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A Miracle for Christmas Day

A nice Christmas message for you. They happen at the bridge table, too. As you unwrap your Christmas presents, have a read of the following. You can read it on two levels. If you are an experienced player, you can challenge yourself on making the contract by using the information given. We always must think of the bidding when we plan how we can make a contract.

However, if you are newish to the game, you, too, can think about how you can make this contract simply by playing the cards in a sensible order.

The only players who will not enjoy the Christmas spirit will be the defenders, especially the West players who thought they had an easy double of the final contract. Little is certain in the game of Bridge!

East Deals
E-W Vul
A 6 5 4 3
8 6 5
A K J 9 3
   
N
W   E
S
   
 
J 8
A J 10 7 4 2
Q 6
Q 7 4
West North East South
    2  Pass
3  Pass 3  3 
4  4  5  Pass
Pass 5  Pass Pass
Dbl All pass    

 For the less experienced player

We will not, initially, worry about the bidding. There was plenty of it and your partner has shown great faith in you by bidding on to 5Heart-small which West doubled. No pressure!

What? Plenty pressure! A 5-level contract doubled with gaping holes in the trump suit. The first piece of advice is “do not panic”! Someone said bridge is only a game and you can only do your best. Right!

So, they lead the Spade-smallK and you do as your teacher told you… see how many losers you have and what you can do about them. There are a couple of high trumps missing, a seemingly unavoidable spade loser and your two diamond losers.

Hey, did you notice dummy had no diamonds? So, before drawing trumps, how about ruffing those in dummy? Right, you have some kind of plan!

Next problem! Win the Spade-smallA but you are in the wrong hand to ruff any diamonds. So, cross to the South hand with a club and ruff a diamond and cross back again with a trump to the ace (both defenders followed low) and ruff another diamond. Great, you are stuck on the table! So, nothing for it but to play some top clubs…. East discards. So, you play another and another and finally a fifth and now you discard your spade!

Contract made. Wow!

Let’s come back to the bidding.

For the more advanced player

   
West North East South
    2  Pass
3  Pass 3  3 
4  4  5  Pass
Pass 5  Pass Pass
Dbl All pass    

 

2Spade-small was spades and a minor, less than an opener. West’s 3Club-small showed both minors and was to play if East’s minor was clubs. Your 3Heart-small call then created a highly competitive auction which ended when West doubled 5Heart-small.

West led the Spade-smallK. What had the bidding told you? You knew East had 5 spades. Therefore, Spade-smallK was a singleton. West’s final double told you probably where both missing high hearts were. How could you make this contract?

Unquestionably, you have to ruff diamonds in dummy…or do you? As West cannot continue spades, you can safely lose the lead to West, who also has longer clubs than East (you know that from the bidding,too).

So, at trick 2, play a club to your queen and ruff a diamond. Now, play a trump and when East plays a low trump, insert your 10. If West has three trumps to 2 honours, they cannot continue trumps without costing a trump trick. This line would only fail if East has two hearts and one club. Otherwise, you are safe.

East Deals
E-W Vul
A 6 5 4 3
8 6 5
A K J 9 3
K
K Q 3
K J 7 5 3
10 6 5 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
Q 10 9 7 2
9
A 10 9 8 4 2
8
 
J 8
A J 10 7 4 2
Q 6
Q 7 4
West North East South
    2  Pass
3  Pass 3  3 
4  4  5  Pass
Pass 5  Pass Pass
Dbl All pass    

 

If West exits a diamond, you ruff and play on clubs… and hope. If West exits a club, you are forced into running the club suit.

As West has to follow to four rounds of clubs, both your losing diamond and spade can be thrown. West can ruff with Heart-small3 but the Heart-smallK will fall under your ace. A miracle, indeed…making 11 tricks.

An alternative would be playing a trump to the ace instead of finessing and ruff South’s remaining diamond in dummy before running the clubs, successful when West has at least 3 clubs (very likely on the bidding) and 3 trumps.

Both our inexperienced and our experienced declarers made the contract though not necessarily in identical fashion. Our experienced declarer knew that West did not have a second spade. Our less experienced declarer never really considered that!

The key to success was keeping East off lead.

Certainly, the cards lay well for South (if you call having 2 trump losers “a lucky lie”). Yet, 5Diamond-small was only one down. Therefore, while bidding to 5Heart-small was risky (perhaps madness!), it was not that North-South would get a big score from doubling 5Diamond-small.

miracles.jpg

So, the message is to keep playing and trying…remembering and interpreting the bidding if you can… and sometimes you will be rewarded, either by misdefence or as here by a lucky suit break.

May you celebrate many such making contracts in 2019.

Richard Solomon

 

 

 

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