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Too Many Discards Brings Downfall

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal, from this month’s Golden Anniversary Pairs, bears strong testimony to the age-old cliche that too much wealth is a dangerous thing. Observe the North hand. If the diamond queen were replaced by the deuce, there is no doubt that any reasonable bridge player would succeed in a four-heart contract. But because of that extra high card, a number of declarers were defeated.

4 H South
E-W Vul
S A Q 10 6
H 3 2
D A K Q 8
C Q 9 4
1 NT
4 H
S J 7 3
H Q 10 9
D J 9 7 2
C A 8 2
TableS K 4 2
H A 4
D 10 6 5 4 3
C 10 7 3

Lead: S 3
S 9 8 5
H K J 8 7 6 5
C K J 6 5

The bidding was standard although some may object to North’s choice of opening bids. In the old days it was taboo to open one notrump with a worthless doubleton; but the modern style (of which I approve) is to treat balanced hands the same, regardless of the location of high cards. (A balanced hand contains no singleton or void, and at most one doubleton.) One advantage of this is that it simplifies the bidding — to wit: South could place the final contract immediately upon knowing that North held a balanced hand.

West judged well to lead the unbid major suit, a good standby when a hand contains no attractive lead. Declarer rose with the ace and discarded his two remaining spades on the ace-king of diamonds. He then discarded a club on the diamond queen — why not, it was there — before leading a heart to the jack and queen. (Looking at four hands one would play the heart king, but the jack is technically correct.)

West returned his last diamond, ruffed by declarer, and a low club was led to the queen as West ducked. East perforce won the next heart lead and produced — yes, another diamond! Now declarer was finished. If he ruffed low, West would overruff; and if he ruffed with the king, West’s heart 10 would be promoted into a winner.

One could say that declarer was diamonded to death, but the obvious truth is that he brought it upon himself. All he had to do was leave that diamond queen alone. Or was it North’s fault for having too many points?

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek