Clear thinking is key in the game of bridge

  • Figure 1: Dealer North E/W Vul
  • Figure 2:
  • Figure 3: the full hand

Two quick hands this week which speak to declarer working out the best way to play certain suit combinations in order to have the best chance of success.

I know that many players get confused when trying to work out the various possibilities, but there are many occasions when just some clear thinking will yield the right answer and the first hand is a case in point.

Dealer North E/W Vul

After two passes you open the South hand four Hearts which becomes the final contract.

Partner, as usual, puts down a totally useless dummy, so it is up to you to bring this home.

West leads the Ace King of Clubs and then switches to a Diamond, over to you.

Clearly you have to try and avoid two trump losers so how do you play the suit?

It is important to keep a clear head and go through the options:

If the trumps split 2-2 or 4-0 you cannot avoid two losers so you must hope for a favourable 3-1 split.

Then you go further and realise that if the 3-1 is singleton Ace opposite Qxx you still have two losers no matter how you play the suit.

So the only hope is that the suit splits Axx opposite singleton Queen having worked this out you, lay down the King of Hearts and claim your contract and the plaudits of the crowd! Not that difficult?

The next hand came up on BBO today and left me annoyed and frustrated!

I played in six Diamonds after partner showed a 19-21 HCP balanced hand and West led the Heart Queen.

We were playing Teams, so making the contract was all that mattered and the hand had a lot of chances around the Club suit.

I won the Heart, drew trumps in two rounds and cashed the other Heart.

Playing Ace-King and another Spade hoping I could endplay East did not appeal as East West were experts and would unblock to make sure West won the third Spade and then I would be down to the Club finesse with no other chances.

I decided to make a play first explained to me and Ernie Owen during the World Teams Olympiad in Holland in 1980 by the great Hugh Kelsey.

The play would guarantee the contract any time West held the Club Queen, anytime Clubs were 3-3 no matter who held the Queen, and anytime East held the singleton Queen or Qx.

The only time the contract would fail was if East held Queen to four Clubs (he is unlikely to have five as West would have led his singleton)

With some confidence, I cashed the Club King, played a Club to the Ace (this would pick up Q or Qx with East) and now led towards the Jack, which would set up a discard for my Spade any time West held the Queen.

West showed out, down one, as I still had a Spade loser. Cruel!

The pedestrian play of Ace King and another Spade would have made the hand not nice!

But that happens at bridge.