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A Chess Game

On this deal from a recent online tournament, South showed good judgment in the bidding. After North’s negative double (showing four hearts), many players would be content to bid only 3 H; but 6-4 shape is like a road sign to bid aggressively. All it takes is a few right cards in partner’s hand; so take a chance and bid game. Alas, South did not back up his judgment in the play.

4 H by South

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

West

1 S
All Pass
North

Dbl
East
Pass
2 S
South
1 D
4 H

West began with three rounds of spades, ruffed with the H 2. In order to combine chances of a crossruff and establishing the diamond suit, declarer cashed both top diamonds (pitching a club) and ruffed a diamond. Next came a club, and East alertly won the ace and returned a trump. This was a killer, as a continued crossruff would now fall short, and declarer lacks the communication to establish and enjoy the long diamonds. So close, yet so far.

As you may have spotted, declarer was too anxious. The proper play is to pitch a club at trick three. By postponing the tap, declarer keeps both his chances alive: If a trump is led, declarer can establish diamonds (D A-K, diamond ruff, club ruff, diamond ruff, then overtake H K and draw the last trump). If the defense leads anything else, declarer has a complete crossruff after cashing D A-K.

In many respects, bridge is like a game of chess. Taking the early spade ruff is like bringing your queen into play too soon. Instead, declarer must develop his minor pieces — move that little club out of the way — to avoid a premature commitment. This kind of positional play often forces an opponent to commit first, then the attack can be sprung successfully.

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© 2003 Richard Pavlicek