NEBridge - John Stiefel: Don't Force

Don't Force Things and Don't Panic

by John Stiefel

Originally printed in the U126 Kibitzer

At one time or another in our life, we’ve all been advised to “go with the flow” and “keep cool.” These maxims have counterparts in the world of bridge; i.e. “don’t force things” and “don’t panic.” Take this hand from a recent Regional Swiss, for example. You are South, and no one is vulnerable.

West dealer
Neither side vulnerable
  
  North
A 10 x
A 9 7
K x x x
A x x
 
West
K Q x x x
——
A Q J x x
K 8 x
  East
x
Q J x x x x
x x x
10 9 x
  South
J 9 x x
K 10 8 x
x
Q J x x
 

West opens 1, North doubles (1NT is a reasonable alternative, but then there would be no story) and East passes. Now what?

My opponents at the other table forced things, hoping for the “magic hand.” South jumped to 3, hoping for something like x, A Q x x, A x x x, K x x x, and North raised to 4, hoping for something like J 9 x, K Q x x x, Q J x x x. This time, however, it was East whose hopes were realized (+800 against 4 doubled).

At my table, I responded a simple 2, West doubled for take out, North and East passed and I, too, found myself in a heart game.

West started with the king of spades to dummy’s ace and I tried to follow the “don’t panic” rule even though a 5-1 or 6-0 trump split seemed virtually  certain. The good news was that we had great spot cards in spades and in trump, and the bidding strongly suggested that the ♣K and A would be on side. So there were only two sure losers outside trump – the ♠Q and the A – which meant that I could afford to lose three trump tricks. The hand, therefore, seemed to boil down to avoiding a third round club loser.

Well, what should you do if you’re willing to lose 3 trump tricks but not a third round of clubs? There’s only one answer – plan to pitch the third round of clubs on the fourth round of spades. So 10 of spades at trick 2 and all of a sudden you’re cold! One likely sequence of plays might be as follows, but there’s nothing the defense can do.

Trick 2: East ruffs the  ♠10 to lead a club through
Trick 3: ♣10 to the Q, K and A
Trick 4: Spade to the 9 and Q
Trick 5: ♣8 to the J
Trick 6: ♠J to pitch dummy’s club, East ruffs
Trick 7: ♣9 (a red card is no better), dummy ruffs
Trick 8: K to West’s A
Trick 9: Q, ruffed

At this point, the four-card ending is as follows with South on lead and there are no less than nine (!) ways for South to take three of the last four tricks. (How many can you find?)

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

One more comment. Do you think West forced things by doubling 2? I do, and at least one person and perhaps two agree with me – my teammate who didn’t double at the other table and perhaps poor East, who found that six trump wasn’t quite enough.