Czy mowicie po polsku?


In other words, do you speak Polish? Although English is the official language in international bridge and also the dominant language in Internet, there is at least one Internet bridge club where it is customary to have chat in Polish, French or Italian, as well as in English, obviously. It is Fred Gitelman's Bridge Base Online (, a site that has managed to attract a very diverse player base; quite often one gets the impression that Poles, Bulgarians and Italians are the majority.


A factor that has contributed to this diversity are the excellent Vugraph broadcasts from various national and zonal championships. During the first half of 2003, Bridge Base Online broadcasted onlineVugraph from the Danish Teams Championship, the French Mixed Team Championship, the South American Championships or Polish Superliga Finals.


The new Polish champions are the team of Unia Leszno, spear-headed by Kwiecien and Pszczola. In the final they overcame a 10-imp carryover to beat AZS Politechnica Wroslaw by 10 imps.


The biggest swing of the weekend arose on this deal. It was the last deal of the 5th segment and AZS had built a small lead of 14 imps.


West dealer, NS vul

                                    A 9 6 3

                                    Q J 8


                                    A K Q 10 8 6


Q J 4                                                    K 10 8 7 5 2

7 4                                                       2

A K 9 8 5                                            J 10 6 3

7 4 2                                                    9 3



                                    A K 10 9 6 5 3

                                    Q 7 4 2

                                    J 5


Open Room

West                North               East                  South

Kwiecien            Starkowski            Pszczola          Olanski

pass                 1C *                2H **              4H

4S                    5NT ***      6S                    7H

7S                    dbl                   all pass


*          Polish

**        Major and minor [I guess]

***      Grand slam force


Par was reached when Michal Kwiecien took the 7S sacrifice. Double-dummy the defenders can take six tricks by engineering two diamond ruffs, but North led ace-king of clubs and continued with the queen; declarer discarded dummy's heart and then lost only the ace of trumps, since he also managed to guess diamonds in the end. Obviously, 800 was a huge result for East-West and the spectators were excited, trying to predict the outcome in the Closed Room. The general consensus was that if N-S reach the grand they'll gain a swing because Balicki-Zmudzinski tend not to sacrifice against grand slams.


The spectators hit the bull's eye:


Closed Room

West                North               East                  South

Zmudzindki            Jagniewski        Balicki              Pazur

pass                 1C                   2S                    4H

4S                    5NT                 6S                    7H

dbl                   all pass


The auction was remarkably similar to the other table, but Adam Zmudzinski elected to trust his ace of diamonds more than his opponents bidding. He led it but soon afterwards declarer entered 2470 in his scorecard. A massive 17 imps for Unia and perhaps the blow was even more devastating because (at least according to hearsay at the Vugraph room) East-West were very angry and did not play in the next segment where their team dropped 20 more imps or so.


An example:


East dealer, none vul.


                                    K J 3

                                    J 6

                                    A Q 9 5 2

                                    10 9 2


Q 9 4                                                   A 10 7 6 5 2

K 3                                                      Q 7 4

K 4 3                                                   8 6

K Q 8 4 3                                            7 6


                                    A 10 9 8 5 2

                                    J 10 7

                                    A J 5


West                North               East                  South

Golebiowski            Kwiecien            Kwiecinski            Pszczola

                                                2D                   2H

2S                    2NT                 pass                 3H

pass                 4H                   all pass


Although there have been some more exotic 2D bids over the weekend, this 2D was Multi. In the other room, after a similar beginning, East-West had reached 3S and played it there, going one down. Here, E-W subsided earlier, however N-S reached 4H all by themselves. On the king of clubs lead, the defence would probably prevail, since they'd score a club ruff, but Golebiowski led the nine of spades to the jack (the only card, king loses) and ace. Kwiecincki immediately fired back the 6 of clubs (low from two) but it was too late: Jacek Pszczola put the jack (the only card!) and won the club continuation in dummy -again, an essential play. Then, he played the king of spades discarding the ace of clubs! After this spectacular 'winner on winner' that cut communications, he finessed in trumps and soon afterwards claimed. This was yet another 9 imps for Unia.


But in the seventh segment Balicki-Zmudzinski came back and the AZS covered almost all the lost ground. Unia began the last 12-board segment with a 6-imps lead. Seven of the 12 boards of this segment were pushes; not necessarily dull pushes, mind you.


West dealer, EW vul.

                                    Q 5

                                    5 4

                                    A 10 8 7 6 4 3

                                    J 8


8 7 6 3                                                 A K 10

10 6                                                     K J 8 7 2

K J 5                                                    2

9 6 4 3                                                 Q 7 5 2


                                    J 9 4 2

                                    A Q 9 3

                                    Q 9

                                    A K 10


West                North                           East                  South

Starkowski            Kwiecien                     Olanski            Pszczola

pass                 2S                                dbl                   pass

2NT                 all pass


2S showed a bad three-level preempt (so that the actual 3-level bids promise a stronger hand) and, if I have deciphered well the Polish commentary, it seems that EW got their wires crossed: 2NT was Lebensohl-ish [I have to recheck this]. Be as it may, 2NT was not a success: after a heart lead to the queen and queen of diamonds switch declarer could not make more than four tricks: two spades, one diamond and one heart. Mercifully, he was undoubled, but still the penalty was 400. It seemed a mortal blow to AZS.


In the other room:

West                North               East                  South

Wojcicki            Zmudzinski            Poletylo          Balicki

pass                 pass                 1H                   dbl

pass                 3D                   pass                 3NT

all pass


Zmudzinski passed the North hand but then he had to jump over the take-out double, so they reached 3NT which at first glance seemed hopeless. West led the 10 of hearts won by South's queen. Balicki played the queen of diamonds, not covered, then the 9 to the king and ace, East discarding the 10 of spades (not best). Diamonds were useless now but Balicki had another string to his bow. He ran the jack of clubs and then exited with a spade to East, who played the king of hearts but Balicki won the ace and played another spade to ensure nine tricks.


So, AZS have managed the rather rare feat to contract for 17 tricks in the same denomination at both rooms and not lose points in the process! The spectators were by now very excited and it seemed that, having dodged this bullet, the AZS might prevail. It was not to be; soon thereafter, both North-South pairs had a normal 1S-4S auction, both went down three when everything broke badly, but Balicki-Zmudzinski were doubled while Kwiecien-Pszczola were not. This 8-imp swing was followed by three more pushes and the nail-biting final ended (not with a bang) with a 10-imp win for Unia.


There have been some concerns as to the unfamiliarity of "foreign", especially Polish or Italian, systems used in high-level play. BBO now offers a prime possibility to see various 'local' systems in action, either at top or at grassroots level, and also have a very good time. In fact, the whole Vugraph broadcast was a very enjoyable event, superbly managed by Bridge Base Online staff and the local correspondents from Warsaw. The one room had comments in English, the other one in Polish.


I personally managed to get connected with both rooms, a trick that perhaps will not (or should not) be possible in the future; while the English-speaking (more accurately, English-typing) commentators did a superb job, aided by the odd Pole concerning system oddities, I strongly suspect that the atmosphere was much more vibrant in the Polish room, also much more detailed concerning system ramifications and inferences. One remembers that back in the 60s Bobby Fischer, the man who upset, albeit momentarily, the Russian supremacy in chess, learnt Russian, specifically to have access to obscure untranslated chess literature. Perhaps should Larry Cohen start learning Polish?



Nikos Sarantakos, Luxembourg