Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
Success at bridge is often achieved not by those who make the most brilliant plays but rather those who make the fewest errors. A case in point was this month’s deal when West made a fundamental mistake that gave an alert declarer the opportunity of earning a tie for top board. The hand was played at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club in Riberas.
South dealt and, holding a hand that was too good to open 1 no trump and not good enough for 2 no trump, settled on a nebulous 1 club. West passed and North raised to 2 clubs showing 6 to 10 points, 5 or more clubs and, importantly, no four card or longer major. South now bid 2 no trump to show a balanced 18 or 19 points and North, though holding a minimum in high card points, raised to game because of her decent 6 card club suit.
West led the spade 7 and declarer liked his chances when he saw the dummy as the club suit could be relied upon to produce 6 tricks nearly 80% of the time. Add that to 2 diamonds and the spade ace and it looked like the contract was a lock to make at least 9 tricks. But first South had to figure out just what West’s lead meant. Was it fourth best from his longest and strongest or top of nothing trying to find his partner’s strength? Declarer decided the former was more likely so now the question was: had West led from the jack or the king? That was a fairly simple one to answer because if West did not hold the king he would have held J1087 and would have led the jack.
So without further ado declarer called for dummy’s queen and was happy to see it hold the trick. However when he played a low club from the board at trick 2, East split his honors by playing the jack which was covered by South’s ace as West discarded a low diamond and now 5 tricks was the maximum he could take in the club suit. South persisted in playing clubs allowing East to win the third round of that suit. East returned a spade won by declarer with the ace and he ran all his club winners noting that West continued to discard diamonds culminating with the jack. This was significant as declarer deduced that West was highly unlikely to hold the diamond queen as he would not have thrown diamonds holding 2 honors in that suit.
Therefore, when all the clubs were exhausted, South called for dummy’s singleton diamond and confidently played the 10 when East followed low. Declarer now had 5 club tricks, 3 diamonds and 2 spades for the precious overtrick that earned his side the good score.
Note that if West had held on to his diamond jack there was no way for declarer to make more than 9 tricks. Ironically, if West had led a diamond at trick 1 it would most likely have led to a defeat of the contract. Not unreasonably, the bidding led him to believe that a major suit would more likely be successful.