Its own reward

What kind of a bridge-player are you? If you were to choose, what would you prefer: winning a match without doing anything remarkable, or having a memorable performance and still lose the match? You see, at the bridge table -just like in real life- there are cases when virtue is its own reward. If you want some examples, read on.

The hand that follows was one of the favourites of the late Terence Reese. He had played it during the 1955 World Championship, when the British team unseated the Americans from the throne of world champions.

East dealer, game all

A J 9 3 K J 8 7 4 3 ┴ 3 4 10 8 7 6 --- Q 9 6 5 2 ╩ Q J 10 9 7 5 8 6 4 2 8 2 Q 5 3 Q 5 4 2 ┴ 10 --- ┴ ╩ J 10 9 7 6

The bidding goes:

West North East South
╠athe Schapiro Moran Reese
--------- Pass 1
3 3 5 6
All pass

The 9 of diamonds was led. Reese ruffed the opening lead and spurning the trump finesse he cashed the ace and king of clubs. He then cashed ace and king of hearts and led the 7, covered by the 9 and ruffed. He then exited with a low trump. East won and was obliged to give dummy the two entries needed to take the ruffing finesse in hearts and establish discards for South's spades. Compared with a trump finesse, this line of play has the extra chance of finding the trump queen singleton or doubleton offside. The key play was ruffing the diamond at trick one; the diamond ace is needed as an additional entry to dummy.

How many points (not IMPs: total points were still used at that time) do you think Reese gained for his team with his brilliant play? Well, not that many. Actually, the board was flat. At the other table Rosen played the same contract for the US team. He won the ace of diamonds in dummy and took an immediate trump finesse. The lady was docile so the board was halved, declarer losing only the spade king.

In the Reese example, the brilliant play turned out to be superfluous because of the friendly (or should we call it unfriendly?) lie of the cards. In other cases, however, the brilliancy is neutralized because the situation that calls for it never arises in the other room. Witness this deal from the China v Brazil match for the quarter-finals of the 1993 World Championship:

East dealer, E-W vul.

The auction was:

South West North East
Shaoxing Amaral Zhenyi Branco
--------- ------Pass
1 Pass 3 Pass
4 All pass

The full deal was:

╩ 9 4 3 K 9 5 2 ┴ 8 3 10 3 Q 5 8 7 J 10 6 3 8 ╩ Q 6 4 J 10 9 5 ╩ 7 6 A J 9 5 4 3 ┴ J 10 6 2 ┴ Q 7 4 7 2 Q 2

West leads the K which you duck (East playing the jack) and then another diamond.
You win and draw trumps (they mercifully are 2-2). Now what?

The Chinese declarer cashed just the A, crossed to dummy with a spade to ruff the last diamond and then exited with a club. Defenders cashed their two club tricks but then had either to give a ruff and discard or concede the heart trick. This line only loses when hearts are 4-1 with West having a small singleton (the 6 or the 3); in any other case of 4-1 division it gains.

It was a very neat play and a potential swing for the Chinese team. The same contract was reached at the other table as well, but declarer was never put to the test. We can imagine the discussion when scores were compared at the end of the set.

"Plus 420", said proudly Shaoxing.
"Flat board", replied uneasily his team-mate.
"Hmm. So, he found the end-play too?"
"Well, er, not exactly... actually I led the jack of hearts..."!

If the contract is not the same in the other room, there is still more scope for unrewarded brilliancies. It is a well-known bridge saying that in high-level matches the bidding, rather than the play, becomes the decisive factor for a swing. In fact, many a play brilliancies have been invalidated because the opponents won the bidding battle.

(to be continued...)

Nikos Sarantakos
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