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The Swiss Gambit (5/29/03)


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The Swiss Gambit
When playing in a swiss teams, especially in a large field, the draw is very important. Sometimes you might play all 8 rounds against  professional teams while sometimes you might never play the best team among the ones with approximately the same victory points. The swiss gambit usually refers to the (often unintentional) act of losing early so as to play against a number of weaker teams and using big wins against those teams to climb back into contention. This past weekend at the Eastern States Regional in New York City, it can be said that my team almost executed the swiss gambit to perfection.
In an A/X swiss that ran alongside the main event (the finals of the Goldman Pairs), our team had a total of 3 VPs after the first two rounds. In the next 3 rounds, I guess we finally found our level and received 20, 19, and 18 VPs respectively. Because the field was bunched up, by the dinner break our 60VPs got us up to 5th in the field.
In the first match after dinner, an interesting end position came up. Playing against a weak pro-client pair with the pro on my right, I held the South hand below (spot cards filled in for convenience, and may not be correct for the irrelevant suits) :
NS Vul
Dealer W

S  43
H  K42
D  984
C  AQ752

S  K96
H  J6
C  KJ86

H  T85
D  AT63
C  93
S  A852
H  AQ973
D  52
C  T4
West dealt and opened 1D, to which East responded 1S. With an eye on the opposition, I decided to come in with 2H, a bid that I think is pretty sick given the shape and the vulnerability. My partner was not in on the joke however, and with an eye on the vulnerability, decided to punt 4H.
The opening lead was the DK which RHO overtook to play the SQ. I wasn't sure what was going on, so I won the SA and played for the simple line of 3-2 hearts and 3-3 clubs. I took the club finesse and cashed the ace, noting the echoes from both sides. I then played a third club to which RHO discarded a diamond. Seeing no harm, I decided to discard a diamond too. LHO now cashed the SK and tried to cash a diamond which I ruffed. I followed by ruffing a spade in dummy and returning to hand with a club ruff as RHO discarded the DT. I now know that West's distribution was exactly 3-2-4-4 in the following end position:

H  K4
D  9
C  2

H  J6
D  J7 

S  J
H  T85  
S  8
H  AQ9 

Let's look at what happens when I lead my S8. If LHO discards, then I ruff low, draw trumps and claim. So let's say LHO ruffs with the H6 as he did at the table. I now overruff with the HK and lead the diamond (it's important to lead the diamond and not the club!). What does East do now? If he ruffs low, I overruff and I have high trumps. If he ruffs high with the HT, I overruff and drop LHO's now stiff HJ and score the H9 as my tenth trick.

The three card end position reminds me a little of the devil's coup but it really isn't one. I have asked a friend who is a fine technical player if he knew of a name or what class of positions this comes under but he has no idea either. He does say that we do tend to have a lot more names for squeezes that trump elopements. Perhaps if I go back and reread the chapter on trump elopement in "Adventures in Card Play" I might come across something similar.

Anyway, this board helped in a crushing victory in the 6th round, leaving us third overall with 80 VPS and playing the top team. Unfortunately, we had two unlucky boards on that round and could not recover. We ended the day tied for 8th, but had we been able to win our last two matches we would have been successful with our swiss gambit of getting only 3 VPS in the first two rounds.

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