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Game gone begging.

It’s lovely making a game with just 15 high card points between your two hands. It is a bit more frustrating when you could have made the game but did not.

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West Deals
Both Vul

K Q J 9 7 5

K 10 9 8 6

A 3








5 4 3 2

10 9 5 2

Q 10 8 5 3






1 ♣

2 ♣





All pass


1Club-small was natural and 2Club-small, a Michael’s cue-bid, showing at least 5 cards in each major and being vulnerable, a reasonable hand. We can debate the merits of South’s bid: four trumps for sure though the quality was a touch underwhelming! On this day, it was a master-bid, or could have been. Had South passed, North might have ventured a spade bid and the heart game could also then have been reached. The heart game was always going to be bid once South made a free bid.

West led Diamond-small8. Plan the play.

Our South finished up a trick short. With two very useful voids, South decided to start on a cross-ruff. So, they won the opening lead in dummy and then successfully ruffed four spades in their own hand and three clubs in dummy. On the fourth round of spades, East discarded a diamond not realising that they could have won the trick by simply playing Heart-small7.

So, with declarer now in hand after winning 8 tricks, these cards remained:



K 10




A 9








Q 7



10 9 5

Q 10

Ruffing a club would give South a 9th trick but with Heart-smallK falling under Heart-smallA, there would be no 10th. Similarly, South could not get two more tricks from ruffing low or by exiting a diamond. The contract was doomed to fail.

Yet, the contract was cold. South went wrong because they failed to count losers from the start. Cross-ruffing was fine in that they avoided a spade loser but by the time spades were established, there were too many trumps outstanding and no way to draw them.

There was a certain diamond loser. If there were two trump losers, then South had to avoid losing a spade trick. Yet, were there two trump losers? South should have, early in the play, played trumps, from their hand.

Although there is a danger in the second round of diamonds being ruffed, South needs to duck the opening lead and win the diamond continuation. At trick 3, they should ruff a spade. South needs to establish dummy’s spades rather than engage in a cross-ruff. So, a trump at trick 4 and they will soon see how many trump losers there are.

If West plays Heart-smallJ, declarer wins with Heart-smallK and plays a second round of trumps. Trumps have been drawn with the loss of just one trick. So, South can afford to lose a trick to the Spade-smallA. After Spade-smallK draws Spade-smallA (South discarding from hand), the spade suit sets up for just one loser. They could even have ruffed a second spade if need be. Game made for the loss of one trick in spades, hearts and diamonds.

Had South lost 2 trump tricks (as might have happened had they won Diamond-smallA at trick 1: West takes Heart-smallA at the first opportunity with the defence playing two more rounds of diamonds), they would then have needed to avoid a spade loser and then the contract should fail.

It’s interesting that the side with 25 hcps cannot make any contract higher than the 2 level while the side with a  combined 15-count can make game in hearts. It would be a shame to have failed had 4Heart-small been your contract.

At the time of writing, Bach has a significant lead in the NZ Open Trials final over Ware with under 2 of the 6 x 16 board sets remaining. There was high drama in Ware’s semi-final win over Berrington with the scores after the completion of the match being equal but only after a director’s ruling was challenged and upheld. Ware won the 8 board tie-break by 20 imps.

The final of the Women’s event between Gibbons and Terry will take place on Real Bridge on Tuesday 6th February.

Today’s deal did not come from either trial.

Richard Solomon

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