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Strategy in AX Swiss Teams



This is a bidding problem I published in the bidding problems section of bridge winners. I have gotten several replies, mostly from expert players.  However, there are some issues that perhaps are best addressed from the point of view of an advancing player.

This was the seventh board in an AX Swiss team in a sectional tournament.  For those of you who have not  played AX, there are two strats. The A strat is the expert strat.  A team in the A strat has  total master points above a certain number, say 10,000.  To fill out the bracket there are a number of X teams that have total master points less than 10,000.  In this sectional, any team that has a player with over 2,000 points becomes an X team, since in this sectional no team in the B, C or D strats can have a player on it with more than 2,000 points.

The result is that the X teams are either advancing players who want to play up for the experience, or teams with players who are bronze. silver, or gold life masters but do not have enough points to qualify for A status but too many points to play in BCD. There also were teams with clients with one or two pros who do not have enough points to bring the total up to 10,000.  

We had a team with two players with 2000 points, one player with 800, and one with 550   We played our first match with a team that had 15,00 points.  We lost to them, and hoped for an easier team.  We got one with 30,000.  We managed to beat them, so we got a team with 40,000.  There are nine board matches, and the hand above came up on the seventh board.  In the first six boards, we had decent results, bid our games, took our tricks, and didn't go for a big number.  The opponents smoothly bid a slam, but we hoped our partners would bid it also.  I felt that when this board came up we were slightly behind since the opponents had played well.

Now I have an opinion on stratified Swiss teams and the strategy to use.  If it is a BCD strat event with victory points, then to win you have to win by a large margin over the D and C teams, and play well enough against the B teams to beat them.  It isn't enough to win a match, to win the event you need to win by a large margin and get the maximum number of victory points out of each match, especially in short matches.


The same strategy holds is the AX events.  The A teams try to beat up on the X teams and win 20 victory points, the maximum in the match. The X teams main strategy is to stay alive, and hope for an upset win.  If you can beat some A teams, you have a chance to win the X strat. Placing overall in the A strat is pretty difficult, but it is worth trying for.

In the hand above, South on the X team should realize that this is likely to be a swing board.  South opens one no trump, and gets a Jacoby two no trump response, showing a game forcing spade raise with four trump.   South's next bid is interesting. In a poll on BW the majority bid four diamonds, but a number of people voted to bid four no trump (Roman Key Card Blackwood) and conceal the diamond suit.

Assume you bid four diamonds and partner bids four hearts, a cue bid showing a heart control. You now bid four no trump and partner bids five clubs, showing one control.  Now there are strategic considerations.  As an X team, you should assume that the A team is going to make very few mistakes, and that to win you need to create some swings.  In a golf analogy, if you play safe on every hole, you probably will lose, so if you have a chance to go for the flag, you should do it.  No riskit, on biscuit. 

In this hand you are missing two key cards.  Common sense and safety tells you that you should sign off.  However, based on partners four heart bid it is a reasonable assumption that partner's key card is the Ace of hearts.  Therefore you are missing the spade king and the ace of clubs.  You can also assume that the person sitting in your seat has 10,000 master points, and after finding this out will sign off.

The issue for you is whether you should do the same.  Before giving up, one thing you could do is see if partner has the queen of spades, by bidding five diamonds.  If he doesn't he will bid five spades and you can sign off then.  The problem is, if you bid five diamonds, partner will bid at the six level, to show his kings.  Thus five diamonds commits you to slam if partner has the queen of spades.

This is the issue.  Should you commit to slam.  If it makes, it is your best bet to win the match.  If it goes down, you are pretty sure of losing the match.  If you sign off at five spades and tie the board, you will probably lose the match anyway.  After all, they are a very good team and the big favorites in the match.  If partner has QJxx Axx Qxx, KQx, the slam is on a spade finesse.    Partner could also have five or six spades and you could pick up the spade suit for no losers.   You also have to bring home the diamond suit so it helps if partner has two diamonds, or the queen, or the diamond finesse is working.  I don't know the odds on a slam here, but I would guess it is less than 20 %.  

In a poll, almost all the voters voted to sign off in five spades.  There are some impressive names voting to sign off, so you can be pretty sure that the player at the other table will sign off also.

What do you do?  You can comment here, and also vote in the poll.  Go to the home page, on the right hand side, halfway down it says bridge problem.  Click on see all, and look for this hand.

You can also comment on your experiences in the BCD Swiss and strategies and experiences you have had, also if you have played in an AX tell us about your experience.  I recommend that if you are an advancing player who wants to test your game that you try the AX teams.  In a pairs tournament you will get to play four or six boards against good competition.  In the AX teams you will play 28  or more boards against good players.  Everyone should do it once, it is somewhat like boot camp.  It is tough while you are going through it, but most feel good after proving they can get through it.






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