Youve probably heard the story about the guy who played bridge so bad that he trumped his partners ace. (Hopefully, you were not the guy.) Nonetheless, there is a fine line between stupid and brilliant; a stupid play on one deal can be a brilliant play on the next. Bridge is a fickle game.
Witness todays deal from the Knockout Teams at the Fourth of July Regional at the Sheraton Hotel in Bonaventure. South held only 10 high-card points, but his one-spade opening is correct (at least in the modern style) with the attractive 5-5 shape. West overcalled in hearts, North bid three clubs (forcing), South showed his diamonds, and North went to four spades as intended all along.
First lets analyze the routine play. West leads the heart king and, lacking anything better, continues with the ace; East throws a diamond and South ruffs. South plays the diamond ace and ruffs a diamond, then a heart is led from the table. East must ruff with any spade but the two (else declarer has a complete crossruff), and South overruffs with the nine. A second diamond ruff; another heart, ruffed and overruffed; a third diamond ruff; and another heart. Once again, East ruffs but South now discards a club. Declarer cannot be prevented from scoring all five of his spades; together with two aces and three diamond ruffs, thats 10 tricks.
Now lets defend like a moron or an expert (pick one). West leads as before, but East ruffs his partners ace at trick two (again, with any spade but the two). South must overruff, else a trump lead by East would be ruinous. Declarer tries to crossruff: Diamond ace; diamond ruff; heart, ruffed and overruffed; diamond ruff; heart, ruffed and overruffed; diamond ruff. At this point South remains with 4-3 in spades and East holds 8-2. Regardless of the play, declarer cannot win both of his trumps down one.
Is there a moral here? I suppose. The next time you see someone trump his partners ace, you can be sure hes not an average player. Either hes the StarKist variety, or youre in serious trouble.
© 1990 Richard Pavlicek