge.

It is traditional that a top woman's pair is invited each year to the Cap Volmac. This year Sabine Auken and Daniela Von Arnim of Germany earned that right with their Venice Cup win in Beijing. Here is an example of Sabine and Daniela outbidding the field:

  • 1 (Strong)
  • 2 (Game Force)
  • 2 (Relay)
  • 2 (4S and 5C)
  • 2 (Relay)
  • 2NT (Maximum pass)
  • 3 (Relay)
  • 3 (Shortness)

6NT has some chances but you either need a lucky lie in clubs or some sort of squeeze. 6 is much better and in practice made for +1430 - the only slam bid and made on these cards.

The eventual winners of the 1996 Cap Volmac were Geir Helgemo and Tor Helness from Norway. Henky Lasut and Eddy Manoppo of Indonesia led for most of the way but finished second. Helgemo and Helness also won the Cap Volmac in 1994. This remarkable achievement is even greater when you consider that Helgemo is still a Junior and that this pair plays together only a couple of times a year! Here is one of their many success stories of the tournament (their opponents were Claudio Caponi and Steve Hamaoui of Venezuala):


Although 5, 3NT, and 4 all make for East/West, Helgemo and Helness were the only pair to appreciate the potential in these cards and bid game. Helness played 4 nicely and made an overtrick. He won the spade opening lead and ruffed a spade. The J was covered by the Q and won with the A. Helness ruffed his last spade, crossed to the K and cashed two more high trumps. North was left with the master trump but Helness was in control. He simply ran diamonds. Hamaoui could ruff whenever he wanted but he then had to lead a club away from the A for an overtrick.

Thanks to the hard work of Henk van Dalen and many others the 1996 Cap Volmac was a great success. Perhaps the best news of all was announced at the closing ceremonies. Cap Volmac has agreed to continue their generous sponsorship of this event for the next two years. This is wonderful for all bridge players, not just the stars. This tournament gives bridge a great deal of positive publicity and international prestige. We can only hope that other corporations take the interest that Cap Volmac has in promoting our game.

Final Standings:

  1. Helgemo-Helness Norway 881
  2. Lasut-Manoppo Indonesia 862
  3. Muller-De Boer Netherlands 848
  4. Zia-Rosenberg USA 811
  5. Buratti-Lanzarotti Italy 776
  6. Leufkens-Westra Netherlands 772
  7. Berkowitz-Cohen USA 766
  8. Chemla-Cronier France 750
  9. Meckstroth-Rodwell USA 742
  10. Auken-Koch-Palmund Denmark 721
  11. Auken-Von Arnim Germany 719
  12. Gitelman-Mittelman Canada 701
  13. Hamaoui-Caponi Venezuala 694
  14. Chagas-Lambardi Brazil-Argentina 674
  15. Levy-Mouil France 657
  16. Fu-Wang China 623

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