NEBridge - Feldheim: Ignoring the Odds

 Ignoring the Odds

by Harold Feldheim

Originally printed in the U126 Kibitzer

One of the mysterious areas of intelligent card play is that a problem must first be defined before it can be solved. Because of this, the success or failure of most hands is determined during the first couple of tricks. Even the most clear-cut line of play may well deserve a second look, and this modus operandi of double-checking is the difference between the good declarer and the expert declarer. The following hand is a simple exercise of technique with a dollop of poison added for surprise-spice.

South dealer
Neither side vulnerable
 
North
K Q 10 8 7
A
A 5 3 2
7 5 2
           South
A J 9 6 5 4
Q 7 4
4
A Q 9
       
South West North East
1 4 5 P
6 P 6 P
6 P P P

Opening Lead:  K

The Bidding:  Over South’s one spade opening bid, West tried to skewer the North-South lines of communication with a leap to the 4-level. I agree with North’s judgment that this hand was too strong for a mere 4♠ bid, and 5 seems an appropriate choice.  South gave vent to normal aggression, and despite minimal values, determined that his sixth spade and little wastage gave reason to investigate the possibility of a grand slam.  But, they subsided at the six level.

The Play:  A superficial glance showed sunny skies ahead.  South can play the A and extract trumps while carefully ruffing the red cards from both hands, ending in dummy.  A small club towards his hand should render the opponents helpless.  If East plays small, declarer would insert the 9-spot, forcing West to either concede a ruff and discard or lead a club into his A-Q. Similarly, if East plays the 10 or Jack, South would insert the Queen and again, West is endplayed. This is a classic strip-and-endplay on page one of any chapter on the subject — 100% guaranteed success.  So, what’s wrong with the picture?

The key is the word superficial. Consider the bidding. After West’s preempt, coupled with your partnership’s diamond holding, you should recognize a real problem; if West started life with eight diamonds (he surely has a minimum of seven), East may well be able to ruff away your ace of diamonds.  Once you see the problem, the solution becomes transparent.  Since West announced a fistful of diamonds without much else, simply duck the first diamond, ruff the second diamond, and after drawing trumps, negotiate a winning club finesse.

The complete hands: 

  North
K Q 10 8 7
A
A 5 3 2
7 5 2
 
West
2
6 2
K Q J 10 9 8 7 6
6 4
  East
3
K J 10 9 8 5 3
——
K J 10 8 3
  South
A J 9 6 5 4
Q 7 4
4
A Q 9
 

Look for hidden problems before beginning the play; a simple precaution that will avoid many potential bridge tragedies.

The obvious is that which is never seen ... until someone explains it simply.
Christian Morgenstern