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Shrewd Defender Finds Uppercut

  by Richard Pavlicek

Partscore contracts are sometimes dull, and often neglected by bridge writers — yes, I’m as guilty as anyone — but I thought today’s deal was noteworthy. It arose in the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams at the last North American Bridge Championships, and the principals were the eventual winners.

West was Lou Bluhm of Atlanta; East was Bart Bramley of Chicago — two of the best players and finest gentlemen in the bridge world. I can attest to this first-hand, as I have had the privilege of playing with each as a partner or teammate, and I can’t remember a bridge mistake or an unfriendly word from either one.

2 S South
None Vul
S 6 4
H A 7 6 5 4
D Q J 9 2
C J 9


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

Lead: C 5
S A J 9 8 3 2
H K 9
D 7 6
C A 7 6

West did not consider his hand worth a vulnerable two-club overcall, so he passed South’s one-spade opening. North responded one notrump, and South rebid his spade suit to end the auction — Dull City, so far, but keep your eyes on the defense.

West led a low club to the queen, ace; and declarer led a club right back in the hopes of a ruff in dummy. West took the king and shifted to the heart eight; low, 10, king. Declarer ruffed a club with the spade six, and East overruffed with the seven. What would you lead now?

Bramley constructed the layout. He placed declarer with six spades (from the bidding), three clubs from West’s lead and subsequent plays (which implied a six-card suit), and at least two hearts because West led the eight. South’s two other cards were surely diamonds because West would have led a singleton heart originally if he held one and wanted a ruff.

All true. But even with this knowledge the winning defense would elude most players. Do you see it? Bramley led the diamond king (crucial), then a diamond to West’s ace. A naive West would have led another diamond, but this West could count. He led another club for East to ruff with spade queen — an uppercut to promote a trump trick whether declarer overruffed or not. Shrewd and deadly; down one.

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© 1989 Richard Pavlicek