Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
“There is more than one way to skin a cat” goes the rather grizzly saying that could apply to the play of this month’s hand. In the diagrammed hand which was played at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club in Riberas, North and South were playing the 2/1 game force system which is very much in vogue these days in a team game and South opened the bidding with 1 heart. With the opponents silent throughout, North responded 2 clubs which meant that the partnership was committed to reach game at least. South responded 2 spades which by agreement was not a traditional “reverse” bid but merely bidding out his pattern. North now bid 3 hearts, setting the trump suit, and South signed off with his bid of four hearts.
West began proceedings with a low club and declarer paused to consider his alternatives. On a good day, the opponent’s trumps would be divided evenly (3 in one hand, 2 in the other) with at least one honour in the east hand and repeated finesses would hold the losses there to 2. Then it would be a question of taking the diamond finesse for an overtrick and, if that didn’t work, settling for just making game.
South eyed the club 4 suspiciously and wondered if West might have been under-leading his King, but unwilling to take that chance at trick 1, he won the opening lead with the ace. Next declarer called for the heart 8 and was disenchanted to see East play the ace without hesitation – could that be a singleton? East exited with a small spade, won by North’s queen.
When South next played another heart from the dummy, his fears were realized when East showed out and it was now apparent that there were 3 trump losers. South let the heart seven ride around to West who now had a problem of her own in deciding what to play next. She solved it by continuing with a spade, won by declarer in hand as he pitched a diamond from dummy.
Now declarer took another time out to consider his options. West was known to have 4 hearts to East’s 1, consequently East was likely to have more diamonds than West and therefore also more likely to hold the queen so the straightforward diamond finesse was unlikely to work. Then declarer saw that if he could ruff a diamond in the dummy it could solve his problem. Fortunately, his spade holding provided him with the means to achieve his goal.
South played one more spade and was relieved to see West follow as he pitched another diamond from the board. Next he played a diamond to dummy’s king, the jack of diamonds to his ace and finally the diamond 9 from his hand which he ruffed with dummy’s last trump.
All that remained was for South to ruff a club back to hand, draw West’s last small trump and claim 10 tricks. Declarer’s careful analysis of the likely layout had paid huge dividends so perhaps the cat’s loss of one of its lives was not in vain!