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The Pakistani Wizard
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They say rules are for children. I say nonsense. Replacing reason by rules will harm the minds of young and old. Rules can turn innocent children into dangerous fanatics, or talented players into mindless zombies.

I pick up AJ4 AJ84 Q4 K1094 and open 1NT. Everybody passes and Loser leads a small heart.

Loser
Lazy
9762
93
63
AJ852
Tight
Me
AJ4
AJ84
Q4
K1094
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
3
Q
1

I am in danger of losing at least one heart trick and five or more diamonds, so I cannot afford to lose the lead. The whole hand is about playing the clubs for five tricks.

Some will tell you that with nine cards missing the queen you should play for the drop, while with eight you should finesse. These self-proclaimed teachers never played for money. Finding the best theoretical play is not the goal. The goal is to get it right.

Many years ago I found myself playing in one of those East Coast ballrooms. The kind of fancy place, where the chandeliers shine like silver and the clientele plays like shit. The perfect place to make you think you're worth something.

Those days I was more concerned with making a name than with playing well, and I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find a group of young women gathered around my table. My surprise quickly turned to irritation when a tanned playboy took the seat opposite mine. It was bad enough to be playing with the focal point of every single woman in the room, but what was worse, half of the money that this idiot would be throwing away was mine.

When playing commenced my initial irritation slowly changed to relief, then to amazement, and finally to admiration. Simply put, I was playing with a genius.

The truly greats of our game do not distinguish themselves from the ignorant masses by a single flashy coup, nor with getting every single guess right. I was blown away with the sheer number of high-level plays that my partner produced. Even the simplest hand turned into a thing of beauty when I saw him play it just a little bit better than I would have done. I dare say that I learned more that evening than I learned in the next two years, or in the two years prior.

Here is a simple hand that has always stood me by. My partner opened a spade on KQJ74 Q98 AJ104 4, and raised my invitation to game. The opponent on his left led a club and I tabled the dummy.

Lefty
Me
A1062
J653
K92
J8
Righty
Partner
KQJ74
Q98
AJ104
4
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
8
K
4
2
0
1
A
2

Rightywon the king of clubs, considered the hand for a while, and then tried to cash the ace of clubs.

Lefty
Me
A1062
J653
K92
J8
Righty
Partner
KQJ74
Q98
AJ104
4
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
8
K
4
2
0
1
A
2

My partner ruffed the club and immediately placed the diamond jack on the table. When Lefty played low, he rose with the king, pulled trump in two rounds ending in dummy, and asked for the 9. As this card was covered with the queen, I swear I heard my partner mumble, If they don't cover it, they don't have it.

When lefty showed out on the third round of diamonds, he ruffed the fourth and played a heart from dummy. Righty had to concede the contract.

Lefty
93
A1072
76
Q10762
Me
A1062
J653
K92
J8
Righty
85
K4
Q853
AK953
Partner
KQJ74
Q98
AJ104
4
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
8
K
4
2
0
1
A
4
6
J
3
1
1
J
6
K
3
1
2
1
2
5
K
3
3
3
1
7
9
10
8
1
4
1
9
Q
A
7
3
5
1
10
7
2
5
3
6
1
4
10
6
8
1
7
1
3
9

When I went back the next day my partner was gone. I never saw him again, and I never learned his name. Due to his complexion and his uncanny ability to conjure tricks out of thin air, I nicknamed him the Pakistani Wizard.

Back to tonight's hand.

Loser
Lazy
9762
93
63
AJ852
Tight
Me
AJ4
AJ84
Q4
K1094
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
3
Q
1

Having learned from the Pakistani Wizard, I win the opening lead and place the 10 on the table. Lefty covers and my contract is made.

Loser
K10
K762
A1052
Q73
Lazy
9762
93
63
AJ852
Tight
Q853
Q105
KJ987
6
Me
AJ4
AJ84
Q4
K1094
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
3
Q
A
3
1
0
10
Q
2

It would be easy to laugh at Loser for his careless cover, but was it the wrong play? Wouldn't I play the 10 from 109x or even from 10xx as well? In thosecases covering with both Qx and Qxx saves a trick.

In practice nobody ducks with Qx, which just by itself makes leading the ten and finessing on the way back considerably better than playing clubs from the top. Besides picking up all 2-2 splits, you also win any timerighty has 3 clubs, and when she has the singleton queen. The fact that opponents sometimes cover with Qxx as well is an added bonus.

Leading the ten may not be theoretically best, but it is certainly the right play.

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