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Barbecue at the Bridge Table

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal is No. 25 from last month’s Worldwide Bridge Contest, sponsored by the Seiko-Epson Corporation. Baxter Clifford of Miami held the South cards and demonstrated the proper handling of a four-three trump fit.

West’s weak two-bid would not be found in any textbook, but it adheres to the bid-‘em-up strategy that is usually successful in tournament play. Getting in the first blow creates problems for the opponents; and when they falter, the perpetrator gets a top score. Of course, it doesn’t always work that way; sometimes the perpetrator winds up on the end of a barbecue skewer. If you live by the sword…

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

Lead: S Q
S A 9
H K Q 8 4
D 10 7
C K 10 5 4 3

Clifford, a restaurant owner, loves a good barbecue. After his partner made a takeout double, he jumped to game in hearts, a tenuous contract. (At duplicate bridge one strains to bid a major suit in preference to a minor.) Declarer had to hope for a reasonable trump break (no worse than four-two); but even then, sound technique was required.

West led the spade queen, which declarer ducked — a good move to break up the enemy communication in case a defender later obtained a club ruff (he could not reach his partner to get a second ruff). The next spade was taken with the ace, then declarer drew exactly two rounds of trumps with the ace and jack. This left a small trump in dummy to guard against another spade lead.

It was now time to develop the club suit. This was treacherous with two trumps outstanding, but not as treacherous as drawing all the trumps and then testing clubs. Clifford found the perfect solution. He won the club ace and then led the jack; when East played low, he let it ride for a finesse. The rest was easy as he made his contract with an overtrick.

Declarer’s play was almost foolproof. For example, if West held another trump and ruffed the second club, declarer would lose only the overtrick. Or if West held queen-doubleton in clubs, he would win the queen; but then there would be no club ruff. In either case declarer would make 10 tricks.

Grill one West player… medium rare.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek