Third Time Lucky For Cambridge

by Lior Zivan

The Varsity Match against Oxford has not been a happy hunting ground for Cambridge in the recent past, having been on the wrong end of final set turn-arounds in both 1997 and 1998. It was with this in the back of our minds that the Cambridge team arrived at the Young Chelsea Bridge Club, ready to face Oxford in this year's 96-board match. As always, the start was going to be crucial, and all seemed to be going well, when board 8 came along:

East        South        West        North       
1d 1h 2c P
2d 2h 3d 3h

After a typically competitive auction, in which we failed to find our best fit, I arrived in 3h doubled.

EW Vul
S AJ9752
H 75
D J10
C J93
Dealer East
S 86
H J2
D A986
C KQ1074
W        E
S 43
D KQ7532
C 85
S KQ10
H Q109864
D 4
C A62

Although it looks natural to win the cK lead, the bidding and East's c8 at trick one suggest that this will simply lead to a club ruff, and at least five defensive tricks. I therefore allowed the king to hold and awaited developments. West cashed the dA and now the contract was unbeatable.

(Ed: The best defence is quite difficult: only continuing clubs or leading a trump will work, and each might cost on a different layout. On a spade switch, declarer cuts communications with a diamond before attacking trumps.)

West switched to a spade. Having a complete count of the honours, I led a heart from dummy. East rose and played a club. However, the cA and hQ now pinned the jack and secured the contract, as East had no club to return.

The first eight boards set the scene for the start of the match, Cambridge taking a 91-12 lead after 32 boards. However, with Oxford reducing the gap to 50 overnight, we were beginning to get a feeling of d'eja vu. The first set on Sunday morning was going to be psychologically crucial. It certainly did not disappoint:

NS Vul
S KJ10872
H 105
D K10854
C -
Dealer East
S 5
H QJ74
D J96
C AJ943
W        E
S AQ63
H 62
D AQ72
C K72
S 94
H AK983
D 3
C Q10865
East        South        West        North       
1s 2s* X P
P ?

The 2s bid was Michaels. Not many people can claim to have a clear understanding about North's pass. Surely, one of 2NT and pass should be played as natural, but which? Either way, with the stakes so high, it would take a brave South to find the pass, which results in -200 at worst against a cold 3NT.

(Ed: looks like -500 to me on the marked trump lead. And not everyone will bid 3NT. A bad time for South to get involved.)

This board produced -460 in one room and +1100 in the other, calming any remaining nerves and setting Cambridge up for a 123 IMP victory.

Special thanks must go to the Young Chelsea Bridge Club, whose continued support has been instrumental in preserving the unique atmosphere which this match traditionally generates. The Cambridge team was Zivan, Kelly, Birdsall, Wade, Zalin, O'Gorman with Cooke as non-playing captain.