Main     Quiz 7A17 by Richard Pavlicek    

Root for the Home Team

March of 2002 brought sadness to the bridge world with the loss of one its great icons, Bill Root. Besides being a first-rate player for many years, Mr. Root was a household name for countless players. Like Goren from a previous era, “according to Root” was a catch-phrase of the times. His popular bridge books, bridge teaching (arguably the most successful in the world) and bridge cruises enlightened many people about this great game.

As Bill’s regular partner in major events for some 20 years, we had our successes, but we also experienced some heart-breaking losses. I think it was the losses that made our friendship grow the most. Bill was helpful to me in my teaching career, and always there when I needed advice. I will miss him dearly, just like I miss my own father. Thank you, Bill — for the good times.

Enough sadness. I’m a bridge writer, not a minister. I looked through my collection of old deals and found these six from the Nationals in Toronto ‘92, Kansas City ‘93 and Cincinnati ‘94. Each deal features Bill Root on defense. The winning defenses might best be described as thoughtful not brilliant, but they do illustrate what a great partner I had. Are you ready? OK, then see if you can keep pace with Mr. Root.

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Problem 1

IMPs None Vul

West
You

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North


1 D
1 S
East


Pass
Pass
South

1 C
1 H
1 NT

1 NT South
S K 7 5 3
H 9 2
D A Q 10 7 5
C 9 2
S Q J 9 6
H A 10 7 4
D K 6 2
C Q 3
Table

Against 1 NT, with dummy bidding spades, you decide to lead a deceptive S J, and it goes three, two, eight. What next?


Answer

Bill Root was West, defending 1 NT:

S K 7 5 3
H 9 2
D A Q 10 7 5
C 9 2
S Q J 9 6
H A 10 7 4
D K 6 2
C Q 3
TableS 10 4 2
H K 8 3
D J 8 4
C K 10 7 4
S A 8
H Q J 6 5
D 9 3
C A J 8 6 5

After the S J held, Bill shifted to the D K. Wow! Obviously, declarer could duck this and enjoy four diamond tricks, but he thought Bill was short in diamonds (wouldn’t you?) and grabbed the ace. (No doubt he was also upset by his error to hold up at trick one.) The contract was now doomed, and declarer continued his poor strokes to finish down two.

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Problem 2

IMPs Both Vul

West
You

Pass
Pass
Pass
North


2 S
4 C
5 D
East


Pass
Pass
Pass
South

2 C
3 H
4 NT
6 H

6 H South
S A K 9 5 3
H 4
D 7 6
C 9 7 5 4 3
S Q 10 8 6 2
H 5
D K J 10 4 3
C J 6
Table

Against 6 H, you lead the D J, and it goes six, two, eight. Partner’s signal is standard count by partnership agreement. What next?


Answer

Bill Root was West, defending 6 H:

S A K 9 5 3
H 4
D 7 6
C 9 7 5 4 3
S Q 10 8 6 2
H 5
D K J 10 4 3
C J 6
TableS J 7
H J 9 2
D Q 5 2
C A Q 10 8 2
S 4
H A K Q 10 8 7 6 3
D A 9 8
C K

After the D J held, Bill promptly shifted to clubs; down one. This might look easy, but many defenders would outsmart themselves, reading the diamond layout accurately and shifting to trumps (declarer can then succeed on a double squeeze). Bill, however, remembered the Blackwood bid and no follow-up with 5 NT so an ace in my hand was likely. At the time, I regretted not doubling 4 C, but that might have stopped them from bidding six. Note that declarer’s duck at trick one was the only real hope to succeed.

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Problem 3

IMPs E-W Vul

West
You

Pass
Pass
North


2 C
4 H
East


Pass
All Pass
South

1 NT
2 H

4 H South
S Q 9 3 2
H Q 10 9 2
D A K 4
C 10 4
S A
H 7 5 4 3
D 10 7 5
C K Q J 9 5
Table

Against 4 H, you lead the C K, and it goes four, seven, ace. Declarer cashes the H A-K, and partner discards the C 2 (the high-low shows count in clubs). Declarer next leads the S 4 to your blank ace, as partner plays the eight. What next?


Answer

Bill Root was West, defending 4 H:

S Q 9 3 2
H Q 10 9 2
D A K 4
C 10 4
S A
H 7 5 4 3
D 10 7 5
C K Q J 9 5
TableS J 10 8 7
H 6
D Q 9 8 2
C 8 7 6 2
S K 6 5 4
H A K J 8
D J 6 3
C A 3

After the C K to the ace, two top hearts and a low spade to the ace, Bill did not cash his club but switched accurately to a diamond. With any other defense declarer could succeed, but now Bill was able to lead diamonds twice to foil the endplay. Is that a good partner or what?

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Problem 4

IMPs E-W Vul

West


2 NT
North

1 S
4 H
East
You
1 NT
All Pass
South

2 H

4 H South
S K Q J 6 5
H K 7 2
D A J 7 4
C 3
TableS A 10 8
H A 8
D K 9 8 3
C K Q 9 2

Against 4 H, partner leads the D 6 (third best from even, low from odd), and it goes ace, nine, five. At trick two declarer leads the C 3; queen, five, four. What next?


Answer

Bill Root was East, defending 4 H:

S K Q J 6 5
H K 7 2
D A J 7 4
C 3
S 9 4
H 4 3
D Q 10 6 2
C A 10 8 7 4
TableS A 10 8
H A 8
D K 9 8 3
C K Q 9 2
S 7 3 2
H Q J 10 9 6 5
D 5
C J 6 5

After winning the C Q at trick two, Bill shifted to a low spade. This play was necessary (ace and another is also fine) since the spade ruff was the only way to beat the contract. Note that declarer has the communication and timing to succeed against taps, trump leads or any other defense. It’s a great feeling when partner saves you from not finding the best opening lead.

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Problem 5

IMPs Both Vul

West

1 H
2 H
Pass
North

Dbl
Dbl
Pass
East
You
1 S
Pass
Dbl
South

Pass
2 S
All Pass

2 S× South
S A 10 8
H A 3
D A 8 6 4
C A 7 6 2
TableS K Q 9 6 5 3
H 2
D Q 7 3
C 9 4 3

Against 2 S doubled, partner leads the H K to the ace (South plays the four). At trick two declarer leads the D 4; three, 10, jack. Partner leads the H J. Do you ruff it? If not, what do you discard?


Answer

Bill Root was East, defending 2 S doubled:

S A 10 8
H A 3
D A 8 6 4
C A 7 6 2
S
H K Q J 9 8 7
D K J 9 2
C Q 10 8
TableS K Q 9 6 5 3
H 2
D Q 7 3
C 9 4 3
S J 7 4 2
H 10 6 5 4
D 10 5
C K J 5

When I led the good H J at trick three, Bill pitched a diamond. I continued with the H Q, ruffed with the S 10, and Bill pitched his last diamond. Declarer had to go down one. This deal seemed trivial at the time — after all, how could we not beat 2 S when Bill had K-Q-9 sixth in trumps. It wasn’t until later that I realized how thoughtful his defense was. Had he pitched a club (which looks normal), declarer can succeed. I’ll leave it to you as a declarer-play exercise.

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Problem 6

IMPs None Vul

West


Pass
Pass
All Pass
North


2 C
2 NT*
East
You

Pass
Pass
South

1 NT
2 S
3 NT
*does not imply hearts

3 NT South
S 9 2
H J 9 7
D K 6 4
C A 10 8 7 3
TableS J 10 8 6
H 6 5 4 3
D A 7
C 9 4 2

Against 3 NT, partner leads the D 3 (fourth best), and it goes four, ace, two. You return the D 7; eight, nine, king. Declarer next leads the S 9; 10, king, ace. Partner returns the S 7, which you overtake with the eight, and South plays the three. What next?


Answer

Bill Root was East, defending 3 NT:

S 9 2
H J 9 7
D K 6 4
C A 10 8 7 3
S A 7 5
H Q 10 8
D J 9 5 3
C Q J 5
TableS J 10 8 6
H 6 5 4 3
D A 7
C 9 4 2
S K Q 4 3
H A K 2
D Q 10 8 2
C K 6

After a diamond to the ace, diamond to the king, S 9 (10, king, ace) and a spade back to the eight (ducked by declarer), Bill wisely shifted to the C 2. A beautiful play, as I was about to be crunched in three suits. With any other defense, declarer can give up another spade and squeeze me repeatedly. Declarer could have succeeded, of course, by winning the D Q at trick two and establishing clubs (perhaps superior, though not clear-cut).

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© 2002 Richard Pavlicek