Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Timing is everything

The World Championship of Bridge was held in Yokohama, Japan, in 1991. The U.S. women were allowed two teams to compete for the Venice Cup. For USA2, Rhoda Walsh withdrew, and the team added Lynn Deas.

On paper, USA1 was a powerhouse and the heavy favorite to win. USA2 wasn't give much of a chance. Sometimes things that look one way on paper turn out differently at the table. USA2 went on to win the world championship.

During the round robin phase, all the competing teams played each other, and eight advanced to knockout play. With one round robin match left to play, USA2 was in danger of not qualifying (hands rotated):

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

West North East South
1 1 Pass 1
2 4 Pass 4
Pass 5 Pass 6
Pass 7 All Pass

Deas, South and playing with Stasha Cohen, bid to 7 on the layout above. Looking at the North-South hands, it seemed like declarer could ruff two diamonds in the dummy and likely take four spades, two hearts, two ruffs, and five club tricks for 13. The 4-0 trump split, however, meant it wasn't that simple.

West led the K. When the deal was played on Vugraph from the Bermuda Bowl (the open competition), the declarer went set. The commentators, having the advantage of looking at all four hands, analyzed the deal and stated that the grand slam couldn't be made if playing in clubs. The 4-0 split couldn't be overcome.

If Deas went set, her team wouldn't advance, so this was a crucial deal. Do you see how she made it?

Deas saw a layout that gave her a chance, but she had to time it just right. She ruffed the diamond lead in dummy and played the K, getting the bad news. She continued with the A K, discarding a diamond and a spade. The spade she discarded was a winner, so it was tempting to discard two diamonds. Doing so, however, would have been fatal.

Next, declarer ruffed a heart, and played three rounds of spades, ending in dummy. These were the cards that were left:

10 7
Q 9
--- ---
Q J ---
A J 9 Q 7
--- J 8 7
10 6
A 10 5

Deas led a heart (anything else would have led to defeat), and it was immaterial what East played. She ruffed the heart, and ruffed a diamond in dummy. Deas led a heart (a spade would work, too) and was able to score her A 10 and ruff her last diamond with the Q.

Making 7 meant her team advanced to eventually win the event.