All News

Our "Fab 4" win once more

A question for you. Michael Cornell has won the Canberra National Open Teams  five times, with a different partner each time. Name his five partners.  Reading the next piece will give you a clue to one of them.

Mention the names of Michael Cornell and Ashley Bach along with Michael Whibley and Matt Brown anywhere near a Bridge Tournament these days….and start looking at the top of the ladder for their finishing position. We have another tournament success for these two pairs whose team along with Australians Tony Leibowitz and David Beauchamp have won the National Open Teams in Canberra.

122 teams started this week long event and after four days  and 12 rounds of qualifying, the Cornell team were in second place with 9 wins,  1 draw (an “Australian draw”..a loss by 4 imps) and 2 losses. At that point, Cornell- Bach were on top of the datums with Whibley – Brown in 6th place.

In the quarter finals, they beat Barbara Travis’ team by 55 imps. In the semi-finals, they demolished David Appleton’s team by 83 imps. In the final, they came up against the other really in- form team, Avi Kanetkar- Bruce Neill, Warren Lazer – Pauline Gumby, Arjuna De Livera – Andy Braithwaite, the team that had won the qualifying in great style (though Cornell had won the head to head battle by25 imps.

Ashley  Michael.jpg

    Ashley Bach and Michael Cornell

In the 4 stanza 64 board final, Cornell got off to a great start with a 33 imp win in the first stanza and lost a net 3 imps in the other three to win 119-89.1. The first five boards of the final had seen Cornell  get off to a flying start, 47-0; 11 imps when Michael Whibley made a 3NT beaten at the other table, 7 for a double part-score swing, 13 when Cornell- Bach stayed out of a no play slam and 13 more for this:

Board 4
West Deals
Both Vul
Q 9 3
K 5
10 6
Q 9 7 5 3 2
A 10 7 2
A Q J 2
9 7
W   E
6 5 4
8 6 4
A K Q J 8 5
K J 8
10 9 7 3
4 3 2
10 8 6
West North East South
Whibley Gumby Brown Lazer
1  Pass 1  Pass
2 NT Pass 3  Pass
3  Pass 3 NT All pass


1Spade-small denied a major suit (Brown-Whibley play transfer responses to their 1Club-small opener). Matt's 3Club-small forced his partner to bid 3Diamond-small with 3NT showing a mild slam try in diamonds. With only a small doubleton trump holding, Michael declined. Interestingly, 6Diamond-small played by West would have made had Pauline Gumby chosen the same lead as she made to 3NT, a club. Michael Whibley made short work of scoring 12 tricks. Meanwhile,

West                     North                    East                        South

Braithwaite         Cornell                  De Livera                      Bach

1Club-small                           Pass                    1Spade-small                           Pass

2NT                        Pass                       3Diamond-small                           Pass

3NT                        Pass                       4Diamond-small                           Pass

4NT                        Pass                       6Diamond-small                           All Pass

A similar start but Arjuna De Livera introduced his own suit and pushed on to slam despite some negative responses from his partner, Andy Braithwaite.

A spade lead would have defeated the slam very quickly but that’s way too aggressive a lead. Ashley Bach started with Heart-small10..and there was a way to make. Arjuna made a good start by taking the ace, drawing trumps and leading a second heart. He would make whenever Ashley held the Heart-smallK but Ashley could not play the card he did not hold…and playing for a 3-3 heart break or a successful club finesse seemed much better odds than the line of playing the Heart-small2 from dummy on the second round (the winning line). Thus, on the second round of hearts, the Heart-smallJ was played from dummy.

Mike Cornell won and had to switch to a low spade. Declarer won, tested hearts without success and then ran trumps. Mike Cornell had to discard his spades and the losing club finesse saw the contract one down.

On the last of four stanzas, there was just one significant swing to each side. Both New Zealand pairs did well on Board 23:

Board 23
South Deals
Both Vul
J 7 6
10 9 4
A J 6 4 3 2
K 8 4
Q J 9 5 4 3 2
10 8
W   E
A 9 5 3
K 10 7 6
J 8 7 6
Q 10 2
A K 5 3 2
K Q 9 7
West North East South
Whibley Gumby Brown Lazer
3  4  4  5 
Pass Pass 5  Pass
Pass Dbl All pass  


Gumby-Lazer soon found their club fit. With an ace and a singleton club, Matt Brown decided that the 5 level dive would not be too expensive. Had the Australians attacked spades, they would have scored one trick in each suit for down 2. However, after the Diamond-small10 lead to the ace, a club taken by North and a spade exit, Michael Whibley exited a heart and Pauline Gumby played diamonds one time too many setting up the Diamond-small8 for a spade discard…just +200 to the Australians.

West                     North                    East                        South

Kanetka               Cornell                     Neill                          Bach


3Heart-small                           x                              4Heart-small                           x

Pass                       5Club-small                           All Pass

Both negative style doubles left a more uncertain feel to the auction. Eventually, Mike Cornell bid his long suit, though neither opponent saw fit to disturb this contract. The fate of this contract came down to the diamond suit.

Bruce Neil led a heart. Mike Cornell, won, drew trumps and lay down Diamond-smallA. Noting the fall of the Diamond-smallQ, he exited a spade. The defence played three rounds of the suit…and the moment had come…Diamond-small10 and that card held the trick giving Cornell 9 imps for +600. With the pre-emptor, West, having shown two clubs and three spades along with a probable seven hearts, the diamond finesse seemed to be a near certainty.

Cornell was thus home by a comfortable 30imps, an excellent result.

Michael Whibley Matthew Brown  2017.png

                                    Michael Whibley and Matthew Brown

Another couple of “adopted Kiwis” also had very good tournaments. Michael Courtney’s team of 4 reached the semi-finals before running out of steam against Kanetkar while with Michael Ware having a rare break from Bridge, GeO Tislevoll’s  team did well to reach the quarter-final stage where they lost a very close match to Appleton by 8 imps.

Spare, also, a thought for the mixed Australian-New Zealand team of Andy Hung- Sartaj Hans, Tom Jacob- Brian Mace and Nick Jacob- Nabil Edgtton. They were in the top 8 with one qualifying match to go and lost that by 11 imps to miss out the knock-out stage by 1.18 vps.

However, we finish where we started. Who have been the players other than Ashley Bach whom Michael Cornell has guided to success in this event?

Lionel Wright, Rysyard Jedrychowski, Tony Taylor and Dwayne Crombie. Unfortunately, Lionel and Tony are no longer with us while Dwayne no longer plays. Michael? He seems to have more enthusiasm for the game than ever.

Richard Solomon




Go Back View All News Items

Our Sponsors
  • NZB Foundation
  • Ryman