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Swiss Teams
Introduction

INTRODUCTION TO SWISS TEAM GAMES

To help you make the transition from ordinary matchpoint duplicate pairs to the Swiss Team games, this primer will provide information about the mechanics, scoring and strategy of Swiss Team games. 

Mechanics

There are two fundamental differences between ordinary pairs duplicate bridge and Swiss Teams games. First, you will be playing as a team of four—you and your partner together with another pair. In real life, you will want to choose your teammates as carefully as you choose your own partner, but for this instructional game—with no masterpoints at stake—if you do not come with another pair as a team of four, you will be arbitrarily put together with whichever other pair is seated at your table, and you will use that team number throughout. One pair will be playing N/S throughout the session, while the other pair will be playing E/W—in the absence of agreement, flip a coin to decide.

Second, instead of your pair being compared against a large number of other pairs on each of many boards, your team with be compared with only one other team on each, limited, set of boards.

Start by visualizing a two table match. One pair of your team will stay seated, while the other pair will move to the second table and play in the opposite direction. One table will play, for example, boards 1-3 to start, while the other plays boards 4-6. Then the boards will be exchanged, so that as a team you play all the boards in both directions, and only then compare your scores.

With more than two tables, obviously you repeat the process—once again the four of you playing against another team of four. We expect each team to have four such head-to-head contests, of six boards each, in this instructional game. We will attempt to take into account how well you do by matching you with a similar team in each round after the first. So if you lose in the first round, we will match you with another losing team, and if you win, we will match you with another winning team. (This is standard in a real Swiss Team game.)   

Scoring

The scoring of Swiss Team contest can best be understood if you visualize it like a layer cake.

1) The first (bottom) layer is exactly the same as the scoring you are used to. Assume you are N/S.  On Board #1, if you and your partner bid and make 4 hearts not vulnerable, you put down 420 points on your scoresheet. On Board #2, if you bid 2 hearts but go down one vulnerable, you put down 100 points for your opponents. On Board #3, if you bid and make 1NT, you put down 90 points for yourself.

Board #

Contract

Score +

Score -

IMPs +

IMPs -

1

4H-N

420

 

 

 

2

2H-S

 

100

 

 

3

1NT-N

90

 

 

 

2) The second layer comes when you and the other pair who form your team compare scores of how you both did playing the same three boards. Lets say that on Board #1 your partners set the opponents one trick, NV, at four hearts. You then combine the winnings of both pairs: 420 matchpoints + 50 matchpoints = 470 matchpoints. On Board #2, your opponents bid and made 3D, NV. They earned 130 matchpoints for that, for a total 230 for their team on that board. On Board #3, they also bid and made 1NT, so there was no net difference. (On every board there will either be a plus for one side, or else the two sides will have the same scores (no net difference), referred to as a “push.”) Think of the totals as follows:

Board #

Contract

Score +

Score -

IMPs +

IMPs -

1

 

470

 

 

 

2

 

 

230

 

 

3

 

90

90

 

 

3) The third layer comes when you convert the net matchpoints on a board into International Matchpoints (“IMPs”), in accordance with a scale that you will find on the side of your score card. The results are shown below for Boards 1-3:

Board #

Contract

Score +

Score -

IMPs +

IMPs -

1

 

470

 

10

 

2

 

 

230

 

6

3

 

90

90

0

0

 

In a “Knockout” game, whichever team had the most IMPs after the designated number of boards would win, and continue playing, while the opposing team would be “knocked out.” In a Swiss Team game, however, each team continues for the prescribed number of rounds, playing against a different team in each round.

4) The fourth layer comes when you convert IMP’s into “Victory Points”—again in accordance with the scale on the side of your scoresheet. You simply add up all the IMPs you earned for playing the six or eight boards against a team and subtract all the IMPs they earned against you. If there was an exact tie, each of you is credited with 10 Victory Points. If one team or another earned more IMPs, the winning team converts the net difference into Victory Points. So, if your team won 20 IMPs and the other team won 10 IMPS, your team would convert its net plus of 10 IMPs into a 14-6 Victory Point score (meaning that your team earned 14 Victory Points and the other team earned 6 Victory Points). In a six board match, only if one team earns 28+ IMPs more than the other team does the loser earn NO Victory Points. At the end of each round, the more successful teams are matched against each other, and the less successful ones against each other. Each team’s Victory Points are cumulated during all the rounds, and determine the winning team.

Strategy

By now, you probably recognize that there has to be a different strategy to win at Swiss Teams (and Knockouts)—for at least three reasons:

1) your results are combined with those of another pair—you live or die as a team. While you and your partner may be gamblers (or very conservative), you need to have a common agreement with your teammates as to who is doing what;

2) the result of each hand does not stand alone. Each hand at ordinary duplicate pairs is a war all its own. Each hand at Swiss Teams or Knockouts is one battle in a multi-battle war, and the results of the battles are cumulative. If you make or miss a slam at pairs, you may get a top or a bottom—but the points do not carry over;. You usually can survive a horrendous loss on one board at pairs—but it may well doom your team.  

3) the process of converting matchpoints into IMPs erases what is often a very significant strategic consideration at pairs—the difference between 3NT and 4 of a suit, or between one suit and another. At pairs, the difference between bidding and making 3NT rather than 4 of a major—or 4NT rather than 4 of a major—may be the difference between getting a top/average and an average/bottom board.  But at Swiss Teams, a difference of fewer than 20 matchpoints is totally washed out, and a difference of 20 to 40 matchpoints only results in the gain/loss of one IMP.

Here are four rules from the text, ”Winning Swiss Team Tactics in Bridge,” by  Harold Feldheim:

The Common matchpoint strategy of trying to play in NT is a losing IMP tactic. In IMP, the strategy is opposite: try to find a safe suit fit, with NT as a last resort.

The same is true regarding the divide between majors and minors—at IMP it shouldn’t outweigh safety.

In IMPs, if you play at partial, play as low as possible in the safest partial; if you play at game, play it in the safest game.

In IMPs, you are concerned with insuring your contract, if necessary at the cost of an overtrick.

Good luck! Hurd Baruch 1/12/15