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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

Make Crime Pay.

All the best bridge books (and probably some lesser ones too!) teach us how we should bid hands correctly, using tried and true methods. There can be no more” tried and true” convention than Blackwood, whichever form you use, to ensure the opposition will not be cashing a couple of aces against your small slam or, the terrible sound for a grand slam bidder, a double especially from the player on lead, that they have an ace to beat your contract.

Blackwood, or Gerber, do not work for some hand types but the only excuse for not using such a convention on the following was some silly bravado statement that “real men” (mercifully I am not one!) do not need to check for aces.

 
South Deals
N-S Vul
9 5 2
K J
A Q 7 4
Q J 8 5
   
N
W   E
S
   
 
A K Q 10 7 6 3
4 2
K 2
K 10
West North East South
      1 
3  Dbl Pass 4 
Pass ?    

(3Heart-small= weak jump overcall)

There is a very sound argument that if South was really strong with possible slam ambitions, they would bid the opponent’s suit en route to 4Spade-small. Hence, absolutely correctly, South bid 4Spade-small, a hand worthy of playing game but with a poor holding in the key heart suit. There were two ways to reach 6Spade-small, the “real man” route or via Blackwood.

Yes, I know, two aces are missing and a 5Diamond-small (simple Blackwood) or 5Spade-small (Roman Key Card) response would highlight that. Even if South held both major aces and was missing the Spade-smallK, slam would be no better than a trump finesse..and that’s the best option after the 5Spade-small Key Card response.

Nevertheless, the contract was 6Spade-small. West decided to lead the card they were almost certainly known to have held, the Heart-smallA. Dummy was a good test of South’s mental character. Don’t go overboard about how nice it is. Opponents will start to see through that veneer after a while.

Don’t look despondent, either. There will be time to look and feel miserable as you write down -100. Just thank partner, quietly, politely and call for a small heart. West continued with a second heart.

Question 1 Who has the Club-smallA?

Question 2 Which player at the table is looking a little despondent?

Answer to both questions: East! You know where that ace has to be, don’t you?

Question 3 Can you make your contract?

Answer: there’s a pretty good chance. So, don’t give up. Draw trumps and play spades from the top until you have just one left and with a bit of luck, that last trump is going to hurt East:

 

 
A Q 7 4
Q
Q
10 9 8
6
 
N
W   E
S
 
J 6 5 3
A
 
3
K 2
K 10

You play your last trump. West and dummy throw their club….and East? All the slam required was for East to have at least 4 diamonds along with that Club-smallA. A simple squeeze. You can pull that off. Just run trumps…just run your long suit and it’s amazing what can happen. Misdefence or as in this case, no defence. The four hands:

South Deals
N-S Vul
9 5 2
K J
A Q 7 4
Q J 8 5
J
A Q 10 8 7 6
10 9 8
9 7 6
 
N
W   E
S
 
8 4
9 5 3
J 6 5 3
A 4 3 2
 
A K Q 10 7 6 3
4 2
K 2
K 10

 

For the squeeze to work, declarer has to lose a trick early. Thus, on a diamond or trump lead, South must play a heart towards dummy. West must win and find the club switch, surely marked if Blackwood had been used, a little harder if it had not.

What’s the moral? Even the unmakeable can sometimes be cold! Oh, and do use Blackwood if you can. For such hands, it’s really useful.

Richard Solomon

p.s. Our “criminals” were given a very quick opportunity to demonstrate the worth of Blackwood on the very next board. One of them held Spade-small AKQ7  Heart-small AK2 Diamond-small AT85  Club-small AK and heard their partner reply 2Heart-small positive to their 2Club-small opener. They checked partner held the missing king and Heart-smallQ and bid 7. There were 16 tricks in this contract. Maybe after 2Heart-small, Blackwood was unnecessary? Yet, crime cannot always pay: check if you can.



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