By Ken Masson


The Ajijic Valentine Tournament this year was once again a great success and even set an attendance record. Played over 4 days in the Real de Chapala Hotel, the event attracted players from as far away as the US and Canada, as well as a very strong contingent from Mexico City and the majority of the local duplicate aficionados.

The format for the first three days was pairs, culminating as always in the Sunday Swiss Teams of four for which 32 teams entered. The team format is a particularly exciting version of bridge, though one that is played less frequently than its matchpoint duplicate sibling. One pair from each team sits North-South at one table while their team-mates sit East-West at the other. A match of eight hands was played and then comparisons made to see how each team had fared. Six matches were played throughout the course of the day with the overall winners being the team that accumulated the best results over the long haul.

This year, the team consisting of Thomas Henson, Jane Payette, Mona Ninnes and Lenore Woods started strongly and quickly jumped to the top of the charts. They continued to play at a high level and soundly won each of the first five rounds, and had an almost unsurmountable lead going into the final round.

Herself and myself, together with our team-mates John Fraser and Elsie Johnson, were also having a decent day at the table and found ourselves in second place with one round to go. However, it was our misfortune to face the Henson juggernaut in the ultimate round and we fared no better than the first five teams they played. Indeed, we would have had to virtually “blitz” the opposition to come out on top and that just wasn’t in the cards that day.

The illustrated hand was one where the Henson squad plain outbid us and showed that they were well worth their win. Sitting South, Tom Henson opened the bidding 1 Heart, West passed and Jane Payette bid 3 Clubs, the Bergen Convention showing a “constructive” raise, about 6 to 9 high card points and a four card or longer Heart suit. South felt his hand had improved with this information and promptly jumped to game. With the favorable location of the heart honors in West and East, and the opening lead solving any guess in the club suit, declarer held his losers to two spades and one club to make his vulnerable contract with ease.

At the other table, herself also opened 1 Heart but, as we were not playing Bergen, I responded with a pedestrian 2 Hearts and there the contract rested. Declarer made the same 10 tricks as our opponents but without the game bonus we lost 10 International Match Points (IMPs for short) and with it any chance of the championship.

Team Henson won the event going away with a total of 161 Victory Points out of a possible 180, an astonishing 89.4 %. Congratulations to all their players, the rest of us will just have to wait until next year.

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