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Scramble and Crossruff Nets Game

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal occurred at the Tamarac Bridge Club — the premier duplicate bridge site in western Broward County. In addition to open games held twice daily, the club caters to newcomers with its extensive novice program. For more information contact the club’s manager, Bill Howe, at 726-1095.

4 S South
None Vul
S A 8 5
H Q 10 3 2
D K Q 9 8 2
C 8


2 D
3 S

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

Lead: H 9
S J 10 9 6 4
H A 6
C A K 7 5 2

The one-spade opening reflects a modern tendency of advocates of the “five-card major” approach. The traditional opening with five-five in the black suits is one club in order to conserve bidding space; but then it takes three bids to convey the hand’s most important feature — the five-card spade suit. The modern approach describes this feature in just one bid, admittedly with a sacrifice in economy. Straightforward bidding then led to the proper four-spade contract. (Traditionalists would get to the same contract via: 1 C 1 D; 1 SH; 2 SS.)

Most declarers failed to make four spades, partly because of the adverse distribution, but mostly because the play requires delicate timing. The exact line of play is difficult to forecast and might be described as a “scramble and crossruff.” The natural propensity to lead trumps must be resisted; declarer must proceed one trick at a time.

Assume West leads the heart nine: 10, jack, ace; then the diamond jack is led to the ace. West continues with the heart eight, ducked around; then the club nine (no other defense is better) goes to South’s ace. The club king is ruffed by West (low) and overruffed; diamond king; diamond queen, ruffed and overruffed. Note the strategy of trying to cash side-suit winners early, an important technique when planning to crossruff without drawing the enemy low trumps.

A club is ruffed (West discards a heart, best), then a heart ruff fells the king. A trump is led to the ace (leaving West with the only outstanding trump), and declarer discards his last club loser on the heart queen. If you’re still with me, that comes to 10 tricks.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek