Swiss Teams Club Challenge

by Julian Foster

Eighteen teams gathered for this year's Swiss Teams Club Challenge. The event is slightly different in that one normally enters as a team of eight from a club, divided into two teams of four (although entries are also accepted from individual teams of four). All the teams of four play a normal swiss teams, and the overall position of each club is determined by the total scores of their two teams of four.

The hands produced the usual crop of disasters, misplays and misdefences, but also included some interesting points of technique. An opportunity for a classic avoidance play arose in this 3NT contract:

S Axx
H Kxx
D K10x
C Axxx
W         E
S Kxx
H Qx
D AQ9xx
C Kxx

North led a heart to the queen. Playing teams it is correct to cash the ace of diamonds and finesse the ten, as you only need four diamond tricks to make the contract. Accordingly you don't mind losing a trick to LHO but you must avoid losing one to RHO, as he can play a heart through. Having done this I was gratified to discover that there was Jxxx on my right. No doubt my counterpart at the other table felt exactly the same when he made exactly the same play!

Game All
S Ax
H AJ10x
D Qxxx
Dealer South
S Kxxx
H xxx
D 10x
C 10xx
W         E
S xx
H Qxx
C Q9xxx
S QJxx
H Kxx
D Axxx
C Ax

This one gained us a game swing. After South had shown spades, and North had implied hearts, West led a low club. Declarer tried the jack, which was covered by the queen and ace. He ran sQ, and can now make the contract if he gets the hearts right. However, he finessed into my queen and we could set up clubs, using the diamond entry to cash them. Even if declarer plays diamonds first, with this lie of the cards he still goes down. So where was declarer's error? As so often it came at trick one. There is not need to play the cJ from dummy-firstly playing low gives East a chance to go wrong by playing the queen (correct if his partner has the ace), and secondly the club finesse can always be taken next round. The important difference is that South can comfortably go after diamonds and when East gets in he cannot safely continue clubs, thus giving declarer a vital tempo. It would be nice to report that our teammates found this play, but they were not unduly tested after a spade lead.

Now for a bidding problem. At love all, you hold Q10xxx - AQx Q10xxx. 1c-4h to you. 1c could be natural, 11-13 balanced, or 17-18 balanced in your methods. Rightly or wrongly I stuck my neck out with 4s (an old tip I was given that says bidding 4s over 4h is often right has proved pretty reliable whenever I've done it), and bought the contract with a dummy of Axx Qxx KJxx Kxx. Now it becomes a good play problem too on the hJ lead.

The obvious worry is heart forces to which the best counter us usually set up your side suit first. I therefore ruffed and play a club to the king and ace, whereupon RHO continued a top heart. Having to ruff this I was in a pretty bad state, being down to three trumps in each hand, and none had yet been drawn. Matters became interesting when a spade to the ace brought forth the king from RHO. This left:

Dummy xx Q KJxx xx (LHO has sJxx left)

Hand Q10 - AQx Q10xx

At this stage you cash four rounds of diamonds, RHO following only once. You now know RHO has 1714 or 1813 shape, so the club finesse is odds on. LHO actually ruffs this, but is powerless to harm you. You ruff the heart return, cash the sQ for the ninth trick, and then the cQ which either scores a trick or if LHO ruffs the trump in dummy is now good. I'd like to report I found this line, but stupidly I tried to cash cQ before cashing the diamonds. I now had no chance when this was ruffed, but inexplicably when I later led a club off dummy, this was ducked, and it came to the same thing! Just as well from our perspective-teammates conceded 300 in 5h doubled, so we gained 3 imps instead of losing 8.

Many thanks to Giles Woodruff for a lot of hard work to produce an excellently run event.