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Common Sense Breeds Success

  by Richard Pavlicek

Helen Shanbrom of Tamarac is a consistent winner, and has accumulated about 7,000 masterpoints since she began playing tournament bridge in the Detroit area. From her enviable record one might surmise that she plays a lot of fancy bidding systems and conventions.

No way! Helen plays “right down the middle” — Standard American with only the most basic conventions, such as Stayman and Blackwood. She does include one special ingredient, lacking in many players: plain common sense.

Witness today’s deal from the recent Gold Coast Winter Tournament in Ft. Lauderdale. Shanbrom, South, made the most of her disappointing five-point hand. The key bid was South’s jump to three spades after her partner’s takeout double of the enemy raise to two hearts. This was well reasoned, since South had severely limited her strength on the previous round when she failed to bid one spade over one heart. North completed the auction with a raise to game.

4 S South
Both Vul
S A K 6
H 7 5
D A Q 7 6
C A Q 6 5

2 H

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

Lead: H A
S Q J 10 8 5
H J 3
D 10 4 2
C J 7 3

West led the heart ace and continued with a heart to East’s queen; and East exited safely with the diamond three: deuce, eight, queen. Two rounds of trumps were drawn with dummy’s ace-king, then declarer made the winning play: a low club toward her jack. East was obliged to win the club king, after which it was an easy matter to draw the last trump and discard South’s losing diamond on the fourth round of clubs — making four spades.

Was Shanbrom lucky to find the cards as they were? Should she change her name to Helen Shamrock? No and no. Since West had shown up with the heart ace and the diamond king (the latter by inference — East would not lead from the king into the ace-queen), East was a strong favorite to hold the club king for his overcall. Therefore, the routine play of finessing the club queen had to be wrong. Common sense, yes?

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© 1985 Richard Pavlicek