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Foresight on Defense

  by Richard Pavlicek

Sadly, in March the bridge world lost one of its great icons in Bill Root, my longtime friend and regular partner in major events from 1977-96. Almost every bridge player knew about Mr. Root through his teaching, or his bridge books, or his popular cruises; but I had the pleasure of witnessing his skills firsthand at the card table. Many times over the years, I marveled at his foresight and asked myself: Would I have found that play? At least, if I can answer yes today, it is likely that his influence was a factor.

This deal from the 1992 Toronto Nationals is a case in point. Bill was West and I was East, and our opponents bid routinely to game.

South dealsS Q 9 3 2WestNorthEastSouth
E-W vulH Q 10 9 2RootPavlicek
D A K 41 NT
C 10 4Pass2 CPass2 H
S ATableS J 10 8 7Pass4 HPassPass
H 7 5 4 3H 6Pass
D 10 7 5D Q 9 8 2
C K Q J 9 5C 8 7 6 2
S K 6 5 4
H A K J 8
D J 6 3
4 H SouthC A 3

Bill led the C K to declarer’s ace as I played the seven (our practice was to show count in this situation). Two rounds of trumps revealed the 4-1 break as I pitched a club. Declarer next led a low spade to Bill’s blank ace and I played the eight (also count). As West, what would you do now?

Almost in straight tempo, Bill shifted to a diamond. Beautiful! This was essential to defeat the contract. If he had cashed his club trick as most defenders would (or led a heart), declarer could succeed by an eventual endplay against me. The thoughtful diamond shift allowed Bill to regain the lead in clubs to lead a second diamond to foil any attempt by declarer. Now that’s what I call a great partner.

[Addendum: This deal was incorporated with five others in the quiz Root for the Home Team.]

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© 1990 Richard Pavlicek