Barnet Shenkin

Piracy as Thomas hijacks the Vanderbilt by Barnet Shenkin prev/next

With 16 boards to play in the Vanderbilt, one of the World’s hardest team KO events. Fleisher-Kamil, Levin-Weinstein, Martel–Stansby led Zimmerman-Multon, Helgemo-Helness, Bessis-Bessis Michel and Thomas are father and son. The margin was 24 imps, significant, but not unsurmountable.

Board 49

Dlr: North
Vul: All
N ♠Q 9 8
♥A 10
♦K 4 2
♣K Q J 9 3
W ♠K 10 5 4
♥K Q 9 5
♦Q J 5 3
 E ♠3
♥7 6 4 3 2
♦A 10 8 7 6
♣A 5
 S ♠A J 7 6 2
♥J 8
♣10 7 6 4 2

In the open room Helgemo Helness were allowed to play in 2 uncontested after a strong NT by N which they made for +110. Here is the bidding in the closed room:


4♥ is an easy make and it takes a ♦ lead to defeat 5 with a ruff. Unfortunately for N/S they were playing Weak NT and this allowed East to come in the auction. Thomas led the ♥K and when in with the ♠K he switched to his singleton club and took a ruff the ♥K and the ♦A for down 2 and 300. This was 9 imps to Zimmerman down by 15.On the next board Zimmerman won 4 more imps when Bessis-Bessis played 2♥ and made 8 tricks while Helgemo–Helness bid up to 3♦ which was going down 1 but Weinstein took further action that resulted in 3♥ down 1. On 51 Fleisher won 5 imps when Levin Weinstein collected a 300 penalty in 1NX.

The margin was 16 imps when board 52 arrived.

Dlr: West
Vul: All
N ♠A K Q 4 2
♥A 8
♦K J 6 2
♣8 7
W ♠10 9 8 7 5
♥Q 7
♦9 7 4
♣K 5 4
 E ♠J 6 3
♥K J 6 5 2
♦10 5 3
♣J 6
 S ♠ 
♥10 9 4 3
♦A Q 8
♣A Q 10 9 3 2

Martel Stansby bid well to the top spot of 6♣ which was cold on a heart lead. Declarer could pitch 3 hearts from hand on dummy’s top spades. In the open it was a different kettle of fish.

All Pass   

So Levin had a great chance to find he lead and gain a large swing. None of the leads he had were really attractive on the bidding. He certainly thought long and hard about leading a heart which would have given Fleisher a slam swing but in the end led the ♣J and now all declarer had to do was lose the ♣K and he had 12 tricks. That was a very lucky 2 imps to Zimmerman. It was 14 imps to Zimmerman when along came board 55:

Dlr: North
Vul: All
N ♠Q 9 7 5
♥K 8 2
♦K Q 8
♣K J 10
W ♠ 
♥A 10 9 6
♦J 10 9 7 3
♣8 5 4 2
 E ♠A K 10 6
♥Q 7 5 3
♣A 7 6 3
 S ♠J 8 4 3 2
♥j 4
♦A 6 5 4
♣Q 9

In the open room Helness in the North chair opened 1♣, Levin as East passed and Helgemo bid 1♠ when this was raised to 2♠ this bought the contract. West felt he has not enough values to bid and his partner likely had a lot of spades. It was awkward for east to come in at the 3 level.

Let’s see what happened in the other room:


Michel Bessis X 1♣ when Levin passed and after making a game try with 3♣ remarkably ended in 4♥ when Thomas the tank bid up to the 4 level. Martel led a spade. Thomas won pitching a club from hand and the led 2♦ from dummy. As Declarer had bid diamonds South allowed North to win. A trump return would set the contract but North played the ♠7. Thomas ducked this in dummy and when South played low pitched a second club. Now too late Martel played a trump to the J and ace. There then followed, ♦ ruffed in dummy, ♠K pitching last club, ♠ ruff ♣A, ♣ ruff, ♦ ruff.

With three cards left dec was in Dummy. North could only watch helplessly as Dec ruffed a club in hand for his 9th trick.

Then led a ♦, North ♥K 8, Dummy ♥Q

Thomas made dummy’s trump Q en passant and scored up his game. Swashbuckling bidding and great play, although N/S had some chances to beat the contract. Perhaps South could have played the ♠8 on partner’s 7 which would not allow declarer to force North to hold the lead, and then South could have shifted to a trump. At the end of a gruelling event these plays are easy to miss. This board won 12 imps for Zimmerman who now trailed by only 2 imps.

Here is board 57:

Vul: East-West
N ♠10 5
♥A K 10 9
♦K J 9 7 4
♣7 3
W ♠A J 3
♥7 4
♦A 3
♣A K Q 8 6 2
 E ♠Q 8 4
♥Q J 6 5 2
♦Q 10 2
♣5 4
 S ♠K 9 7 6 2
♥8 3
♦8 6 5
♣J 10 9

In both rooms this is how the bidding started. Where Weinstein made a very heavy 3♣ overcall regardless of his system, in the other room Thomas bid what he thought he might make, a rubber bridge bid of 3N. A bid with a lot of upside. He collected a perfect dummy and the contract was unbeatable. As they say ”fortune favours the brave” and it often applies in bridge. That was 11 imps to Zimmerman who now led by by 4 imps. Then came board 58:

Dlr: East
Vul: All
N ♠A J 6 4 3
♥10 7
♦K Q 10 8 6
W ♠10 8
♥K Q 4
♦A 7 5
♣J 9 8 7 5
 E ♠Q 7 2
♥A 9 8 6
♦J 9 2
♣A K 2
 S ♠K 9 5
♥J 5 3 2
♦4 3
♣Q 10 4 3

In the open room e/w were down 1 in 3♣ a normal type of result. N/S can make 2♠.

3NAll Pass  

*At this point Thomas went into the “tank”, sorry, for a long time and finally emerged with 3N!!!!

I was commenting on Vugraph and was asked the question “is that the son or the father“?

I replied nobody over 30 would ever dream of bidding 3N. Thomas is 28 years old.He had put himself in a corner by getting now to 3♦ and took a rather wild gamble with 3N. He must have been holding his breath to see what spades were in Dummy.

We can see that with the normal spade lead the contract would make if the club Q fell doubleton or singleton with North around 30 percent. However the contract appears to have no chance on the actual club division. Thomas won the spade lead the 10 and played three rounds of clubs. North played high low in diamonds discouraging. South got a fixed idea in his head that here is no way West could have bid 3N without a spade stop. Thus he played a low spade. North won the Ace, the suit was blocked and the contract was home for 12 imps to Zimmerman. This brought Zimmerman’s lead to 16 imps.

Small hands at the end meant the match was now out of reach with flat boards to come. Zimmerman won by 10 imps.

A first win for the French, and Swiss players, Thomas and Michel Bessis Frank Multon Pierre Zimmerman aided by the Norwegians, Helgemo and Helness.

The Bessis partnership driven by Thomas actually bid 5 games in the last quarter not bid by their opponents. One was defeated, two could have been defeated. It is a long time since I have a player take such an active and fearless role. It reminded me of my junior days where I had the good fortune to play with and against the best junior players of that time.

It could arguably be stated that Thomas Bessis hijacked the Vanderbilt and took it back to Europe.