Stefan Skorchev, young Bulgarian international, has given us another top tier annual pairs tournament to put in our diaries — the Acol Invitational Pairs. Superbly organised and offering big prize money, this year it was won by Thor Erik Hoftaniska and Gunnar Hallberg, a Norwegian/Swedish partnership that was invented at the rubber bridge table the night before! Thirty-two pairs competed and around 100 boards were played over the weekend. Let me say right now — I didn’t play it and that’s not because I was NFI.
I was. Honest!
Let’s watch Gunnar in every bridge player’s favourite hunting ground — 3NT.
West elected to lead a small Heart. Declarer put in dummy’s nine to muddy the waters, and won in hand. Next he went to dummy in Diamonds and played a Club to his 10 and West’s Queen. This underused play very often makes something good happen, as it did this time when West tried a Spade. Happy with his catch, Gunnar started to cash out his presumed 11 winners, but on the Diamond to the King, East unexpectedly showed out. Declarer cashed his Spades and Hearts and ended in dummy (with three cards left) to have a think.
Had West started with Jxxx in three suits and scored the singleton Queen of Clubs?
Gunnar went through what had happened in the Heart suit, coupled with the fact that East hadn’t flinched on the first round of Clubs, and came to the conclusion that West’s hand was probably as above. He ended this terrific piece of card reading by endplaying West with the Ace of Clubs to lead into his Diamond tenace for 11 tricks and a near top.
Special thanks to Stefan and the Acol Club — and count me in next year!