Imagine that I return the Q. Declarer can win the A and run the trumps. George must come down to 3 cards including 2 diamonds to the K. His third card is a club. Declarer can now exit a club, endplaying George into leading a diamond. It is true that on the actual lie of the cards George can throw all of his high clubs away and allow me to win the club exit with my 9. If declarer had held the same hand with the J or 10 instead of a small one, my defense would be necessary.
Once I played the 9 it looked to Dorthe like the strip-squeeze would not work. She decided to give me another chance to make a mistake by allowing me to hold this trick. Dorthe had effectively rectified the count for a possible simple squeeze against Geoge. In order to break this up it was now necessary to continue clubs. The whole hand was pretty obvious at this point, however, and I had little trouble continuing clubs. Dorthe's only hope now was the diamond finesse. When the finesse lost, as expected, 4 was down one.
Before the event was half over it became pretty clear that Zia Mahmood-Peter Weichel (USA) were going to win. Despite the fact that this was a first time partnership Zia and Peter were winning just about every match by a large margin. The only other pair to really assert themselves was Andrea Buratti and Massimo Lanzarotti (Italy). Buratti-Lanzarotti are reigning European Teams Champions who represented their country in the Beijing Bermuda Bowl. Going into the last day, this pair pretty much had second place locked up. The battle would be for third place. Three pairs, Helgemo-Helness (Norway), Muller-de Boer (Holland), and George and myself had traded third, fourth, and fifth, places for much of the tournament.
Unfortunately, George and I were in fifth place going into the last match. The good news was that we were about to play Helgemo and Helness who were sitting third. George and I pride ourselves on our ability to come from behind in the last match or segment (we are not so proud of our ability to blow large leads in similar circumstances). For whatever reason we could do no wrong in this match while the Norwegians misjudged on several deals.
On one hand George was dealt:
He was in second position at favourable vulnerability. What would you open? Most of the field opened 5. This is the bid that I think George would normally make (though he might open 1 on occasion). George picked the right time to be pessimistic and opened 3. This was passed out. 3 was the limit of the hand and we were one of the only pairs in our direction to get a plus score. I don't know if our position in the standings caused George to take a "swinging action" on this hand. If so, it is an instructional way to swing. Most players when trying for a swing become more aggressive in the bidding and hope lots of tricks are available. It is a less well known tactic to bid less aggressively and hope that few tricks are available. Full marks to George for finding the right way to swing on this hand.
This deal (also from the last match) was interesting from a tactical bidding point of view as well:
Helgemo's 3 was a "short suit game try" showing a singleton or void in diamonds and asking partner to evaluate for game purposes. Helness, with almost half his hand opposite partner's shortness, signed off. This revealing auction made it pretty easy for me to lead a low diamond away from my A. Helgemo made the normal play of the J from dummy. George won his Q and accurately switched to a heart (there was some danger that I would eventually be squeezed in hearts and diamonds). When he later won his A, George played another heart. Helgemo could still have made an overtrick by cashing his club trick and throwing me in with a heart. I would have to lead another diamond or concede a ruff and discard, either of which would eliminate Helgemo's second club loser. Helgemo reasonably tried to endplay George instead by exiting with his third club. He was right in that George was out of hearts. He was wrong about the position of the A, however, as George had a safe diamond exit.
Our nice defense was not enough to defeat 3 but almost everyone else played in 4 making 5 on the normal lead of the Q. What does this have to do with tactics? Well, I think that Helgemo's 3 bid was a poor tactical choice. I have a lot of respect for Helgemo. He is only 25 years old and one of the finest bridge players in the world. Moreover, I can understand his reservations on this hand. It is far from clear that you want to be in 4 on the actual NS cards. Despite this, I strongly believe that Helgemo should just bid 4 over 2. Obviously 4 might have no play and it is also possible that 3NT is a much better contract than 4. I believe, however, that scientific game tries are very overrated. For one thing, it is absurd to think that even super fancy game tries are accurate enough to allow your partnership to consistently judge if 9 or 10 tricks are available. Even if your methods and judgement are that accurate the information you give away in the process is often worth at least one trick to the defense. George and I have adopted the philosophy of almost never making game tries - if you think game should be a reasonably good proposition most of the time, just bid it. We have found this approach to be very successful mostly through keeping the defense in the dark about what declarer's hand looks like.
We ended up beating Helgemo and Helness by 26 IMPs in the last match and easily passed them in the standings. Muller and de Boer (who really impressed us both with their bridge and their deportment) lost in the last match to the Schaltzs (who were the only local pair to win prize money, finishing 7th). As a result, we also passed our Dutch friends to finish third. Shivdasani and Ghose of India finished the event by blitzing their last three matches (including one against us) to come from nowhere into fourth place.
The final standings:
All of the hard-working organizers and officials from Denmark should be congratulated as the Politiken World Pairs was a huge success. Two similar events, the Cap-Volmac in The Hague and the Sunday Times in London, have enjoyed similar degrees of success over the years. George and I have been invited to these tournaments in January - watch this space for details. Hopefully the Politiken will become an annual affair. If so, it is certain to become known as one of the high points on the international bridge calendar. At the closing ceremonies, WBF President Damiani reflected on how wonderful these events are for promoting bridge and offered full WBF support for the establishment and recognition of a circuit of similar tournaments. Could we run such a tournament in Toronto? I don't see why not.
It should be noted that all of my teammates have had some additional success since the Bermuda Bowl. In addition to our third place finish in the Politiken, George went on to win the pro-am in Denmark. Meanwhile Mark Molson and Boris Baran successfully defended the North American Swiss Teams at the Atlanta NABC (along with Jack Coleman and Canadians Drew Cannell and Mark Stein). Eric Kokish and Joey Silver had one first and two seconds in the three events they played at a recent international tournament in Tokyo. Their teammates were Montrealers Rhoda Habert and Beverley Kraft, two members of Canada's Olympiad Women's Team.
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