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From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

  by Richard Pavlicek

Good bridge players know that a 4-3 trump fit might produce a superior contract, particularly in a major suit at matchpoints. Occasionally this insight leads to a bidding accident, like the one that occurred on today’s deal from a recent pair game.

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

Lead: H K
S K J 7
H 8 5 4 2
D 5 4
C J 8 7 2

After North made a takeout double of West’s preempt, South faced a predicament. His normal response would be four clubs, but the suit was so lousy that he decided to venture a bid on his three-card spade suit — usually North would have four spades for the double. North then raised to four spades, also willing to chance a 4-3 fit. Alas, nobody had four spades, so the auction came to rest in a bizarre contract.

Some players would panic when the dummy appeared and proceed to go down several tricks, but declarer kept his cool. In contracts like this you have to fend for yourself; you won’t find much literature on how to play a 3-3 trump fit (unless you want to start your own scrapbook by clipping this column). You just wing it.

West led the heart king to dummy’s ace, and declarer led the ace and another club. East did not want to lead a diamond, of course, so he returned a spade; seven, eight, 10. Declarer led the spade two and finessed the jack, then ruffed a heart with dummy’s ace as East threw a diamond. A club was led from dummy; East ruffed and exited safely with a trump to South’s king as a diamond was thrown from dummy.

Everything was going nicely so far. Only two tricks had been lost, and East remained with one more trump. Perhaps declarer could win the rest except for that trump. Yes! Just lead the good clubs. If East ruffs, he must lead a diamond into the A-K-J; if East refuses to ruff, declarer wins the clubs and the top diamonds. Either way, the ridiculous contract is made for a sublime finish.

Hmm. Maybe these 3-3 fits have merit. Sure… and Hitler was a great humanitarian. For every deal that plays like this one, you’ll experience about 10 disasters.

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© 1990 Richard Pavlicek