Main     Column 7D75 by Richard Pavlicek    

Don’t Accept a Gift Horse!

I just returned from the North American Bridge Championships held in Ft. Worth, Texas, where my team finished in a fifth-place tie. We were going strong until the last segment of the quarterfinal round, in which our opponents (eventual winners) staged a come-from-behind victory. I try to console myself with “It’s only a game,” but the intense competition of high-level bridge makes it more than that. Winning is great, and losing is the pits. Oh, well; life goes on.

Today’s deal illustrates the expert touch in both the bidding and the play. North opened routinely with one heart, and South showed his scrawny club suit. West overcalled in spades, North raised clubs, and South ventured three diamonds — an attempt to get to three notrump if North held a spade stopper. North couldn’t stop spades, but he liked his A-K-Q in clubs and judged well to bid five clubs.

5 C S 5 2
H A J 8 5 2
D J 9 2
C A K Q
Both Vul

West

2 S
Pass


North
1 H
3 C
5 C


East
Pass
Pass
All Pass


South
2 C
3 D
S A K 10 9 6 3
H 10 3
D 10 8 7 5 4
C
Table S J 8 7
H Q 9 7 6
D Q 6
C 10 9 8 2
Lead: S K S Q 4
H K 4
D A K 3
C J 7 6 5 4 3

West cashed both of his top spades, then he shrewdly led a third spade. Beware! Declarer thought about ruffing in dummy — this would ensure the contract if clubs divided 2-2 or 3-1 — but then he remembered the story of the Trojan horse. Something must be awry if West is so generous to offer a ruff and a sluff; so he threw a diamond from dummy and ruffed in his hand. A club to the ace revealed the 4-0 break and West’s diabolical plot.

Declarer cannot ruff a diamond in dummy, as this would promote a trump trick for East. Should he just draw trumps and rely on the heart finesse? No, that isn’t necessary. With proper timing, declarer can succeed by ruffing with his low trumps and developing a high crossruff at the end. It makes no difference who has the heart queen.

The correct play is to win the heart king, heart ace, and ruff a heart. Lead a club to the king, ruff another heart, and cash the ace-king of diamonds. At this point declarer remains with one high club in each hand, and East has two clubs. No problem; declarer easily wins the rest. Ruff the diamond in dummy (East must underruff) then your club jack wins the last trick.

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© 4-1-1990 Richard Pavlicek