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Minor Blackout

  by Richard Pavlicek

During our brush with Hurricane Frances this month, I was playing an online practice match when this deal arose. As West, I competed to 3 S after partner’s weak two-bid was overcalled, but I doubt this had any effect. Some might feel it “pushed the opponents into game,” but North should bid 4 H regardless.

On lead against 4 H, I moused over the obvious S A, but then paused to consider. Holding the ace of trumps, what’s the hurry? Partner probably has the S K for his bid, but not necessarily (especially opposite a loose bidder). I figured I could always shift to the S A later if desired. Whether this logic is right in theory is moot, but I hit on a good lead with a low trump. (Ace and another trump would have been better yet, but far-fetched.)

East dealsS J 6 3WestNorthEastSouth
None vulH Q 102 S3 H
D K 43 S4 HPassPass
C A J 7 5 4 3Pass
S A 8TableS Q 10 9 7 5 4
H A 7 2H 8
D Q 9 7 5 3 2D 10 6
C Q 10C K 9 8 6
S K 2
H K J 9 6 5 4 3
D A J 8
4 H SouthC 2

After winning the H Q in dummy, declarer immediately cashed the top diamonds and ruffed the D J as I covered. East’s spade pitch on the third diamond was ominous, suggesting 6-4 in the black suits since his H 8 at trick one was surely a singleton. Declarer failed to heed this warning and proceeded with what seemed like a safe play: He led a spade to the king. Oops.

After winning the S A, I returned a spade to East; then a third spade forced declarer to ruff high, as I pitched a club. The H 9 then went to my ace, then I led my last club to dummy’s ace. I now had the blank H 7 behind declarer’s J-6-5-4, and he could not prevent me from scoring it with an overruff.

Declarer’s error was a subtle one. He should have cashed the C A after ruffing the diamond (or sooner), then he could safely try for the overtrick by leading a spade. This way, he could not be locked in dummy, and my H 7 could easily be drawn.

Perhaps it was declarer’s blackout on this deal that led to our own — the Fla. Power & Light variety — soon thereafter. Argh! Six days without power or phone lines was a miserable experience. I suppose it had some benefit in changing our daily routine, allowing time to stop and smell the roses — alas, if only we didn’t have to return to the bat cave each night.

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© 2004 Richard Pavlicek