Bridge by Steve Becker

There are hands played in the annual world championship where the outcome is the same at both tables and therefore receives little notice. But some deals merit attention nevertheless particularly when both teams fall from grace and duplicate their sins. One of the most startling cases of this sort occurred in the match between Brazil and the United States in 1973.

When a Brazilian pair held the North-South cards, the bidding went as shown. North’s two-diamond response to South’s opening diamond bid was systemic and indicated a very good hand. The bidding was fairly natural from that point on, but, although South indicated his willingness to stop at five diamonds, North could not resist the temptation to bid six. West doubled, and declarer went down one.

When a U.S. pair sat North-South, the bidding went:

At this table, South passed originally, but then tried to make up for it by bidding strongly later on. North’s one-diamond bid, rather than one spade, was also systemic. South finally bid six diamonds after North’s two slam tries, and again this ignominious contract got doubled. So the outcome was a tie, each declarer going down one doubled, and no blood was spilled.

It does seem odd, at this level of competition, that both pairs should undertake a slam missing the A-K of trumps, but it just goes to show that even the world’s best players are only human.

Tomorrow: A very valuable signal.

King Features Syndicate Inc.

Bridge by Steve Becker

This deal occurred in the 1995 World Junior Bridge Championship, which was won by a six-member team from Great Britain. The biennial contest, restricted to players 25 or younger, was held in Bali, Indonesia.

The deal is from a round-robin qualifying match between the English and New Zealand, which ended up losing to the British team in the final. The bidding was the same at both tables, both Souths opening five diamonds in first seat. The opening lead – the king of spades, on which both Easts played the eight – was also the same, but the defense differed significantly thereafter.

When a New Zealand pair held the East-West cards, West switched to the heart jack at trick two. West had worked out from the play to the first trick that his partner started with exactly the A-J-8 of spades, since if East had held the A-8, he would almost surely have overtaken the king with the ace and returned the eight. East won the heart jack with the ace, on which declarer dropped the queen.

Unfortunately, this left East in the dark as to how many spades and hearts everyone held, and he was also uncertain about who had the heart king. Ultimately, he tried to cash the ace of spades, and that was that. South ruffed, drew trumps and discarded the heart deuce on a high club to make the contract.

At the other table, where twin brothers Justin and Jason Hackett were East-West for Great Britain, Jason found the winning defense. Anticipating that his brother would have a problem as to how to continue after taking the hoped-for heart ace, Jason laid down the heart king at trick two and continued with a second heart to Justin’s ace to defeat the contract.

Of such stuff are world champions made.

Tomorrow: Reducing the luck element.

King Features Syndicate Inc.

Bridge by Steve Becker

The chief purpose of a pre-emptive bid is to make things difficult for the opponents. The bid is made in the hope that the opponents, who presumably have the balance of strength, will get fouled up in the bidding.

Consider this deal where East opened three diamonds and South doubled for takeout. West passed, and North responded four clubs. South understandably retreated to four hearts, and West just as understandably doubled.

Declarer won the diamond lead with the ace and played the queen of trumps. West took his ace and led a second diamond. East won and returned the eight of spades, whereupon West played the Q-A and led a third spade for East to ruff. East returned a club to West’s ace, and West later scored the jack of trumps to defeat the contract four tricks – 1,100 points!

If you study the matter objectively, you find that South really did nothing terribly wrong in the bidding. He might have overcalled with three hearts instead of doubling, but that was his only real alternative – and even three hearts doubled would have gone down 800. Passing three diamonds was simply impossible.

Of course, had North held West’s hand, South’s double would have worked out exceedingly well. In that case, North-South might have reached a grand slam in spades, which could not be defeated.

The actual deal vividly demonstrates the benefits that can accrue from a pre-emptive bid. Players who pass up the opportunity for such a bid often lose a chance to create a huge windfall in their favor. Who would think, looking only at East’s hand, that his three-diamond bid would produce 1,100 points?

Tomorrow: Famous Hand.