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Careful Play Overcomes Bad Break

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal, from the North American team trials, was played by one of my teammates, David Berkowitz of Old Tappan, N.J., whose talent at the bridge table is only matched by his skill as an options trader. Holding the South cards, he did not expect to play an active role; but his partner decreed otherwise.

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

1 D

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

Lead: C 6
S 7 4
H 10 8 7 6 5
D J 7 5 3
C 10 8

After West’s one-diamond opening (dictated by the popular “five-card major” system), North doubled and East raised to three diamonds — a preemptive bid to hinder the opposition. This was passed around to North, who doubled again to compel South to bid his longest suit; then North raised to game with his powerful hand.

After winning the club lead in dummy, declarer routinely cashed one top heart and another club to discover that suit was dividing favorably. Many declarers now would cash a second trump and run the clubs, allowing the player with the high trump to ruff when he pleases.

But Berkowitz was made of sterner stuff. If he released trump control and the suit broke badly — likely on the bidding — he could not prevent an opponent (clearly West) from ruffing, drawing dummy’s trump and cashing diamonds. Therefore, he just led a good club and all West could win were two trump tricks and a diamond. Berkowitz’s play might have cost an overtrick, but it assured his contract — and that is the primary concern at team competition.

The same contract was reached at the other table; however, my partner, Bill Root, led the diamond ace after a similar auction. This swung the tempo in favor of the defense. A second diamond was led to force dummy to ruff; then, after West ruffed the third round of clubs, another diamond sealed declarer’s fate. Dummy had to ruff with a high trump, thus promoting an additional trump trick for West.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek