Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
Bridge defenders learn early in their careers that it is important not to give away tricks to declarers that they could not earn themselves. One of the most common errors is the notorious ruff/sluff where the lead of a side suit in which declarer is void in both hands allows him to trump (ruff) in one hand and discard a loser (sluff) in the other. Surprisingly this month’s hand which was played at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club in Riberas required the defenders to give declarer 2 ruff/sluffs in order to defeat the contract!
South dealt and opened a standard 15 to 17 high card points 1 no trump. West, with his decent six card suit bid 2 ♥ and, with East far too weak to enter the fray, North bid 3 ♥ which in their agreement was Stayman showing four spades and game-going values. South was quite happy to bid 3 ♠ and North to bid 4 ♠, so this became the final contract.
West began proceedings by cashing the ace and king of hearts and, with no attractive alternative, continued with a third heart which declarer trumped with dummy’s 3 of spades while pitching a club from his hand. South now called for the spade king from dummy and noticed with suspicion West’s trump 10. If this was a singleton then declarer could not afford to draw trumps without finding out who held the club king so he now led the club jack and let it ride. Not unexpectedly, based on the bidding, this trick was won by West but now this player failed to see the possible benefit of continuing hearts and returned a small club instead.
That was exactly what declarer needed. He won the club in the dummy and cashed the trump queen, thereby exposing the location of the spade jack. He now cashed all the trumps by way of the marked spade finesse and claimed 4 spades making.
But look at what happens if West offers declarer a second ruff/sluff after winning the club king: it doesn’t matter in which hand South wins this trick, he will not be able to capture the spade jack and the contract will go down by one trick.
I guess this is one of those cases where the exception proves the rule in spades!
Column: Bridge by the Lake
Ken Masson has been playing, teaching and writing about bridge for more than 40 years. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Ken has been living in the Toronto area since 1967. He and his wife and bridge partner Rosemarie have been wintering in Lakeside since 2006. Even after all these years of playing they find bridge to be a constant challenge and enjoy sharing some of their triumphs and mishaps with Ojo readers in each column.