Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
Experience counts for a lot in competitive bridge. Although the odds against the exact same deal occurring more than once in a lifetime are stupendous, certain situations reappear with sufficient frequency that if you recognise a possible solution early enough it can lead you to the best line of play. Such was the case with the hand in the diagram which was played at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club in Riberas.
West dealt and opened 1 diamond and after North passed, East ventured a bid of 1 spade. Although East held 6 diamonds and only 4 spades and 6 high card points, the lure of trying to find a major suit fit proved too strong. South considered his hand too good for a simple overcall so he made a take-out double.
West had the values to raise his partner to 2 spades and this took North off the hook so she didn’t have to bid with her modest collection. East passed and South now showed his strength by bidding 3 hearts. West passed and North came alive as her hand began to look less anaemic and she raised her partner to game.
West led the diamond King and when dummy came down declarer could see two inevitable spade losers as well as two possible club losers so his contract was in some jeopardy. Fortunately however, this South was sufficiently long in the tooth to be familiar with a gadget known as a strip and endplay so he set about attempting to set one up. But he would need a little help from the opponents to make his plan work.
Declarer won the first trick in hand perforce and immediately led the spade queen from hand, taken by West with the ace. West now led a second diamond which declarer ruffed in hand followed by his remaining spade to dummy’s jack and East’s king. East now returned a trump and declarer was in control. South won in hand with the ace and crossed to the king, drawing the opponents’ last trump. He then cashed the spade jack pitching a club from hand followed by a small club to his ace. Now came the coup de grace: declarer led a small club from his hand and East-West were now completely powerless. If West rose with the king it would cannibalize his partner’s queen; if he let it ride around to East’s queen that player would have no safe exit card and would have to play a diamond or a spade allowing declarer to sluff a losing club from his hand as he ruffed in dummy. This was the only table in the contest where 4 hearts was bid and made.
Could the defence have done any better? Yes! If West had led a club initially, though this would have been very difficult on the bidding, or if West had eyed declarer’s spade queen suspiciously at trick two and switched to a club on winning the spade ace, South would not have had the timing to set up the endplay and the contract would have failed. But declarer had spotted his best chance of making his game and then he executed it.