Bridge By The Lake

By Ken Masson


whats-the-dealThe Annual Ajijic Sectional Tournament was once again held in the Hotel Real de Chapala in mid-February. With a good mixture of local players and visitors from other parts of Mexico and abroad the friendliness and good competition for which this event is known was evident once again.

As always, there was a great selection of hands to provide aficionados with hours of discussion over margaritas and cervezas after each session had ended. Norm Smith gave me the illustrated deal which he and his wife Fran had the pleasure (!) of playing against Ed Lewis and Mary Anderson in one of the pairs events.

Mary dealt and opened 1 club which would probably be the choice of most players holding these cards. Fran passed and Ed bid 1 spade which proved to be a headache for Norm as this was his best suit in a hand holding 21 high card points. This is one of bridge’s imponderables: what to do when you hold more than half the deck in your own hand and both opponents are bidding freely? Norm felt he could hardly pass with this monster so he started with a double, hoping to somehow reach a workable contract with his partner, or at least push the opponents beyond their limit.

Mary rebid her good seven-card suit and Fran passed again, uninspired to action by her pitiful, pointless collection. When Ed now showed his heart suit, Norm began to wonder just how many points were in this deal. Not seeing any clear way to continue bidding, Norm reluctantly decided to pass. However, to his astonishment, rather than letting the auction die at a low level, Mary’s next call was to jump all the way to 6 hearts!

How could this be, thought Norm? I have more points than Ed and Mary combined, surely there is no way they can make a small slam? When the bidding got back to him, Norm quickly doubled and led the diamond ace.

The dummy did not prove to be a thing of beauty for the Smith partnership. Ed ruffed the opening lead, drew trumps in two rounds, set up six club winners with one ruff and eventually made his thirteenth trick by trumping dummy’s solitary spade in his hand. Only an opening lead of a high spade could have salvaged one trick for the defense but Norm had naturally led from his shorter suit believing it was less likely to be ruffed.

North-South’s 19 high card points had triumphed over East-West’s 21 showing perhaps an extreme example of the power of distribution. The 5-5 trump fit, a near-solid 7 card club suit and a void in each hand made for an unbeatable combination. Of course it also took two highly skilled players to realize the potential of the cards they were holding that got them to the slam in the first place.

Norm and Fran emerged from this battle bloodied but unbowed. It is a measure of their character that they found humour in this debacle which will stand them in good stead in future contests. Who knows, the next making slam with 19 points that comes along may be dealt to the Smiths!

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