By Ken Masson


One of the first things aspiring bridge players learn is that when you play in a suit contract you can often increase the number of tricks you make by ruffing losers in dummy. It is a concept that is fairly easily understood and teachers usually emphasize that you should think in terms of ruffing in dummy only as taking ruffs in your own hand generally won’t result in more total tricks for your side.

But all that was before the students learned of such conventions as Jacoby Transfers. Oswald Jacoby was an outstanding player and theoretician who devised the transfer principle as a means for the stronger hand to play the contract after a No Trump opening bid when the partner has a 5 card or longer major suit. Before transfers, the partner of a No Trump opener would bid his long major at the two, three or four level, usually playing the contract and making the more powerful hand the dummy and therefore enabling the opponents to defend more accurately.

In this month’s deal, played at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge club, declarer apparently was not accustomed to one of the subtle but vital differences in playing the hand after a transfer sequence. East started proceedings with a bid of 1 Heart and South overcalled 1 No Trump, implying she would have made that bid without interference and also guaranteeing at least one stopper in the Heart suit.

West passed and North bid 2 Hearts, showing at least a 5 card Spade suit and after East passed, South duly bid 2 Spades. North now bid a slightly aggressive 2 No Trump, showing precisely 5 Spades (with more he would have jumped to 4 Spades), and game-invitational values and leaving it up to South to place the final contract. Holding 3 card Spade support, and a near maximum, South jumped to the major suit game.

West led the Heart 3 and declarer wasted no time in winning with the Ace and drawing trumps ending in the dummy. Next he played a club towards his hand, but East went in with the Ace to cash the Ace, King of Diamonds before crossing to West’s Queen for the setting trick.

Where did declarer go wrong? He should have recognised that he had 4 losers – 3 Diamonds and 1 Club and the only way to get rid of one of these was to ruff a Diamond in her hand, or set up the long club in his hand if that suit split 3-3. After winning the opening Heart lead, declarer should have immediately played on Diamonds, conceding 2 and hoping to ruff one in his hand. He had the timing on his side and would have succeeded on this layout. And 3 No Trump had no play on a diamond lead.

If the contract had been played the other way around, with 2 Diamonds and 3 Spades in the dummy, it is highly likely that declarer would have made ten tricks in comfort as the need to trump a diamond in the dummy would have been more apparent.

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