Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
Experienced duplicate players can usually tell by late in the contest just how their game is going. If it’s going well, they will try to maintain their position by playing the balance of the hands conservatively; if it’s going poorly, they may throw caution to the wind and gamble somewhat to try and add some badly needed matchpoints to their tally.
The latter was the case in a game Herself and I played recently at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club in Riberas. For most of the afternoon our performance had been less than scintillating and we were headed for an average score when the illustrated hand was dealt with one round to go.
Sitting North, I opened the bidding 1 club in second seat. Although my hand contained 19 high card points it was basically very flat and devoid of intermediate cards. Had I held a 5-card suit or some 10s and additional 9s I might have upgraded the hand and opened 2 no trump – more about that later.
East passed and Herself responded 1 spade which made my next bid simple - 4 spades, which pretty well described my hand. Holding six good spades and honours in the other suits, and recognising the dire state of our game, Herself decided to investigate slam and bid 4 no trump, Roman Key card Blackwood. My response of 5 clubs was joy to her ears as it showed 1 or 4 key cards which she knew had to be 4 based on the bidding, so her next call was the auction-ending 6 spades.
West chose to lead the diamond queen which might have given a trick away with other layouts but caused no problems this time as declarer won in hand with the king. Herself counted her losers and saw that she had likely twice as many as she could afford – 1 diamond and 1 club. So something had to be done to reduce her losers to one. Before reading on, see if you can figure out how to take 12 tricks, even looking at all four hands.
After a few moments of consideration, Herself saw if there was a certain holding of the opponents cards she could make her contract so she began by drawing the outstanding trumps in 2 rounds, followed by cashing the ace and king of hearts. Now the stage was set for her piece de resistance – she cashed her remaining high diamond and exited with the diamond 10 which West was forced to win but he was well and truly end-played. He could now choose his poison – lead away from his club king or give declarer a ruff sluff by playing another diamond or heart.
You might say that declarer was lucky to find the same opponent holding the diamond honours and the club king but winning bridge is all about solving problems of this nature.
We were fortunate in another sense, too. If I had chosen to open 2 no trump and Herself had transferred to spades and eventually put me in the small slam, East had a natural club lead which would have put paid to any chance I might have of making the contract!