Join Bridge Winners
The Bug
(Page of 8)

Here is a remarkable hand from a recent club game. Take South's position:

In first seat, with no one vulnerable, you pick up an attractive minimum:

South
K84
A10953
KJ109
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
?
and open 1. Partner bids 1, back to you. Your call?

They don't come much easier than this. You have a minimum hand, with good support, so you raise. What else? It might be nice, I suppose, to start with 2 and pattern out, but you might not get the chance, and, of course, if you do, partner will play you for a better hand.

Despite all of those compelling arguments, out hero tried 2, so play along. Partner raises to 3, and you face a closer decision:

South
K84
A10953
KJ109
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
?

You still have a minimum, so it might be quite wise to quit. Still, this minimum has improved with each call, and you really do have an excellent spade holding. So, you can go the chicken route and pass, or try a daring 3.

Are you a chicken, or an adventurous soul?

You go all in, and bid 3, to hear partner place the contract in 5. Little doubt, now, that you have bid too much. West tracks a trump, and you face:

West
North
Q632
8
A7653
Q72
East
South
K84
A10953
KJ109
9
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
3
2
9
3
1
0
1

No doubt at all, now, that you have bid too much. Plan the play.

Oy! Off two aces to start, with tons of work. Looks like you'll need hearts splitting, likely need a trump split, and you'll have to find someone with a doubleton ace of spades. Okay, who?

With very little to go on, maybe it is best to play the defender holding four hearts for the doubleton spade ace. Could we count the hand out?

Let's see, heart ace, heart ruff, club. Win the next trump in hand (with, hopefully, both following), heart ruff, club ruff, heart ruff. That will leave us in dummy, in this ending:

North
Q632
Q
South
K84
10
J

No problems if we judge to lead a spade to the king, but we can't play spades the other way without using up our last trump.

Nope, we won't be able to use the heart count to help guess spades. Are there any other clues?

Well, I guess a trump lead might be marginally less attractive holding three hearts, rather than looking at four good hearts. Not much to go on, but better than nothing, so you try a low spade from hand at trick two. West stares ruefully at that spade for a while, then hops ace and continues with the jack of spades. Yes! One hurdle down! You win in hand:

West
North
Q632
8
A7653
Q72
East
South
K84
A10953
KJ109
9
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
3
2
9
3
1
0
4
A
2
5
0
1
1
J
3
7
K
3
2
1
3

Now what?

Time to start on hearts. If both red suits split, we are home. So, heart ace, heart ruff (queen from East), trump to hand (collecting another queen from East).

We have reached this position:

North
Q6
A7
Q72
South
8
1095
J10
9

We will, of course, ruff another heart, and claim if both follow. Naturally, our contract will fail if someone shows out. Pretty simple now. So, which heart do you lead?

If West has the KJ7 left in hearts, you are out-spotted. Still, coaxing a cover might work to your advantage - West won't be able to lead hearts later. Hard to see how this could possibly matter, but ...

Normally, we lead a high card if we want them to cover, and try a sneakier lower card when we want to sneak past them with no cover. Here, obviously, if West holds all the remaining hearts, there can be no sneaking. West knows your holding. West is likely to cover either the ten or the nine, but I'd try the nine - call it a bit of reverse psychology. If West thinks you are trying to sneak through a heart, West will certainly cover.

So, you try the 9.

What will you do if West plays the seven?

Ruff it, of course. You never intended to run the nine.

In practice, West covers with the jack, but East shows out:

West
North
Q632
8
A7653
Q72
East
South
K84
A10953
KJ109
9
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
3
2
9
3
1
0
4
A
2
5
0
1
1
J
3
7
K
3
2
1
A
4
8
2
3
3
1
3
6
5
Q
1
4
1
6
Q
K
8
3
5
1
9
J
7
6
1
6
1
7

Tripped up at the very last jump. Too bad. Are we dead?

Almost. You cash the spade queen next, and ruff the last spade, while West discards the 8 and 10. What do you make of that?

Wow! We are going to make this stupid contract. The full hand was almost certainly something like this:

West
AJ
KJ764
84
KJ108
North
Q632
8
A7653
Q72
East
10975
Q2
Q2
A6543
South
K84
A10953
KJ109
9
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
3
2
9
3
1
0
4
A
2
5
0
1
1
J
3
7
K
3
2
1
A
4
8
2
3
3
1
3
6
5
Q
1
4
1
6
Q
K
8
3
5
1
9
J
7
6
1
6
1
Q
9
8
8
1
7
1
6
10
10
10
3
8
1
9

and this is the ending:

West
K7
KJ
North
A
Q72
East
A543
South
105
J
9
D

Just lead your club. If West ducks, cover. East must win and play another club. You ruff, and the 7 is high. If, instead, West rises with the king, then either a club sets up that 7, or a heart sets up your 10.

We, the defenders, had several chances to set this contract. Playing clubs earlier would have destroyed the ending, and we had several chances to play clubs. Even as the play unfolded, we'd have set the hand had West not covered that 9. Not that either of us ever guessed that a club duffer would play a hand this brilliantly.

Frankly, it was worth mis-defending to see this ending, and his huge, huge smile.

Like that fellow sings:

Sometimes you're the Louisville slugger.

Sometimes you're the ball.

Sometimes you're the windshield.

Sometimes you're the bug.

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