Main     Almost Bridge 7E13 by Richard Pavlicek    

Did Misdefense Cause Stampede?

The December North Pole Regional is canceled. The Eskimo hosts could not rebuild the hotel in time after the trampling it received last year when the reindeer ran amok. Tournament chairman Mush Kinook announced it will be reschedule for next July, which he admits, “is a deliberate attempt to cut down reindeer attendance.” Entry fees will also be increased, although the hoofed creatures have vowed to plunder and pillage if necessary to come up with the money.

Mush wrote that a lot of controversy was spawned by last year’s fiasco, including today’s deal which captured the front-page headline. His partner Slush McRuff opened the West hand with one diamond, only to hear his beastly opponents bid swiftly to four hearts. This contract was made despite obvious impossibility — declarer can play cards until they come out of his antlers, but he must lose three diamonds and a trump trick. Therefore, Mush and Slush were accused of misdefense, which led to a reindeer spree, which led to a stampede — you know the story.

4 H by South

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

West
Slush
1 D
All Pass
North
Deer 1
Dbl
East
Mush
Pass
South
Deer 2
4 H

Mush could not recall the exact play, but he knew that Slush led the seven of hearts and the defense was accurate. This contradicts the evidence, of course, so the committee had no choice but to rule them at fault and liable for damages. Was this a fair ruling? Or can four hearts be made legitimately? You be the judge.

Declarer can win nine easy tricks, but all routine tries for 10 will fail. Note that if declarer leads a diamond from dummy, East can play the 10 to ensure that West will not be endplayed.

But there is a way. Duck the opening lead (East cannot overtake the heart seven without losing a trick). Win the next heart, three clubs by finessing, two more hearts and the spade finesse. Assuming West has not thrown a diamond, cash two more spades to squeeze him in one suit. If he keeps A-Q-J, duck a diamond; if he keeps A-Q-5, finesse against East’s 10 — you can always win a diamond trick.

Should Mush and Slush be exonerated from causing the stampede? Fat chance. When was the last time you saw a reindeer play a hand like this?

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© 1989 Richard Pavlicek