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Slim Chance Better Than None

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal occurred in a local duplicate tournament. The North-South assets do not warrant reaching game, but a few pairs nonetheless wandered into four hearts. The temptation to overbid is a disease that afflicts most bridge players (this writer included) from time to time.

The optimistic bidding at one table is shown above. North was clearly the more guilty — a simple preference to two hearts at his second turn would have been wiser; and his final jump to four hearts was a wild gamble.

4 H South
None Vul
S Q J 9 8 6 5
H J 4 3
D K 8 2
C 3


1 S
2 S
4 H

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

Lead: H 2
S 2
H K Q 10 9 6
D Q 3
C A K 6 5 4

West made the excellent lead of a low heart in an effort to cut down the dummy’s ruffing power. After winning the heart nine, our South player embarked on an inferior line of play: club ace; club king; club ruff. Stranded in dummy, there was no way to reach the South hand to ruff another club so the contract had to fail.

A clever declarer could have made this hand with proper play, albeit due to a friendly lie of the cards. At trick two a spade should be led to dummy’s eight and East’s king. This leaves the defenders in a predicament. If trumps are cleared, declarer can win the third round in dummy and lead the spade queen for a ruffing finesse; then the diamond king provides an entry to the established spades. If trumps are not led, declarer can also succeed with careful play — leading first to the diamond king; ruffing spade finesse; then crossruffing (or establishing the spades if West wins the diamond ace to lead trumps).

The story contains a moral. When your partner’s overbid (not yours, of course) puts you in a treacherous contract, look for a lie of the enemy cards that will allow you to succeed. Then play on that assumption.

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© 1984 Richard Pavlicek