The Alt Invitational is a prestigious online teams tournament held every fortnight or so, packed with world-class players. It’s not easy to secure a place, but my friend Jonathan Harris managed it for the first time last week. Things didn’t start well for his 11-strong team, and by Thursday morning, after four days of play, it seemed impossible they would qualify for the quarterfinals. As it happens, I spent Thursday afternoon playing rubber bridge with two of the team, Steve Root and Niall Igoe (with a client of ours who doesn’t like playing online). As Steve and I travelled home in the same direction, he got an urgent text: they were through! He needed to be ready to play in 20 minutes.
The rest unfolded like a dream. Few expected Team Harris to beat the all-star Team Donner, but they made light work of it. The next day, they played the semis against the brilliant Peter Fredin and his team, and triumphed again. And in the final they met the mighty Team Zhao — and ended up champions. What a debut! Congratulations to the whole team, and particularly the four who played the final: Steve, Niall, Marusa Gold and Todor Tiholov. On this deal, Steve was North.
East led the ♠2, won in dummy. Steve did well to play a club to the ♣9, followed by the ♣K (East throwing a diamond). West won and returned a spade. Steve now ran the clubs, carefully watching East’s discards. East came down to ♠J9 ♥KJ, ◆AK. He should have thrown a winning diamond and kept the ♥5, but that was hard to do. Steve cashed the ♥A, and played the ♥10 to East’s ♥K. East cashed the ◆AK — but that was it for the defence.