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Table Presence Is Key to Success

  by Richard Pavlicek

I have known Gracie Gabbai of Ft. Lauderdale for a number of years, and her tournament record is impressive. Her success can be attributed to a high degree of “table presence” — an intangible combination of cleverness, shrewdness and tact. Gabbai added another notch to her gun by capturing the Open Pairs at the Robert Reynolds Memorial Tournament in Miami, partnered with Bernie Chazen of Tamarac. Today’s deal contributed to their victory.

3 NT South
Both Vul
S A 7 3 2
H J 10 7
D 9 5 4
C K Q 6


3 NT

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

Lead: C 4
S K Q 5
H Q 6 5
D A 10 7
C A 10 5 3

Gabbai, South, opened one notrump (15 to 17 points) and North raised directly to game. Observe that North made no effort to locate a four-four spade fit via the Stayman convention because of his flat distribution. As I often tell my students: Do not look for a suit contract when you can’t ruff anything.

West led his fourth-best club and declarer took advantage by letting it ride to her 10. There were now eight top tricks — four clubs, three spades and a diamond — so declarer set about to establish a ninth by leading a heart. West hopped with the king and returned a club to dummy’s queen, then the heart jack was led to the ace.

West now was aware of the futility in clubs and he shifted to a diamond to East’s jack. Declarer could have won this and made her contract, but tournaments are not won by being lazy. With nine tricks you look for 10; with 10 you look for 11, etc. The spade suit offered the only chance for a 10th trick, and a squeeze would be necessary if that suit did not break evenly.

Squeeze plays usually require that declarer can win all but one of the remaining tricks, so South ducked the diamond to rectifying the count. After winning the second diamond, declarer unblocked the club king then returned to her hand with a heart to cash the club ace. East was forced to abandon his spade stopper in order to keep the high diamond, and declarer won the rest of the tricks.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek