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A Chance To Go Wrong

  by Richard Pavlicek

In addition to technical skill, a successful bridge player must possess a less tangible quality known as “table feel.” This mystical quality includes abilities such as psychological tactics, judging one’s opponents, and just plain imagination. It is not something that can be taught or learned from a book. It can be developed only through experience at the bridge table.

Richard Coren, a Lauderhill attorney, is a skillful bridge player and well known for his exceptional table feel. His clever defense on today’s deal led to the downfall of an almost impregnable contract. The deal occurred in the Grand National Team Championship, an event in which Coren’s team finished second in all of Florida.

3 NT South
Both Vul
S Q 4 3
H A Q 2
D A Q 6 5
C 10 9 3


3 NT

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

Lead: H 4
S A 7 2
H K J 5
D K J 8
C K J 8 2

Coren, West, made the routine lead of a heart. This was taken by dummy’s queen and the club 10 was run to the queen. On lead again, Coren realized the futility of continuing hearts and made the cunning shift to the spade five. Declarer played low from dummy and paused to think when East produced the jack.

The location of the spade king was not clear — if West held it, declarer should win the ace; but if East held it, a holdup play would ensure the contract. Also unknown to declarer was the location of the club ace.

Finally, declarer decided that West was unlikely to lead from the spade king and therefore ducked the trick. Curtains! A second spade was returned and ducked to West’s king, then another spade cleared the suit. Declarer had to let East in with the club ace and the 13th spade became the setting trick.

It is obvious that declarer could have made the hand by winning the first spade lead with the ace (or dummy’s queen), but he was given the chance to go wrong by Coren’s defense. Three notrump was easily made at the other table when the West defender was less inspired.

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© 1984 Richard Pavlicek