Main     Almost Bridge 7F60 by Richard Pavlicek    

The First Round Duck

And now, folks, it is my pleasure to introduce this evening’s guest speaker. Let’s all give a warm welcome to Miss Emily Litella!

“Thank you, Richard, and good evening ladies and gentlemen. I was asked to speak to you tonight about the first round duck and I am pleased to say I have done a lot of research. Let me begin:

“According to ornithology experts, fossils formed in the Paleocene Epoch depict a bird species that had a curved underside. This is the earliest known existence, and the genealogy has been traced to the present-day mallard. Over a span of 20 million years the curvature evolved into webbed feet…”

Whoa! Emily! This is supposed to be about bridge!

“Oh. Never mind.”

Thanks, Emily, but I think I’d better take it from here. Consider this deal:

6 H by South

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

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
North
1 D
4 H
4 NT
5 NT
6 H
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
1 H
4 S
5 H
6 C

North’s raise to 4 H showed at least 19 points, so South tried for slam by bidding 4 S (ace showing). North then used Blackwood to ask for aces and kings, and placed the final contract. Six hearts is a decent contract, basically needing the spade finesse, and there are additional chances if it fails.

West led a trump, won in dummy, and a second top trump was led to discover the 4-1 break (East pitched a club). A spade was led to the jack and West made a clever play, ducking the first round. Declarer crossed to dummy in hearts to repeat the spade finesse, but this time it lost and a trump return eliminated any chance declarer might have had. Down two.

Great defense! West’s first-round duck was more devastating than it might seem. Had he won the king, declarer could get home by ruffing his fourth spade in dummy, and eventually squeezing East in the minor suits (more about this later). Curiously, even if declarer knew where all the cards were, he could not make the contract after West ducked the first spade lead.

Can the contract be made? Yes, and I’ll bet you can’t figure out how. You might wish to try before reading on.

Give up yet?

Two Can Play This Game

Looking at all four hands (but not in real life), South could succeed with the same remarkable tactic: a first-round duck. On the first spade lead from dummy South must play the four. Assume West wins cheaply and returns a trump (nothing matters) won by North. Lead a spade to the ace, then the S Q for a ruffing finesse. Assume West covers and dummy ruffs, leaving North on lead in this ending:

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

Win the D K (a key play) and lead a diamond to the ace. Draw West’s last trump and cash the S J, discarding diamonds from dummy. East is caught in a squeeze. Either South’s D 3 or North’s C 3 will be good, and declarer wins the rest.

Got that, Emily?

TopMain

In fond remembrance of Gilda Radner, creator of the Emily Litella character.
© 1999 Richard Pavlicek