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Is Your Game Up To Par?

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal is another from the North American Collegiate Bridge Championship qualifying round, held last November. East’s preemptive bid makes it difficult for North-South to bid accurately, so the bidding par was generous; contracts of four, five or six hearts or three notrump each received the full award. This also avoided any complaints regarding the merit of bidding a slam — six hearts is a reasonable contract, but hardly certain.

6 H South
None Vul
S K J 6 4
H 7
D A 5 3
C Q 7 6 4 2


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

Lead: D 10
S Q 3 2
H A K Q J 10 9 8
D 7
C A 5

The “official bidding” is shown. South’s jump to four hearts shows a good hand — roughly within a trick of his bid — based on the maxim: Never preempt over a preempt. Therefore, with 10 useful points, North is worth a slam try. Five diamonds shows the ace, and South takes the plunge to slam because of his completely solid suit. North and South each bid aggressively, but that is a winning strategy in the long run.

West leads the diamond 10. Eleven tricks are easy, but how do you make 12? A three-three spade break will not suffice because the defender with the ace will hold up until the third round, leaving dummy without an entry. Playing on clubs is futile because you must lose two tricks (barring the miracle of a singleton king). What is your plan?

To gain the full par award you must ruff a diamond at trick two and draw the enemy trumps, discarding only clubs from dummy. Next lead the spade queen (not a low spade) then: (1) If West wins and returns a spade, he can be squeezed in the black suits by leading all your trumps… play this out to verify. (2) If West ducks, lead a spade to the jack as West must duck again. Return to your hand with a diamond ruff (note the importance of retaining that card) to lead your last spade. West must take his ace now (else lose it) and he is endplayed — he must put you in dummy with a spade or lead a club from his king.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek