MY team’s fifth-round Gold Cup match was against the dangerous team captained by Surrey’s Cameron Small. It took place just three days before the European Bridge Championships were to begin in Budapest, which you will read about from next week; it gave our team some very well needed practice.
Mr Small’s team played very well and it was a fight to the end. Small’s partner Jon Cooke, a professional poker player from Cambridge, outplayed one of my England teammates on this tricky Four Spades.
West led the Queen of Hearts and switched at trick two to a Club. Declarer won dummy’s Ace and crossed to the Ace of Spades (a first-round finesse of the Knave would have risked West winning the Queen and giving his partner a Club ruff—should East have a Spade more and a Club fewer).
At trick four, declarer found the very nice play of leading a low Spade (leading either the King or the Knave would have resulted in defeat). West won the Queen and led a third Spade, but declarer was in control. He won the Knave, ruffed a Heart with dummy’s last Spade, led the Knave of Clubs to his Queen, cashed the Knave of Spades, drawing West’s last Spade and could now cash his three remaining Clubs plus the Ace of Diamonds. Game made.
At the other table, East overtook West’s Queen of Hearts lead to switch to a Diamond. Declarer ducked West’s Knave, won a second (low) Diamond with dummy’s Ace and made the fatal move of crossing to his Ace-king of Spades. There was no way home from here.
Better is to lead a Spade to the Knave. West can do no better than lead a third Diamond, but declarer can ruff high, draw the trumps and cash the Clubs. The key is to lose the first or second Spade to West’s Queen to retain control.
On our second Gold Cup deal, we see Mr Small, East, defend a part-score very nicely.
West led the King of Spades and East played his lowest, a suit preference signal (given that declarer is marked with just one Spade) for the lower-ranking clubs. At trick two, West switched to the nine of Clubs, declarer playing low from dummy and East winning the Knave. What next?
Say East woodenly leads a second Spade. Declarer ruffs and plays a Diamond to the Ace and a second Diamond. East wins the King and leads a third Spade. Declarer ruffs and leads out all his trumps, throwing Clubs from dummy. East is squeezed in Hearts and Clubs and the contract is made.
Mr Small made no mistake. After winning the Knave of Clubs at trick two, he returned a low Club into the jaws of dummy’s Ace-queen. The tall declarer won and led Ace and another Diamond. East won the King and led a third Club, West ruffing. Down one. ‘Very well defended,’ said that tall declarer.
Notwithstanding those two reverses, on to the quarter final.