Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
The bidding was short and sweet on this deal from a game played recently at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club in Riberas. But, as is often the case, there was more to the play than was obvious at first glance. North dealt and holding 19 high card points, opened 1 club. This call might have had old-time purists throwing up their hands in horror as it didn’t come close to their definition of an opening 1 club bid, but contract bridge is a dynamic game and has come a long way since its inception nearly 90 years ago. In the modern game, especially in North America, a five-card or longer holding is usually a requirement for opening one of a major suit. Also, North was too strong to open 1 no trump and not strong enough to open 2 no trump so he really had no choice.
South responded 1 heart and that was all North needed to hear to put his partner in game so 4 hearts became the contract. West led the spade 10 and when the dummy came down South was relieved to see that he had a play for his game. If the opponents’ hearts were to break 3–2, as they would more than two-thirds of the time, he could draw trumps, run the spades to pitch a club from his hand, concede a diamond and end up with 4 spades, 3 hearts, 1 diamond, 1 diamond ruff in dummy and 1 club ruff in hand for a total of 10 tricks. If that failed to materialize he could hope that the club ace was in the East hand and score his tenth trick by leading a small club from the dummy towards his hand.
Declarer won the opening lead in dummy and called for the heart ace, looking suspiciously at West’s jack. At trick 2, South called for dummy’s trump queen as West played the club queen, asking his partner to switch to that suit should he win a trick. If that was a true card declarer knew that if he had a chance of making this contract if he would need to keep East off the lead as he couldn’t afford to have a club led through his fragile holding. South cashed dummy’s diamond ace and called for the diamond six, waiting to see what card East played. When it turned out to be a small card, South was relieved as his jack was taken by West who continued with another spade.
Now it was a simple task to win the spade jack in hand, ruff his last diamond in dummy with the heart 10, come back to his hand via a trump finesse, draw the last of East’s trumps, go back to dummy with a spade and pitch a club loser on his long spade.
Could the defence have done any better? Yes, but it wasn’t easy. If East had broken the long-standing rule of “second hand plays low” and gone up with the diamond queen when declarer played the 6 from dummy, he would have won the trick and then switched to clubs and set the contract.
You’re right – bridge is a tough game!