Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
The modern game of duplicate bridge has evolved to the point where competition has become fierce as each side jockeys for supremacy. Gone are the days when opponents meekly surrendered after the other side opened the bidding - now it is very rare to play in an uncontested part-score. This month’s hand is a case in point with each partnership taking risks to try and secure a plus for their side.
East dealt and opened 1 heart and South overcalled 2 clubs. Although West had only 6 high card points, he was well worth the raise to 2 hearts with his holding of four hearts to the king. North and East passed and South bid 3 clubs. West now bid 3 hearts based on the principle that when your side has 9 trumps between you, it is generally safe to bid to the three level, especially when you are not vulnerable.
Once again North and East passed but South wasn’t done yet and he now bid 4 clubs. West and North passed and East was faced with a problem: if each side could make nine tricks playing in their best trump suit, then South would go minus 100 if down 1 in 4 clubs which would not be as good as the 140 North South could make for 9 tricks with hearts as trumps. So East doubled hoping to earn 200 points against the vulnerable contract.
Now the spotlight turned to West who had to make the opening lead. Normally when leading a suit that partner has bid the recommended lead is low from 3 or 4 cards but West reckoned his side might have to take whatever tricks they could quickly, before declarer found his way to 10 tricks. So West departed from conventional wisdom and placed the heart king on the table!
This lead struck gold as East quickly caught on to what his partner was doing and followed smartly with the heart queen, a suit preference signal asking his partner to switch to a spade. West dutifully continued with the spade 5 and in no time the defenders had garnered three more tricks to defeat the contract as East cashed the queen and ace before giving his partner a ruff for a score of 200 and a near top on the board.
The heart King was risk-free and a necessary lead to help West plan his side’s defence. Had he led the 3 instead, his partner would have had to win the trick but he had no way back to West’s hand to get the killing spade switch. Ultimately, the defence would have collected two spade tricks and one heart and the contract would have made for a cold top for North South.
You may be thinking that East’s heart queen was just an encouraging card asking for a continuation of that suit but both defenders realized that no more hearts could cash – West because he knew his partner had at least 5 hearts and East because he knew his partner had at least 4 hearts due to his bidding the suit twice.
Not for the first time, thinking outside the box paid big dividends.