Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
The diagrammed hand was played this October at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club in a Swiss Teams event and left the East-West players on each side scratching their heads and thinking: “if only …”
At one table, South dealt and opened the bidding 1 spade and West, with an opening bid of his own, chimed in with 2 diamonds. North supported her partner with a bid of 2 spades and East, despite holding a good 6-card suit, felt he did not have sufficient points to enter the auction at the three level.
Now South bid 3 hearts, conventionally known as a Help Suit Game Try. This bid is usually made with a four card or longer suit and asks partner to consider the quality of her holding in that suit and if she likes it to go on to game; if not, to stop at 3 spades. This North decided that her heart collection, with 2 of the top 5 honors, together with four trumps and a well-placed diamond king justified going to game and that is where the auction ended.
Not wanting to lead one of his unsupported aces, West led the club 10 to his partner’s ace. East returned the suit only to have South trump it in hand.
Declarer continued by drawing all East’s trumps before leading his singleton diamond towards the board. West rose with the ace and returned the suit.
South won this trick in the dummy with the king, pitching a small heart from hand. Declarer next played the heart 2 to his king, won by West who continued with a high diamond, ruffed by South. Now was the moment of truth for declarer: he played a small heart towards the board and when West followed with the 4, inserted the 10 and was rewarded when it held the trick and the result was 4 spades bid and made.
The bidding and play was similar at the other table, resulting in a tie, or what is known as a “push” in bridge parlance. But just for a moment consider what might have happened if either West had decided to try for a “save” by bidding on, hoping to go down less than the value of the game that South had contracted for.
You might well think: “what could West do, he had already bid his hand?” South and North had shown a lot of cards in the major suits so it was reasonable to expect that East would have a substantial holding in at least one of the minors. Instead of passing out the bidding at 4 spades, West could have tried 4 no trump which, in context, should show 6 diamonds and 4 clubs.
Really, you ask, how’s that? Well, if West had 6-5 or 5-5 in the minors, he would have started with the Unusual 2 No Trump convention. His failure to do so, followed by 4 no trump later would clarify his holding.
Would that have been a successful save? You bet it would – 5 clubs was unbeatable with careful play by declarer! Had that happened at either table there would have been a double game swing and a huge victory for the unrelenting side.
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