The Great Northern Swiss Teams of Two

by Giles Woodruff

Being dragged up to Warrington for two days to play only Pairs is not Catherine's idea of a fun weekend of bridge, so I promised we'd play teams all weekend at the Great Northern Swiss Pairs. This was promptly put into practice in the first match when, due to a misunderstanding about how we dealt with Asptro interference over our 1NT opening, we found ourselves playing a 23 point 3NT. As so often happens, the lead gave the ninth trick. Two boards later our opponents launched Asptro again, we had another misunderstanding, and this time Catherine brought home the 21 point 3NT.

Reaching table one at one point, we slipped to 9th on Saturday evening. Most of our ambitious games slipped through, but it was hard to convert our misunderstandings about what constituted a forcing pass at the five level into a making 3NT! However, Sunday started with two good wins and a narrow loss, and in the final round we found ourselves at table two.

Holding sAQ8 hJ108 dQ953 cQ53, what do you bid when partner opens 1c and right hand opponent makes a weak jump overcall of 2s (answer later)?

It would be easy to fill you in with the earlier hands where mistakes cost us first place. Instead, I hope you enjoy this moment of madness, which at the end helped pull us up to second. Holding sQJ hQ7653 dA7 cAK96 at love all, you hear the auction:

   LHO       CJA       RHO       GCW   
P P 2d* P
2h* 2s P ?

1NT was 10-12, the double 14+ HCPs, balanced. 2d was alerted as a transfer, as was 2h, and the 2s bidder could have made a forcing pass.

Opponents were good players, but a first time partnership. Catherine's pass of 1NT doubled had shown some values, but her bid over 2h had suggested a weak hand (perhaps 5-7 HCP with five spades?). However, we play double of 2h here as takeout, and this would often be right with a singleton or doubleton heart. It seemed likely that opponents had had a misunderstanding and 2d must have been natural. Backing my judgement, I upgraded my hand, anticipating a heart lead, and expecting to find three of them in dummy, and invited with 2NT, which Catherine accepted on:

H Q7653
D A7
C AK96
W         E
S 109754
H K82
D K8
C 1053

North led a heart from Axx, which I won with the queen. The spade jack was taken by South's king, and a diamond returned to my ace. Dummy's spades now proved a useful illusion - LHO ducked my queen to prevent easy establishment, but this proved fatal for the defence, as I switched to hearts for nine tricks.

Back to the bidding problem. 2NT is the values call, but unfortunately this would have been artificial in our partnership. Nor is it possible to pass and bid 2NT over partner's reopening double. The only solution is to bash 3NT, although with the spade honours well placed and good intermediates, you don't have to feel too bad about it. The hands were:

H J108
D Q953
C Q53
W         E
S K102
H 72
D A6
C AJ10764

North led the jack of diamonds, which could have been from a holding headed by either J10 or KJ10. How do you plan the play?

Top marks to those who rose with the ace, played a spade to hand, and finessed the club. A quick count of your points (23) indicates that not many will be in this game. What's more, you've also avoided a heart lead which would spell instant defeat if the suit is not 4-4. If the club finesse is right you'll make ten tricks and a very good score. Bonus marks if you deduced that the dK is probably with South anyway. LHO could have led a heart - it seems he's chosen to make a passive lead. Why choose a diamond from KJ10x when he could have led a heart from length?

Sadly, RHO proved to have all the missing kings, and four down was a bottom. The winning line is to win the ace of diamonds and play a heart off table. If RHO fails to play the king from Kx (quite likely), the suit becomes blocked and the defence cannot take five tricks before you can take nine. I think our opponents might have given up the game if I'd found that one.