A Sparkling Switch

by Jan van Cleeff

Mother Earth is divided into two camps during one day of the year, at least as far as the game of bridge is concerned. On a beautiful June night you sit down E-W or N-S, anywhere you like. The latter you may take virtually literally, because the (12th) Worldwide Bridge Contest is being played everywhere: from Beijing to New York, from Sydney to Zoetermeer. Everyone plays the same hands at about the same time, and in the end, this yields two worldstandings, one for N-S and one for E-W. The Dutch Bridge League had waved its magic wand to transform one of the sections of the Contest, at the Zoetermeer Bridge home, into a so-called prominentsdrive (one helluva word), a party for bigshots of the league and their retinue. The night was saved thanks to generous support by Arboned, a large commercial company-healthcare-service (delicious wines and asparagus), a number of top players (who put in a pro deo appearance), and a handful of politicians who rightly judged playing a few hands of bridge to be of greater importance than attending a ministerial press conference on the latest hot potatoe in The Hague.

Zoetermeer was won by Den Hartog-Van der Meij (N-S) and Van Valen-Hoogeveen (E-W). Winning a 24-board contest requires a dose of good fortune, and you also have to apply a bit of pressure. How that's done was demonstrated by Van Valen-Hoogeveen in the following hand.
  8 7 4  
    Q 6  
    10 9 4 3  
    K 10 6 2  
  Hoogeveen   Van Valen
  Q J 10 9   K 6 5 3
  A 10 9 4   8 7 5
  J 2   A K 5
  J 9 7   8 5 4
    A 2  
    K J 3 2  
    Q 8 7 6  
    A Q 3  
  West North East South
  Hoogeveen   Van Valen  
  - Pass Pass 1NT
  Pass Pass Double Pass
  Pass Pass    
Erik van Valen's double is not as excentric as it may look. The Rotterdammer merely indicated holding a maximal passed hand. Helmuth Hoogeveen could tell by his hand that the high card points had to be justabout evenly divided. Despite that, he chanced a penalty pass because he had a good lead available: Q. Declarer won the second round, led a heart to the queen, and another heart to king and ace. Hoogeveen returned the 9, overtaken by his partner's king. Now, Van Valen switched to a small diamond. When declarer played low from hand, the defence ended up scoring three diamonds, three spades and the A. One down yielded a matchpoint result of 90%. A sparkling switch, Van Galen, but a really good declarer wouldn't have fallen for this one, and would have played the queen. After all, West had already produced QJ and A. Ergo, in addition to K, East just had to have A-K as well for his double.

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