Bridge By The Lake

By Ken Masson


juegos-de-cartasThey say that a little learning is a dangerous thing and I found this out to my cost when I played this hand during my summer sojourn in Toronto.

As herself had the day off for good behaviour, I was playing with another partner at Hazel’s, probably the premier bridge club in the Greater Toronto Area. Sitting South as dealer I opened 2 clubs. West passed and North bid 2 diamonds which promised at least a king and forced our partnership to game. East now entered the fray with 2 hearts but that didn’t hinder my planned 2 spades rebid.

West now raised her partner’s hearts to the three level and North jumped to 4 spades. Since we were on a path to game anyway, my partner employed the principle of fast arrival meaning that her jump bid was the weakest it could be consistent with her bidding to date. Despite this warning bell, I felt that virtually any hand with spade support would give me a dummy with at least a fighting chance of making a slam so that is what I bid next.

West led a low heart and partner displayed her dummy showing the absolute minimum consistent with our agreement, so the onus was on me to make the most of the situation. Obviously I had an inevitable heart loser so I turned my attention to the other suits. If the opponents’ spades were divided 3-2 and their clubs 3-3 I could rattle off 12 tricks without breaking a sweat. However, this is where the little learning came in: I knew that the probability of the trumps breaking favourably was about 67% while that of the clubs being 3-3 was only about 35%.

What all this means in practice is that if I drew all the enemy spades and relied on finding the clubs to my liking, I would succeed only about one time in three. So I thought I would improve my chances by only drawing two rounds of trumps and then playing off the top three clubs. If that suit behaved, I could draw the last trump and claim. But if the clubs were divided 4-2, and the player with the long club also had the outstanding spade, I could ruff a losing club before getting back to my hand to draw the last trump.

With this plan in mind, I played a spade to the king and then another back to my ace, only to find West showing out. Now my contract was in tatters as I had no way of picking up East’s trumps even though the clubs had split favorably.

When I later showed the hand to herself she suggested a way in which I could have combined my chances: Start by cashing the spade ace and then play a spade to the king. When West showed out I could have abandoned Plan A, drawn trumps by way of a finesse and hoped for the anti-percentage break in clubs. As you can see, I would have emerged as a hero instead of a goat!

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