When things go right

by Lior Zivan

After taking an extended tour of the M42, our Cambridge University team, which had qualified to represent the county in the Pachabo, finally arrived in the Moat House Hotel, a full 30 seconds early! The Pachabo is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing competitions of the year. The unique scoring system, which is a combination of point-a-board and aggregate scoring, keeps most competitors guessing as to whether they are playing pairs or teams.

The first few rounds seemed to be going well when we sat down to play the early leaders:

EW Vul
S 543
H K954
D A103
C Q93
Dealer South
S J7
H A732
D K5
C AJ654
W        E
S 102
H 6
D QJ9642
C K1072
S AKQ986
H QJ108
D 87
C 8
South        West        North        East       
1s P 1NT P
2s P P 3d
3h P 4h P

I don't generally like protecting at Red, but with my reasonable playing strength, combined with the expectation of points in dummy (the opponents had after all just passed themselves out in a partscore) convinced me to venture an aggressive 3d bid. This was less than successful when they then bid to 4h and made it with an overtrick. It can in fact be beaten on a diamond lead as long as West ducks two rounds of hearts. Unfortunately the defence went astray. From this point on, however, we seemed to be inspired. It was one of those days when simply everything was going our way, and by the end of the day we found ourselves in third place.

The next morning brought much the same. It was rapidly becoming obvious that we could do no wrong. I decided to test this on hand 5:

NS Vul.
H 54
D A8542
C K83
Dealer West
S 1076
H AK1086
D 763
C Q4
W        E
S 983
H J73
C J10975
S KQ54
H Q92
D J109
C A62

The bad shape and lack of intermediates makes opening the South hand very unattractive, but I remembered a tip from the great Zia Mahmood that when things are going your way (he calls it "Heat 1") you should be more aggressive than usual. I therefore had a great excuse for opening it anyway. My enthusiasm was slightly dampened when partner raised 1NT to 3NT and tabled his hand! The h8 ran to my queen, bumping my total up to eight, but not a ninth in sight. If hearts were 4-4 I could set up a diamond. Unfortunately playing a diamond now would give up any chance of making the contract if hearts are 5-3. It appeared that if hearts were 5-3 then my only chance would be a squeeze on (presumably) East. With this in mind I exited with a heart.

Having cashed his four hearts, West exited with a diamond. Four rounds of spades followed, leaving East to find a discard holding the dK and cJ109. The choice was unenviable and resulted in +600. Although West could have beaten the contract by switching to a diamond at trick three, I was pretty confident he was not going to - after all, we were on "Heat 1"!

The end of the event saw us scrape second place, 4.5 points behind the deserving winners Middlesex, and 1 ahead of Manchester. Second was perhaps a flattering result, particularly given that we lost to the other three teams in the top four, but it was certainly a great ending to an incredible weekend.