Last weekend, I found myself celebrating the marriage of a friend who I had successfully addicted to the game (much to the despair of the bride). After the banquet, while seated at one of the thirteen tables (labeled with playing card ranks such as “Five” and “Queen”), I was enjoying some wedding cake when an attractive woman walked up and asked,
“Pardon me, but do you play bridge?”
Looking quickly around to see if Helen was in earshot (nope), I cautiously admitted to knowing a bit about the game. She said, “Oh good, I was looking for the bridge players so that we could get a short video of the groom playing bridge.”
Aha, the videographer. Sure, why not a pickup hand to celebrate the wedding day?
An adjoining room to the reception had been set up for games of all sorts, and I arrived at the bridge table with my friend the groom and two other bridge pals. Much wine had already been imbibed, especially by my partner, and the groom warned us that he only had 5 minutes to play or he would be served divorce papers before the reception ended. On the first deal, the groom, who was sitting on my right, ended up as dummy, much to his annoyance. We blitzed through the play, and with the bride distracted by well-wishers, decided to sneak in another deal while we could. In this festive atmosphere, I was dealt:
♠ J963 ♥ 3 ♦ A2 ♣ AQ7542
Partner passed and the groom, muttering that it was looking like another dummy, also passed. I opened 1♣. The bidding then proceeded, rapid-fire:
With the groom declaring, a sporting double was mandatory. I led my stiff heart, and the first thing dummy tabled was the ♥
AKQJ, eliciting a gasp from the videographer. The full hand: (click NEXT in the window below to see the play unfold -- hands rotated to make South declarer):
The groom won the ace in dummy, partner following with the ♥
10, and led a low diamond to the 6, 9, and ace. As the camera is rolling and the bride starts searching for her wayward husband, what do you play now … and why? Click here to continue
Partner has shown up with little for his free 1♥
response, even when you account for his being drunk and favorable. Instinct says to lead a club, as the most likely entry to get your ruff. But partner played the ♥
10, a card that screams that he does not have the club king. (Given the situation, this has to be a suit-preference signal -- the attitude is known, the count is clearly not relevant, and with a likely singleton being led, the most important signal he can give is where his entry lies.) But he clearly can’t have a spade void -- that would give declarer 6 spades to the QT and you’d be playing 5♠
instead of 5♦
-X. Is partner just being random then?
No, if the contract is going down, partner must have the ♦
K for his free bid and ♥
10 play. (Yes, he could have gone up with the king at trick 2, but this is hardly the finals of the Spingold.) But you need to be careful. Should you passively exit a spade, your tipsy partner will win the second round of trumps and attempt to give you a heart ruff. Declarer will then claim his contract, the full hand being:
While that defense looks bad, consider things from partner’s point of view. It’s not a guarantee that you have the ♣
A, or that declarer has 5 diamonds. To save partner from himself, you should cash the ♣
A at trick 3. And if you really want to go for the jugular, consider the effect of returning a trump. That should alert partner to the fact that you don’t want a ruff, so that he may find the killing club shift for down 2 and +500.
But, what did I play, and why? A small club, of course -- why not let my friend make a doubled contract on his wedding day? The groom chortled in triumph as he scored his ♣
K, and when partner got in with the ♦
K, he unthinkingly tried to give me a ruff, not visualizing 5 diamonds in declarer’s hand. Making 5, doubled, and caught in the wedding video for posterity. May all my friend’s contracts that day fare as well as that one!