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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in stevesgames' LiveJournal:

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Sunday, September 15th, 2013
11:01 am
Bridge Column

                                                         To Duck or Not to Duck...

                                                              by Stephen Rzewski


Playing in a Regional Swiss teams event against strong competition, IMPs scoring, I pick up the following hand:

                                                             
AK9 1042 A85 KJ84

I am in 4th seat, and we are non-vul vs. vul. Dealer passes, as does my partner, and RHO opens 2. I hate to make a takeout
double with flat shape and so many of my points in the opponent's suit, and this hand is too good to pass, so I decide to borrow a
point or two and overcall 2NT. LHO passes, and my partner raises to 3NT. The auction has been:


                                                       W          N          E          S

                                                    pass      pass      2        2NT
                                                    pass      3NT     (all pass)

LHO tables the queen of hearts, and when dummy appears, I see that partner has also been stretching her values:

                                                                           
82
                                                                           
A76
                                                                           
K63
                                                                           
109752

                                                                           
AK9
                                                                           
1042
                                                                           
A85
                                                                           
KJ84

To make this ambitious contract, I am going to have to develop the club suit for four tricks. Unfortunately, the defense has
found my weak spot with a heart lead. To begin with, I check the opponents' lead agreements to verify that the queen is a Standard,
and not a Rusinow, honor lead. So how should I plan the play?


My first thought, almost a reflex, is to duck (or to state more accurately, to hold up) dummy's ace. The intent of this play would
be to exhaust RHO of his hearts, so that while I am attempting to set up the clubs and that hand gets on lead, he would not have a
heart to return to his partner. If I were to place the ace of clubs with RHO, I would likely play the clubs somewhat unusually by
leading from dummy and going up with the king, playing West for either Q-x or singleton queen.


But that doesn't feel right. Opening 2 with six spades to the QJ, the king of hearts, and the ace of clubs feels rich and more like a
1
call with that hand, even vulnerable. Furthermore, LHO would not insult his partner by not leading spades unless he thought he had a
good prospect of setting the hand by leading his own suit. And would he do so by leading a heart from QJ98x without a side entry, which
has to be the ace of clubs? That seems highly unlikely, so I am inclined to almost certainly place that critical card on my left. I can
now appreciate the importance of the 10 of hearts in my hand: if RHO holds K-x of hearts, and LHO has the ace of clubs, my best
chance is to go up with the ace of hearts at first play. If RHO does hold K-x and plays low, the hearts will be blocked, and if he
unblocks the king, LHO then holding J9xx will not be able to continue hearts effectively from his side.


When I call for dummy's ace, East thinks for a long time and eventually unblocks the king. I lead the 10 of clubs from dummy and
pass it, underplaying the 8. Inwardly, I heave a sigh of relief as West wins the ace, and the defense has no counter. He tries to get to
his partner's hand with a spade, which I win, and then I lead a diamond to dummy to repeat the club finesse. The queen appears,
and I claim nine tricks, the full deal being: 
 

                                                                               ♠ 82
                                                                                       
A76
                                                                                       
K63
                                                                                       
109752

                                                         
43                                                     QJ10765
                                                        
QJ983                                               K5
                                                        
J942                                                  Q107
                                                        
A6                                                     Q3

                                                                                      
AK9
                                                                                      
1042
                                                                                      
A85
                                                                                      
KJ84

As the reader can see, West could have avoided the problem for the defense if he had led a small heart instead of an honor.
At IMPs, where the primary objective for the defense is to set the contract, he probably should have led small, for once having
decided to embark on the heart suit instead of spades, the defense would probably not have the time to set up the hearts quickly
enough to beat the hand unless his partner held a heart honor.

Friday, May 31st, 2013
11:46 am
Bridge Column
                                                           SECOND CHANCE

        On the first hand of a local Sectional pairs event, I pick up as dealer, with neither vul:

                                                  ♠ AKQ953 ♥ 104 ♦ 76 ♣ 954

        This hand is probably as good as one can hold for an opening weak-two bid, and so I open 2♠
(as an aside, if partner should inquire with 2NT, this pure holding of AKQxxx-and-out is shown with
a special rebid of 3NT, whether one plays “Feature” or “Ogust”). LHO competes with 3♦, and partner
jumps to 4♠, ending the brief auction, which has been:

                                           S           W           N          E
                                         2♠           3♦          4♠   (all pass)

        The opening lead is the ♣7, and I contemplate the dummy:

                                                     ♠ J64
                                                     ♥ K95
                                                     ♦ AQ2
                                                     ♣ KJ32


                                                    ♠ AKQ953
                                                    ♥ 104
                                                    ♦ 76
                                                    ♣ 954

        Partner's jump to game is somewhat optimistic, since I could have a much weaker hand for my
weak-two bid, especially when non-vul, but the intervening overcall forced her to guess whether to bid
game or opt for a competitive 3♠, and she liked the positional value of her side honors behind the
overcaller, so I have sympathy. Unfortunately, the club lead makes it appear that East is likely to
hold the missing club honors over dummy, and this is confirmed when I call for the jack, which is
bested by the queen. I follow with the 5. My fear is that the 7 is a singleton, in which case the
defense can beat me off the the top with the play of the ace and another, giving LHO a ruff on the
third round.

        After considerable thought, though, East decides to shift to a heart, giving me a possible
second chance, at least for the moment. This is won by West's ace, and he plays back the jack of
diamonds (note that West's lead of the jack instead of a low card is a “surrounding play”, to prevent
declarer from scoring the 10, should he happen to hold 10-x). I call for the queen, which holds,
East following with the 10.  I draw the ace and king of trumps with both opponents following suit,
and now try to see if there is any way of bringing this contract home, with the following cards remaining:

                                                     ♠ J
                                                     ♥ K9
                                                     ♦ A2
                                                     ♣ K32

                                                     ♠ Q953
                                                     ♥ 10
                                                     ♦ 7
                                                     ♣ 94

        Assuming that RHO holds the A-10 of clubs over dummy's king, it appears that I am destined to
eventually lose two more tricks in that suit. However, if LHO's club was in fact a singleton, I see a
possible way out, as long as he started with at least six diamonds. First, I eliminate the hearts by
playing to the king, then ruff dummy's small heart in my hand, everyone following suit. Now I lead a
diamond to dummy's ace, as RHO shows out. That confirms West's distribution, as he originally started
life with seven diamonds, and has followed to three hearts and two spades, marking him with 2-3-7-1 shape.
Now I play dummy's deuce of diamonds, but instead of ruffing, I discard a small club from hand, trading
a club loser for a diamond loser. LHO is forced to win this trick, and with nothing left but diamonds
in his hand, he must lead one, and I ruff with dummy's last trump while discarding the remaining club
from my hand to make my contract. The full deal:

                                                     ♠ J64
                                                     ♥ K95
                                                     ♦ AQ2
                                                     ♣ KJ32

                               ♠ 108                              ♠ 72
                              ♥ AJ7                              ♥ Q8632
                              ♦ KJ98543                      ♦ 10
                              ♣ 7                                 ♣ AQ1086

                                                     ♠ AKQ953
                                                     ♥ 104
                                                     ♦ 76
                                                     ♣ 954

        East's failure to continue clubs at trick #2 turned out to be an error, but to be fair,
that play could have been wrong on a different layout. Suppose, for example that West had one
less diamond and a doubleton club, giving South three diamonds and two clubs. In that event,
had East played ace and a third club at tricks #2-3, South might have been able to ruff high,
then draw trumps and use the established king of clubs for a diamond discard. Furthermore,
from East's point of view, there appeared to be little danger in defending passively at that
point and waiting for the club tricks to come to him, since it didn't seem at the time that
declarer had any apparent way of getting rid of his club losers.
Sunday, December 21st, 2008
1:22 pm
Bridge Column
                    The Greedy Overtrick (V)

                       by Stephen Rzewski


     Playing in the familiar matchpoint venue at the local club, I 
pick up as dealer:

                ♠ AJ6     ♥ AQJ104   ♦ AK2   ♣ 75

     This 19-count should certainly be upgraded with all its controls
and excellent five-card suit, and as we play Puppet Stayman, I open 2NT. 
The opponents are silent as my partner bids 3♣.  I respond 3♥, showing 
five-card length (both calls are alertable), and partner raises to 4♥. 
The auction has been:

                   S       W      N       E
                  2NT    pass    3♣      pass
                  3♥     pass    4♥    (all pass)

     LHO leads the ace of clubs, and I contemplate the play:

                             ♠ K5
                             ♥ K32
                             ♦ 10764
                             ♣ K1042

                             ♠ AJ6
                             ♥ AQJ104
                             ♦ AK2
                             ♣ 75

     The contract appears normal, and will likely be the one reached 
at most tables.  Those who open 1♥ with my cards will typically be 
given a single constructive raise by partner, or possibly a limit raise,
perhaps resulting in a bad slam contract.  I can’t be concerned about
the latter case, but I need to try to outscore the majority of pairs
who will be in game, and that can only be accomplished on the basis 
of overtricks.

     At trick #1, LHO’s lead of the ace of clubs fetches the jack from
his partner. A low club is continued.  I seriously doubt that LHO would 
have led the ace from AQxxxx with the strong hand on his right, even 
with six of them, so I call for dummy’s king.  This turns out to be 
correct, as RHO follows with the queen.

     With the ace of clubs onside, and what appears to be an almost certain
diamond loser, I would expect the normal result to be 11 tricks, so if I want
to score well, I must look for a way to take the remainder.

     The early play appears to have put me ahead of the game, as dummy’s
♣10 is now good for the discard of a loser, and may provide me with the
12th trick I am seeking.  There is a problem, however:  since I can always
ruff a spade in dummy, the ♣10 has value only if I can use it to get
rid of a diamond.  If I draw trumps first, I won’t be able to ruff a spade,
and if I ruff a spade first and then draw trumps, I will have no entry to 
dummy to enjoy the good club.

     One possibility is to ruff a spade low, then draw two rounds of trumps,
ending in dummy with the king, leaving one high trump outstanding if they 
divide 3-2, then play the good club, hoping that the last trump will be in 
the hand with the long clubs.  That seems to be against the odds, however, 
as the hand with the long clubs is more likely to be short in hearts, meaning
that RHO will probably be able to ruff the good club when I play it.

     I think there are better possibilities.  There is a way to play for
diamonds to be 3-3 and set up dummy's 4th diamond for the 12th trick, and 
if that chance doesn’t pan out, I can always fall back on the finesse of 
the jack of spades for the second overtrick, which is a 50% chance in 
itself.  So in the following position, at the 3rd trick:

                               ♠ K5
                               ♥ K32
                               ♦ 10764
                               ♣ 104

                               ♠ AJ6
                               ♥ AQJ104
                               ♦ AK2
                               ♣ ---

I play the queen and jack of hearts, as both opponents follow suit.
Now if I am going to try to establish dummy’s long diamond, I need
to unblock the ace and king of that suit, taking the slight risk of
having one of those cards ruffed by the opponent who holds the
remaining trump.   Both opponents follow again, LHO contributing the
jack.  I then lead a heart to dummy’s king, as LHO discards and RHO 
follows with the last  trump.  Now I call for the 10 of clubs, RHO 
discarding a low spade and I the deuce of diamonds.  Next comes a 
low diamond from dummy, RHO playing the 9, I ruff, but the hoped-for 
queen does not appear on my left, as that player discards a low club.
So the following cards remain:

                                ♠ K5
                                ♥ ---
                                ♦ 10
                                ♣ 4

                  ♠ ?xx                       ♠ ?xx
                  ♥ ---                       ♥ ---
                  ♦  ---                      ♦ Q
                  ♣ 9                         ♣ ---

                                ♠ AJ6
                                ♥ A
                                ♦ ---
                                ♣ ---

     So should I now take the spade finesse?   

     Actually, at this point that finesse has become an illusion,
as I can now be sure of 12 tricks even if my jack of spades were
the deuce.  Instead of playing immediately on spades, I lead the 
last trump, which creates a double squeeze:  LHO, who has to
discard ahead of dummy, must keep his high club, lest dummy’s card 
in that suit become good, and so lets go a spade.  Now I can discard
dummy’s club, and the pressure then falls on RHO: he has to hold the
queen of diamonds or dummy’s 10 will be established, and so must also
discard a spade.  Since both opponents must be down to two spades in
each hand, it must be right to first play the king, then ace of spades,
making the last spade in my hand good, the full deal being:

                                ♠ K5
                                ♥ K32
                                ♦ 10764
                                ♣ K1042

                 ♠ Q1042                      ♠ 9873
                 ♥ 86                         ♥ 975
                 ♦ J5                         ♦ Q983
                 ♣ A9863                      ♣ QJ

                                ♠ AJ6
                                ♥ AQJ104
                                ♦ AK2
                                ♣ 75

     Of course, the result achieved would not have been possible had it
not been for West's poor choice of opening lead, but when such opportunites
are offered, one needs to exploit them to best advantage.
Saturday, April 26th, 2008
8:57 pm
Bridge Column

                                                         

                     PLAYS I WISH I HAD MADE

                       by Stephen Rzewski


     Following are two hands that came my way in a team match
at the Gatlinburg Regional which I failed to get right at the 
table.  They are difficult problems, but not impossible.  See
if you would have fared better.

     (1)The first is a play problem.  You are South, with the
 auction shown:

                          North

                         ♠ KQ2
                         ♥ 74
                         ♦ QJ763
                         ♣ K32
                                                              

                          South

                         ♠ A109863
                         ♥ Q83
                         ♦ A2
                         ♣ Q7

              W        N        E        S
             1♥        P        P       1♠ 
              P       2♥       dbl      4♠
               (all pass)


     West leads the ace and king of hearts, East following 
low-high.  West then shifts to the jack of spades.  How would 
you proceed (be specific)?


     (2)The next hand is a defensive problem.  You are East,
behind the dummy:

                                     
                  North

                 ♠ J109842
                 ♥ 5
                 ♦ K102
                 ♣ K74

                                     East

                                    ♠ 3
                                    ♥ AKQ2
                                    ♦ J9863
                                    ♣ AJ10

                  E        S        W        N
                 1♦       1♠        P       4♠   
                     (all pass)

     West leads the ace of diamonds, on which you discourage.
Partner shifts to the 8 of clubs, implying that she does not 
have the queen.  This puts you in something of a quandary: 
if by some chance partner’s ace of diamonds was a singleton,
it would be correct to win this trick so as to give her a 
diamond ruff.  But if it should turn out that partner has 
another diamond, then you will need two club tricks to beat
the contract, and playing the ace would be wrong.  You decide
to opt for the latter case and put in the 10, declarer winning 
the queen.

     Declarer then plays the ace and king of spades, partner
following twice, and indicating that declarer overcalled on a 
4-card suit.  Then come three more spades, ending in the dummy,
partner discarding two small hearts and a club.

     You follow to the first spade, but must then make four 
discards.  Which cards do you throw away?

                *********************************

Answers:

     (1)At trick #3, you must play a spade honor from dummy 
and overtake with the ace in your hand!  Next, lead your low 
club toward the dummy.  The full deal:
   
                          North

                         ♠ KQ2
                         ♥ 74
                         ♦ QJ763
                         ♣ K32

            West                         East

           ♠ J                          ♠ 754
           ♥ AK1062                     ♥ J95
           ♦ K105                       ♦ 984
           ♣ A984                       ♣ J1065

                         South

                        ♠ A109863
                        ♥ Q83
                        ♦ A2
                        ♣ Q7

     On your play of the low club, West will be caught in a
“Morton’s Fork” dilemma (see previous column with that title). 
If he goes up with the ace, he will return either a heart or
club, which you will win in your hand.  If he returns a heart,
unblock the queen of clubs, then play two rounds of trumps, 
ending in the dummy, and discard your diamond loser on the 
king of clubs, having no further problems.

     If West ducks the ace of clubs, win the king and play 
dummy’s low spade to your hand (you can now see the need for
the first spade plays, since if you had not unblocked one of
dummy’s honors earlier, you would have no convenient way to
get back to your hand at this point).  Then play the queen 
of hearts, discarding a club from dummy, and exit with a club,
putting West on lead with the following cards left:

                                    
                            ♠ K
                            ♥ ---
                            ♦ QJ763
                            ♣ ---

           ♠ ---                             ♠ 7
           ♥ 10                              ♥ ---
           ♦ K105                            ♦ 984
           ♣ 98                              ♣ J10

                           ♠ 9863
                           ♥ ---
                           ♦ A2
                           ♣ ---

     With a trump still in dummy and the hearts and clubs
eliminated from the N-S hands. West is endplayed, having to
either give you a free diamond finesse, or a ruff in dummy 
and sluff of your low diamond, should he play either a heart 
or a club.


     (2)On the defensive problem, you may discard one diamond 
only, then throw away your ace, king, and queen of hearts! 
The full deal:

                            North

                           ♠ J109842
                           ♥ 5
                           ♦ K102
                           ♣ K74

            West                             East

           ♠76                              ♠ 3
           ♥J87643                          ♥ AKQ2
           ♦ A                              ♦ J9863
           ♣ 8653                           ♣ AJ10

                           South

                          ♠ AKQ5
                          ♥ 109
                          ♦ Q754
                          ♣ Q92

     From your standpoint, if partner did in fact start
with a singleton ace of diamonds, then declarer has four,
and you must keep equal length with him in that suit, lest 
his 4th diamond become good for the game-going trick (partner
should help you here by making an early discard of a diamond, 
if she has one).  So you must discard three hearts.  Look what
will happen on the actual layout if you come down to a stiff 
honor in that suit.  Leaving one trump in dummy, declarer 
will test the diamonds by playing the king, then the 10 (which
you will cover) to his queen.  Knowing that you have a high
diamond left, he will ruff his small diamond with dummy’s last
trump, then lead a heart.  Forced to win that trick, you will
now be endplayed in clubs and obliged to concede a trick to 
dummy’s king.

     So you must simply throw all of your heart honors away
and hope for partner to hold the jack, so that in the end 
she will get in with that card and play a 2nd club through 
the dummy.

     It appears that your side can make 11 tricks in hearts,
but it is difficult to bid 5H over the opponents’ 4S, unless
either your hand elected to open 1H, or if partner made an 
understrength negative double over South’s overcall.
Friday, February 8th, 2008
11:08 pm
Bridge Column


                     The Greedy Overtrick (IV)

     Playing in a matchpoint contest at your local club, you pick up:

                ♠ ---   ♥ AJ8652   ♦ A1095   ♣ A42

     You are vulnerable, the opponents not, and partner, who is the dealer,
passes.  RHO opens 1♠.   You overcall 2♥, LHO passes, and partner raises to
4♥, which is passed all around.  LHO leads the ♠10, and you now face the
following play problem:

                         ♠ AJ7654
                         ♥ K1074
                         ♦ J3
                         ♣ 5
                                                                   

                         ♠ -----
                         ♥ AJ8652
                         ♦ A1095
                         ♣ A42

     It looks as though you have missed a reasonable slam, since there are 
layouts that may well offer 12 tricks.  However, slam is unlikely to be bid
when there are so many high-card points missing, so you should assume that
the contract figures to be the normal one reached at most, if not all the
other tables.  If you are going to outscore the other declarers, it will 
have to be on the basis of overtricks.  

     If the hearts are divided 2-1, you can draw two rounds of trumps, 
ruff your two small clubs in dummy, discard a diamond on the ace of 
spades, and take a double finesse in diamonds.  As the opening bidder,
RHO is a heavy favorite to hold at least one diamond honor, so this 
line appears to have a good chance to produce 12 tricks.  If you look
deeper, though, you might see an additional extra chance, giving you 
an ultimate pig line that could result in bringing in all 13…..  

     On first glance, dummy’s spades look too anemic to amount to 
anything, especially with RHO bidding the suit and promising at least
5-card length.  However, if RHO has only five spades, and LHO has 
led from either 10-9 or 10-8 doubleton, dummy’s spade spots may be
worth more than one might initially think.

     To begin with, there is no need to play the ace of spades at 
trick #1.  Instead, cover the 10 with the jack.  This will force 
RHO to play the queen, which you will ruff.  You now play the ace 
of hearts, and breathe a little sigh of relief as both opponents 
follow, RHO showing the queen.  Next comes a heart to dummy’s 10 
to draw the last trump, RHO discarding the king of clubs to show 
a solid sequence.  Now you play the ace of spades, on which RHO 
plays the 2, you discard a low diamond, and LHO—bless his soul—
contributes the hoped-for 8-spot.  The position is now, with the
lead in dummy:                                            
                                                              
                   ♠ 7654
                   ♥ K7
                   ♦ J3
                   ♣ 5                                
                                 
                                   (RHO)
                                   ♠ K93  
                                   ♥ ---     
                                   ♦ K72
                                   ♣ QJ10

                   ♠ ---
                   ♥ J865
                   ♦ A109
                   ♣ A42

     Dummy’s spade spots have suddenly become powerful enough to 
take two ruffing finesses through RHO’s remaining high spades.  
Lead the 7, intending to discard a diamond if next hand plays low.
When he covers with the 9 instead, ruff in hand, then play the 
ace of clubs and ruff a club back to dummy.  Now lead another 
spade, forcing RHO to cover with the king, which you ruff again.
Dummy’s lowly 5-4 of spades are now established.  Ruff your last 
club in dummy, play those good spades, and away go your two low
diamonds, scoring +710.  The full deal:

                          ♠ AJ7654
                          ♥ K1074
                          ♦ J3
                          ♣ 5

                                   
          ♠ 108                          ♠ KQ932
          ♥ 93                           ♥ Q
          ♦ Q864                         ♦ K72
          ♣ 98763                        ♣ KQJ10


                          ♠ ----
                          ♥ AJ8652
                          ♦ A1095
                          ♣ A42
Monday, August 20th, 2007
9:41 pm
Bridge Column
                   THE GREEDY OVERTRICK (III)

                       by Stephen Rzewski

       matchpoints
       vul: none         
                            North

                           ♠ Q109652
                           ♥ A82
                           ♦ 84
                           ♣ A2

                            South

                           ♠ AK743
                           ♥ 6
                           ♦ A9653
                           ♣ 54

         bidding:   S     W     N     E
                   1♠    4♥    4♠ (all pass)

                    opening lead: ♥K  

     Today's deal, from a local club game, once again
illustrates our repeated theme: the contract appears to
be normal and will make easily, with just two apparent
losers.  Not one to settle for a tired average of +450,
can you delve more deeply and find the path to +480,
earning yourself a top in the process?  Trumps are 2-0,
with West being void.  Plan the play.

              ****************************

     The complete deal:

                          ♠ Q109652
                          ♥ A82
                          ♦ 84
                          ♣ A2

             ♠ -----                  ♠ J8
             ♥ KQJ10973               ♥ 54
             ♦ J7                     ♦ KQ102
             ♣ KQ108                  ♣ J9863

                                                                   
                         ♠ AK743
                         ♥ 6
                         ♦ A9653
                         ♣ 54

     For some reason, even many experienced players seem
to have a blind spot when it comes to the possibility of
setting up a long-suit winner.  Having escaped a club lead,
you have the opportunity to establish your 5th diamond for
a club discard from dummy, as long as the diamonds split no
worse than 4-2.

     Win the ace of hearts, draw two rounds of trumps, leaving
one high trump in your hand, then duck a diamond.  If a heart
is returned, ruff in your hand, play the ace and another diamond,
ruffing in dummy.  When West shows out, ruff dummy's last heart
to get back to your hand for a 4th diamond play, again ruffing
in dummy, and establishing the long diamond in your hand.  Now 
lead a trump to your ace, play your last diamond and discard
dummy's small club, scoring up 12 tricks.
Tuesday, August 14th, 2007
11:10 pm
Bridge Column
               ONE GOOD COUP DESERVES ANOTHER

                    by Stephen Rzewski

          IMPs
          vul:  N-S
                         ♠ A7
                         ♥ 653
                         ♦ 842
                         ♣ KQJ104

            ♠ K1095                  ♠ 863
            ♥ KQ1094                 ♥ 82
            ♦ 93                     ♦ QJ1076
            ♣ 83                     ♣ A92

                         ♠ QJ42
                         ♥ AJ7
                         ♦ AK5
                         ♣ 765

            bidding:   S      W      N      E

                      1NT    2♦*    2♠      P
                      2NT     P     3NT  (all pass)

                    opening lead:  ♥Q

     In today's deal, both defense and declarer engaged in a
series of thrusts and parries before one side could ultimately
prevail.  The bidding and opening lead may warrant some
explanation:  West's somewhat aggressive 2♦ overcall conven-
tionally promised both majors.  North's 2♠ call was a cue-bid
showing game interest with a stop in that suit. The lead of the
queen from the combination of KQ109 asks partner to play the jack
if he has it; failing that, to give count.  Accordingly, East
signaled with the 8.

     South saw the need to hold up the ace of hearts at trick #1.
In order to make his contract, he has to establish club tricks.
Assuming that West holds all the missing major-suit honors, there
is no danger on the hand if he also holds the ace of clubs.  But if
declarer wins the first trick and it turns out that East holds the
ace, that defender will lead a heart through declarer's J-x, and the
defense will run four more heart tricks.

     The hold-up with AJx when both missing honors can be placed
on the left is called a "Bath Coup", named from the long-ago days
of whist and having some connection with the place of that name
in England. It is actually a simple maneuver which comes up
frequently in both notrump and suited play.  Its effect is to
prevent the defense from continuing the suit without giving up a
2nd winner for declarer.  Since it typically forces the defense
to play on other suits, declarer may not want to make this play
if he fears a shift to something else.

     West contemplated what to do next.  It seemed to him that
if declarer held the ace of clubs, he was likely to fulfill his
contract, so he hypothetically placed that card in his partner's
hand.  It might be possible for the defense to duck early club
leads and isolate the long cards in the dummy, but the ace of
spades would still be there for a late entry.  West therefore
decided that it might be advisable to play on spades.  It would
do no good to lead a low spade if declarer held the queen, so
West played the king (!) of spades at trick #2.

     This sacrifice of an unsupported honor, the intent of
which is to kill an entry to dummy, is known as a "Merrimac
Coup".  In this particular case, it resulted in giving declarer
three spade tricks instead of two, but the investment may come
back by possibly depriving declarer of at least two of the long
clubs.

     South won with the ace (it would do no good to duck, since
West would just lead a 2nd spade) and then played the king and 
queen of clubs.  As one would expect with good defenders, West
played high-low in clubs, indicating a doubleton, and East
recognized the need to hold up his ace of clubs for two rounds,
leaving the following cards:

                         ♠ 7
                         ♥ 65
                         ♦ 842
                         ♣ J104

            ♠ 1095                   ♠ 86
            ♥ K1094                  ♥ 2
            ♦ 93                     ♦ QJ1076
            ♣ ----                   ♣ A

                         ♠ QJ4
                         ♥ AJ
                         ♦ AK5
                         ♣ 7

     South has scored the ace of spades and two clubs,
and he has five more top winners.  It now looks as though
he is headed for down one.  But declarer had one more
trick up his sleeve:  he knew that West would not have made
his two-suited overcall without at least nine cards in the
major suits, and since he had followed to both club leads, 
he could not have more than two diamonds.  So South executed
a play known as the "Dentist Coup" by playing the ace and
king of diamonds, thereby extracting West's potential exit
cards in that suit.  He then cashed the queen and jack of
spades and exited with his last spade.  West was in with
the 10, and with nothing left in his hand but hearts, he
was endplayed and forced to lead into South's ace-jack
tenace, enabling declarer to score the game-going trick
with the jack of hearts after all.
9:58 pm
Bridge Column
               THE GREEDY OVERTRICK (II)

                      by Stephen Rzewski

       Matchpoints                      
                         ♠ K
                         ♥ KQ108
                         ♦ A72
                         ♣ AK1064

                         ♠ 87532
                         ♥ AJ942
                         ♦ 6
                         ♣ 83

       bidding:  N      E      S      W
                1♣      P     1♥     2♦  
                4♥     (all pass)

                opening lead: ♦K  

     This deal came up at a local club game, slightly
amended.  With such poor spades and a weak hand overall, 
South decided to show his better suit, thinking that he
may get only one opportunity to bid, and he might not want
to play spades anyway unless partner could bid them.  Just
as in our previous example on this subject, the contract is
normal and will undoubtedly be the one played at most
tables.  In order to achieve a good matchpoint result, it
may be necessary to bring in overtricks that might be missed
by the rest of the field.  How would you plan the play?

     When a hand is two-suited, it is usually good strategy
for declarer to try to establish his second suit, ruffing leads
of that suit in the dummy, if necessary.  Ruffing in the hand
with shorter trump length (typically dummy) usually gains tricks
as well, since the greater trump length in declarer's hand is
maintained in the process.  In this case, however, declarer's
spades are so poor and difficult to establish that it is better
to work on the superior club suit and make dummy the master
hand.  Since the most likely club division is 4-2, one may have 
to ruff clubs twice in order to make the 5th club good.

     There is a further advantage in making dummy the master
hand:  since declarer's hand has a singleton diamond, both of
dummy's small diamonds can also be ruffed out.  The technique
of ruffing in the long hand to the point where dummy's trump
length eventually exceeds that of declarer's is known as
"reversing the dummy".  For this type of play to be successful,
one needs:  (1) trumps in the short hand which are strong
enough to eventually draw the opponents' trumps (assuming that
trumps will need to be drawn), (2) a number of ruffs to be 
available in the long hand, which will result in a total net
gain of tricks, and (3) sufficient entries to the short hand
needed to execute those maneuvers.

     In this example, you may want to take as many as four
minor-suit ruffs in your hand, and you will therefore need to
delay the drawing of trumps and make maximum use of dummy's
entries.  Accordingly, win the opening lead with the ace of
diamonds and ruff a diamond immediately.  Next play a club
to the king, ruff dummy's last diamond, and then play a second
club to dummy's ace.  Both opponents follow to this trick,
leaving:

                        ♠ K
                        ♥ KQ108
                        ♦ ----
                        ♣ 1064

                        ♠ 87532
                        ♥ AJ4
                        ♦ ----
                        ♣ ----

     Now lead a third round of clubs from dummy.  On
the actual hand, East will follow with the jack, and
you should take care to ruff high to prevent a possible
overruff, which proves to be necessary, as West shows
out, discarding a diamond.  Now lead your low trump to 
dummy, and when both opponents follow, you are assured
of twelve tricks.  Lead a 4th round of clubs next; East
will play the queen as you ruff with your last trump 
in hand, the ace.  Dummy's 5th club is now good.  At
this point, simply exit with a spade, conceding that
trick, then ruff the continuation and draw the remaining
trumps with the KQ in dummy.  The full deal:


                        ♠ K
                        ♥ KQ108
                        ♦ A72
                        ♣ AK1064

           ♠ AQJ4                    ♠ 1096
           ♥ 7                       ♥ 653
           ♦ KQJ1093                 ♦ 854
           ♣ 97                      ♣ QJ52

                        ♠ 87532
                        ♥ AJ942
                        ♦ 6
                        ♣ 83

     As one might expect, the majority of scores on this
deal were +620 and +650; only two pairs found the dummy
reversal and tied for top with +680.
Monday, May 14th, 2007
9:51 pm
Bridge Column

                   DEPT. OF DEFENSE

                  by Stephen Rzewski

  Problem #1:

    matchpoints        North
    vul:  none        (dummy)

                      ♠ J1082
                      ♥ 1097
                      ♦ AK9
                      ♣ Q64

       West                                           
      (you)

      ♠ K65                                                
      ♥ J5                                               
      ♦ 1076                                                 
      ♣ AK873

			
     bidding:   W      N      E     S
              pass   pass    1♦    1♥
               2♣     2♥     (all pass)       

	You start with the ace-king of clubs, partner
following first with the jack, then the 10.  You continue 
with the 8 of clubs (asking for a spade return).  Partner
ruffs with the 8 of hearts and dutifully returns the 9 
of spades.  Declarer pauses for a moment, then follows 
low, as you win with the king.  Now what?

             *****************************

  Problem #2:

		
                       North
                      (dummy)

                      ♠ Q972
                      ♥ 865
                      ♦ K94
                      ♣ AK4

       West                                            
      (you)

      ♠ 543                                                
      ♥ QJ10                                                
      ♦ J86                                               
      ♣ J976

                                      
      bidding:    S      W      N      E

                 1NT   pass    2♣     pass
                 2♠    pass    4♠    (all pass)
                     (1NT = 15-17 hcp)

	You lead the queen of hearts, and upon seeing 
dummy, reflect that in North’s place you would have 
eschewed Stayman and bid 3NT directly with the flat
distribution.  Partner signals encouragement with the
7, as declarer wins the ace.  Declarer then draws trumps
with the ace, king, and jack from his hand, partner 
following twice before discarding the deuce of hearts. 
Declarer then plays the ace-king of clubs and a low 
club to his queen, everyone following.  Then he exits 
with a heart; you play the 10, and partner overtakes 
with the king before playing a 3rd heart to your jack, 
once again everyone following suit.  What do you now 
play, looking at:

		
                                                                 
                         ♠ Q
                         ♥ ---
                         ♦ K94
                         ♣ ---

                                   
          ♠ ---                                               
          ♥ ---                                              
          ♦ J86                                              
          ♣ J                                    

                 **************************

   Problem #1:
                                   
                         ♠ J1082
                         ♥ 1097
                         ♦ AK9
                         ♣ Q64

        ♠ K65                          ♠ Q94
        ♥ J5                           ♥ KQ8
        ♦ 1076                         ♦ QJ832
        ♣ AK873                        ♣ J10

                         ♠ A73
                         ♥ A6432
                         ♦ 54
                         ♣ 952

	You should lead your lowest club, asking partner
to ruff as high as he can, so as to achieve an “uppercut”
and promote your jack of hearts.  Partner figures to have
two trumps remaining after the club ruff; if he holds
either K-x or Q-x, declarer will be able to pick up the 
remaining trumps unless you make this play now.  At this
point, you are perhaps not being so optimistic about 
setting the contract, but it is matchpoints, and overtricks
can be very significant in this kind of situation.  As it
is, partner’s trump holding is stronger than you anticipated,
and your play results in scoring two more trump tricks 
instead of one, since if declarer gets in quickly, he can 
play ace of hearts and another, bringing down your
remaining trumps together and scoring up his contract. 
Result:  down one instead.

   Problem #2:
                          ♠ Q972
                          ♥ 865
                          ♦ K94
                          ♣ AK4

        ♠ 543                            ♠ 108
        ♥ QJ10                           ♥ K742
        ♦ J86                            ♦ A1032
        ♣ J976                           ♣ 1032


                          ♠ AKJ6
                          ♥ A93
                          ♦ Q75
                          ♣ Q85

	Playing the jack of clubs in the end position 
will give declarer a ruff-and-sluff, so you must break 
the diamond suit, but you must do so with extreme caution.
Declarer has shown up so far with 14 high-card points, 
so you know precisely that he holds the queen of diamonds
and partner holds the ace.  If declarer has the 10, the 
party is over, so place that card in your partner’s hand
as well.

     If you lead the 6, declarer will play low from dummy,
and your partner will have to put up the 10 to force the 
queen.  Declarer can now lead low to the 9 and force 
partner’s ace, losing only one trick in the suit.  If you
start with the jack, declarer may go wrong if he plays you 
for the 10, but if he reads the position, he can put up 
dummy’s queen.  Partner can win the ace, but he will be 
endplayed by having to lead away from the 10 to dummy’s 9.

     It is critical that you lead the 8 of diamonds, the 
only choice that is foolproof.   If the 9 is played from
dummy, partner will cover with the 10, declarer winning 
the queen.  If the 7 is played next, you must cover with 
the jack:  the king and ace will be played over those cards,
and your 6 will become the setting trick!  

	For those of you who recall our previous column 
entitled “Surrounding Play”, you will see that the lead of 
the 8 is a play of that type, as declarer’s 7 is effectively
surrounded and captured by your J-6.
Thursday, May 10th, 2007
4:01 pm
Bridge Column


                 Double-Dummy Problem

	               North

                      ♠ 3
                      ♥ AK7
                      ♦ KJ1065
                      ♣ KJ86

         West                        East

        ♠ A92                       ♠ Q5
        ♥ J10654                    ♥ 9832
        ♦ A72                       ♦ 983
        ♣ 102                       ♣ A974

                       South

                      ♠ KJ108764
                      ♥ Q
                      ♦ Q4
                      ♣ Q53


	South is to play the contract of 4♠ with the
opening lead of the ♣10.  In a “double-dummy” problem,
the reader is allowed to look at all four hands and 
find a solution which requires optimal play by both 
sides, declarer and defenders.  In this case, you are
to decide whether you would prefer to declare or defend,
which essentially means:  do you think that the best
line of play by declarer will necessarily result in
fulfilling the contract, or do the opponents have 
defensive plays that must inevitably result in defeat
of the same?  

	When you believe you have arrived at a solution,
it is advisable to look more deeply.  Check and see if 
the opposing side has a counter-play that may have to 
send you back to the drawing board.  If you get stuck,
start reading below, where you will find the answer 
revealed in a Socratic-like fashion in increasing stages.

       *******************************************

	On the surface, it looks as though the contract
should make fairly easily.  Suppose East wins the ace 
of clubs and returns another.  Declarer wins in dummy, 
leads a spade and finesses the 10.  West wins the ace 
(if he ducks instead, declarer plays the king of spades
next to smother the queen), but can do declarer no harm,
who eventually will lose only the three outstanding aces.
So what can the defenders do to make declarer’s life 
more difficult?

	For the defense to have any chance, East must
duck the ace of clubs at trick #1.  (As an aside, this
is a good play to remember generally, when you suspect 
that partner may have led from a doubleton, and you 
have no side entry).  Ducking the ace maintains a link
with West, who, upon gaining the lead with either of
his aces, will play a 2nd club.   East will then win 
the ace and give his partner a club ruff for the setting 
trick.  Can declarer do anything to avoid the ruff?

	Declarer can avoid the ruff if he can get rid 
of his clubs.  If dummy had another fast entry, one 
could play off the queen of hearts, then discard two 
clubs on the ace-king in dummy.  As it is, if he cashes
the queen of hearts and then tries to reach dummy with
a diamond, West will seize the ace and play a second 
club as before, so that won’t work  Will it help declarer 
to overtake the queen of hearts in dummy and discard 
one club on the remaining heart honor?

	This will reduce declarer to one club, the same
length as West, but the weak trump spots will prove to be
an Achilles’ heel.  After playing two hearts, declarer
can lead a spade and finesse the 10.  West will win the
ace, and before leading a 2nd club to his partner, will
likely show good technique by cashing the ace of diamonds
before the mice can get at it.  Now in with the ace of 
clubs, East will play a 3rd club, which will then sink 
declarer:  if he ruffs low, West will overruff with the
9 for the setting trick; if declarer ruffs instead with
the jack, he will survive for the moment, but West will 
simply discard, and the 9 of spades will be promoted in
the process and eventually score.  So discarding just 
one club simply won’t work.  Is declarer therefore doomed,
or does he have a way of getting around the trump promotion?

	Try instead the effect of overtaking the queen 
of hearts with the king, discarding a club on the ace, 
then playing dummy’s low heart and....   discarding the 
last club from the closed hand!  This “loser-on-loser” 
play trades a club loser for a heart loser.  If East wins 
and plays a 2nd club now, declarer can afford to ruff low,
because West still has a club in his hand, and the trump 
promotion will be avoided.  Declarer will still have a 
slow entry to dummy via the diamonds to make the trump 
lead to the 10, and West will not be able to get to his
partner for another club play.  So it appears to be correct
to choose playing the hand over defending after all.     
.....or is it?   (better look again)

	Suppose the defender who wins the third heart 
(on which declarer discarded a club) continues by playing
a 4th round of hearts.  Declarer must ruff in his hand, 
as he has to preserve the spade in dummy for a trump 
lead through East.  Now when he leads a diamond to reach
dummy, West will grab his ace and play...   his last heart! 
East will cooperate by ruffing with the queen of spades 
(this play of a high trump to create a trump promotion 
in the opposite hand is called an “uppercut”; see our 
previous column entitled “Missed Opportunity”).  Once 
again, the 9 of spades will ultimately provide the setting
trick.  

	If you elected to defend—but only because you
foresaw all of the above—take a long, sweeping bow.

 	My thanks to Bud Biswas for forwarding this 
intriguing deal to my good friend Jeff Lehman, who 
passed it along to me.  Bud informs me that he found
the problem in a book written by Dr. Andrew Diosy,
a Hungarian doctor who is living (or used to live) in
Canada.  

	Many double-dummy problems are less practical
than this one, because they often are of a more puzzle-
like nature, with peculiar card layouts and solutions
involving plays that would be unrealistic to find at 
the table.  This deal, though, is more instructive in
that it contains possible plays that occur with some 
frequency, and which are often missed by the average 
player.  Note particularly:  (1) the duck of the ace 
of clubs at the first trick; (2) the loser-on-loser 
play to avoid the ruff and sever communication between
the defenders, (3) the possible trump promotion by 
leading a suit through declarer’s hand in which both
declarer and LHO are void, and (4) the uppercut.  The
trump position especially is one to study and remember:

		        x

              A9x                 Qx

                     KJ10xxxx

Just one last point:  suppose that, even before any 
trumps were played at all, East had the opportunity 
to lead a side suit in which both South and West were
 void.  If South were to ruff with the 10 or jack, 
West must resist the impulse to overruff with the ace 
and discard instead, in order to promote his 9.
Saturday, January 13th, 2007
1:09 pm
Bridge Column


                  Department of Defense (IV)

                     by Stephen Rzewski


                           North (dummy)

                             ♠A1064
                             ♥A972
                             ♦K109
                             ♣Q2

            West (you)                                            

              ♠J92                                                  
              ♥J103                                            
              ♦874                                         
              ♣AK63         

          bidding:   N     E     S     W
                    1♦     P    1♥     P
                    2♥     (all pass)

	Recently, a defensive problem involving a particular card
combination came my way, which you will see from time to time, so 
it is worth confining to memory.

	You start the defense with the ace and king of clubs, partner
playing low-high and declarer contributing the jack on the second round.
You switch to a diamond.  Partner shows up with the ace and queen, so 
he wins two more tricks and exits with a third diamond, declaring 
winning the jack.  A heart is played to dummy’s ace, partner following 
with the queen.  A second heart goes to declarer’s king, who then throws
you in with a third heart, partner discarding clubs on the last two tricks.
What do you now play, looking at:

	                          ♠A1064
                                  ♥9
                                  ♦ ---
                                  ♣ ---

                  ♠J92
                  ♥ ---
                  ♦ ---
                  ♣ 63

	Declarer appears to have three spades and two trumps left in his
hand.  You will have to break the spade suit, as a club play now will 
give declarer a ruff-and-sluff.  If partner has the king of spades, you 
will always get one more trick, so the relevant case is when partner has 
the queen and declarer the king.  

	You might get away with leading the deuce, if partner has the 
8-spot and puts in that card if declarer calls for a low card from dummy. 
However, if it turns out that declarer has the 8, he will either win the
trick cheaply with that card, or if partner puts up the queen, declarer 
will then have a finessing position over your jack with dummy’s A-10.   

	Suppose you lead the 9, trying to get partner to withhold the 
queen unless dummy’s 10 is played.  If you do that, and declarer turns 
out to have good spots (8-7), the play will go: 10, queen, king, and he
will now be able to run those spot cards through you and pick up your jack.

	The play that covers all the bases is to start with the JACK. 
This renders declarer helpless.  If he plays dummy’s ace, followed by 
the 10, you will always score the 9, provided that partner covers the 
10 with the queen.  The full deal:

                                                                 
                              ♠A1064
                              ♥A972
                              ♦K109
                              ♣Q2

                                   
                 ♠J92                        ♠Q53
                 ♥J103                       ♥Q
                 ♦874                        ♦AQ65
                 ♣AK63                       ♣109875


                              ♠K87
                              ♥K8654
                              ♦J32
                              ♣J4
10:11 am
Bridge Column


                     THE GREEDY OVERTRICK

                      by Stephen Rzewski


          matchpoints
          neither vul
          dlr:  North

                           North

                           ♠A74
                           ♥A962
                           ♦Q62
                           ♣A65


                           South

                           ♠5
                           ♥K10873
                           ♦AJ9
                           ♣KQ82


              bidding:   N     E     S     W
                  
                        1♣    2♠    3♥     P
                        4♥   (all pass)

                      opening lead:  ♠2


	One of the most important areas of matchpoint play that can
help generate winning games is the matter of overtricks.  This is 
especially true when it becomes apparent that a normal contract has 
been reached which figures to make easily.  Declarer may easily become
complacent and inattentive and miss an opportunity to make a precious
overtrick, which could turn an average result into a top.  Likewise, 
a defender can similarly lose concentration and allow declarer an 
extra trick to which he is not entitled, converting an average into 
a bottom.  One such play on a 26-board session can easily affect one’s
score by about two percentage points, a considerable gain at matchpoints.

	In today’s deal, which occurred at a recent club game, the 
bidding and contract appear routine, and are likely to be the same at 
all tables.  What would be your general line of play?

	If the trumps are 2-2, twelve tricks will be easy.   If the 
clubs should divide 3-3, one of dummy’s diamonds can be discarded on 
the 13th club, and the diamond finesse can be taken for all thirteen 
tricks.  If the clubs do not split evenly, there are still some possible
ways to finesse the diamonds so as to avoid a loser in that suit.  With 
East pre-empting in spades, however, he figures to have shortness 
somewhere, so some suits will undoubtedly split unevenly.  To begin, 
how should one play the hearts?

	It is better to start the play of trumps with the king rather
than with dummy’s ace.  If the hearts are not 2-2, the length is more 
likely to be with West.  If East should play an honor on the first lead,
the percentage line on the second trump play would be to play West for
honor-third and  finesse dummy’s 9, in accordance with the Law of 
Restricted Choice.  

	Because there may be an endplay possibility on the hand, one 
should use the opportunity of being in dummy at the first trick to ruff 
a spade before touching trumps.  Then at trick #3, play the king of hearts.
Both opponents follow low, and when you lead a second trump to dummy’s ace,
West plays the jack and East shows out, discarding a spade. So you will 
have one sure trump loser.  Now lead dummy’s last spade and ruff in hand,
West following.  With the following cards remaining, how would you now 
proceed?

                              ♠ ---
                              ♥96
                              ♦Q62
                              ♣A65


                              ♠ ---
                              ♥8
                              ♦AJ9
                              ♣KQ82

	It behooves one to count the hand as you play, as the best 
continuation may depend on the opponents’ distribution.  East should 
have six spades for his weak jump overcall and has followed to one heart;
so he has six cards in the minors.  Suppose you were to test the clubs 
and find them to be 4-2, with length in the East hand.  That would give
him two diamonds.  In that case, your best play to avoid a diamond loser
and score twelve tricks would be to hope that he started with exactly 
K-x doubleton.  You should accordingly lead a low diamond from dummy, 
finesse the jack, and if it holds, play the ace next to drop the king.

	If instead it should turn out that West holds four clubs, that 
would leave East with two, and that hand would therefore have four diamonds.
In that case, your only play for the second overtrick would be to hope that
he started with K10xx.  Holding the AJ9, you should plan on taking two 
diamond finesses through East, first leading the queen, and if that card 
is covered, winning the ace and getting back to dummy to finesse the 9. 
The ace of clubs and a ruff of the 4th club will provide the necessary 
entries. The odds of this play succeeding are small, but are essentially 
on the house, since there is no danger of losing any additional trick if 
the double-finesse fails.  (It is somewhat better to start with the queen 
rather than low to the 9, since a careless East might make a mistake and 
fail to cover the queen with Kxxx).  

	To be in the best position to make your choice of plays, first 
play the king and queen of clubs, then low to the ace on the third round 
so as to end up in dummy (if West should ruff in, he will be obliged to 
play a diamond, since he will have no other suit left, which presents you 
with no danger).  As it turns out, the clubs do split 3-3.  So how should 
you play the diamonds now?

	The answer is:  don’t touch the diamonds at all!  Instead, lead 
a trump to West, resulting in an endplay.  He will be obliged to lead a 
diamond into your tenace holding.  You will now be able to discard a diamond
from dummy on your good 13th club and ruff your last diamond in dummy.  
Making twelve tricks for a well-earned top.  The full deal:

                                ♠A74
                                ♥A962
                                ♦Q62
                                ♣A65
                                   
                      ♠1062               ♠KQJ983
                      ♥QJ4                ♥5
                      ♦K1073              ♦854
                      ♣973                ♣J104

                                ♠5
                                ♥K10873
                                ♦AJ9
                                ♣KQ82
Saturday, December 30th, 2006
11:47 pm
Bridge Column


		           FORCED ENTRY

                         by Stephen Rzewski

          dlr:  West
          vul:  both
			     North

			    ♠J987
                            ♥K52
                            ♦K3
                            ♣K973


                West                    East

               ♠4                      ♠AQ653
               ♥AQJ107                 ♥984
               ♦10652                  ♦9874
               ♣AQ5                    ♣2

                              South

                             ♠ K102
                             ♥ 63
                             ♦ AQJ
                             ♣ J10864

	          bidding:     W      N      E      S
                              1♥      P     2♥      P
                               P     dbl     P     3♣  
                                 (all pass)

                       opening lead:  ♠ 4

	Today’s hand came up in a club game many years ago.  I was seated
East. The bidding is shown as it occurred.  North’s reopening double is 
questionable without better diamond support, but the opponents fell on their
feet when South found the 9-card club fit.  My partner and I, each with a 
singleton, were obviously cowardly lions that day and should have taken the
push to 3♥--- but in that case I would not have this bridge tale to relate,
one of my all-time favorites.	

	My partner, Harry Kaufmann of North Bennington, VT, led his singleton
spade. I won the ace and returned the 5♠, trying to show by a middle card a
lack of enthusiasm for either a heart or diamond play back.  South made the
right play in spades by putting in the 10, as West ruffed and contemplated 
what to do next.  He knew that if I had the AQ of spades, I couldn’t have 
much else, and with all those kings onside for the opponents, it looked as 
though they were destined to fulfill their contract.  But, in accordance with
the old saw, “Necessity is the Mother of invention”, my partner found an 
ingenious way to set the hand.  Even looking at all four hands, do you see 
how he managed to do so?  
	
	At trick #3, West led the queen of hearts!  As we were playing 
Bergen raises, the play of the queen was unlikely to cost, since I nearly 
always showed exactly three-card support for my single raise during the 
auction, leaving declarer with two.  Declarer called for dummy’s king.  It 
took me a moment to figure out what my partner was up to, and I signaled 
with the 9, attempting to show the highest of touching cards of a sequence 
and therefore implying the 8.  After winning the heart in dummy, declarer 
came to his hand with a diamond in order to lead a club up to the king.  
But West rose with the ace, and, in a demonstration of faith in my previous 
play, he led his lowest heart, the 7, enabling me to overtake with the 8 so 
that I could provide him with a second spade ruff.  Down one.
Sunday, December 3rd, 2006
10:14 pm
Bridge Column

                              MORTON’S FORK


	                         North

                                 ♠KJ2
                                 ♥543
                                 ♦KQ53
                                 ♣A43

                                 South

                                 ♠A9876
                                 ♥AKQ972
                                 ♦J2
                                 ♣ -----


                 bidding:   S      W      N      E

                           1♥      P     2♦      P
                           2♠      P     3♥      P
                           3♠      P     4♣      P
                           5♥      P     6♥  (all pass)

	             opening lead:  a low club


	Today’s play problem came up at a recent club game.  Suppose 
you find yourself in a heart slam, with a possible auction shown.   
South’s 5♥ call was intended to show a very strong trump suit, and North,
figuring that declarer could not lose more than one minor-suit trick, 
hoped that his spades were good enough to solidify his partner’s second
suit.  How would you plan the play (trumps are 3-1)?


           *          *          *          *          *          *   


	The full deal:	

                                   ♠KJ2
                                   ♥543
                                   ♦KQ53
                                   ♣A43


                 ♠53                           ♠Q104
                 ♥8                            ♥J106
                 ♦A1096                        ♦874
                 ♣Q108762                      ♣KJ95


                                   ♠A9876
                                   ♥AKQ972
                                   ♦J2
                                   ♣ -----




	If you draw trumps and drive out the ace of diamonds, the 
contract would seem to depend on finessing against the queen of spades,
as you will always get two discards from dummy’s ace of clubs and extra
diamond honor for your two small spades. There is also a possible squeeze 
-–which does not exist on the actual layout-–if LHO had started with 
length in both diamonds and spades.

        However, there is a significant extra chance if you are careful:
DON’T play dummy’s ace of clubs at trick #1.  Instead, play a low club 
and ruff in your hand (as an aside, it would be good technique to ruff 
with the 7, just in case the trumps are 2-2, in which case that lowly 
deuce might provide you with a needed entry to the dummy at some later 
point).   Now draw three rounds of trumps and lead a LOW diamond from 
hand—-not the jack.  If LHO has the ace of diamonds, he will have a choice
of ways to let you win:  if he plays the ace, you will be able to score
two diamond discards, thus enabling you to throw away all three of your
low spades and avoid the spade finesse altogether.  And if he ducks the 
ace, you will win the trick with one of dummy’s honors, then discard your
diamond loser on the ace of clubs.  Now you will only need to play the 
spade suit in a way to avoid the loss of two tricks there, which is a 
very high-percentage proposition.

	With this combination:

	   	   KJ2

	          A9876

the standard safety play if you can afford the loss of one trick is to 
start with the king, then lead low from the opposite hand up to the J-x; 
however, that can not be done unless there are sufficient entries to both
hands, a luxury you do not have on the actual hand.  In this particular
case, your best play is to lead low to the jack to start.  You will probably
go down when this loses to a singleton queen, but you will make the hand 
whenever the spades are 3-2, or all other 4-1 splits, such as when either 
opponent starts with Q10xx.  If that hand should be RHO, LHO will show out
on the second spade play to dummy’s king, and you will be able to lead 
from the dummy and take the marked finesse through RHO’s 10-x.

	The play of the low diamond from J-x toward dummy is called a 
“Morton’s Fork” coup.  The name is derived from Cardinal Morton, Chancellor
under King Henry VII of England, who raised money for the king’s coffers 
by taxing the merchants.  If those merchants lived an ostentatiously lavish
lifestyle, Morton felt that he could tax them with a heavy hand, since they
obviously could afford to pay.  And if others of the time lived an outwardly 
frugal lifestyle, he figured they must be saving and amassing wealth, and 
so concluded that they could equally afford to pay.  So however you lived,
you were doomed to be impaled on “Morton’s Fork.”

	The play of the same name in bridge is used to describe the lead
through a defender’s honor ----  in this case, the ace of diamonds ----
whereby the defender loses whether he wins or ducks the trick, essentially
a “damned if you do / damned if you don’t” choice.  Notice that it is 
essential to resist the impulse to play dummy’s ace of clubs at the first
trick.  If you play the ace early, you will be forced to take an immediate
discard of a diamond or a spade.  Leaving the ace in dummy affords you 
the flexibility of deciding how best to use that discard later in the hand,
depending on the ensuing play.

	There is one further point worth mentioning:  if there had been 
additional entries to dummy, you could execute the Morton’s Fork against 
either opponent.  In fact, since the placement of the ace of diamonds is 
a guess, you might be inclined to play RHO for that card, on the basis 
that many players in the opposite hand, when on opening lead against a slam,
will tend to lead an ace if they have one.  To illustrate the point, let’s
place the queen of trumps in the dummy in exchange for one of the spots,
and have the trumps divide 2-2, so that the deuce of hearts also allows an
additional entry to dummy. If you as declarer decided to play RHO for the 
diamond ace, you would ruff the club with the 7, play the ace and queen of 
trumps (saving that deuce), ending in the dummy, and play a low diamond
toward the closed hand. RHO, if holding the ace of diamonds, would face 
the same dilemma as the one described earlier.  If he were to duck and 
the jack held the trick, you could lead a spade to the king, discard your 
low diamond on the ace of clubs, ruff a minor-suit card to get to your 
hand, and lead up to the jack of spades.  If LHO showed out, the jack 
would force the queen, and you would still have a trump entry to dummy 
to take the remaining spade play through the 10.  On the actual hand, 
you would have gone wrong, as the jack of diamonds would lose to the ace,
and you would have to fall back on the spade finesse, resulting in down one. 
Sometimes it’s better not to have an option.
9:45 pm
Hands From Daytona
	The following hands came my way at a recent Regional tournament
in Daytona Beach.  These hands are much more ordinary and routine than 
those usually shown on this site, and perhaps might not even be considered 
column-worthy by many.  Still, some readers may find them interesting 
enough, so I offer them for whatever value they may have.  Comments are
welcome.

	In a pairs game, with neither side vul, I pick up as dealer:

	       ♠ ---     ♥ AKQJ4     ♦ KQ863     ♣ KQ7

          I open 1♥, LHO overcalls 1♠, my partner raises to 2♥, and RHO 
jumps to 4♠.  What call would you make?

        I reasoned that partner had to have an ace and perhaps even a working
jack or two, since there are very few other high-card points out there that
could be in her hand.  Of course, if she happened to hold the spade ace or 
other honor wastage in spades, that would be bad luck, but the bidding 
suggests otherwise.  So I chance 6♥.  The opening lead, somewhat to my 
relief, was the ace of spades, but partner’s dummy was:

	
                               ♠Q64
                               ♥1072
                               ♦975
                               ♣A865

                               ♠ ---
                               ♥AKQJ4
                               ♦KQ863
                               ♣KQ7


        Some may elect not to raise to 2♥ with her hand, having flat 
distribution and the queen of spades, which is likely to be a wasted value,
but I don’t object, in spite of my disappointment.  The odds are against 
my making this, but I have been in worse contracts.  I have a chance if 
the red suits break evenly and the ace of diamonds is on my right.  I ruff
the opening lead with the jack of hearts, then continue with the ace and 
king.  I am happy to see both opponents follow; so I lead my low heart to
dummy’s 10, drawing the last trump and giving me access to dummy so as to
play a diamond.  RHO follows low and I put up my king, which holds.  So 
I play my low club to dummy’s ace to lead a second diamond.  RHO plays 
the ace, and LHO follows suit, so I can claim 12 tricks now.  A lucky hand:
I estimate this favorable layout to be about a 20% chance.  The only point
here is to take care to ruff the opening lead high, so that you can use 
the 10 of hearts as an additional entry to make two diamond leads.  If you
were careless and ruffed the opening lead low, you would have only one 
entry to dummy, in which case,  you would use it to make one diamond 
lead, then lead a low card back, hoping for RHO to have started specifically
with a doubleton A-x, making an already poor prospect considerably worse.

	The remaining hands come from Bracket I team events.  In a Compact
KO match, I pick up this hand, in 4th seat:

	         ♠ AQJ4     ♥ AKJ6     ♦ AQJ8     ♣ 5

        This hand type, the strong 3-suiter, is very difficult to bid 
in standard methods.  Either you start with an opening bid of 1♦ or a 
strong and artificial 2♣.   I suspect that most players would bid 2♣, not
being able to stomach the thought of hearing 1♦ get passed out.  The 2♣ call,
however, has several disadvantages:  (1) you have used more than a level
of bidding without yet naming any of your suits—-and you have three of 
them which you would like to name,  (2) rebidding suits naturally after
2♣ - 2♦ implies 5-card length, which you do not have, and (3) partner 
won’t introduce new suits after a sequence like 2♣ - 2♦ - 2♥  unless he
holds 5-card length himself, making it very difficult to find a 4-4 fit.
On the other hand, if you open 1♦ and partner can dredge up a response,
or if the opponents overcall or pre-empt, you will probably be able to 
make sensible follow-ups.  If the bidding does go 1♦ - all pass, and it 
turns out that you do have a game, hopefully you will have sympathetic 
teammates.   Players who use Precision or other strong 1♣ systems will 
have an advantage here.  Anyone out there with further suggestions, at 
least for those who want to stick with standard methods?

        However, I was somewhat relieved not to have this problem, since
my RHO opened 1♣ in third position, giving me an easy takeout double.  My
LHO bid a pre-emptive 3♣, and my partner surprised me somewhat by calling 
4♣, showing a willingness to play game, probably looking for me to choose
a major.  As an aside, we had played a KO match against this same pair 
earlier in the week, and on one deal they had talked me out of a slam by
taking several bids on weak hands, and the memory of that experience was
still fresh.  So even if my partner may be pushing a little, I am going 
to bid a slam here, and since my suits are virtually equal, I throw the
ball back at her with 5♣.  The full auction was, with everyone bidding 
clubs at some point:

	         P  -   P   -   1♣   -   dbl
                3♣  -  4♣   -    P   -   5♣
                 P  -  5♠   -    P   -   6♠

        Partner’s hand was:

	        ♠ K10762     ♥ 109543     ♦ 6    ♣ A4

        The queen of hearts came down doubleton on her left, so 13 
tricks were easy, and the board was a push.  Do you think we should have
bid the grand slam?

	Then later in the same event, but against a different team, I 
pick up in 3rd seat, with nobody vul:

	        ♠ 74   ♥ A109763   ♦ AJ42   ♣ J

        My partner as dealer opens 4NT.  I alert this call, and explain 
to my opponents that partner has a two-suited hand with both minors and 
great distribution, typically 6-6 (I’m not a strong advocate of this 
treatment, but my partner likes it, and I go along).  My RHO passes.  
I decide to take the risk that my partner’s possible singleton is either
a heart, or that maybe I’ll get a heart lead and be able to discard her
losing spade, if she has one.  So I call 6♦.  This is passed out, my LHO 
leads the king of hearts, and the dummy comes down:

		                ♠ ---
                                ♥5
                                ♦KQ10763
                                ♣Q87642

		                ♠74
		                ♥A109763
                                ♦AJ42
                                ♣J

        Prospects look fairly good.  I will need to set up the club suit,
and since the likely split is 4-2, I may need to ruff three times in my 
hand, possibly using high trumps to prevent an overruff.   I don’t think
I can afford to test trumps at this point, because if I play one high 
trump and then a club, that hand may win and play a second trump, limiting
me to just two club ruffs.  So after winning the ace of hearts, RHO playing
the 8, I play the jack of clubs at trick #2.  LHO wins the king and plays 
an insidious small heart, putting me at a crossroads:  should I ruff low, 
or can I afford to spare one of dummy’s high trumps?  What would you have 
done in my place?

	The odds of a 5-1 heart split are very low, but seem enhanced 
with the opening lead and continuation, and I would hate to go down at 
this point by ruffing low and getting overruffed.  Against that possibility,
I could afford to ruff high if either the diamonds divided 2-1 or the 
clubs 3-3, which offers a very high combined chance.  So I play dummy’s 
10 of diamonds, and I’m a bit regretful to see RHO follow with the jack
of hearts.  I lead a club and ruff low, both opponents following, ruff 
a spade low in dummy, play a third club and ruff high, LHO showing out. 
Another spade ruff and a 4th club, ruffed with the ace.  Now I lead the 
last (low) diamond from my hand, and…  LHO shows out.  Rats!  RHO has to
get a trump trick now with his 98x.  Figuring that I just lost the match,
I forget the pre-emptive effect that the 4NT call had on the opponents, 
the full deal being:

		               ♠ ---
                               ♥5
                               ♦KQ10763
                               ♣Q87642

                                   
                 ♠J1096532                   ♠AKQ8
                 ♥KQ42                       ♥J8
                 ♦ ---                       ♦985
                 ♣K9                         ♣A1053

                               ♠74
                               ♥A109763
                               ♦AJ42
                               ♣J

        At the other table, my partner’s hand did not open, and the 
bidding started:

	             pass -  1♣  -  2♥  -  2♠ 
                      3♦ 

        Our hands competed to 5♦, our teammates bid to 5♠ and the 
opponents decided to let them play it there, making 12 tricks for +480
and a substantial gain on the board.  Maybe that 4NT call isn’t such 
a bad method after all.

	In a 3-way match of a Compact KO, I hold, with both vul:

	         ♠ AQ65   ♥ AK87   ♦ K2   ♣ 1052

        My partner opens 1♣,  I respond 1♥, and my partner raises to 
2♥.  How would you continue?

        This hand feels too good not to make a slam try, with all its
controls and concentrated high-card strength.   My partner and I have 
recently decided to adopt 2NT as an asking bid here, after opener has
raised a major, a treatment which seems to be gaining favor with many 
players.  It is especially useful where partnerships have an agreed style
for opener to frequently raise responder’s major with 3-card support. 
Opener responds:

	     3♣ with minimum values and 3-card support,
             3♦ =  3-card support, maximum values,
	     3♥ =  4-card support, minimum
	     3♠ =  4-card support, maximum.

        The method is most useful when making game tries, but also can
work when you feel you are in the slam zone. in cases such as this one.

	My partner responds 3♠ to my inquiry, the best hand possible,
so after checking for key-cards to find that we are only missing the
queen of trump, I bid 6♥.  LHO leads the 9♣, and dummy shows:

	                	♠72
  		                ♥J1092
		                ♦A86
		                ♣AKQ3


		                ♠AQ65
		                ♥AK87
		                ♦K2
		                ♣1052

	This looks reasonably good.  If the king of spades is onside,
I can ruff my small spades with dummy’s high trumps and can even stand 
being overruffed with the queen of trumps.  And if the king of spades 
loses, I still have chances if the queen of hearts is onside, provided 
RHO has four spades.

	Well, you can guess that both cards were offside and I went down.
I wouldn’t mind this bit of bad luck normally—-but the effect is severe. 
The slam was not bid at the other table, so we lose 13 IMPs on the board 
instead of gaining 12 (had the slam made), and we lose the 6-board match
by -24 instead of winning by +1: a 25-IMP swing. I know that I am supposed
to disdain matchpoints and embrace IMPs, but the effect of one card offside 
on this type of hand at this form of scoring seems highly punitive. In a 
matchpoint event, I might be able to make this up on the next hand by 
scoring an overtrick on a partscore, but this results in a huge deficit at
IMPs, especially in a short match.

	But then fortune comes our way after all:  this match was part 
of a three-way round, we win our second match—-by all of +1---and it turns
out that the third team lost both of its matches.  So we advance to the 
next round, in spite of our net negative -23 IMPs.  This somehow doesn’t 
feel right either, but having endured my share of bad luck, I am happy 
to accept the good, when it comes.

	On another hand, still IMPs and both vul, I hold in 4th seat:

	         ♠ 6     ♥ AQ9763     ♦ AJ952     ♣ 3

	LHO and my partner pass, and RHO opens a 15-17 1NT.  This is 
certainly a hand where you want to be playing a method of showing a 
two-suiter.  My partner and I play Cappelletti, so I bid 2♥, showing 
that suit, plus a minor.  LHO bids a non-forcing 2♠, which is passed 
back to me.  I decide to continue bidding with 3♦, LHO passes, and my
partner shows interest and surprises me a bit by bidding 4♥, which is
passed out.  The opening lead is a low diamond, and dummy comes down:
                               
                              ♠ K752
                              ♥ K8
                              ♦ Q107
                              ♣ K972

                                                                   
                              ♠ 6
                              ♥ AQ9763
                              ♦ AJ952
                              ♣ 3

	This hand is remarkably similar to one that was presented in 
one of our earlier columns, and illustrates how to evaluate hands with 
6-5 distribution.  One should tend to bid these hands fairly aggressively,
if the honor cards are located in the long suits, and especially if the 
honors provide good working combinations, along with good intermediates. 
My partner figured that I was likely to have either extra shape or extra
values when I continued bidding by myself to the 3-level, vulnerable, 
and guessed that I was likely to be 6-5.  As a supporting hand, she
figured that her red honors—-notice even the importance of the lowly 10
of diamonds on this hand—-had to be worth their weight in gold, even 
though her black kings could probably be put in the trash.  A good 
decision on her part.

	As an aside:  for those of you who like to read up on bridge 
theory of hand evaluation, I highly recommend Mike Lawrence’s “I Fought 
the Law…”, which presents a rebuttal of the Law of Total Tricks and offers 
instead a method of predicting the trick-taking power of a hand by measuring
two different factors, which he calls the “Short-Suit Total” and 
“Working Points”.  The numerous examples may feel tedious at times, but
I found the arguments to be strong and compelling.  

	As to the play:  the diamond lead was probably a singleton, so I 
put up the queen to entice RHO to cover, but he didn’t bite and correctly
played low.  I have only two black losers, so I can afford to give up the
king of diamonds, as long as the hearts don’t split 4-1, in which case I 
would lose a heart.  But LHO wouldn’t lead a stiff diamond unless he had 
some trumps, so I decide that can’t be the case.   I therefore play the 
top hearts, and they do turn out to split 3-2, so I just give up the king
of diamonds and settle for ten tricks, the full hand being:

                                ♠K752
                                ♥K8
                                ♦Q107
                                ♣K972

                 ♠QJ843                       ♠A109
                 ♥1052                        ♥J4
                 ♦6                           ♦K843
                 ♣10865                       ♣AQJ4
                                                                   
                                ♠6
                                ♥AQ9763
                                ♦AJ952
                                ♣3

	It is not a good idea to lead a singleton on opening lead into
a suit bid by declarer, especially if the bidding suggests that partner
might have finessable strength in that suit.  Would declarer have possibly
gone down if LHO had led a spade?  Probably not.  Declarer would ruff the 
second spade, and could start by playing the ace of trumps, then low to 
the king.  If LHO showed out here, declarer would know he would be losing
a trump trick, and would therefore take the diamond finesse.  Once both
opponents follow to two heart leads, declarer can play it safe by ruffing
a spade, drawing the last trump, and just give up the king of diamonds.  
I believe this would even be right at matchpoints, because you would have
to figure that you would be scoring well by just getting to game and would
therefore want to protect that score, rather than risk going for a top.  

	If on the diamond lead, you decided to get greedy, play only two
trumps, ending in the dummy, so as to repeat the diamond finesse, you 
would go down.  RHO would refuse to cover as before, LHO would ruff, 
and the defense would play on black suits, forcing you to eventually 
play diamonds out of your hand, to lose the setting trick there.

	The tournament, scheduled in early November, lasts a full week.
The weather is very pleasant at that time of year, the ocean temperature
is quite tolerable for swimming, and you can walk for miles on one of 
the most beautiful beaches I have experienced.  You might want to consider
going.  See you there next year?
Sunday, July 30th, 2006
9:35 pm
Bridge Column

                       TEST YOUR PLAY (V)

                       by Stephen Rzewski

	   matchpoints
            vul:  N-S
           dealer:  N
	
                           North

                          ♠A1053
                          ♥A3
                          ♦A109
                          ♣Q865


                           South

                          ♠KQJ742
                          ♥J10
                          ♦8
                          ♣AK92


              bidding:   N      E      S      W
                        1♣     2NT    3♠      5♦
                        5♠      P     6♠ (all pass

	             opening lead:   ♦2

	Today's deal came from a recent STAC tournament.  The opponents'
hands have been modified to make a more suitable problem.  Plan the play.

    *         *          *          *         *         *         *

	
                           North

                         ♠ A1053
                         ♥ A3
                         ♦ A109
                         ♣ Q865

              West                        East

              ♠ 96                       ♠ 8
              ♥ Q65                      ♥ K98742
              ♦ Q632                     ♦ KJ754
              ♣ J1073                    ♣ 4

                           South

                          ♠ KQJ742
                          ♥ J10
                          ♦ 8
                          ♣ AK92


	There is a heart loser you can do nothing about, and there is no 
further problem if the clubs divide 3-2, so you should assume they will
split 4-1 or worse, which is quite likely, given East’s “Unusual 2NT” 
call, showing great length in the red suits.

	If West has four clubs which include the J-10, an endplay can be
executed in the following manner:  win the ace of diamonds, ruff a diamond
high in the South hand, draw trumps with the king and ace of spades.  Then
ruff dummy’s last diamond (a third round of trumps can be played should 
they prove to divide 3-0).  

	Now comes the key play:  play one high club honor from the South 
hand, followed by the ace of hearts.  The position at that point will be:
			
                          North

                         ♠ 105
                         ♥ 3
                         ♦ ----
                         ♣ Q86

              West                       East

             ♠ ----                     ♠ ----
             ♥ Q6                       ♥ K987
             ♦ Q                        ♦ J7
             ♣ J107                     ♣ ----

                          South

                         ♠ Q7
                         ♥ J
                         ♦ ----
                         ♣ K92

	Now simply exit with a heart.  If East wins the trick, he will be
forced to give you a ruff-and-sluff of your club loser.  If West wins, 
unless he does the same, he will be forced to return a club.  If he plays
the jack or 10, let this come around to your king, and you will have a 
finessing position against his remaining honor-7.  

	It is essential to play one high club before exiting with the 
heart, or else East can win the trick and exit with his singleton club.

	If your club holding were weaker still, such that you were 
missing the J-10-9, the contract could still be made along the same 
lines, provided that East’s singleton happened to be one of those cards.
Friday, June 23rd, 2006
12:05 pm
Bridge Column


                          A SURE THING

                       by Stephen Rzewski


	       IMPs
             vul:  none
		
                            North

                           ♠ K973
                           ♥ A6
                           ♦ J764
                           ♣ K107


                            South
                       
                           ♠ AJ865
                           ♥ 3
                           ♦ K52
                           ♣ AQJ6

	        bidding:  S      W      N      E
                          1♠     3♥    4♠   (all pass)
  
                       opening lead:   ♥ Q

	Today’s hand came up in a Swiss teams event at a local 
club.  Declarer won the heart lead in dummy, then played the king 
of spades, on which both opponents followed with low spot cards. 
When a low spade was played next, East followed with the 10.
Should declarer now finesse the jack or instead play for the drop
of the queen by going up with the ace?  Why? (take no credit unless
you give the correct reasoning)

    *          *          *          *          *          *

	The full deal:	

                             North

                            ♠ K973
                            ♥ A6
                            ♦ J764
                            ♣ K107

              West                         East

              ♠ 4                         ♠ Q102
              ♥ QJ109874                  ♥ K52
              ♦ A83                       ♦ Q109
              ♣ 98                        ♣ 5432

                             South

                            ♠ AJ865
                            ♥ 3
                            ♦ K52
                            ♣ AQJ6

	At the table, declarer successfully finessed the jack of 
trumps, rejecting the old adage of “eight ever, nine never”, which
suggests that when missing five cards including the queen, one 
should finesse, but instead play for the drop when missing only 
four cards. Later in the play, declarer led a diamond to his king 
and lost three tricks with the unlucky layout in that suit, but at
least fulfilled his contract.  So why did declarer take the finesse?

        It is true that in a vacuum the odds favor playing for the 
drop, but the mathematical advantage for that choice is slight, and
if there are other factors to take into account, one should consider 
the alternative play.  Here there is the matter of West’s pre-empt,
which shows great length in hearts, normally a 7-card suit, increasing
the chances of his holding a singleton spade.  The queen of spades 
is not a relevant card in the bidding, as West would probably be just
as inclined to make the same pre-empt if he held Q-x of spades as well
as a small singleton.  But with 8 of West’s cards inferentially known 
(7 hearts + 1 spade played), that leaves only five cards in his hand
that could be the queen of spades.  Whereas only five of East’s cards
are known (2 spades played + 3 presumed hearts), there are 8 cards 
in his hand which could be the queen.  That leaves much more room in
East’s hand to hold the queen, indicating that the finesse is a 
distinct favorite.

	Nevertheless, in the context of the complete deal, declarer 
should have played for the drop.  The finesse might be a good calculated
risk at matchpoints, where overtricks can bring heavy premiums, 
especially in normal contracts like this one, but at IMPs scoring, 
making the contract has the highest priority.  If declarer had played
the ace of spades at the critical juncture, and the queen had dropped,
the contract would have been assured.  But what if West had then shown 
out, as in the actual layout?  Declarer would then have a sure line
of play as follows:  a club to dummy to then lead and ruff out dummy’s
remaining heart**, followed by the play of the remaining club winners.
Then a trump is led, putting East on lead, who will have to break the 
diamond suit (or play his last heart, which would give declarer a fatal
ruff and sluff).  As long as declarer plays a low diamond from his hand
when East leads low, he can not be deprived of a diamond winner, no 
matter how the honors in the suit are distributed.

	So going up with the ace of spades is a heads-you-win, tails-
you-win play.  No need to resort to guesswork when a sure thing is 
available.

	**An afterthought:  my good friend, Michael Klein pointed out
that declarer could improve his technique by ruffing dummy’s small heart
at trick #2, before touching trumps.  This would provide for the case 
where a defender with the third trump and a club void, probably West,
with something like: 

                  ♠ Q10x   ♥QJ10xxxx  ♦ Axx   ♣ ---

might be able to ruff in and exit safely with a heart before dummy’s 
heart could be removed, forcing declarer to break and guess the 
diamond suit himself.

	It is also worthy to note that there is a standard safety 
play with this card combination of starting the play of the spades 
with the ace rather than the king, which one might consider at this
form of scoring.  This play guards against the possibility of a 4-0 
trump split in either hand, and ensures the loss of no more than one
trump trick.  However, since LHO is highly unlikely to hold four 
spades along with the presumed 7-card heart suit, the initial play 
of the king in this case will likely work out just as well.
Saturday, April 1st, 2006
8:27 pm
Bridge Column

                       
                              REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY

                              by Stephen Rzewski

	Often during the play of the hand, the defense will be in a 
quandary as to which suit it should be attacking.  Sometimes when declarer
plays on a particular suit, a defender may assume that it is contrary to 
his side’s interest to continue on that suit and may therefore shift to 
another.  This is a natural and logical human reaction, which is frequently
correct, but occasionally declarer can exploit this tendency to his own 
advantage.

	Playing in a Regional Open Swiss against one of the top pairs in 
New England, I pick up:

	              ♠ 973   ♥ AK10852   ♦ J106   ♣ A

	Neither side is vulnerable, and I am in 4th seat.  The dealer passes,
as does my partner, and RHO opens 3♣.  I have an easy overcall of 3♥, and my
partner raises me to game.  The bidding has been:

                       P       P       3♣      3♥
                       P       4♥   (all pass)

	LHO leads a small club, and the dummy proves to be a huge 
disappointment:
  	

                                 ♠ J64
                                 ♥ QJ93
                                 ♦ 832
                                 ♣ KQ4

                                                                   

                           
                                 ♠ 972
                                 ♥ AK10852
                                 ♦ J106
                                 ♣ A

	Who would have guessed all that duplication in clubs?  Well, at least
they didn’t annihilate me right off by cashing their six winners in diamonds 
and spades.  I can throw two of my losers on the king and queen of clubs, but 
that still leaves me one down.  It is tempting to simply concede that result 
and save some time and anguish, but even when facing what looks like a hopeless 
situation, one should always look deeply for any chance, no matter how slight,
especially since there are teammates involved.   Is there any way I can actually
bring home this dreadful contract?

	Interestingly, I probably can infer more about the lie of the honor 
cards in the two weak suits than the opponents can about each other’s holding.
For instance, if LHO had a holding such as AK in either, he would likely have 
led one in preference to a club.  That would mark my RHO as a favorite to hold 
at least one high honor in each of those suits. Since he has club length, he
will have shortness in one or more suits outside of clubs. Obviously, if I am
to make this contract, I will need some mistakes from the defense, but a small
ray of hope is beginning to show itself.

	After winning the club lead, I play the ace of hearts, everyone 
following, then lead a low heart to the queen.  On this trick LHO follows,
and RHO discards the jack of clubs, which is probably intended to show strength
in spades.  I now cash the two high clubs, discarding low spades, on which 
both opponents follow.

	So RHO had only six clubs to the J10 for his pre-empt.  This is not
all that surprising, since many players make tactical pre-empts in third 
seat which will depart significantly from the normal sound textbook pre-empts.  

	At this point, I lead a diamond from dummy, deliberately playing the 
suit I fear most.  RHO plays low—I now have to hope, among other things, that
he started with a doubleton honor—and since I want to give the impression of 
strength, I play the jack from my hand.  LHO wins the queen, and thinks for 
a bit.  Eventually, he makes the play I am hoping for:  he puts the ace of 
spades on the table, and continues with a spade to his partner’s queen.  I 
ruff this in hand, lead a heart to dummy’s jack, then lead dummy’s last spade
and ruff in my hand, leaving:

          
                                  ♠ ----
                                  ♥ 9
                                  ♦ 83
                                  ♣ ----

                  ♠ ----                             ♠ 5
                  ♥ ----                             ♥ ----
                  ♦ A97                              ♦ K
                  ♣ ----                             ♣ 10

                                  ♠ ----
                                  ♥ K
                                  ♦ 106
                                  ♣ ----

	Now I simply lead the low diamond out of my hand, and the defense is
snookered.  If LHO plays low and allows his partner to win the king, that 
hand will be end-played into giving me a ruff and sluff.  And if LHO attempts
a “crocodile coup” by playing the ace to swallow his partner’s king, my 10 
will be established.

	Obviously, RHO made a serious error when he failed to play the king
of diamonds on the first lead of the suit, not anticipating the end position.
LHO might also have saved the day by heeding his partner’s earlier signal and
underleading the ace of spades, so that his partner could win the trick and 
unblock his king of diamonds.   Luckily for declarer, LHO had to follow to 
both hearts, since if he held the singleton, he would have undoubtedly signaled
with a high diamond on his first discard, making it easy for his partner to 
unblock the king. The full deal:

                                   ♠ J64
                                   ♥ QJ93
                                   ♦ 832
                                   ♣ KQ4

                                   
                  ♠ A108                             ♠ KQ53
                  ♥ 64                               ♥ 7
                  ♦ AQ975                            ♦ K4
                  ♣ 875                              ♣ J109632

                                   ♠ 972
                                   ♥ AK10852
                                   ♦ J106
                                   ♣ A

	At the other table, third hand opened only 1♣, my hand overcalled 
1♥ and was given a single raise to 2♥ by his partner.  This became the 
final contract, with the same club lead.  When the dummy came down, declarer
decided to simply claim nine tricks, a bit smugly, as our teammates reported,
since he felt he had stolen the contract, as the defense could have set him 
off the top.
Friday, March 31st, 2006
9:38 am
Bridge Column


                           THE SQUIRM FACTOR

                           by Stephen Rzewski


	Today’s deal came up at a Regional tournament many years ago.  
My partner and I, along with two good friends,  had just lost an early
round of a Knock-Out team event, and we decided to all go out together 
to seek nourishment, lick our wounds, and try to re-energize for the 
upcoming events.   A topic of conversation over dinner addressed the 
problem of trying to read our opponents’ cards during the play of the 
hand.  One of our teammates, to whom I shall refer as Peter, offered a 
tip when faced with a two-way guess for a missing queen:  run a long suit,
if possible, and watch for an early discard. Often the person making the
first discard in that suit will be less likely to hold the critical missing
card, as he would have only small cards there with nothing to protect, and
can more easily throw one away.  This principle is not conclusive where a
player has extra length in the suit (such as Qxxxx), but often an inferential
count on the hand will be available and provide further clues.  

	After the meal was concluded, the four of us decided to enter the 
pairs event of that evening, as no team event was available.  As fate would
have it, the four of us bought entries in opposite directions, such that late
in the session, we sat down against each other as opponents.  On the 2nd board 
of the round, I picked up:

	               ♠A74   ♥Q842   ♦5   ♣K10752

Peter, seated on my right, opened 1NT (15-17), and the auction continued

	              1NT       P        2♣        P
                       2♦       P        3NT    (all pass)

I led my 4th-best club, and the following dummy came down:


                                  ♠ K863
                                  ♥ AJ93
                                  ♦ QJ2
                                  ♣ 98


                      ♠ A74                                       
                      ♥ Q842   
                      ♦ 5                                               
                      ♣ K10752             

	My club lead hit paydirt.  Partner produced the jack, declarer 
ducking, then came the queen from partner, declarer winning the ace. 
Feeling somewhat smug, I settled in to wait for the eventual spade lead,
on which I would pounce with the ace to cash my good clubs.  

	At trick #3, declarer led a low diamond to dummy’s jack, which 
held the trick, followed by the queen.  Partner’s first two diamond spots 
indicated that he held an even number, which meant that declarer had a 
five-card suit to run.  Suddenly I realized that I was going to have to
produce a number of discards—four, in fact.  Before continuing, decide 
how you, reader, would have selected the next four cards in your hand to 
throw away, holding at this point:

                       ♠A74   ♥Q842   ♦---   ♣ K107

        Declarer was almost sure to have the king of hearts, and my queen
was finessable in front of dummy’s A-J.  I could throw two spades away 
easily, but on the 4th and 5th diamonds, I would have to choose between 
hearts or clubs.  

	Peter was a good declarer, and I knew he would be watching all of 
our cards carefully, looking for clues.  If I started discarding my good 
clubs, that would be revealing to him. Why would I throw away potential 
winners, unless I were protecting some other holding, and what else could
that be other than the queen of hearts?  Furthermore, if I discarded even 
one club, Peter could well figure that I would now not have enough club 
winners to set him, and he could simply lead a spade, establishing his 9th 
trick there without having to take the heart finesse.  No, I realized that 
my only chance was to unguard the queen of hearts.  If Peter did not hold 
the 10 of hearts, he was probably going to finesse me for the queen anyway.
Whatever I was going to do, I had to make my decision quickly.  If I started 
acting tentatively about my choice of discards, hesitating and squirming
uncomfortably, that would be a giveaway.  I also could hear Peter’s remark
made at dinner in the back of my mind, which he probably didn’t even remember. 
I felt a bit guilty about turning his own advice against him, but all’s fair
in love and war.    So at my first opportunity, I threw the 8 of hearts, 
in tempo.

	Peter turned to my partner and asked about our carding agreements. 
“Our carding is upside-down, count and attitude.” was the reply.  This meant
that in theory the discard of the 8, a high spot-card, signaled discouragement
for that suit.

	On the next two diamonds, I discarded first the 4, then the 7 of 
spades, an encouraging signal, to show that I had the ace.  On the 5th diamond
—in for a penny, in for a pound—I threw the 2 of hearts without pause, coming 
down to Q-4.  Partner, bless his soul, discarded a spade on the 5th diamond, 
keeping both of his small hearts. Then came a heart to the ace, and a low 
heart back from dummy.  My remaining cards were: 

                           ♠ A   ♥Q  ♣K107.

        Peter went into a long study, which must have lasted a full minute.
Had I thrown the heart too early, making the bluff obvious?  I was dying inside,
but knew my partner and I had to appear completely dispassionate and stone-faced.
Finally, Peter produced the 10, and I faced my hand and claimed the remainder,
for down two.  The full deal:

                                    ♠ K863
                                    ♥ AJ93
                                    ♦ QJ2
                                    ♣ 98


                      ♠ A74                           ♠ J95
                      ♥ Q842                          ♥ 65
                      ♦ 5                             ♦ 9874
                      ♣ K10752                        ♣ QJ43


                                    ♠ Q102
                                    ♥ K107
                                    ♦ AK1063
                                    ♣ A6

	In retrospect, pitching the 8 of hearts first might have looked 
suspicious, and maybe I should have started my discards with a low spade. 
But had I discarded a club and kept three hearts, declarer would almost 
surely have gotten it right, especially since it is more natural to finesse
the hearts through me, picking up the entire suit whenever I would have 
started with four and ending up with ten tricks.  Or, at the very least,
he would have led a spade instead and ensured nine tricks. 

        The point of this article is that when defending, one must try to
anticipate how the play of the hand will unfold and have one’s counterplays 
worked out in advance.  Although I had not done so here, a good time to 
project the play and defense is at the first trick, while declarer is making
his plan, so that one’s mind is already made up when the critical moments 
occur.  If one waits until the play has to be made, the squirm factor will
often give away the show.  

	(As a footnote:  I’m sure every reader of this column understands 
that it is highly unethical to feign hesitancy and pretend that one has a 
problem during the play when in fact no problem exists).
Tuesday, December 20th, 2005
12:22 am
Bridge column
                          
                             OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE

                             by Stephen Rzewski

	To win matchpoint events, one must play well, make few mistakes, 
and hope for some luck.  Besides receiving some outright “gifts” from 
opponents, good luck can occasionally befall players who find themselves 
in poor, anti-percentage contracts, whether by result of a bidding 
misunderstanding, or by aggressive overbidding.  When faced with the 
prospect of playing what seems like a hopeless contract, it is essential
to keep one’s head and look for a favorable lie of the cards that will 
enable you to bring the requisite tricks home, no matter how improbable.
And conversely, when luck similarly smiles upon the opponents, one has 
to learn to philosophically accept what may seem like the slings and 
arrows of outrageous fortune—and move on to the next hand.

	On the last round of a two-session Sectional open pairs, where 
I sense that we might be in contention, I pick up: 
      
                  ♠ Q76   ♥ A76432   ♦ AK7   ♣ A

With neither side vulnerable, my LHO opens 1NT (14-17), and my partner 
overcalls 2♣.  In our methods, that call shows clubs and a five-card major,
which I can infer from my hand must be spades.  With a spade fit and all 
those controls, I have what looks like a great hand.  I bid 2NT, which we
use as an asking bid, and partner answers 3C, which is his weakest action,
indicating a bad hand without disclosing which major he holds.  Still, it
is hard for me to imagine a holding where we do not have some kind of play 
for game, so I bid 4♠, which is passed out (in retrospect, my 2NT inquiry 
was probably a pointless exercise).  LHO leads the ♦Q, and there is some 
hilarity when the dummy appears, as I see that partner really meant his 
3♣ call:
                                                                 
                               ♠ 109432
                               ♥ J9
                               ♦ 2
                               ♣ J10982

                               ♠ Q76
                               ♥ A76432
                               ♦ AK7
                               ♣ A

	Unfortunately, it looks as though we will be heading for an untimely 
minus score, as it will take some miraculous holding or bad defense for me 
to make this contract.   It looks like my best play is to take my side winners
and try to scramble as many ruffs as I can, and hope for the best.  So I win 
the diamond lead and start by playing my singleton ♣A, to lay the groundwork 
for scoring club ruffs in my hand.  It is a good thing that I am paying 
attention, as my often inattentive eyes catch sight of the queen on my left.

	Wait a minute.  To find out if that is a true card, I lead my low 
diamond, ruff in dummy, and play a 2nd club, ruffing in my hand.  As if 
answering a prayer, the king of clubs does in fact come down on the table.  
Instead of proceeding with my first idea of crossruffing, I change tactics 
by leading the queen of spades:  LHO pauses, then plays low, as RHO produces 
the ace.  He then leads a heart.  I play the ace, followed by the king of 
diamonds so as to discard dummy’s losing heart, then cross my fingers as I 
play a second spade.  I am almost afraid to look, as LHO wins the jack, and
RHO….   follows suit!  The dummy has only good clubs and two trumps against 
LHO’s lone remaining king.  If he leads a red card, I simply ruff and lead 
good clubs, the last trump giving me control.  Making +420.

	Actually, I have to confess to having made a subtle error in the play:
at the table, after winning the diamond lead, I made the mistake of playing 
the second high diamond and pitching a heart from dummy immediately.  This 
could have led to trouble when RHO won the ace of spades, as he could have 
defeated me by playing a 4th diamond, which would have made the hand unmanageable.
In fact, he saved me by playing a heart.  To be fair, from his point of view, 
I might have had a heart loser, which could go away if his diamond play resulted 
in giving me a ruff and sluff.

	Of course, if the defense had led a trump on opening lead and drawn 
three rounds, they would have enjoyed a club winner and defeated the contract, 
and I would have had no story to tell.

	The complete deal:
                                                                
                                   ♠ 109432
                                   ♥ J9
                                   ♦ 2
                                   ♣ J10982
                                   
                    ♠ KJ8                           ♠ A5
                    ♥ Q85                           ♥ K10
                    ♦ QJ654                         ♦ 10983
                    ♣ KQ                            ♣ 76543

                                   ♠ Q76
                                   ♥ A76432
                                   ♦ AK7
                                   ♣ A

	Just to show that the universe has its way of balancing out, 
following is a hand from a Regional tournament in Saratoga, last Spring,
on which I was a defender::
                                                                                                                      
                                   ♠ 74
                                   ♥ AK64
                                   ♦ J852
                                   ♣ 852


                                   ♠ AK3
                                   ♥ Q52
                                   ♦ AK3
                                   ♣ AQJ4

	At our table, the opponents who bid this hand had two misunder-
standings: in answer to South’s strong 2♣ opening, North responded positively 
in hearts, showing a good five-card suit, when he held only four.  Then later 
in a Blackwood auction, North responded 6♣ to 5NT, which South thought showed 
the king of that suit.  Based on those two pieces of misinformation, South 
bid what seemed like a reasonable 7NT.

	The opening lead was a spade, which declarer won in hand.  Well, to 
make this hand, declarer needed the king of clubs onside (it was), two entries
to dummy to take and repeat the club finesse (the two high hearts), clubs and 
hearts to both split 3-3 so as to make the long card in each suit (they did), 
and the most outrageous of all, the queen of diamonds to come down doubleton 
so as to score the jack for the 13th trick (down she came).  For this 
undeservedly bad result (known in the parlance as a “fix”) to befall us, I 
calculate the probability to be less than 1%**.  On a hand where no other pair,
quite reasonably, was even in a small slam, I think this was perhaps the 
roundest zero I have ever experienced.  Nonetheless, when the last card was 
played, all FOUR players at the table burst into laughter.

   ** Amend that to around 2%, as I failed to take certain possibilities into
account in my estimate.  See "comment" below, by my good friend, Michael Klein.
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