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From the Cheap Seats
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I’ve just had the pleasure of watching the completion of the U.S. Team Trials of 2011, the event which selects the second team to represent the U.S. in this year’s Bermuda Bowl competition. Shown on Bridgebase Online, I both kibitzed and commentated at various times throughout the week. As a relative novice in the commentating world, I’m a poor judge of my own worth to the viewing public. As a kibitzer, I made no mistakes. However, one thing I do know is that fascinating deals abounded. I witnessed inspired bids and plays as well as clear errors and errors of judgment. No doubt, I could discuss a hundred hands fitting each of these categories, and perhaps I will as time goes by, but for the purposes of this article I’m going to concentrate on a declarer play misstep. As you’ll see, this was a difficult problem, the key points were subtle, and as the title of this article suggests, analysis is easier from afar.

To set the stage, the final pitted theDIAMONDteam (John Diamond, Brian Platnick, Brad Moss, Fred Gitelman, Eric Greco, and Geoff Hampson) against theBATHURSTsquad (Kevin Bathurst, Daniel Zagorin, Joe Grue, Justin Lall, John Hurd, and Joel Wooldridge). TheDIAMONDteam sports perhaps the best record of any team in the U.S. over the last year, having won both the Spingold and the Rosenblum Cup. TheBATHURSTteam averages a youthful 31 years of age, and had soundly beaten three world-class teams in a row to reach the final. That run included the ousting of theNICKELLteam, the reigning Bermuda Bowl champions. To spare you the suspense (unless you’re from another bridge planet, you’ve already been spared this),BATHURSTplayed another excellent match. They led by 80 IMPs late in the match, and won by 30 despite a valiant comeback attempt byDIAMOND.
This declarer play problem caught my eye. To succeed, declarer needed to make a somewhat counter-intuitive play. Let’s look at it in problem form:

T7
KJ872
A63
A84

AKQ65
Q63
QT
J92

You choose to open 1N (14-16) and after a transfer by partner, you find yourself declaring 4. The 8 of diamonds is led (the opponents play 3rd best from even). You duck in dummy, RHO wins the king and returns the 5 as LHO follows with the 2. You’re still somewhat in the dark about the diamond position, but you decide to play trumps…the 3 to the king which holds, followed by the 2 back to your queen driving out the trump ace on your left as RHO follows to both (leaving the ten outstanding). Are you content with your play? A small hint: you shouldn’t be.

After winning the diamond queen at trick two and leading a trump to the king, you must not lead the heart deuce to your queen. Oh yes, it’s reasonable to play a trump, just not the deuce. Here’s what happens if you do. LHO wins the ace of trumps and returns another diamond (from his original J98742).Rightytrumps the diamond ace with the heart ten and plays a club to the king and ace, leaving:

T7
J87
--
84

AKQ65
6
--
J

You need the rest. The good news is that the opponents' trumps are gone and spades are 4-2 so you can set them up with one ruff. But your trumps in dummy are too high to return to the closed hand. If only you’d kept the deuce!

Often declarer play problems bear a great resemblance to par problems. As we can see, one sometimes comes across uncommon situations which require uncommon thinking. At least so it seems from way up here in the cheap seats.

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