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Hands From Here and There
(One from here and two from there)
By: Fred Gitelman

Originally Published in Canadian Master Point, October, 1995


This has been a busy year for me as far as bridge goes. I have already been to tournaments in Iceland, The Netherlands, and Indonesia as well as the Spring Nationals in Phoenix and the Summer Nationals in New Orleans. In addition, the Bermuda Bowl in Beijing is rapidly approaching and in November I will either be going to the Fall Nationals in Atlanta or to a tournament in Japan.

Between tournaments I spend most of my waking time working on new bridge software. Bridge Master has been re-written for Windows, but I am waiting for some business issues to resolve themselves before the program is released. In addition, I have created an "authoring tool" that can be used to "animate" any bridge book or article into an interactive multi-media software product. My partner, Sheri Winestock, and I are currently hard at work using this software to create a "Learn to Play Bridge" software product based on the ACBL's Club Series textbook, by Audrey Grant. We are also exploring various options for getting involved in some kind of Internet bridge service.

With bridge being such a major part of my life, I get to see an awful lot of bridge hands. Here are a few interesting problems I have seen in the last couple of months:

  

This problem was faced by Montreal's Marty Caley at a recent invitational team event in Bali, Indonesia. Marty's partner, Peter Schwartz, opened the North hand with a weak 2. Marty placed the contract in 3NT. The lead was the J (standard leads). East won the K, cashed the A, and played a third heart. Marty won the Q as West followed small (presumably still holding the 10). How would you continue?

Marty took a straightforward line that would normally succeed. He tested the diamonds, and when they did not break (East had 4 to the J), led a club toward the closed hand. Unfortunately, Marty misguessed the clubs, playing the J and losing to the Q. West cashed the 10 and played a club to East's A. East cashed the J for down two.

After the session Marty, who quite rightly prides himself on having excellent table presense, was upset for having misguessed the clubs. As Marty is an ideal teammate, roommate, and a good friend, I tried to cheer him up a bit by claiming his misguess was a normal play. After thinking about the hand a bit more, I managed to really make him miserable. This is not a hand for guessing at all! After winning the Q, cash four rounds of spades. West started with 4 spades making East much more likely to hold 4 diamonds than West. Now cash the A and exit with a 9. West will win the 10 (the third defensive trick) and is down to just diamonds and clubs. If West has a diamond left to play, that suit is very likely to break (make sure you keep exactly one club in dummy just in case West is the one with 4 diamonds - you will then need to lead a club down for trick nine). If West plays a club, the defense will be powerless to prevent you from taking your ninth trick with either the K or the 10.

Now, I could have written up this hand without mentioning any names. I wanted the opportunity, however, to mention in print what a pleasure it was playing on a team with two complete gentlemen like Marty and Peter. Both are also very fine players - this was the only card play error I can recall either one of them making in an entire week of top-level bridge. Unfortunately, Marty's mistake happened on the most interesting hand of the tournament - a hand I really wanted to write about.

My favorite hand from New Orleans took place in the National IMP Pairs. It is a bidding problem. With nobody vulnerable, your LHO deals and opens 1 (playing Standard). Partner (bridge as well as business), Sheri, passes and RHO responds 1. Believe it or not, your hand is:

  

During the dinner break of one of our coaching weekends, I gave this problem to members of the Canadian National Team. Silence. After a while, Coach Kokish, one of the world's foremost bridge theorists, writers, coaches, and players, suggested:

"PASS is the technically correct call. 1 is forcing, of course, so you will get another chance."

Lots of heads nodding in agreement with the wise man of Westmount.

"If you PASS the auction continues, 2 on your left, PASS, 3 on your right. What now?"

"4", from Kokish, "obviously showing a strong 2-suiter in spades and diamonds."

"Well, Eric, if I ever hold this hand again, that is exactly how I will bid it."

"So what did you bid at the table?", asked my coach.

"I jump cue-bid at my first opportunity."

"Jump cue-bid? To what?"

"To 6! DOUBLE on my left, PASS, PASS, PASS. The lead was the Q! Sheri, who thought the bidding was very funny, put down:

103

And 11 other unimportant cards (no A so no overtrick). I was moderately surprised to win as much as 8 IMPS for +1210 as I expected this to be a very common number on this deal."

My last hand is from a little closer to home. In fact, it is from Kate Buckman's Bridge Club which is only three blocks from home. This problem was given to me by Shelagh Paulsson, who, despite all my travels, remains one of my favourite bridge people in the world (and she lives only five blocks from home).

You are declarer in 6 with a heart opening lead. Since North opened the bidding with 1 you can be fairly certain the lead is a singleton. Plan the play on that assumption.

You have five diamond tricks, three hearts, two clubs, and the A - only 11 tricks. Since East presumably has five hearts, a squeeze is your only chance for a twelfth trick. You must play East for the K in order to squeeze him in the majors.

Play low from dummy at trick 1. East must play the 9, T, or J. After winning the A, draw three rounds of trump and play a club to the J. If this wins, play another club. There are several possible outcomes:

1) If the defense lets you win the first two rounds of clubs, discard your third club on dummy's hearts and lead towards your Q for trick 12 (remember we are assuming East has the K).

2) If West wins the first or second club and returns a spade, win the A (Vienna coup), cross to the closed hand in clubs and run the minors squeezing East. You can do this yourself if the defense wins the first round of clubs and plays another club.

3) If either defender wins the second club and returns a third round of clubs, play your second last diamond, discarding dummy's small spade. The position will be (with East still to discard):

East is trump-squeezed. Whatever he plays, cash the top hearts for a spade discard. If East is down to 1 heart, you can set up a heart trick with a ruff using the A as an entry. If East has kept 2 hearts, cash the A, dropping the K and return to your hand with a heart ruff to enjoy the Q.

4) If East wins the first or second round of clubs and returns a major, he gives up a trick immediately. On a spade return, you can put up the Q. A low heart return allows you to win a trick cheaply in dummy. On a high heart return, your spots are good enough to set up a fourth trick in hearts with a ruffing finesse, using the A as a late dummy entry.

It's nice when you don't have to go half way around the world to find an interesting hand. Thanks Shelagh!

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