BRIDGE BY THE LAKE – October 2009


By Ken Masson


While learning the rudiments of bridge, one of the first “rules” that makes a big impression on most players is that you should lead a singleton against suit contracts in the hope that partner can win an early trick and give you one or more ruffs. With experience, one learns that, as with most rules, there are exceptions.

In the diagrammed hand which herself and myself played in a Toronto club, herself (sitting North) opened the proceedings with 1 diamond. East passed and South bid 1 spade. West now entered the auction with a new-fangled bid called a sandwich no trump, showing the two un-bid suits within a distributional and weakish hand. There is no question this hand qualified on both scores but it is doubtful if more than one player in a hundred would dream of joining in the fray vulnerable with what could best be described as an extremely moth-eaten hand.

However, the man paid his entry to play and we had to cope as best we could with the interference. Although North had only 3 spades, she did have a ruffing value in hearts so she bid 2 spades. Now East, who had a good hand of his own and must have wondered just how many points there were in this deck, chimed in with 3 hearts. With the boss suit, and seven of them, South jumped straight to game and the contract was played in 4 spades.

At most, if not all, tables West led the 8 of diamonds and now the contract could not be defeated. No matter what East returned after winning the Queen, declarer could draw trumps, establish a diamond winner to park a losing club or heart and emerge with 10 tricks. In fact, at tables where East won two quick diamonds and tried to give West a ruff, declarer could ruff the third round high, draw trumps and end up with an over-trick!

At our table, the defence took a different path. West led the 10 of hearts (top of an interior sequence) and South paused to examine the dummy. There were 4 apparent losers: one heart, two diamonds and one club. However, if the Queen of diamonds was in the West hand, or the opponents didn’t switch to clubs too soon, declarer could see a way to fulfill the contract. The opening lead was won in dummy, trumps were drawn in two rounds and declarer led a diamond to the Jack but, alas, East turned up with the Queen. East now cashed the King of hearts before switching to a club and the contract could no longer be made as another diamond and a club had to be lost.

Herself and myself were left to ponder the injustice of receiving a big fat zero through no fault of our own. To add insult to injury, as the opponents left our table, West was heard to ask his partner: ”Would we have done any better if I had led my singleton?”

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