They Pay Bonuses
This Real Deal appeared during my Asian cruise in the spring of 2014. It was human dealt in a small Swiss teams event. We were crossing from India to Oman on the Arabian Sea, having undergone a pirate safety drill the same morning! I wondered if the players in my group would have kept playing bridge if indeed there was a pirate attack.
Both vulnerable, South dealt and picked up:
♠ A 9 5 4 2 ♥ Q 10 3 ♦ 2 ♣ A K Q 6
His 1♠ opening was raised to 2♠. Vulnerable at IMPs, you need to be very aggressive with game bidding.
I’ll never forget what Jeff Meckstroth said when he was asked why he keeps bidding all of those games on “nothing.” His sarcastic reply: “They pay a good bonus for a vulnerable game.” Still, I don’t think this hand should jump to 4♠; a game try feels about right. South bid 3♥ (“help suit”) and North raised to 4♥, in case there was a 4–4 fit there. South correctly went back to the known eight-card fit by bidding 4♠. The ♣J was led:
How do you assess your chances? You need spades to be 3–2 and you must also find the ♥J. Declarer won the ♣A, cashed another high club and ruffed a club in dummy. Do you like that start?
This was careless management of the black suits. If, for example, one opponent started with 2–2 in the black suits, the player with two trumps could ruff high (or overruff dummy) on the third club. Now, the other opponent would still have two natural trump tricks. Even worse, the player who ruffed high might be able to cross in hearts for another club play. How can declarer avoid this?
At trick two, he should play a low trump from both hands. He can win any return and then bang down the ♠A, happy if they are indeed 3–2. Then he can safely ruff a low club in dummy. If an opponent overruffs, it is with the outstanding high trump.
Then declarer turns his attention to the ♥J. Who should he play for it? How?
For one thing, it might depend if the ♦A is still in dummy. For another, it depends on how the black suits behave. I’d play for the person who has the fewest black cards to have the ♥J. He is likely to have more hearts, and therefore likelier to hold a certain card in the suit. A look at the full deal reveals more:
In actuality, declarer went down two. He prematurely tried to ruff a club in dummy. East overruffed, crossed to his partner’s ♥A and scored his ♠K ruffing another club. West still had two natural trump tricks. Declarer lost the ♥A and four(!) trump tricks.
Let’s try it with proper technique. Declarer wins the club lead and ducks a spade from both hands at trick two. East likely returns a club. Declarer wins and lays down the ♠A with gratifying results. Now, he ruffs a club in dummy, discovering that West started with five clubs. Because East is known to have more “missing” cards than West, declarer will likely play East for the♥J and make his contract for a well-earned plus 620.
At the other table in the match, North–South made a spade partscore, so the misplay at this table cost almost 20 IMPs (North–South lost 8 instead of winning 10).