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Spectacular Defense Sets Contract

  by Richard Pavlicek

The recent North American Summer Bridge Championships were a resounding success; more than 14,000 tables of bridge were in play over the 10-day span. The best of the players from the U.S., Canada and Mexico flocked to Bean Town for this, the premiere of all tournaments.

One of the highlights of the tournament was when Val Habicht of Fort Lauderdale led her team to glory in a prestigious Swiss team event, never losing a match to top the field of nearly 200 teams. Val’s teammates were Mel Creem, Sidney Aaronson and Soma Mukhergee, all of Massachusetts. Val is no stranger to Florida bridge players, as she is the President of our Gold Coast Unit. When I asked her if she could recall any interesting hands, she replied, “Not really; my teammates just played very well.” How many players do you know who would give such a modest, self-effacing reply?

During the Boston Nationals some half a million — that’s right, half a million — bridge hands were played. Now that’s a lot of bridge! Many of these hands were interesting; many were not. Many were easy; many were hard. Some of them could even be classified as spectacular, like today’s deal.

4 S× South
None Vul
S 6 5 4
H K 7 4 3
D 5 3
C K 9 5 2
1 C
2 C
4 C
2 S
1 H
3 C
1 S
3 S
4 S
S K 2
D Q 6 2
C A J 10 8 7 4 3
TableS Q 8
H Q J 8 2
D J 10 9 8 4
C Q 6

Lead: H A
S A J 10 9 7 3
H 10 9 6 5
D A K 7

The highly competitive nature of the auction illustrates the aggressive tendencies of tournament players. South became declarer in four spades doubled, and West led his singleton heart ace, East signaling with the eight. West shifted to a low diamond to declarer’s king, then the diamond ace and a diamond ruff quickly followed. A trump was led to South’s ace, and West stopped to think. He would soon be on lead with his trump king and would have to lead clubs, a suit in which declarer was obviously void, thus setting up dummy’s king. Realizing this, West made the spectacular play of dropping his spade king under declarer’s ace. Curtains! Declarer now had to lose his trump trick to East, who could exit safely in diamonds. Eventually East had to come to two more heart tricks, and the contract was defeated one trick.

And who was this West player who nonchalantly throws kings under aces? None other than Bill Root of Boca Raton, arguably the best bridge teacher in the world. This is the kind of play that is easy to spot on paper, but rarely perpetrated in the heat of battle. Only a seasoned veteran like Bill Root would come up with the only defense to defeat four spades.

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© 1981 Richard Pavlicek