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A Little Thinking Pays Big Dividends

October, 1979 — Fort Lauderdale News & Sun-Sentinel

Richard Pavlicek is one the best of Broward County’s thousands of bridge players. In last summer’s Las Vegas Nationals, he reached the semifinal round of the coveted Spingold Teams, paired with Boca Raton’s Bill Root. This crucial deal was typical of his superb play.

3 NT by South

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

West

Pass
Pass
North

1 H
3 NT
East

Pass
All Pass
South
Pass
2 NT

Having passed originally, Pavlicek (South) liked his hand well enough to make a jump response of two notrump; the presence of all those tens makes South’s hand better than the 10 points actually held. North carried on to game.

West’s lead of the diamond king was routine, and Pavlicek won with dummy’s ace. A club to the queen lost to West’s king, and West hopefully tried to run his diamonds. When East showed out on the third round (discarding a club), revealing that South had the suit stopped, West wisely shifted to the jack of spades. Pavlicek won with dummy’s ace.

Once West had shown up with the club king, Pavlicek placed East with the heart king. Why? Because West failed to open the bidding and was known to hold five diamonds headed by K-Q-J, the club king, and even the jack of spades. It was extremely unlikely that he also held the king of hearts.

So, after winning the spade ace, Pavlicek ran all his clubs and the high diamond, arriving at the following end position:

S 4
H A Q 8
D
C
S 10 7
H J 5
D
C
TableS 9
H K 9 7
D
C
S K 8
H 10 4
D
C

Observe that East must keep three hearts, otherwise declarer can just give up a heart to establish his ninth trick. Also, notice that East has unblocked in spades on South’s minor-suit leads, so he cannot be forced to win the spade queen.

Pavlicek next cashed the spade king, removing East’s last exit card, then led the heart 10. If West covered with his jack, dummy’s queen would be played; otherwise the 10 would be passed to East. Either way, East must give dummy two heart tricks, and declarer made his contract.

In the end position, it is true that Pavlicek must determine East’s distribution correctly in order to succeed, but that is certainly better than relying on a doomed heart finesse. A little thinking can pay big dividends — and did.

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© 1979 Roy W. Phoenix