Join Bridge Winners
For a Few Dollars More
(Page of 6)

The first part of Hard but Fair can be foundhere.We follow the narrator in his rough world of high-stakes money bridge. On the evening of this story he finds himself in a place called The Dirty Aces, playing with and against three players he deems too incompetent to remember their names. On his left sits the weakest player of the table, nicknamed Loser by the narrator. His partner is a fat man called Lazy, and the unfriendly woman called Tight sits on his right. A minor profit was made on the first hand, but their wallets remain far from empty.

The game is hard but fair. The worst that winning can get you is a black eye, but cheating will certainly get you a bullet.

South
AK763
2
J74
AJ72

I hear Loser open 1 on my left, which is passed around to me. I balance with 1, and partner bids 2 to show a good raise.

South
AK763
2
J74
AJ72
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
1
P
2
P

Game likely has some play, but it could be completely hopeless. It is clear to make an invitation, the only question is which.

If bridge was only a two-person game, 3 would surely be the right call. Besides being descriptive, it also gives partner the chance to counter with 3 or 3. At the table 3 is not an option. Why should I steer away the opponents from the suit I most want them to lead?

3 should be invitational with short hearts, but I am not sure how my partner would take it. That leaves me with three options: 2NT, 3, and 3. Of these three 3 seems best, as any help in diamonds is appreciated, while we surely want to avoid a diamond lead.

Lazy bids game in spades and Loser leads the king of clubs.

Loser
Lazy
Q104
AQJ105
Q82
93
Tight
Me
AK763
2
J74
AJ72
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
1

As soon as she sees the dummy, Tight impatiently plays the 5 (high encourages) and glares at me. I ignore her and start to think about the hand.

If there is one thing that this life has taught me, it is not to dwell on the past. Sure, 3NT looks better, and perhaps a 3 invitation would have led us there. It does not matter now, you cannot give your best in the play when part of you is still stuck in the auction.

Loser
Lazy
Q104
AQJ105
Q82
93
Tight
Me
AK763
2
J74
AJ72
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
3
5
1

An immediate consideration is ducking the club. If so, I should duck in tempo with an encouraging 7. If Loser started with something like Jx Kxxxx Axx KQx then there is nothing that they can do. I will later ruff out the club queen and pitch a diamond on the hearts.

If Loser started with JxKxxxx Ax KQxx then they can beat me by getting an immediate diamond ruff. By hiding the club 2, Loser may think that his partner started with A52 and continue the suit. He shouldn't though, as only a complete idiot would make a game try in diamonds holding jack-fourth in clubs.

While Loser is capable of worse mistakes, I decide not to go for the quick club duck. My gut tells me that there are better options available, and I want to take my time exploring those.Ducking the club slowly would still be sufficient if Loser started with the 2-5-3-3 distribution.

There are however good reasons to play Loser for a 4-card club suit, despite the fact that the 1 opening makes it a bit more likely that Tight has length in clubs. SinceTight has discouraged with the 5, Loser must hold the 4. There is therefore only one club layout in which Loser has 3 clubs, but three layouts in which he has 4. These are not odds I want to bet against.

What if Loser has 4 clubs? Unless the spade jack is singleton the suit will have to split, so most likely the relevant distribution for Loser is 2-5-2-4. Do I have any chance if Loser started with something like xx Kxxxx Ax KQx4?

One option is to win the club king, take the heart finesse, pitch a diamond on the ace of hearts, and run the club nine. Perhaps Tight has fallen asleep and forgets to cover with the ten. Another possibility is that Tight has started with 1085, in which case a club ruff would promote my last club.

Suppose instead that the 9 loses to Loser's 10, and that he woodenly plays back a trump.

Loser
52
K9843
A5
KQ104
Lazy
Q104
AQJ105
Q82
93
Tight
J98
76
K10963
865
Me
AK763
2
J74
AJ72
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
3
5
A
3
1
0
2
3
J
6
1
2
0
A
7
4
4
1
3
0
9
6
2
10
0
3
1
2
4
8
A
3
4
1
J
6

(Follow the play by clicking NEXT)

I can now play the club jack, smothering the 8. If Loser covers, I ruff, pull trump, and claim. In the unlikely event that Loser is awake enough to duck the club, I could pitch a diamond, and then another on the fourth round. However, the opponents could prevent me from ruffing a diamond by playing trumps at every opportunity.

Loser
52
K9843
A5
KQ104
Lazy
Q104
AQJ105
Q82
93
Tight
J98
76
K10963
865
Me
AK763
2
J74
AJ72
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
3
5
A
3
1
0
2
3
J
6
1
2
0
A
7
4
4
1
3
0
9
6
2
10
0
3
1
2
4
8
A
3
4
1
J
4
2
8
3
5
1
7
Q
8
3
0
5
2
5
10
J
K
3
6
2
7
5
Q
K
2
6
3
9
10

It would therefore be better to ruff the fourth club with the ten, hoping that Tight cannot overruff.

Regardless of which doubleton spade Loser has, on this line Loser can defeat the contract by playing diamonds instead of trumps upon winning the club ten. I have to ruff the third round with the 6, and if that holds, there is no hope that the 10 will be good enough to ruff the fourth round of clubs.

At this point it is tempting to give up and just play for Loser to hold the less likely 2-5-3-3 distribution. Anybody giving in to this temptation is not cut out for my line of work. One should always be willing to dig a little deeper.

The strong heart suit behind the hand with most of the high cards creates the perfect scenario for a rare squeeze. After applying pressure I will take the heart finesse and throw in Loser in diamonds or clubs, forcing him to give me a second heart finesse. Once the opportunity is recognized, the hand is a matter of technique.

If Loser started with the envisioned Ax of diamonds then Tight's only entry is the king of diamonds. Before I can throw in Loser I will have to remove this entry, but before I can attack diamonds I have to play two rounds of trumps. I will have to start the diamonds from hand, so I play a spade to the queen, a spade back to hand (both following small), and play a diamond towards dummy.

Loser
52
K9843
A5
KQ104
Lazy
Q104
AQJ105
Q82
93
Tight
J98
76
K10963
865
Me
AK763
2
J74
AJ72
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
3
5
A
3
1
0
3
2
Q
8
1
2
0
4
9
A
5
3
3
0
4
4

Suppose that Loser hops up with the ace of diamonds and returns a diamond. Tight should win this trick, and she now has to play trumps, as it is her last opportunity to prevent me from ruffing a club in dummy. I will then cash all my spades, take a heart finesse and cash the high diamond. Loser is squeezed. He has to keep two hearts, so has to blank his club queen.

Loser
52
K9843
A5
KQ104
Lazy
Q104
AQJ105
Q82
93
Tight
J98
76
K10963
865
Me
AK763
2
J74
AJ72
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
3
5
A
3
1
0
3
2
Q
8
1
2
0
4
9
A
5
3
3
0
4
A
2
3
0
3
1
5
8
K
7
2
3
2
J
K
3
10
3
4
2
7
4
5
6
3
5
2
6
4
10
6
3
6
2
2
8
J
6
1
7
2
Q
9
2
10
1
8
2
9
8
7
Q
0
8
3
9
Q
12

At the table Loser ducks the diamond, and dummy's queen loses to the king. Again Tight is forced to return a trump, and the following end position is reached:

Loser
K984
A
Q104
Lazy
AQJ105
82
9
Tight
76
10963
86
Me
76
2
J7
J72
D

On the run of the spades, Loser has to keep his high diamond and at least three hearts, so can only keep 2 clubs. I take the heart finesse and exit with a small diamond, potentially stranding the heart ace in dummy. No matter. Loser has the choice between giving me two extra tricks in hearts or in clubs.

Loser
52
K9843
A5
KQ104
Lazy
Q104
AQJ105
Q82
93
Tight
J98
76
K10963
865
Me
AK763
2
J74
AJ72
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
3
5
A
3
1
0
3
2
Q
8
1
2
0
4
9
A
5
3
3
0
4
5
Q
K
2
3
1
J
K
3
10
3
4
1
7
4
5
6
3
5
1
6
4
10
3
3
6
1
2
8
J
6
1
7
1
2
9
7
A
0
7
2
9

We collect our money and Tight gives me a nasty look. I couldn't care less. Some people will call me selfish, others call me greedy. But take away the stakes and the game becomes an empty shell. Really, greed has nothing to do with it.

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