Thursday, June 5, 2008

Forty years is a long time

When you make a sensational play at bridge, they call that a newspaper hand. Most major newspapers have a daily bridge column and excellent plays are shown. On the deal presented below, two declarers could have had their name in the paper, but they blew their chance.

The United States Bridge Federation (called the USBF for short) is presently holding the trials in Palm Beach Gardens FL to select a team for the World Mind Sports Games (chess, bridge, go and draughts) to be held in Beijing, China, next October.

In the quarterfinals of the team trials, boards were duplicated across matches. One team had withdrawn, but six players held this on board 72:

--- A K J 9 7 5 --- K Q 7 6 5 3 2.

If a hand like this doesn't get your blood flowing, you're not a serious bridge player.

In all six auctions, the partner of this hand opened 1. The results were all over the place, as one might imagine. Two pairs were in 7 which had no play (the way the cards lay). Another pair was in 6, going down (although they could and should have made it). One pair was in 4(!) making an overtrick.

Two pairs bid to 6 and received the same opening lead --- the A. Let's focus on them.

Here are all four hands (rotated):

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

The South players in this rotated deal were Brad Moss and Michael Seamon, and they played the contract almost the same way. Both declarers ruffed the opening A lead, cashed the A, led a club to the A and now played a heart from the dummy. Seamon played his K while Moss put in the J both of which were ruffed. A club was returned and Seamon had two heart losers for down two while Moss was down one.

Both declarers missed their chance for greatness. After cashing the ace of hearts at trick two, they should now lead a low heart.

After doing this, they can win any return and ruff a heart high in the dummy (making the heart suit good), play the other high trump and come back to their hand to draw trumps and claim. Obviously, hearts will divide 4--1 considerably more often than clubs will split 4--0 (or an overruff). Bingo! A newspaper hand.

I read about a very similar deal in one of Terence Reese's books about 40 years ago and have been waiting to see it at the table. I hope I don't have to wait another 40 to see it again.

You can get more information about the deal here, and here.
(Thanks to my buddy Greg Burch of Bear DE for calling my attention to this deal.)

EDIT: Since blogging this deal, I've found it was discussed in the Daily Bulletin from the Team trials. You can see it on page 6 here.

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