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Optimitis — A Bridge Disease

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal arose last week at the Ft. Lauderdale Bridge Club. Two of my students, Minerva Davis (now a Life Master) of Hollywood and Jeanne Poore of Ft. Lauderdale, conducted a beautiful auction to a grand slam. The bidding contained gusto, spirit, enthusiasm, fervor… about everything but the cards to back it up.

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


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

Lead: S 5
S A K 10 9 3
H 10 9 8 7
D 4 3
C A 3

Davis, South, opened one spade and Poore, North, responded two notrump to describe her balanced hand. South showed her second suit, North cue-bid four diamonds (implying trump support for South), and South retreated to four spades — all very reasonable, and the bidding should have ended there.

North, however, incurred an onset of optimitis (a common bridge disease). She launched into Blackwood, found that all the aces were held, and then bid five notrump to ask for kings. When South showed one king, North bid to the hilt. Seven spades!

As anyone can see, seven spades cannot be made. Even with the spade finesse working and queen-jack doubleton in hearts, declarer has no way to avoid a club loser. But a good declarer never says “never”; play it out and see what happens.

West led a trump, solving any problem in that suit, and South captured East’s eight-spot with the nine. Declarer cashed the spade king, then led the heart 10; jack, king. A spade to the ace was followed by another heart; queen, ace. Two more good hearts were cashed, discarding a club from dummy.

Davis, of course, knew all along there was no real hope. But she remembered what I had taught her in the past: Lead those trumps! Make the opponents discard. She continued by cashing her last two trumps, throwing clubs from dummy.

Meanwhile, the opponents weren’t so clever. Both were enamored by the sight of A-K-x-x of diamonds in dummy and chose to keep three diamonds and just one club. The club ace was cashed and… presto!… the club three was good. To borrow from the late Great One, “How sweet it is!”

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© 1989 Richard Pavlicek