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Par Contest Challenges Collegians

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal occurred last November in the campus qualifying round of the annual North American Collegiate Bridge Championship. The top 24 players, representing six schools, will compete in the finals this month in Buffalo, N.Y., with all expenses paid by the American Contract Bridge League.

An unusual feature of this contest is the use of “par award” scoring. Each deal is created by an expert (in this case, Jeff Rubens of New York) to pose a bidding and play challenge. Contestants earn points by bidding accurately then, regardless of the bidding, a designated contract is played. Additional points are available for accurate play and defense, but it is not known in advance which side will be tested.

3 NT South
None Vul
S 9 8
H 10 6
D A J 7
C K Q 5 4 3 2


3 NT

1 NT
S A J 7 6 3
D Q 8 3
C J 9 8 6
TableS 10 5 4 2
H A 9 8 7 5 4
D 10 9
C 10

Lead: S 6
H K J 3 2
D K 6 5 4 2
C A 7

The lopsided high-card strength of the South hand suggests opening one notrump despite the two doubletons, then North raises directly to three notrump. This is the “official auction,” but as long as North-South reach the same contract they receive the full bidding award.

Cover the East-West hands and decide how you would play three notrump after West leads the spade six: eight, 10, king. Did you try to run the clubs first? Did you try the diamond finesse? (Okay wise guy, I saw you peeking!) Either play might succeed, but the object is to combine them in some way — two chances are better than one.

Congratulations if you found the correct play of winning the club king (or queen) first and then back to your ace. If clubs break three-two, the rest of the clubs will be good and you can forget about the diamond finesse. If clubs don’t break, you will lead a low diamond to the jack hoping to win five diamond tricks for your contract.

Note the trap of winning two clubs ending in dummy. If that suit fails to break, it will be impossible to win five diamond tricks. Try it as the cards lie and see.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek