The Real Deal


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What can go wrong in just one hour?

In my state of comfortable retirement from playing, I haven’t made a wrong bid or wrong play in months. Recently, I was dragged away from that shield of safety to play in the Wednesday morning Junior Instructional Game (ably run by Paula Mittelman and Valerie Westheimer) on BBO. Two experts take turns partnering Juniors for two deals a round. My fellow expert opponent was Italian legend Benito Garozzo. I made it through the first nine deals without doing anything to show signs of rust. That’s my opinion, anyway.

Added to the challenge is that Benito (in what seemed to be “hunt-and-peck English”) and I (flying fingers with many typos) constantly answer questions and respond to comments from several hundred kibitzers and must follow the back-and-forth dialog. Every time it is Benito’s turn to bid or play, he is still pecking out an answer, and it seems like every action takes two minutes.

This was my hand for the final deal of the session:

♠A 4   K Q 10 9 3 2   J 4 3    ♣K 4

With both vulnerable, my Junior partner dealt and passed. The Italian legend opened 1. One of my favorite theories is that it is right to make wide-range preempts opposite a passed-partner. For me, 2 (“weak”) was the clear call. Everyone passed. The Junior player on my left led the K and I saw:

North
♠ K Q 10 9 7
6 4
5 2
♣ J 7 6 5
South
♠ A 4
K Q 10 9 3 2
J 4 3
♣ K 4

My brain at this point was on sensory overload. I had too many thoughts that I had to cram into 60 seconds (I didn’t want to sit there thinking while live online with many kibitzers). Left-hand opponent’s king held the trick and he switched smartly to a low trump. In no time at all, Benito inserted the jack (the first time all morning his computer was on time). I won the K and thought some of these thoughts:

  1. On a bad day, I could lose three diamonds, two clubs and a heart.
  2. If spades are 3–3, I can play three rounds now (throwing a diamond) and lead a club towards my king for an overtrick (it was IMP scoring, so I didn’t really care about the overtrick).
  3. If one opponent (presumably RHO) started with only two spades and remained with a bare A, I could also make the contract by playing three rounds of spades at once.
  4. If spades were not behaving, I could play back a high heart. This would force the defense to cash exactly the right number of diamonds and then play a club through my king to make me guess.
  5. If spades were not behaving, I could also play the J out of my hand and maybe get misdefense (such as no more trumps or not proper cashing and clubbing).

I decided on Option 5. Maybe I could read the table if it came to that dreaded club guess. On my J, LHO won the queen and played a low heart to Benito’s A (so much for ruffing a diamond in dummy). At the speed of light (the second time all morning Benito’s computer didn’t cause a human rain delay), a low club came back. Ugh. Just what I didn’t want to see.

Benito had the A–J and presumably the A. LHO had the K–Q. The missing points were the ♠J and the ♣A–Q. With the ♣A, LHO might have taken action. If Benito didn’t have the ♣A, he would have opened vulnerable with only A–J, A and the ♣Q (and probably the ♠J). Accordingly, I put up the ♣K. Would I be writing
about this if I had made the contract? LHO won the ace (of course) and returned a club. Benito won and made no mistake. He cashed the third diamond for down one. Nice defense.

How were the spades? I still have enough bridge-player’s blood in my veins that I needed to torture myself by looking at the full deal:

Dlr:
North
Vul:
Both
North
♠ K Q 10 9 7
6 4
5 2
♣ J 7 6 5
West
♠ 8 6 2
7 5
K Q 9 8
♣ A 9 8 2
East
♠ J 5 3
A J 8
A 10 7 6
♣ Q 10 3
South
♠ A 4
K Q 10 9 3 2
J 4 3
♣ K 4

Yup — playing spades first would have worked. Guessing clubs would have worked. Back into hibernation.