By: Fred Gitelman
Originally Published in Canadian Master Point, January,
Most bridge articles are about brilliant bids or plays by brilliant
players. Believe it or not, these brilliant players also make their fair
share of terrible bids and plays. This article presents three bridge problems,
one each concerning bidding, play, and defense. These problems all come
from the 1992 Fall Nationals in Orlando. In each case a famous player made
a horrible error. I will try to analyze how such good players can play
You are one of Canada's top players. You are playing in the finals of
the Life Master's Pairs. You open 1NT (11-14) in first seat at favourable
vulnerability. I happen to think that this is a terrible bid, but suppose
that is what you decide to do. LHO doubles (penalty) and partner bids 2
showing clubs and hearts. RHO skips the bidding all the way to 6.
Your 10 seconds are up... What is your bid?
This is not a problem. Do not even think about bidding 7.
The famous player holding this hand did so. Partner had nothing and the
result was -1700. 6 was cold,
but so was 6. Defending 6
would be slightly below average. Bidding 7
was good for a complete zero. Although this result should not be too surprising,
it has little to do with why you should pass. This is an example of one
of the main sources of expert error: The breaking of partnership discipline.
Your 1NT opening was a deliberate distortion of your hand. This sort
of tactical action is acceptable at pairs as you only have your partner
to answer to. Once you open 1NT, however, you must stick with it. Your
partner has told you he does not want to play in 1NT doubled and that he
has some clubs and hearts. He has not invited you to sacrifice at the 7-level.
After you take a shot and open 1NT, you must remain consistent and continue
to treat the hand like a no trump opening. This means that you have limited
your hand and transferred the captaincy to your partner. You must stick
by that decision.
It does not matter whether 7
goes for 1700 or 1100. If you make bids because "it could be right"
or because "you felt like it" and break discipline in the process,
your partnership is doomed. Your partner will not trust you. He will not
enjoy playing with you. Unless your table presence is as good as Zia's
(he also has his share of silly results), your results will be terrible.
It's the LM Pairs again. You and your partner are one of the top pairs
in the history of bridge. Nobody is vulnerable and you are East. Your RHO
opens an 11-14 no trump (these weak no trumps sure come up a lot!). You
double for penalties. LHO passes. RHO alerts this pass and explains it
as forcing a redouble; either for penalties or to show a one-suited hand.
Partner passes, and RHO redoubles. You and LHO pass, and partner runs to
2. This is doubled by RHO and you
run to 2. LHO bids 2,
ending the auction.
Partner leads the 3 and your
9 forces the A.
Declarer cashes the top diamonds, discarding a heart. Dummy's third diamond
is ruffed by declarer and the J
is passed to your Q. You cash a
top heart on which partner discards. How do you continue?
The great player holding this hand made another common expert error:
Trying to get in the Daily Bulletin instead of counting to 13. He cashed
the A and played a low heart for
partner to ruff. Partner will know to give you a club ruff, and the A
will provide the setting trick. Brilliant defense.
Here is the complete deal:
Partner did not have a trump left and your brilliant play resulted in
declarer making an overtrick. -110 would have been below average. -140
was a zero. Yes, partner and LHO bid their hands poorly and declarer probably
misplayed the hand, but the "brilliant" defense was truly horrible.
At the time of the problem, you know that partner is either 1156 or
2155. If partner has 1156 (more likely as partner ran to 2,
not 2), the underlead in hearts
is disastrous. If partner has 2155, the underlead is not necessary. Your
partner is a very good player. He is supposed to be able to count the hand
too. After cashing the A, lead a
top heart. If partner has a trump left, he will have no trouble ruffing
your trick and giving you a club ruff. Let your partner get in the Daily
3. DECLARER PLAY
You are in 4. A spade is led.
Even the best players in the world occasionally make careless errors.
If you are aspiring to expert status, beware the pitfalls I have described.
You will always make mistakes, but if you can remember to:
- Always maintain partnership discipline
- Try to be sensible, not brilliant
- Take your time, ask yourself: What could go wrong?
you will find your mistakes fewer and further between.