Buzz for November 2009

Our District held its final regional of the year, the Masters, at Waterbury CT from November 4-8, 2009. This was a good tournament, and the Holiday Inn site was quite affordable. Of particular note was the huge turnout for the Goldrush Pairs. Bridge tournaments are organized for those who attend them, and District 25 will surely conduct similarly popular events in future years.

There were many interesting deals at Waterbury, and I thank those who reported some of them to me, although I'll only report two, which illustrate the ups and downs of second-man-high defense.

 West        D-J1042     East
 S-Q1092     C-Q62       S-83
 H-Q                     H-K64
 D-Q8653     South       D-K7
 C-984       S-AK76      C-AK10753

At one table in a team match, nonvulnerable East-West saved over 4H in 5C. The defense won tricks with its four winners, but after the fall of South's CJ, declarer guessed the trumps, ruffing a heart to dummy and finessing the C10 for -300. A paying sacrifice, but would 4H make?

The other East-West chose to defend 4H. The C4 opening lead went to East's CK, for the S8 shift. Declarer rose his SA, led a trump to dummy's HA, and led dummy's D2 to his D9. The defense was helpless. West continued clubs, as good as anything, but declarer ruffed, cashed his DA to drop the DK, and forced entry to his diamond winners by means of a heart to the H7. Two low spades went on diamonds.

Could East defeat 4H by rising his DK on the D2? Not if declarer keeps his wits about him and continues the D9 immediately. Yes, West can win and lead a third diamond, and East can ruff low, killing one of the discards. But declarer has a nice counter: overruff and cash the SK before throwing East in with his HK. With nothing but clubs left, East has to establish dummy's CQ and declarer regains his pitch.

 West        D-AJ1042    East
 S-Q74       C-62        S-A1086
 H-4                     H-J86
 D-K73       South       D-Q96
 C-KQ10975   S-532       C-843

In another team match, one table's North-South stopped in a heart partial and made it. More was at stake at the other table, where South declared 4H and West led his CK. Declarer won his CA, drew trumps in three rounds ending in his hand, and led a diamond towards dummy. West played second hand high with his DK. Declarer won dummy's DA and continued with dummy's DJ to East's DQ. Later, declarer guessed to finesse dummy's SJ, and thus lost only one trick in each side suit, his third spade going on dummy's good diamond.

Go back and withdraw that second-hand-high DK. Declarer finesses, losing to East's DQ. But East returns a club to West's CQ, and now on a spade play, even the SJ guess fails - East wins his SA and continues the suit. Declarer has no way back to his hand to repeat the diamond finesse. To make 4H legitimately, declarer had to start diamonds without drawing trump, a perilous line. I present these two deals because second-man-high plays are often lauded in the bridge literature, when in fact these decisions are often conundrums.

Solve your own conundrums at our January Individual in Newton MA, our Grand National Teams in Sturbridge MA, or at our February Knockout Regional in Cromwell CT. See the calendar page for details.