Main   Almost Bridge 7F05 by Richard Pavlicek  

Mabel Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, ‘cept me and my spouse
And one other couple who came over to play
In a rubber bridge game that had lasted all day.
The night lingered on and the wine glasses came
As my wife was declarer in a contract of game.
Our bidding was awful and very much troubled,
But the ultimate bid was left undoubled.
The opening lead saw my hand hit the table;
My thoughts at the time were, “Come on, Mabel!”
She handled the play with the greatest of ease,
And scored up her contract as swift as a breeze.
The defense, I might add, was top of the line;
Not one trick was dropped, unmistakably, fine!
So here is the deal that made us the winner,
And gave Mabel’s eye that perpetual glimmer.

None Sober S A 9 7
H 8 7
D A 6 4 3 2
C K 5 2
S 8 6 5 4 3
H 9 2
D 9 5
C Q J 10 7
Table S K Q J
H Q J 10 6
D Q J 8 7
C 9 4
West leadsS 10 2
H A K 5 4 3
D K 10
C A 8 6 3

What contract did Mabel make?

Solution

The above question could also be stated, “What is the only game contract that can be made against best defense?” The most obvious candidate is 3 NT. There are seven top tricks, and declarer can establish an eighth trick by playing on hearts or diamonds; but there is no way to come to a ninth trick against best defense. No matter how well you play, 3 NT cannot be made.

What about 4 H in the 5-2 trump fit? Nine tricks are easy — besides the seven top tricks, South can always score two ruffs in hand. Indeed, after an original spade or heart lead, South can succeed by ducking a spade and scoring all three of his small trumps. Alas, this is foiled with a club or diamond lead; declarer cannot survive the attack on his entries. Four hearts cannot be made. Try again.

Five clubs? Or five diamonds? Either seems highly improbable since an additional trick is required, and you’re right that 5 C or 5 D is out of the question.

Well, what’s the only game left? You guessed it! After a few glasses of wine, Mabel was feeling pretty tipsy and accidentally opened the bidding in the wrong suit. This was our auction:

 
West

Pass
Pass
Richard
North

2 D
4 S
 
East

Pass
All Pass
Mabel
South
1 S!
2 H

The game in spades is the only one that makes — in a 3-2 fit! The opening lead was a trump (best) and Mabel won the ace in dummy. She cashed the top cards in each side suit ending in her hand, then ruffed a heart with the S 7, ruffed a diamond with the S 10, and ruffed a heart with the S 9. The defense was helpless to stop it.

Now, if you believe this story…
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© 1992 Richard Pavlicek