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    “The man could roll sevens if he had only one die,” Unlucky Louie grumbled. Louie meant the player we call Harlow the Halo. While Harlow basks in Dame Fortune’s smile — his finesses always win and his errors never cost — Louie struggles in her shadow. In a team match, Louie and Harlow both played at today’s four spades, and West led a club. Harlow played dummy’s queen, accepting the winning finesse as his due. He claimed 10 tricks. BETTER PLAY Louie played with more care. He saw that if the club finesse lost, East would prevail with a heart shift. So Louie took the ace and led a low diamond from dummy. East won and led a club to West’s king, but Louie won the heart shift, led a diamond to the ace and ruffed a diamond. Louie next took the A-Q of trumps and led a good diamond from dummy. East ruffed, but Louie overruffed, led a trump to dummy and took the good diamond. Making four. If diamonds had split 4-2, Louie would have made game if...
    It was a stormy day. Lightning crackled in the skies above my club. Thunder was imminent — inside as well as outside since Cy the Cynic had cut his adversary Wendy, our feminist, in a penny game. Cy and Wendy were East-West, and she led the jack of hearts against 3NT. South won with the queen and led a diamond: deuce, nine, queen. Cy returned a heart to the ace. Wendy won the next diamond and led a club. Dummy played low. The Cynic won with the jack and led a third heart — whereupon South claimed nine tricks and a lightning bolt crashed nearby. “The gods are angry,” Wendy snarled, “and so am I.” SECOND CLUB Cy can place Wendy with the ace of diamonds; if South had it, he would cash it before finessing. So Cy prevails by leading the deuce of clubs at Trick Three. When Wendy gets in, a second club gives East-West five tricks. “I read that men are far more likely to be struck by lightning than women,” Cy muttered. “Women know to come...
    Cy the Cynic, unashamed cynic that he is, insists that people are basically untrustworthy. “They tell lies all the time,” Cy said to me. “Such as?” I pressed him. “The number-one lie is ‘I’m fine’ when someone asks how you are,” the Cynic said. “And next is ‘I have read and accept the user agreement.'” The result in today’s deal won’t make Cy any more trusting of his opponents. He was South in my club’s penny Chicago game, and he and North bid routinely to four spades. North’s response of 2NT was a conventional forcing spade raise, and since Cy had a minimum, he signed off at game. West led the queen of clubs, and Cy took the ace, drew trumps, cashed his king of clubs and ruffed his last club in dummy. Hoping to make something of dummy’s hearts — at worst, to set up a discard for his diamond loser — Cy next led a heart from dummy: six, jack, ace. West returned the seven, Cy finessed with dummy’s eight and East won … with the king! East...
    Unlucky Louie had a check-up at his dentist. “How did it go?” I asked. “She said I need to take better care of my teeth,” Louie told me grimly. “I’ll floss that bridge when I come to it.” In a penny game, Louie played at four spades, and West led a diamond. The play looked straightforward: Louie took the ace and led a trump, and West won and led his last trump. Louie then led the A-K and a third heart. East took the queen and led a club, and Louie lost two clubs. Down one. “Nothing I could do,” Louie said. “Floss daily and don’t play so fast,” I advised. SECOND TRICK Louie gets home with careful play. He must wait to draw trumps: He ruffs a diamond in dummy at Trick Two, then leads a trump. West wins and returns a trump, and Louie wins and ruffs his last diamond. Louie next cashes the king of hearts and leads a second heart … to his ten. When West takes the jack, he must lead a helpful club or...
    “Wendy says I spout off enough hot air to start a company that offers balloon rides,” Cy the Cynic grumbled to me in the club lounge. “I wouldn’t go into that business,” Unlucky Louie advised him. “It would never get off the ground.” “So you and Wendy are still having issues on defense,” I sighed. Cy, a shameless chauvinist, and Wendy, our resident feminist, are constant adversaries even when they cut as partners in our penny Chicago game. When the two were today’s East-West, Wendy led her singleton spade against four hearts, and Cy took the ten, king and ace. Wendy discarded the eight and deuce of clubs, so the Cynic next led the jack of clubs. That defense came to grief. Declarer put up the ace, cashed the A-K of diamonds, led a trump to dummy’s eight, ruffed a diamond, led a trump to the ten and ruffed a diamond high. He got back to dummy with the queen of trumps, pitched his losing club on the good fifth diamond and claimed. Making four. “Thanks very much, partner,” Wendy...
    Unlucky Louie was having a miserable week; he had lost every day in his penny game — and blamed it on his bad luck, as usual. “In my case the law of averages has been repealed,” Louie grumbled to me. Louie was declarer at today’s four hearts, and West led the queen of spades. Louie took his ace and cashed the K-A of trumps, sighing when East showed out. Louie next took the king of diamonds and led to dummy’s jack. DOWN ONE East produced the queen, cashed the king of spades and shifted to the ten of clubs: three, king, ace. When Louie next led the ace of diamonds, West ruffed and led a club to East’s queen. Down one. “You would think that even I could either pick up the trumps or win the diamond finesse,” Louie growled. After Louie cashes the top trumps, he must take the A-K of diamonds, refusing a finesse, and lead a third diamond. East wins, cashes a spade and leads a club, but then Louie can pitch his club loser on a...
    Another sign standing sentinel beside a church in my town: “Flee temptation. And don’t leave a forwarding address.” In a penny game at my club, West yielded to temptation, and the cost was 750 points. After East preempted in diamonds, South tried Blackwood, then stopped perversely at five spades when North denied an ace. Presumably, South would have bid seven spades if North had the ace of clubs, but six spades would have been fine if North held 753,10932,84,J1098. SINGLETON West led his singleton diamond, and South won with the king and cashed the A-K of trumps. When East discarded, South took the ace of hearts and led … the ace of diamonds. West was tempted to ruff. And did. West then led the jack of clubs, but South won, got to dummy with the seven of trumps and threw two clubs on the K-Q of hearts. He lost a club at the end, making five. West couldn’t resist temptation. But if he discards on the second diamond instead of ruffing, South wins only 10 tricks. DAILY QUESTION You hold:...
    To start the week, test your defense. Cover the West and South cards, and try to beat four spades as East. West leads the deuce of clubs, dummy plays low and your jack wins. What next? When I watched the deal, East continued with the ace of clubs. South ruffed and led the king of trumps, and East won and exited passively with his last trump. Declarer won in dummy and led a heart: eight, jack, queen. When West shifted to a diamond, South won in dummy and led a second heart. East’s king appeared, and declarer claimed. BEST CHANCE South should have been defeated. East can’t hope for a second club trick, and the defense is unlikely to get a diamond. (If West had the K-Q, his opening lead might have been a high diamond.) East must shift to the king of hearts at Trick Two; a low heart won’t do. If South takes the ace, East leads a second heart when he takes the ace of trumps and gets a heart ruff. Nor can South succeed by ducking...
    “Your honor,” the District Attorney stated, “we will prove that South committed a felony. He lost a cold contract.” “Proceed,” the judge instructed. “Against three hearts,” the DA began, “West led the eight of diamonds. South took dummy’s ace, cashed the king of trumps and led a trump to his jack. West won and shifted to the ace and queen of spades. Declarer took dummy’s king, drew the missing trump and led another diamond. When East got in with the queen, he led a club, and West took the ace and cashed the jack of spades.” REVERSED “My client is innocent,” South’s counsel roared. “What if the positions of the red queens were reversed?” “Guilty,” the judge ruled. “South must cash the K-A of trumps, gaining time, then take the king of diamonds and lead a third diamond. He sets up a spade discard on a diamond winner in dummy and loses only four tricks. “And while you’re at it,” the judge added, “arrest West. He beats the contract by leading the ace and queen of spades.” DAILY QUESTION You...
    When I watched today’s deal in a penny game, East-West would have done well to bid four spades. Against four hearts, West led a low spade, and East took the ace and switched to his singleton diamond. South won in dummy and led a trump, and when East followed with the three, South … put up his ace. He led a second trump, and East won and led a club: queen, king, ace. He ruffed the next diamond and led a club to West for down one. DIAMOND RUFF “I couldn’t afford a finesse on the first trump lead,” South explained. “If West won, he would give East a diamond ruff.” “The man is murdering the truth,” a kibitzer whispered to me. “He’s trying,” I said, “but he’ll never get close enough to inflict any harm.” Say South plays his jack on the first trump, and say West wins and leads a diamond for East to ruff. The defense has three tricks, but South takes the rest. He wins East’s club shift, draws the missing trump with the ace and...
    When I watched today’s deal in my club’s penny game, South was the dreaded Grapefruit. If my partner makes a mistake, I might raise an eyebrow; Grapefruit raises the roof. Against 3NT, West led the ten of hearts, and when Grapefruit saw dummy, he was aghast. He took the queen — there went dummy’s only entry to the diamonds — led a spade to his ace and returned a diamond: ten, jack, ace. East led a second heart, and Grapefruit won and led a diamond to the king. When East discarded, the result was down two. GARGLE “Partner,” Grapefruit said, “some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, but you just gargled. Passing 3NT with that hand was idiotic. Even you could have made five diamonds.” Cy the Cynic had been East. “Grapefruit strikes while the irony is hot,” Cy whispered to me. North’s bid was questionable, but Grapefruit should make 3NT. On the first diamond lead, he should play low from dummy. His only chance is to find East with the singleton ace. DAILY QUESTION You hold: S 8...
    A royal barge created for the Diamond Jubilee led a flotilla through Windsor on the River Thames today, as part of the third day of celebrations to mark Her Majesty's 70 years on the throne. The rowing procession was led by Gloriana, The Queen’s Row Barge, which was built in 2012 and led the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in London. The 88ft royal row barge cost £1 million and was the first to be built for more than a century. It was painstakingly hand built over four years by 60 craftsmen. Decorated with gold leaf and ornately carved, with 3ft golden lions, the boat harks back 200 years to when kings and queens travelled by water in opulent style.  The procession included up to 30 different types of craft, including racing boats, 10 touring quads and up to a dozen skiffs. There was also a Bedford Whaler, an outrigger kayak and a dragon boat joining the group.  The procession passed through Windsor to hordes of crowds waving flags, as the Queen spends the day at the Castle, and is expected to watch...
    “I’m giving up preempts,” Cy the Cynic grumbled. “They goad my opponents into bidding with all the more resolve, reach unlikely contracts — and then make them.” Cy was today’s West, and when South opened one spade, Cy leaped to four hearts. “North was nowhere near worth four spades,” the Cynic told me, “but he figured South didn’t have many hearts, so he bid it anyway.” South was Ed, my club’s best player. When Cy led two high hearts, Ed ruffed with the ten of trumps, led the nine to dummy’s ace and returned a trump: king, eight, five. East led the queen of clubs. Ed ducked, won the next club, ruffed his last club in dummy and ruffed the last heart with the queen. ONE DIAMOND “Ed had a count,” Cy said. “He knew I’d had seven hearts, two spades and three clubs, so one diamond. He led a diamond to the ace and returned a diamond. East played the jack, but Ed won and got to dummy with the seven of trumps to pick up the diamonds.” Preempts...
    “Did you hear about the semicolon that was arrested and convicted of robbery?” my friend the English professor asked me. “I haven’t.” “They gave him two consecutive sentences,” the prof chortled. The prof showed me today’s deal. He played at four spades, and West led the ten of hearts: queen, king, ace. “I led a trump to dummy,” the prof told me, “and returned the singleton diamond. East grabbed his ace and led the nine of hearts to dummy’s jack. I got to my hand with a trump and led the queen of diamonds: king, ruff.” HEART LOSER “I got back with a trump,” the prof went on, “and threw dummy’s last heart on my jack of diamonds. I lost two clubs but made game.” East committed a felony. On the first diamond, he must play “second hand low” as per the time-honored rule. The defense needs a heart trick as well as a diamond and two clubs. If South’s diamonds are K-x-x, he is sure to set up a heart discard. But by playing low, East may prevail if...
    “You still don’t believe me, child,” the Queen of Diamonds scolded Alice. “Losing a trick can be better than winning one.” “That is not how I was taught, your majesty.” “You’re as bad as my cousin the Queen of Hearts, who can’t abide losing a trick,” the Queen of Diamonds sighed. The Mad Hatter played at four hearts, and West, the Dormouse, led the deuce of spades. Alice, East, took the ace and returned a spade. The Hatter won in dummy, led a trump to his ten and returned a diamond to the ace. Alice was about to play her three when she felt the Queen of Diamonds’ intent gaze. So, Alice followed with the queen. FINESSE The Hatter picked up the trumps and threw a diamond from dummy on his king of spades, but when he led a diamond next, the Dormouse took the ten and king, and Alice scored her king of clubs for down one. “See?” said the Queen of Diamonds. “If you keep my card, the Hatter makes his game: You must win the second diamond...
    A player at my club was remarking on the rise of technological innovation and what he perceived as the world’s concurrent intellectual decline. “I remember when I knew more than my smartphone,” he said ruefully. I fear that the standard of play among all players has declined. Players focus on bidding and spend too little time on play technique. In a team match, both Souths leaped to four hearts over East’s opening bid — reasonably enough since North was a passed hand. Nobody could act over that, and both Wests led the ten and (not best) another diamond. At one table, South ruffed and drew trumps with the A-Q. He next led a club to his jack. West took the ace and led another diamond. South ruffed again and then took the king of clubs. He hoped for a miracle, but East followed low and scored his queen. The defense also got a spade for down one. At the other table, South ruffed the second diamond but looked for an extra entry to dummy: He led a trump to the...
    Cy the Cynic says that nothing is certain except death, taxes and “We’ll be right back after these messages.” Cy further asserts that if he has choice of plays as declarer, he is certain to pick the wrong one. As today’s South, Cy landed at six hearts when, as it happened, North might have done better to try 6NT. When West led a diamond, Cy took dummy’s ace, led a trump to his ace and returned a trump. When West took the king, the Cynic brightened up. But East showed out, and when West led a second diamond, Cy was doomed. If he ruffed in dummy, West’s jack of trumps would score; when Cy discarded from dummy instead, East’s king won the setting trick. LOST SHIRT “I could go to Las Vegas,” Cy grumbled, “and lose my shirt in a coin laundry.” Cy erred. He must lead a spade to his hand at Trick Two and return a low trump toward dummy. Cy’s actual play would gain if East had the singleton king of trumps but loses in three cases:...
    Cy the Cynic says it’s a mystery why vices are so much more habit-forming than virtues. It’s mysterious — and regrettable — the way that many declarers play, then think. In today’s deal, South would have had an easy time at 3NT. He might have opened 2NT and surely could have tried 3NT at his second turn. Against four hearts, West led the jack of spades, and South took the ace, drew trumps and led a diamond to dummy’s queen. He next led the king and a low spade. East won and shifted to the ten of clubs, and West took the ace and jack. South also had to lose a diamond and went down one. END PLAY South succumbed to haste. He can plan an end play against West but must eliminate West’s safe exits. South can let West’s jack of spades win. He takes the next spade, draws trumps, cashes his other high spade and leads a diamond to the queen. South then leads the ace and a third diamond. When West wins, he must give South his...
    I’ve heard an expert cynically defined as someone who always has a good excuse for going wrong. You can decide whether today’s South qualified as an expert. Against four spades, West led the nine of clubs, and East took his ace and switched to his singleton diamond. West won and returned a diamond, and East ruffed dummy’s king and led a second club to South’s king. Declarer then led a heart to dummy and returned a trump; when East followed with the nine, South finessed with the queen. West showed out, and East’s K-J of trumps were worth a trick. Down one. UNLIKELY “Sorry, partner,” South apologized. “A 4-0 trump break was too unlikely to cater to.” South’s excuse was beyond poor. Once East shows a singleton diamond and West follows to the second round of clubs, East is marked with 4-4-1-4 pattern; he would have opened one heart with 3-5-1-4. South can finesse with his ten on the first spade and return to dummy by ruffing a club to pick up East’s K-J of trumps. DAILY QUESTION You hold:...
    Cy the Cynic says that people who invite trouble shouldn’t be surprised when it accepts. In a team match, both Souths played at two spades after North opened 1NT and East bid diamonds. West led a diamond. One South swiftly took dummy’s A-K to pitch a heart and next led the queen of trumps. East won (not best) and led a high diamond, ruffed. West won the next trump and shifted to hearts. South ruffed the second heart and took his high trump — his last one — but West still had a trump. After South took one club, West had the rest. Down two. OTHER TABLE The second South was more circumspect. At Trick Two he led dummy’s low trump: deuce, jack, king. When West innocently led another diamond to dummy, South threw a heart and led the queen of trumps. East won and forced with a diamond, but South could draw trumps and run the clubs, making four. The first South invited trouble when he took a fast heart discard. What he needed to do was avoid a...
    Cy the Cynic says that people who invite trouble shouldn’t be surprised when it accepts. In a team match, both Souths played at two spades after North opened 1NT and East bid diamonds. West led a diamond. One South swiftly took dummy’s A-K to pitch a heart and next led the queen of trumps. East won (not best) and led a high diamond, ruffed. West won the next trump and shifted to hearts. South ruffed the second heart and took his high trump — his last one — but West still had a trump. After South took one club, West had the rest. Down two. OTHER TABLE The second South was more circumspect. At Trick Two he led dummy’s low trump: deuce, jack, king. When West innocently led another diamond to dummy, South threw a heart and led the queen of trumps. East won and forced with a diamond, but South could draw trumps and run the clubs, making four. The first South invited trouble when he took a fast heart discard. What he needed to do was avoid a...
    If asked to cite some overrated things in life, I might nominate bottled water, bubble baths, big weddings, texting, tattoos … and finesses. A finesse will win half the time or more; a bigger issue is whether a winning finesse will gain anything. At today’s four hearts, South ruffed the second diamond and led the jack of spades. West rose with his ace and led another diamond, and South ruffed again. Declarer next led a trump to dummy’s king and returned a trump … for a finesse with his jack. West won and led a fourth diamond, and when South had to ruff with the ace of trumps, West’s ten was high and won the setting trick. CLUB FINESSE South didn’t need a trump finesse (or a club finesse, if he had chosen to try it). After South ruffs the third diamond, he must take the K-A of trumps. When East-West follow low, South runs the spades, pitching four clubs from dummy. West can ruff the fifth spade, but South wins the last three tricks with trumps and the ace...
    Jim Krekorian drew simple inferences in today’s deal at the ACBL Fall Championships. The bidding was strange. West’s double was negative; most players would have bid one spade. North’s two-diamond cue bid was described as a “constructive” raise; the hand looks weak for that call. East’s 2NT conventionally showed a minimum hand with long diamonds. Against four hearts, West led the ten of diamonds, and Krekorian won and returned a diamond. East won and led a trump, and when declarer played the king, West huddled and took the ace. POOR DEFENSE That was poor defense; if West had ducked smoothly, declarer might have misplaced the cards. Moreover, West had end-played himself: He led a club: four, nine, ten. Krekorian next took the queen of trumps, reasoning that West would not have hesitated to take the ace with A-x. He next led clubs. When West ruffed, he had to lead a spade. Placing East with the king for his opening bid, Krekorian played low from dummy and made his game. DAILY QUESTION You hold: S A 10 H K Q 10...
    “The man is as trustworthy as a new bottle of catsup,” Cy the Cynic grumbled to me. Cy had just lost money to Ed, my club’s best player, in a penny Chicago game. Cy was declarer at today’s 3NT, and Ed, West, led the queen of hearts. Cy refused the first heart and won the next. Needing to set up the diamonds, he led a club to dummy and returned a diamond: nine, king … and a smooth three from Ed! “I led a second diamond,” Cy told me, “and when Ed followed with the four, I naturally played dummy’s ten. East took the jack and led a third heart to dummy’s ace.” THIRD DIAMOND “I still thought I was safe,” the Cynic went on, “but when I led a third diamond, Ed produced the ace and cashed two hearts. Instead of scoring 600 points, I lost 100.” Ed applied a principle of notrump defense: When you hope to beat the contract by using a long suit, cling to your entry until your suit is set up. For Ed to...
    You’re serving on a grand jury, investigating the result of today’s deal. Hear the facts and decide whether to issue any indictments. South opened four hearts as dealer, passed out. West led the deuce of spades: ten, king, ruff. South led a club to dummy’s king, winning, and returned a trump: ten, king … and West played low smoothly. South pondered and led … a low trump. East’s jack scored, and West got his two aces and a diamond. Anything meriting a true bill? PLUS SCORE East-West should have bid four spades in theory — East would go down only one — but I can’t fault them for not entering the auction, and they did go plus on defense. Indict South. After his king of trumps wins, he knows East had A-K-x-x-x in spades and at least one diamond honor, else West would have led a high diamond. If East had the ace of trumps also, he might well have acted over four hearts. South should continue with the queen of trumps. He loses one trump, one club and one...
    “Your honor,” the district attorney stated, “we will prove that South committed a felony: He lost a cold game.” “Proceed,” the judge directed, and the court heard evidence. “West led a trump against four spades,” the DA began: “deuce, ten, ace. South led a diamond to dummy and let the jack of hearts ride. West took the king and led a second trump. Declarer put up dummy’s king; West would not have led a trump from the queen. South took the A-Q of hearts, pitching a diamond from dummy, cashed the king of diamonds and ruffed a diamond. East discarded.” HIGH TRUMP “South was then stuck in dummy. When he led the ace and a low club, East won and took his high trump, and South had a diamond loser.” “My client was unlucky,” South’s counsel roared. “Guilty of mistiming,” the judge ruled. “Declarer must duck a club at Trick Two. If West leads a second trump, South wins and finesses in hearts. The finesse loses, but West won’t have a third trump, and South can crossruff for 10 tricks.”...
    Cy the Cynic says that when you’re on a journey, it’s amazing how soon you arrive at bridges you weren’t going to cross until you came to them. In a penny game at my club, Cy was declarer at four hearts after a “transfer” auction. West led the king of clubs and shifted to a low spade: four, king, ace. Cy then took the K-A of trumps, and the bridge he had to cross came into view when West discarded. The Cynic scowled, cashed the queen of trumps and next let the jack of diamonds ride. West produced the queen and led the jack of spades. SPADE LOSER Cy won and needed to pitch his spade loser on a high diamond, but the bridge was too narrow: When Cy led to dummy’s ten and returned a diamond, East ruffed, and the defense cashed a spade. Down one. Cy needed better timing. After he takes the queen of trumps, he must cash the ace of diamonds, ruff a club and lead a second diamond to his king. West wins the third...
    “To err is human. To blame it on a computer is even more human.” — graffiti. If all else fails, you can try blaming it on your partner. When today’s East-West bid four hearts, South went to four spades and was doubled. West led his singleton diamond. East won with the jack and led a low club. Declarer won with the ace and led a trump, and West took his ace and led the queen of clubs. South produced the king and drew trumps. He lost three diamonds, a trump and a heart: minus 300. PLUS 500 East-West could have been plus 500, and each defender blamed his partner. “Lead a low diamond at the second trick for me to ruff,” West growled. “You still get two diamonds.” “I wasn’t sure you’d led a singleton,” East said. “Underlead in hearts to my queen when you take your ace of trumps and I’ll get the idea.” East should lead the king of hearts at Trick Two. West will signal with the deuce, implying that his diamond was a singleton. Then East...
    In my high-school yearbook, each student got to offer a few words of wisdom beneath his photo. One of my classmate’s contribution was this: “It’s not what you do, it’s what you get caught doing.” I suspect he may have wound up in politics. In today’s deal, a diamond opening lead would have sunk five clubs, but West led a trump. Declarer won but drew no more trumps, which would have given East a chance to signal. Instead, South went for a swindle: He led a heart to dummy’s ace and returned the queen, and when East followed low, declarer discarded … a spade! South hoped that if West won, he would be induced to shift to a spade, but instead South got caught: West took the king of hearts and led a diamond. (East had followed to the A-Q of hearts with his three and four; maybe West thought those plays had a suit-preference message.) Do you blame South for getting caught, at the cost of an second undertrick? I can admire declarer’s imagination, but it seems to me...
    Once upon a duplicate game, there were Three Little Pigs, each playing at 3NT after East bid spades. West, a Big Bad Wolf, led a spade. (Every West in this game was a BBW.) The first Little Pig captured East’s queen, cashed a second spade and took the A-K of diamonds, hoping for six diamonds, two spades and a club. But West discarded, and East won the next diamond and led the queen of clubs. Down one, and West ate up the Little Pig out of sheer contempt for his dummy play. TRICK TWO Pig #2 led a diamond to dummy’s nine at the second trick, a play made of sticks. If East had won, South could’ve come to the ten to take two more spades. But East found the remarkable play of ducking, and South won only eight tricks — and was eaten up. The third Little Pig built a house of bricks. He cashed another spade at Trick Two, then led a diamond to the nine. He was sure of nine tricks. West was so impressed that he...
    Simple Saturday columns focus on basic technique and logical thinking. A friend of mine who works in a frenetic office told me that the boss mounted a sign on the wall: “Do it now!” That same day, one employee hit him up for a raise, a second gave notice and a third punched him in the nose. Today’s North raised South’s 1NT to 3NT, declining to use Stayman with his balanced pattern. West led the deuce of hearts, and declarer had to decide, right then, what to play from dummy. When he played low, East took the king and shifted to a low spade: four, jack, king. EIGHT TRICKS Declarer next led a club to his ten, and West won and led another spade. South took the ace but had only eight tricks. When he led a diamond, East won and cashed two spades. Down one. South did the wrong thing at Trick One. He must take the ace of hearts and finesse in clubs. Later he forces out the ace of diamonds. He sets up nine winners and can...
    “Did you know there was actually a fourth Wise Man?” Cy the Cynic asked me. “What gift did he bring?” I asked, playing straight man. “That was the whole problem,” Cy said blandly. “He brought a fruitcake, and they sent him back to the East.” East in today’s deal didn’t display much wisdom. South played at four spades (he really should have bid four hearts at his third turn). West led a diamond, and East took the queen and ace, sighed and led the seven of trumps. South’s jack lost to the king, but South won West’s club shift and led another trump. When East’s queen appeared, declarer claimed. TRUMP TRICK East perpetrated a fruitcake defense. Unless West has two natural trump tricks or a trump trick and the ace of hearts, East’s only chance is to create a second trump trick. At Trick Three, he leads a third diamond. South wins and leads a trump to his jack, but West wins and leads a fourth diamond. When East uppercuts with his queen of trumps, West’s nine is promoted. DAILY...
    Experience may not help you avoid making the same mistake twice, but it may keep you from admitting it twice. At bridge, there are always new ways to err. In today’s deal, West led a heart against four spades, and declarer took dummy’s ace and promptly led a trump. East rose with his king and shifted to his singleton diamond. South won in dummy and led a second trump, but East took the ace, led a club to West and ruffed the diamond return. Down one. SHAPELY Many Souths would have lost this contract. It takes experience to foresee what may happen. Only a defensive ruff can beat four spades, but when East-West have competed, vulnerable, they will have shapely hands; a ruff is a live possibility. At Trick Two, South must lead a club, breaking the defenders’ link. East can win and lead a diamond but can’t get a ruff; West no longer has an entry. South loses only to the A-K of trumps. If an expert South went down, I suspect his comment would be, “I should have...
    Tournament players focus on systems and conventions, as if wielding an array of bidding gadgets will guarantee good results. If I were forming a partnership, we would discuss two matters that are just as important: treatments and individual style. What is your partner’s style? Is he apt to overcall with nothing more than a good suit? Are his preempts textbookish or undisciplined? A treatment is an interpretation of a natural bid, For example, a 1NT opening bid may show 12 to 14 points. You must agree on whether certain bids are forcing. Today’s North had an awkward call at his second turn. He had enough strength to invite game, so he jumped to three clubs on his A-K-5, thinking a jump-preference in an opening bidder’s minor suit was invitational. South believed three clubs was forcing; he bid 3NT though his hand was minimum. Three clubs would not have been a lovely spot, nor was 3NT, but at least South had a chance to score a game. West led a heart, and South won the second heart, led a club to...
    In June, I was able to return to Birmingham, Alabama, for dinner and a fun game with former teammates. We always have interesting deals. In today’s deal, West opened three diamonds, and East bid four hearts. My partner, Jim Foster, isn’t known for timidity; he came in with four spades. All passed. West led the eight of hearts. I furnished a dummy with some useful cards, but Foster still needed luck and good play. He covered with dummy’s queen, and East took the king and led a diamond: king, ace. Declarer ruffed the heart return and had to pick up the trumps. SHORTNESS It would have been reasonable to play West, who had preempted, for shortness in spades and East for the queen. But Foster inferred that clubs were split 2-2: If West had a singleton, he might have led it, and if East had the singleton ace, he would have cashed it at Trick Two, then led a diamond to get a club ruff. So Foster tabled his cards, saying he would take the A-K of trumps. Making four....
    You canaEUR(TM)t be a mental tourist at bridge; focus is a key to success. But even an expert can let his mind wander. In a team match, both Souths played at four spades. North raised to three spades since his doubleton A-K resembled three-card support. West led his singleton club (not best). One South took the ace and led the ace and a low diamond. West won and led a trump to dummy. South then discarded his heart loser on the king of clubs, but when West ruffed and led his last trump, South had two diamond losers. Down one. OTHER TABLE In the replay, South led a trump to dummy at Trick Two and threw a heart on the king of clubs. West ruffed and led another trump, and South lost three diamonds. Both Souths lost focus. After South wins the first trick, he can take the ace of diamonds and concede a diamond. If West wins and leads a trump, South wins, ruffs a club high and ruffs a diamond in dummy. Then he can pitch a heart...
    “Didn’t you study classical music?” Cy the Cynic asked me in the club lounge. “Voice and musicology,” I admitted, “but that was a lifetime ago.” “Well, you’ll appreciate this,” Cy said. “Three notes walk into a bar: C, E-flat and G.” “And?” “The bartender told them he didn’t serve minors,” Cy guffawed. Today’s deal struck a chord with me. Cy was declarer at 3NT. He won the first club with the ace, grimacing at the 5-0 break, and led the queen of diamonds: seven, eight, deuce. When Cy next led to dummy’s ten, East took the jack and led the queen of hearts, and the Cynic won only eight tricks. Could you make some music at 3NT? TWO DIAMONDS At Trick Two, Cy can lead his low diamond to dummy’s ten. If East plays low, dummy returns a diamond, and Cy is sure of two diamonds, two spades, two hearts and three clubs. If East wins the first diamond with the jack and shifts to hearts, Cy wins and overtakes his queen of diamonds with the king to guarantee nine...
    “He did it to me again,” Unlucky Louie sighed. “That’s the second time this week.” Louie had the misfortune to cut the notorious Joe Overberry in my club’s penny game. Joe thinks it’s nobler to go down in pursuit of overtricks than to make his bid. He drives his partners to drink. Joe was declarer at four spades, and West led the ten of diamonds. Joe won with the king and saw a treasured overtrick by ruffing his two low diamonds in dummy. But when he led the ace of diamonds at Trick Two, West ruffed and led a trump. Then dummy had only one trump for Joe’s two diamond losers. He also lost two hearts and went down one. 720 POINTS “He cost himself — and me — 720 points,” Louie said. “And what’s worse, he was unrepentant. I’ll have a martini.” At the second trick, Joe must lead a low diamond. If East wins and leads a trump, Joe wins in his hand and ruffs a diamond with the queen of trumps. He takes the ace of clubs,...
    If, as a philosopher said, the measure of a man is how he treats the people who can do him no good, how should you treat your partner at the bridge table? Your success depends on how well your partner functions. He is on your side. You should be supportive in good times and bad. Moreover, you need to take care of your partner. Even if he is a world-class player, you must help him avoid mistakes. Against today’s four hearts, West led his singleton spade, and East took the ten, king and ace. West discarded the eight and seven of clubs, encouraging, so East next led the jack of clubs. South rose with his ace and cashed the A-K of diamonds. He led a trump to dummy’s seven, ruffed a diamond, went back to the jack of trumps and ruffed a diamond. South then drew West’s last trump with the ace and discarded his club loser on the good fifth diamond. His last trump won the 13th trick. Making four. East-West then “discussed” the result. West said that East...
    I’ve heard it said that any statement of 50 or more words is sure to contain at least one exception. Almost all bridge “rules” have exceptional cases — and a lot fewer than 50 words. Today’s South played at four hearts after East-West bid spades. West led the ace and deuce of spades, and East took the queen and shifted hopefully to the king of clubs. Declarer took the ace, drew trumps and led the jack of diamonds, winning, and a diamond to the king and ace. When East led a second club, South took the queen, ruffed his last spade in dummy and threw his last club on the high diamond. Making four. FOUR WORDS “Punch declarer, not dummy” is the rule (comprising all of four words), but this deal was exceptional. At Trick Three, East must continue with the king of spades, forcing dummy to ruff and removing the late entry to the third diamond. East need not rush to get club tricks. If he can prevent declarer from using the diamonds for a club discard, the contract...
    “Louie has that rare ability to bring out the best in a partnership,” Rose told me in the club lounge. “Unfortunately, it’s usually his opponents.” Rose has taken on Unlucky Louie as a project, insisting that he is better than his results show. “Look at this deal,” Rose said. “I was North. We got to four hearts after West overcalled on a four-card suit and I made a negative double. West took two spades and led a club.” SPADES “Louie was South. He won with the ace and led a trump — and West played the queen! Louie took dummy’s king but thought he couldn’t draw all the trumps, leaving him with none. If he then lost a diamond finesse, the defense would cash spades. So Louie led a diamond to his queen next.” West took his king and led another club. East ruffed and led a diamond, and West ruffed. Down two. “Remarkable defense,” I said. “But it seems Louie could have afforded a second round of trumps.” Rose nodded sadly. She may be getting discouraged with Louie. DAILY...
    “I heard that you write,” my friend the English professor said to me in the club lounge. “What type of writer are you?” “Bridge, mostly,” I replied. “Occasionally I get steamed enough to write an op-ed piece about some social issue.” “Well, here’s a question for a writer,” he said. “What’s a 10-letter word that can be typed using only the top row of the keyboard?” The prof left me to think about that and joined a penny Chicago game. In today’s deal, East made a lead-directing double of North’s Stayman two-club response. South’s two diamonds denied a four-card major suit but promised a club stopper. With neither feature, he would have passed. Against 3NT, West led the ten of clubs, and the prof, sitting East, followed with the six, forcing South to take one of his club tricks and preserving a link with West. When South led a diamond to the queen next, the prof smoothly followed with the four. On the next diamond, he played the ten, and South played low, hoping West had held A-9. But West...
    The King of Siam used to give a white elephant to any courtier who annoyed him. The poor courtier was stuck with an animal that was costly to maintain but he dared not get rid of: It was a gift from the king, after all, and white elephants were revered as mystical. In today’s deal, West led a spade against four hearts, and East took the ace and returned the deuce: queen, king. West then led the jack. South ruffed and had to avoid a diamond loser. He took the top clubs and ruffed dummy’s last club before leading a trump. As it happened, West had no safe exit when he won. If he led a spade, South would ruff in dummy and pitch a diamond. MAKING FOUR So West tried leading the queen of diamonds, but South went right: He won with the king and led to his ten. Making four. West needed to unload his white elephant. He had no reason to think the defense had a chance for two trump tricks. If West takes his ace of...
    “They say money won’t bring happiness,” Unlucky Louie told me. “I’d like to verify that theory for myself.” Louie loses heavily in my club’s penny games, blaming it all on bad luck. When he played today’s four hearts, he drew trumps and tried a diamond to his jack. West took the queen and led a spade, and Louie won and led a second diamond to his king. West won and led another spade, and Louie ruffed, ruffed a diamond in dummy and led a club to his queen. West took the king, and Louie lost another club, and some more money, at the end. “Every key honor was in the wrong place,” Louie sighed. SPADE RUFFS Louie’s technique was weak. He can take the ace of spades at Trick Two, ruff a spade, lead a trump to dummy and ruff a spade. He next leads his deuce of diamonds. Say East wins and leads a club. Louie plays the nine, and when West wins, any return gives Louie a 10th trick. If instead East leads a diamond, Louie plays the...
    The “loser-on-loser” play (my topic this week) is a versatile technique in declarer’s arsenal, useful in suit establishment, avoidance or — as in today’s deal — executing an end play. Against four hearts, West led the ten of spades: queen, king, four. East continued with the ace and jack, and declarer ruffed high and drew trumps. South could have led a diamond toward dummy’s queen next, but he judged that East, who had bid strongly, held the king. So South took the A-K of clubs, ruffed his last club in dummy, led dummy’s last spade — and discarded a diamond. LAST DIAMOND East was stuck. If he led a diamond, South would let it ride to the queen. If East led a spade, South would discard his last low diamond as dummy ruffed. Making four. Note that South took care to cover West’s ten of spades at Trick One. If he carelessly plays low from dummy, East will signal with his lowest spade, and West can break up the loser-on-loser end play by shifting to the ten of diamonds. DAILY...
    To end the week, try to find a winning defense against today’s four hearts. Cover the East and South cards and defend as West after East preempted over North’s one club. South showed a good hand with long hearts. You lead the king of diamonds: deuce, jack, five. What next? When I watched the deal, West went wrong: He led a second diamond. East won but had no winning return. He tried a third diamond, but South ruffed with the six. West discarded a club. When South led a low trump next, West played low, and dummy’s ten won. South led a spade to his hand and tabled the king of trumps, and West’s ace won the defenders’ last trick. Making four. PROMISING West’s trump holding was promising, and the defense could prevail with a trump promotion. But at the second trick, West must cash his ace of trumps. He then leads a second diamond, and when East wins and leads a third diamond, West scores his nine of trumps whether South ruffs low or high. Did you beat the...
    Rose, our club member whose courtesy and kindness toward her fellow players are so admirable, had taken on Unlucky Louie as a project, insisting that he isn’t as bad as his results suggest. “How’s it going?” I asked Rose. “I’m discouraged,” she admitted. “If the man donated his brain to science, they would use it to prop open the door to the lab.” Rose told me that Louie was declarer at today’s four spades. West led the nine of diamonds. DOWN ONE “Playing with his usual haste,” Rose sighed, “Louie won with the queen and led a trump. East won and returned a diamond, and Louie won and led a second trump. When West took the ace, he led a club to East’s ace and ruffed the diamond return. Down one.” Louie needs to slow down and anticipate what may go wrong. He must lead a club at Trick Two. East wins and returns a diamond. Louie takes the ten and cashes the K-J of clubs to discard dummy’s A-K of diamonds. He ruffs his last diamond and leads a...
    When I watched today’s deal in my club’s penny game, South was the notorious Joe Overberry, who thinks it’s nobler to go down in pursuit of overtricks than to make his bid. That costs him — and his unfortunate partners — thousands of points. Against Joe’s 3NT, West led a spade, and East correctly played the queen to preserve a link with his partner. Joe took his king, led a diamond to dummy’s ace and returned a diamond to his ten. LAST SPADE West gratefully took his queen and led the jack of spades. East put up his ace and returned his last spade, and West cashed three spades. Down one. “The man goes down trying for overtricks when the correct play produces at least two of them,” North groaned. After Joe wins the first trick, he can cash four clubs, then take the K-A of diamonds. When West’s queen falls, Joe is sure of 11 tricks. If instead East-West played low diamonds, dummy would have the lead, and Joe could try for his ninth trick by leading a heart...
    Unlucky Louie shows up at my club daily for his penny game, so every morning is the dawn of a new error. Louie invariably plays too quickly — and is usually punished. Louie was declarer at today’s 3NT. (Six diamonds would have had a chance on another day.) West led the jack of spades, and Louie took dummy’s ace and swiftly cashed the king of diamonds, expecting to run six diamond tricks. When West discarded a heart on the next diamond, Louie was in trouble. He took the A-Q, finessed with the queen of clubs and led the ace and a low heart. West won and led another spade, and Louie could only take the ace of clubs for his eighth trick and give up. ONE CHANCE Louie gave himself one chance when he had two. He must finesse in clubs at Trick Two, then cash the ace and lead a third club. Since East has the doubleton K-10, dummy’s nine furnishes Louie’s ninth trick. If the clubs didn’t lie well, Louie could fall back on a 3-2 diamond break....
    “Simple Saturday” columns are meant to improve basic technique and develop logical thinking. Assumption is said to be the cause of most disasters. As a defender, never assume that declarer’s trump suit is rock-solid. Today’s West led the king of hearts against four spades, and East correctly overtook with the ace to get out of his partner’s way. West won the heart return with the jack and led the queen, and East discarded a diamond. Declarer ruffed, led a diamond to dummy and returned a trump: five, king, deuce. He went back to a high club and led a second trump. East took his ace and led a diamond, but South won, drew West’s jack of trumps and claimed. FINESSE At Trick Three, East can see that the defense will take no more side-suit tricks. If declarer needs a minor-suit finesse, it will win. East’s only hope for a fourth defensive trick lies with the trump suit. East must ruff the third heart with his ace of trumps. Then West’s jack will score for down one. DAILY QUESTION You hold:...
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