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Misunderstanding Incredibly Lucky

  by Richard Pavlicek

Luck plays a role in any game. This is obvious when cards or dice are used, but luck is present to some extent in every game. Even at chess a player can make a lucky move — one that contains an unforeseen threat.

The objective of duplicate bridge is to eliminate the luck of the deal. This is done by “duplicating” hands so that contestants can compare scores against others who held identical cards. This might seem to eliminate luck altogether, but that is hardly the case; it is still there in many forms. Witness today’s deal.

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

Lead: C A
S A Q 10 8 4
H K J 10 5 2
D A 10 6

Two experienced local players conducted the auction shown at the Bridge Club of Tamarac. Ed Swell, North, opened a weak two-bid in diamonds, and Scott Graham, South, jumped immediately to six hearts. Short, sweet, simple… and preposterous.

Is this the beginning of a Star Trek episode? No, it all arose from a misunderstanding. South thought the partnership agreement was to play the Flannery convention, in which a two-diamond opening shows five hearts and four spades. In that case, North’s bid was much to South’s liking, and the six-heart bid makes sense — although a slower approach might be better to investigate the possibility of a grand slam.

West led the ace of clubs and South gasped as the dummy appeared. Some players might panic and blow the play as well, but Graham kept his cool. He ruffed the opening lead, led a heart to the queen and back to West’s ace. South ruffed the club return, drew the outstanding trumps, crossed to dummy with the spade king, and led the diamond queen. It made no difference whether East covered or not; the whole diamond suit came home, and six hearts was made.

Lucky? You better believe it. There is no logical way for North and South to bid to six hearts; and once they did, the East-West cards had to lie favorably to make it. But give credit to South for turning temporary misfortune into blazing success. Apologies to East-West — in bridge parlance, they were “fixed.”

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek