Simon de Wijs reports about his adventures in the professional bridge circuit.
We are in New Orleans to participate in the next National (as they are usually called, although for many years their official name has been North American Bridge Championships): the Summer Nationals. These tournaments are organised by the ACBL (American Contract Bridge League). When selecting the venues, the ACBL tries to keep costs as low as possible, so the championships always take place at low season venues. Like Boston in winter and New Orleans in summer.
Some 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and close to 100% humidity means that only a light stroll outside will make you wet with sweat on returning to the hotel. So I might as well not have taken my tennis gear.
Following a good habit we get rid of the jetlag by playing some side tournaments during the first few days. Our lack of success in those tournaments, combined with my tiredness, inspires me to a masterstroke...
When it's my turn to play, I chivalrously offer to take the sponsor to my room in order to give her some tips and show her some tricks of the iPad. After all, she and I share a keen interest in Apple-gadgets.
Of course I am sneered at and have to endure feeble jokes. Nothing serious of course, since she is 72, but anyway: I don't have to play bridge that night.
So this night, my partner Bauke Muller plays with John Mohan and is much more severely tested than I am.
As West and dealer he gets:
|♠||4 3|| |
|♥||7 6 3|| |
|♦||Q J|| |
|♣||K Q J 6 3 2|| |
He opens 3♣. The rest of the bidding is rather bizarre:
|Muller|| ||Mohan|| |
So dummy, Muller's left hand opponent, has the red suits, and declarer, to Muller's right, has a lot of spades. South's unclear 5♣ control showing bid (primarily suggesting interest in a diamond slam, I would say) and his jump to the grand don't give a lot of information. Since partner has passed the grand slam call, NS will have all four aces, so what to lead?
On which red suit is declarer going to pitch his losing club(s)? He may very well have to ruff out the hearts and cross in diamonds afterwards in order to cash the hearts. If so, a diamond lead is needed, in order to force out that entry from dummy at an early stage.
Can a trump lead be necessary? Only in the unlikely case that dummy has a singleton club.
These were the two leads Muller was considering. Trusting the initial reasoning, he led a diamond.This was the whole deal:
| ||♥||A K J 8 5 2|
|♦||A 9 8 7 2|
|♠||4 3||♠||9 8|
|♥||7 6 3||♥||Q 10 9 4|
|♦||Q J||♦||K 5 4 3|
|♣||K Q J 6 3 2||♣||9 5 4|
| ||♠||A K Q J 10 7 6 2|| |
|♣||A 10 8|
Since declarer had a void in hearts he could never have ruffed out the hearts, so the diamond lead turned out to be unnecessary.
Declarer had only one chance to make a thirteenth trick: a club ruff. And after the diamond lead he could easily take it. Yes, the trump lead would have been the winner.
At first Muller's team mates were not very understanding — 'No trump lead against a grand???' — but later, at the bar, I was rather successful in presenting this opening lead problem. All possible leads had their supporters and I made the only one who led a trump, Fredrik Nyström, happy by telling him that 'this was the only lead that allowed declarer to make his contract, since dummy had a void in trumps and partner had four — with the jack on top'...
Whatever; after this we were ready for the real job.