Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Swiss Gambit

The scene is a four-round club Swiss at the Newton Bridge Club with some strong teams in contention (five of the 24 teams had GLMs or Platinum LMs).  After a moderate start – we would naturally claim that we were deliberately holding back in the first match to effect the "Swiss Gambit" – we had a nice come-from-behind win.  Two of the pivotal boards were slams.

The first of these was basically as simple as choosing between two suits.  My hand was ♠ T83  K2  KQJ ♣ AQ654 and partner Len Aberbach opened the bidding: 1♠ – 2♣ – 3♣ – 3♠ – 4 – 4NT – 5 – 5 – 6♣.  2♣ was game-forcing and 5 showed 0 or 3 keycards.  Not countenancing the possibility of zero, I asked about the queen with 5.  6♣ showed both the ♠Q and the ♣K.  I now knew his hand to be AKQxx Ax xx Kxx plus one other card, presumably not a spade.  In clubs, it was probable, given the 3♣ call and our style, of a fourth card or perhaps a second honor.  So, at the risk of losing 2 imps, I chose what I thought was the most likely make and passed 6♣.

This turned out to be a good decision. A diamond was led to the ace and dummy came down with ♠ AKQ76  A75  75 ♣ KJT.  Both black suits broke 4-1 but the solidity of the clubs meant there was no loser in trumps to go with the missing ace.  The spades, however, could only be brought in by twice running an intermediate card for a finesse, an unlikely play at the table.  They made 5♠ at the other table for a 12-imp gain.  Of course, it was lucky that I chose the right strain – it could easily have the been the wrong decision and I can't claim any great brilliance.

Much more credit is due however to our teammates.  My wife Kim Gilman – playing with Tony Wolf – later made a very fine bit of hand evaluation and followed it up with careful and accurate play for a nice 11-imp gain.  Kim's hand was ♠ J8632   K  4 ♣ AKT654.  Tony opened 1 and Kim decided not to make a game-forcing bid at first.  After the helpful diamond intervention and Tony's cooperative heart cuebid, they ended up in 6♠.  This was the layout:

The first two tricks were diamonds, Kim ruffing the second trick.  She then took two rounds of trumps with the A and K, seeing that South showed out.  A club back to hand (dropping the Q) was followed by a second club and a club ruff.  A low heart to the K was followed by another club ruff.  Now all depended on getting back successfully to hand without promoting North's trump ten.  Leaving the A stranded in dummy (there were no losers to throw on it), Kim was able to ruff with the 8, draw the last trump and her hand was good.  Note that the A is a chimera – see what would happen if it was cashed before trying to get back to hand!  At our table, West was in 4♠ and no great care was required to make the hand (as I recall, the A was in fact cashed), and they ended up making just the one overtrick.

Our gambit apparently paid off because we never did meet any of the strongest teams.  We were in fact nicely poised after three rounds in third place ready to overtake the two tough teams ahead of us.  Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good!


  1. On the first hand, it seems that partner could have owned the DA instead of one of the top two spade honors, eh?

    I can't think of how to offer a choice of black suit slams once responder has bid 5NT. In favor possibly of spades, is the potential availability of a heart ruff in the short trump hand. In favor of clubs is the better possibility that there is a ninth trump.

    Perhaps the best slam bid is 6NT? If either black suit splits, you have five of that suit, two top hearts, and either two diamonds and three of the other black suit or three diamonds and hopefully two of the other black suit.

    On the hand played by Kim, there seem to be a ton of play possibilities, too many for me to be confident which one is best. But I like the choice by Kim and am glad it was rewarded.

    Congratulations to you and your teammates.

    1. Scratch that comment about partner owning the DA instead of the other top spade honor; he would have bid 4D, rather than 4H, if that were the case.

      Still I am thinking that 6NT is the better slam bid.