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Mountnessing Bridge Club



Board 13: NOT a featureless, easy hand...



Hand played on 

9th August 2007

Board number 13

Red Section





Submitted by

Alaric Cundy

































































At face value, this hand looks like a fairly uninspired choice for the week's featured hand, but one of the joys of this game of Bridge is that even a straightforward looking situation can raise interest.  4 looks like the obvious contract, and as the cards lie, 11 tricks looks like the obvious outcome.  What scope is there for different courses of action?


Firstly, there is the question of South's opening bid.  That hand is borderline for being described as '8 playing tricks in hearts' and anyone who considers that it is may be able to open either 2 ( ACOL style), or an equivalent bid if playing a form of Benjaminised ACOL.  Interestingly, just before the session started, I was engaged in conversation with club member Mike Wood about the minimum requirements for a strong 8-playing trick opening bid.  When I wear my 'Bridge Teacher's' hat, I follow - virtually 100% faithfully - the EBU's 'Standard English' dialect of ACOL, which therefore incorporates ACOL-style 2 / 2 openers.  Standard English says that to qualify as an 8-playing trick opener, at least two of the tricks should be in side suits.  That guidance prohibits a 2-level opener on a solid 8-card suit and nothing else, but allows it on a hand that includes a 6-card suit headed by the AKQJ with an outside AK, for example.  Apparently - though I haven't personally checked this - new guidance for minimum standards is emerging for opening hands like this via an artificial 2-level opening, e.g., Benji style.  Do check it out if you play this style.


Anyway, back at the table, I chose NOT to open 2, because my partner would have expected a more solid main suit.  Having done so, I had to do a bit of 'catching up' on the second round of bidding.  Having noted that my partner had passed initially, and therefore could only have modest values, despite my nice hand I jumped to 4 to avoid any risk of the hand being passed out in 3.  I would have liked to have found some forcing bid, but, say, 3, on this hand would have been a bit eccentric - and indeed, could have landed us in an impossible 6 contract!


This hand is very close to a slam - on the surface it only requires East to hold either club honour to make 12 tricks, but that double from West suggests that situation to be unlikely.  If that point is ignored, or indeed if West chooses simply to overcall 2D leaving a bit more scope for values in the East hand, then there is a spectacular trap for Declarer to create for him / herself...


Whatever happens, West will almost lead a top diamond.  Within a few seconds Declarer will note that the hand is certain for 11 tricks, but this is match-pointed pairs and maybe the club losers can be kept to one trick?  Declarer may play Ace of hearts then small to the Queen.  Had the hearts broken 2-2 then there wouldn't be anything more to say about the board, but in practice East will still have a small trump lurking.  Whilst in Dummy, Declarer should lead a club towards hand.  Instant disaster arises if Declarer runs the ten, because East can get a club ruff to hold Declarer to 10 tricks.  So, Declarer plays small to the King and Ace instead.  West leads another diamond.  Now when Declarer is in Dummy, options are very limited.  You only have the one opportunity to play East for the jack of clubs, and if you try it - your partner will shortly be writing a mere +620 on the traveller!  If you have read the cards, you should resist that temptation - cash the Ace of Spades, and return to hand via a spade ruff, draw the last trump, and resort to your last chance of a 12th trick - the Jack of clubs might have fallen doubleton.


So, after all this tension and agonising, you finish up in the obvious contract with the obvious result!  Not all North / Souths did so.  It looks as though one pair fell into the trap I describe, one pair got a bit carried away and went off in a slam, whereas two did make a 12th trick in the game contract - possibly via a defensive slip-up, but possibly via a thoughtful line of play...


How about this approach?  Win the initial diamond lead in hand, and then play a spade to the Ace and ruff a spade.  Cross to Dummy's queen of trumps and ruff another spade.  Cross to the king of diamonds, and lead a club to the the King.  By now West will have run out of both spades and trumps so if he / she takes the Ace of clubs on the first round, he / she will be end-played, either conceding a ruff and discard if a diamond is led, or giving up the second club trick if a club is led.  The only way that West can counter this line of play is to refuse the Ace of clubs first time round.


So who said this was a featureless, easy hand?