Sunday, 24 February 2013

Cambridge Swiss Pairs (1)

Every now and then a deal seems comes up - perhaps where one achieved a less than satisfactory result -  it defies easy analysis and you are tormented working out whether you played it optimally, or whether you should have done better.

Such a deal came up in the first of the two-session Cambridge Club Swiss Pairs event this week. In our third match, against Paul Barden and Jon Cooke, our most highly ranked opponents and very real contenders for the competition, we reached 3NT via the auction below and received the opening lead of 4. Why not take the place of declarer?

Dealer E


Vul:  E- W





2NT (1)


3 (2)
3NT (3)





(1) 20-22
(2) Stayman, enquiring for five card majors
(3) No four or five card major

Winning in dummy, the next hand following with J, you consider your options. The contract and lead seem normal enough: some might venture to six clubs, but that faces its own share of options. You have eight top tricks and can securely play for a ninth in hearts. If everything goes your way, you might end up with twelve tricks (or just possibly thirteen if you lead a heart to hand, and the hand with the ace ducks: an unlikely prospect against this opposition). The shortage of entries to dummy suggests that one should test diamonds before clubs, and that if you are going to lead a heart towards hand, the time to do it is at trick two.

With this in mind,and nothing else to go on, you lead a heart to your king, which is taken by the ace and a second spade, the deuce, comes back at trick three, you throw a heart from dummy and West plays the nine. Your opponents are playing fourth best leads, so there is nothing to be gained by ducking this, and you win the trick with A. It seems normal to continue with diamonds, so you play A, the defender on your left, East, playing 10.  Any hopes of a favourable split in that suit are dashed when you continue with Q - on which he now discards a heart.

With the spades now wide open, there is no point in overtaking the diamond, so you now play a club from hand, East following with the deuce. Do you finesse the ten or rise with Q? If you get this decision right, you will make five club tricks and eleven tricks in all, get it wrong and you may only make eight tricks in your no trump contract in spite of your combined 30-count. The competition may well hang on your choice of card.

To be continued........

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