Although I had a disappointing tournament in Philadelphia, my consolation prize was that I was to be in Sweden only a few days later. The idea of a milder summer, hanging out with some of my good friends, and casually playing some bridge in the Swedish Bridge Festival was just what the doctor ordered. This fantasy lasted all but one day when I was suddenly asked to fill in for Fredrik Nystrom in the prestigious Chairman’s Cup tournament. On a team with Peter Fredin, Gary Gottlieb, and Tommy Jansson, I partnered and anchored with Johan Upmark. I suddenly found myself playing bridge behind screens (sadly, for the first time all summer) with the same intense atmosphere as in an NABC knockout. Losing in the semi-finals to a good team was disappointing, especially since it always hurts more to be beaten by your friends. But hey, I came here to enjoy myself. There was, however, one hand where Peter Fredin demonstrated just what separates him and the few truly World-Class players out there from the rest of us:
My step-father, Bobby Levin, taught me one of the most valuable lessons I will ever need at the bridge table, and that is when considering bidding, you must be visualizing the dummy and planning the play of the hand in your head. Applying this thinking now, I would consider the prospects of making slam. Knowing that partner has only 3 trumps is a tremendous deterrent. We also know that missing club honors will be behind this otherwise promising suit, and that dummy probably has no ruffing value. To us mere mortals, it would seem that 4♥ is about the limit of this hand.
To Peter Fredin, however, his opponents’ bidding had revealed several key pieces of information that enabled him to use Bobby’s principle in a way that I could never dream of:
RHO’s pass of the redouble denies 4 spades. LHO’s 1NT bid also denies 4 spades. Therefore his partner has 5 spades (with 6 decent ones he would have bid them), and spades are breaking 3-3. Partner undoubtedly has at least 3 diamonds and was not interested in defending 2♦-X; therefore he must not have more than one diamond honor (though even one is unlikely). LHO denied 4 spades, but bid 1NT, showing equal length in the minors. Needing 3 spades for a takeout double, this means that LHO's most likely distribution was 3-2-4-4. In this case, hearts would be 3-2.
So dummy has at least 12 HCP, 5 spades, and 3 hearts. We are assuming a maximum of one honor in diamonds, and no more than Q or J of clubs (though holding both of the QJ of clubs would be ideal). Therefore partner has at least one high honor in spades and most likely the heart Ace. Knowing that hearts are 3-2 gives us 5 heart tricks to go along with our 2 club tricks. Now we need 5 tricks from the pointed suits: either 5 spade tricks, or 4 spade tricks + diamond ace, or 4 spade tricks via a finesse and ruff out to go with a slow diamond trick. So if partner holds ♠AKxxx, we know that slam is cold with the spades breaking. If partner holds ♠AJ10xx, we know that 5 spade tricks are also a practical certainty. When partner holds only the ♠AJxxx, we need the ♦A, the ♦K, or the ♣Q to get to our 12 tricks, one of which is likely given his minimum of 12 HCP. Fredin accordingly keycarded and bid what he called a “100% slam.”
Fredin’s brilliant inferences were rewarded when the full hand was:
When we read off the comparisons and I laughed at our 11-IMP gain for what I thought had been dumb luck, Fredin gave me a look that said "Luck?". When I inquired he explained the above to me and I was mesmerized by the elegance of his thinking. Moments like these remind me that there is always so much more to learn, and why I truly love this game.
Plus... it's free!