[Home] [Up]

The Article That Never Was

Jude Reads IPBM

David J. Weiss 

            Jude's blood pressure was a little low, so he borrowed some of my back issues to help raise it. He looks for reports in which the author has innocuously recounted the failure of a reasonable contract. Since I had read the same reports without noticing anything odd, Jude enlightened me by sharing his irritations.
            Reading the account of this deal from a European Pairs championship (7/96, p. 6) was like hearing a nail scratching on glass, he told me. The discussion was focused on how one declarer went down one, while another went down two.


                               West                                               East
       ♠K74                                                  Q93
7                                                      A842
AQ1076                                            J32
KJ92                                                 763


            After opening 1 and being raised over West's takeout double, declarer had to contend with the lead of the singleton trump, ducked by East. Following the standard counter when the defence threatens to prevent ruffs, South began to establish dummy's side suit by passing the spade ten. This plan seemed reasonable to me, but it didn't succeed. East put a diamond through (in one case after cashing the trump ace, in another immediately), and after three rounds of that suit declarer was cooked. Drawing trumps would allow West to cash the long diamonds after winning the club king, while playing clubs first would allow West to play a fourth diamond upon which East could pitch a club. The sour trump split meant that declarer could not both cash his club winners and ruff one in dummy. Unlucky, I thought.
            Not unlucky, according to Jude. Why didn't South win the opening lead with an honor and play a club toward the queen? This gains a tempo because West cannot attack diamonds. He must return either a spade or a club. If a spade, declarer ducks to East's queen. East can’t clear trumps, lest declarer set up spades with the club as a dummy entry. If instead the defence plays three rounds of diamonds, South can ruff and cash the club queen. Next comes the spade ace followed by a spade ruff to hand. The club ace is cashed, then a club ruff with the nine. Eight tricks are in the bag. If instead West had returned a club after winning the king, the play is similar. Declarer ducks a spade to achieve basically the same position.
            It's even more annoying when the deal comes from a World Championship (12/97, p. 28).


                                 West                                               East
6                                                      J975
KQ108432                                      975
7                                                      J10642
KJ83                                               9


E-W Game

                                        East   SoutH  West   North
                                        Pass        1           4          4NT
                                        Pass        5
          Pass         6
                                        Pass       Pass        Pass

            Here the reporter described 6 as a fair contract, though normally down unless declarer finds the double dummy line of starting clubs with the ten. "Bah, humbug!" exclaimed Jude in keeping with the spirit of the season. Jude hates double dummy lines. "The hand is cold on ordinary play after that hopeless diamond opening lead, an obvious singleton. South should cover the diamond and win East's 10 in hand, then draw two rounds of trumps. The club queen provides a pathway to pick up the remaining trumps."
            All of these plays were routine, of course, and the play proceeded this way at the table. A crucial element has slipped by, though. What should be thrown from dummy on the fourth spade? Jude pointed out that at this point, West was known to have singletons in the pointed suits, and therefore either seven hearts and four clubs, or more likely, eight hearts and three clubs. The correct play caters to either distribution. Dummy's small club is not needed. After trumps are drawn, East's hand is:

with the suit of the (x) not known. It doesn't matter, though, because on declarer's next play of a club to dummy's ace, East will surrender that (x). South mops up by playing a heart to the ace and ruffing a heart, then tossing East in with a diamond. 
            South could also have made the hand by cashing the high diamonds, then giving up a diamond in order to subsequently squeeze West, but that line requires West to have both heart honours. West probably shouldn't have that marriage, because then the killing heart lead would have been clearcut.
            "You know, Jude, you've got to keep taking your Prozac", I reminded my old friend. "The IPBM reporters don't omit the correct lines in order to irritate you. They're just kindly folks who take finesses."