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Nothing Hand Offers Good Lesson

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal might be described as a “nothing hand,” a lowly partscore that would be forgotten soon after it was played. Yet it illustrates an important principle in timing and control.

North’s raise on three low trumps is correct in a five-card-major system. He could be sure of a combined holding of at least eight spades, so it was his duty to inform partner of the trump fit. (A one-notrump response would deny three spades in this method.)

2 S South
E-W Vul
S 6 5 4
H A 4
D Q J 4 3
C 10 9 6 2


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

Lead: H K
S Q J 10 9 7
H J 8 3
D K 5
C A K 3

West led the heart king and declarer could account for six almost certain winners: the heart ace, club ace-king, and three natural trump tricks. In my bridge teaching I call these “top tricks.” The likely sources of additional tricks are the heart suit (by ruffing in dummy) and the diamond suit (by driving out the enemy ace).

Beginner Bob won the heart ace and immediately returned a heart, since a ruff in dummy appeared most urgent. Nice try, but West was on the ball and shifted to the spade ace; then a spade to the king and another spade devoided dummy of trumps. Bob next led the diamond king, and East made a fine play, ducking and winning his ace on the second round. This left dummy high and dry, and Bob went down one.

Average Ann realized the defense could counter an attempt to ruff a heart so she tried a different tack. She won the heart ace and immediately led a diamond. If East hopped with the ace, Ann would unblock her king (to keep an entry to dummy); but East played low and the king won. A diamond was returned to the jack and ace, but East now shifted to a trump and the same scenario was reached. Down one.

“Here I come to save the day!” sang Master Mouse (nephew of Mighty Mouse) as he ducked the opening heart lead. The defense was now stymied. If trumps were cleared, he would drive out the diamond ace while dummy had the heart ace as an entry. Otherwise, he would ruff a heart. Simple, once you think of it.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek