Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
Herself and I learned a valuable lesson from this hand which we played against Lew and Trudy Crippen at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club in Riberas. Sitting South Lew dealt and opened a 15 to 17 high card point 1 No Trump. Holding a hand of similar strength I ventured a penalty double which was quickly followed by three passes.
In an attempt to establish tricks in my longest suit I led my fourth-best spade, the 4. This was covered by the 6, 10 and declarer’s King. Lew now led the diamond king from his hand which held the trick followed by a low diamond which I won per force. Meanwhile, Herself had followed with 3 and then the 5 of diamonds to show an odd number of cards in that suit.
I now took some time out to decide what my next move should be. The play so far showed that declarer held the king, queen and 9 of spades (and possibly more), as Herself would have played one of those cards at trick one instead of the 10 had she held it. I had to hope that South had only those three spades otherwise our chances of beating the contract were remote.
I needed a quick entry to partner’s hand and I had to decide between a club and a heart switch. Looking at dummy and my own hand, I concluded that it was more likely that declarer held the heart ace, otherwise he would be wide open in that suit. Therefore I led a low club, which a grateful Lew lapped up as he quickly claimed 7 tricks, making his doubled contract.
So how could Herself and I have done better on this deal without guessing? Let’s go back to tricks 2 and 3 when declarer led the king and another diamond. Sitting East, Herself correctly played her lowest card in the suit to begin a count signal. But when I was forced to win the second diamond, we afterwards concluded that Herself might have followed with the diamond 10 instead of the 5. This would have tended to show a suit preference for hearts (the higher ranking of the two side suits), as it must have been an unnecessarily high card since she was known to hold one smaller in that suit!
Now if I were sufficiently awake I could have cashed the heart king and when it held continued with the 7 to partner’s ace. Now a spade return would have produced a total of 8 tricks for our side to defeat the contract by two tricks – doubled!
In the post mortem we agreed to play suit preference signals in similar situations in future whenever possible. In all our years playing together we could not remember discussing opportunities of this nature. Rare though they may be, taking advantage of situations like this can often be the difference between being winners and also-rans! Admittedly the play of the diamond 5 would not have guaranteed a club entry in the above hand but in that case there was probably no way to defeat the contract. Unfortunately the lesson came too late to benefit us on that occasion but just wait until the next time!
Column: Bridge by the Lake
Ken Masson has been playing, teaching and writing about bridge for more than 40 years. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Ken has been living in the Toronto area since 1967. He and his wife and bridge partner Rosemarie have been wintering in Lakeside since 2006. Even after all these years of playing they find bridge to be a constant challenge and enjoy sharing some of their triumphs and mishaps with Ojo readers in each column.