May 18th, 2005

Weekly bridge column


				   by Stephen Rzewski

	     dealer:  South	         North

					♠ 10965
					♥ 8432
					♦ KQJ
					♣ KQ
		        West			        East

		       ♠ AKQJ2			        ♠ 83
		       ♥ A95				♥ 10
		       ♦ 53				♦ 109762
		       ♣ 652				♣ J10974

					♠ 74
					♥ KQJ76
					♦ A84
					♣ A83

                      bidding:  S     W     N     E     

                               1♥    1♠     2♠    P     
                               4♥    (all pass)        
	    	    opening lead:  ♠ A

	Bridge, much like life, is replete with missed opportunities.  In some cases,
we look back on a hand with pained regret; in others we are often completely unaware 
of the chances that fate offered us.

	North’s cue-bid of 2♠ at responder’s first turn is in the modern style of 
showing good support for opener’s suit and at least game-invitational strength (what 
is often referred to as a “limit raise”).  South, with prime values and a little more 
than a minimum, accepted.

	West started with the ace and king of spades, his partner playing high-low to 
show a doubleton.  Since he knew that both his partner and declarer were out of 
spades, West decided that there was no point in continuing the suit. With a sure 
trump winner in his hand, he tried to divine which minor suit to shift to, hoping for 
his partner to have an ace.   It obviously didn’t matter, since South held both. 
Declarer won the trick in dummy, and led a heart to one of his honors, driving
out the ace.  When next in, he drew the remaining trumps and claimed.

	“We got all the tricks we could, partner”, “No way to beat that contract; we 
were outgunned”. Such were the remarks by the defenders in the post-mortem.  The 
opponents agreed, and everyone moved on to the next hand.

	West’s hope for his partner to hold an ace was futile.  If he had added the 
high-card points in his hand to those in dummy, he would have realized that it was 
impossible for South to have a sound opening bid that would accept a game-invitation 
without both minor-suit aces.  Instead, he should have looked for some lesser feature 
in his partner’s hand in the only place where the defense might have a chance:  the 
trump suit.

	East was likely to hold a singleton trump, and if it were just high enough in
combination with West’s 9, perhaps the defense could maneuver the setting trick. 
Consider what happens if West continues with a third spade and East ruffs with his 10 
of hearts.  Declarer must overruff with one of his honors.  West, who maintains his 
original trump length will now win two trump tricks instead of one, holding A9x 
behind declarer’s remaining KQxx.  In effect, the 9 of trumps has been promoted in
rank by the ruff of the 10.  If East’s singleton happened to be the jack or queen, 
the effect would have been the same.

	This type of play, called an “uppercut”, requires cooperation on the part of 
the defenders.  If West were to lead a high spade at the third trick, East might have 
the imagination to ruff anyway, but to ensure that he do so, West should lead a low 
spade, not a high one.  The lead of a low card in this situation when one could have 
led high indicates to his partner that he is looking for a possible trump promotion 
and asks that partner ruff as high as possible.  For instance, if East were to hold a
doubleton trump, such as 10-2, he must take care to ruff with the higher trump for 
the play to be effective.