Main     Almost Bridge 7E09 by Richard Pavlicek    

Dog Days with My Uncle Phil

I played today’s deal 14 summers ago when visiting my uncle Phil, who lives in Dogmandu, Nepal. Phil and I were North-South, and our opponents professed to be the top two Dogmanian players… but I suspect the only two would be equally descriptive.

The bidding was a bit whimsical. I overcalled East’s opening bid with two hearts and Phil jumped directly to game. When East bid four spades, I competed to five hearts, confident that Phil would produce a lot of high cards for his bid. Unfortunately, Phil was thinking the same thing about my bids, so he continued to six hearts.

6 H by South

N-S Vul
S J 10 9 8
H Q J 10
D K 9 8
C A K 3
S 7 6 5
H
D 7 6 4 3 2
C Q J 8 5 4
TableS A K Q 4 3 2
H 5 4 3
D A J 10
C 2
Lead: S 7S
H A K 9 8 7 6 2
D Q 5
C 10 9 7 6

West

2 S
Pass
North

4 H
6 H
East
1 S
4 S
All Pass
South
2 H
5 H

There we were, in a hopeless slam. West led the spade seven; jack, ace (East tried to fool me), ruff. I crossed to dummy with a trump to lead a low diamond — perhaps I could sneak it through East, who was likely to hold the ace. East ducked as anticipated, and I won the queen. A glimmer of hope now appeared.

I crossed to dummy with a second trump and led the spade 10; East ducked and I threw my last diamond. I ruffed a diamond — just in case the ace appeared (no luck) — then I drew East’s last trump with the ace. West was marked for club length and strength (he had no other high cards), so I led the club ten; jack, ace. Back to my hand with a ruff to lead the club nine; queen, king. Another club lead forced out the eight-spot and my hand was high.

Making six hearts! Phil was ecstatic as he entered the score — this was rubber bridge at 100 dogmas a point — while I jotted down the hand (so I could write this column 14 years later). The next day at dinner I noticed the contract could have been beaten. Can you spot the winning defense?

East should take his diamond ace, right? Wrong. Declarer then gets two discards (one on the diamond king, one on the spade suit) so he never has to lose a club trick. The solution is more subtle.

East must duck the opening lead. This forces declarer to take his discard prematurely — before leading to the diamond queen. Now if I were East I would have done that; it’s the doggoned truth!

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek