Country Life Every Week - - Crossword Bridge - An­drew Robson

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.

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