Stuart Rachels


What Did I Do Wrong?

In a club game, at unfavorable vulnerability, you pick up:  J6 QJ10642 J1074 Q

You've got a lot of defense here, provided that every suit gets played five rounds. Your RHO opens 1. You bid 2 (weak), which partner raises to 4. The opening bidder thinks a little bit and doubles. This gets passed out. So, the contract is 4 doubled.

How do you feel now? If you believe in your partner, you should feel just fine. Although being doubled in the red is worrying, you have your bid, and your partner knows the vulnerability. An unremarkable is led, and you see:

AKQ8
A93          (Dummy)
A62
J73
 
J6          (Contract: 4 doubled)
QJ10642
J1074
Q          (Opening lead: 6)

What a great partner you have! Now you can relax. The finesse will be wrong, but you should only lose 3 tricks: one trick in every suit but s. RHO wins round 1 with the K, but when he tries to cash the ace you ruff low. You play a and LHO tosses a . The 4-0 trump split is no surprise, however, and no crisis: you have good texture with your QJ109 in trumps. You call for the 9 and Righty follows low. The position is:

AKQ8
A3
A62
J
 
J6
QJ106
J1074
         (You've lost 1 trick)

You play the A and then the 3, while West pitches an irrelevant and . East follows suit and then takes his K. He leads back the K, which you win in the dummy.

AKQ8
62
J
 
J6
QJ
J107
         (You've lost 2 tricks)

You cross to the J and draw East's remaining trump, pitching a worthless from the board. You return to dummy with the A.

KQ
6
J
 
J
J107
         (You've still lost only 2 tricks)

The rest of the tricks are yours: you pitch s on the KQ and the J (in that order, just in case you've lost your mind and one of the big s is still out). Not bad, huh? 4 making 5, doubled, vulnerable, that must be a lot of matchpoints, right?

In fact, you've made a serious error somewhere. Shame on you! Did you notice it?




AKQ8
A93          (Dummy)
A62
J73
 
J6          (Contract: 4 doubled)
QJ10642
J1074
Q          (Opening lead: 6)

A quick review: RHO won the K, you ruffed the A, you led a low to the 9 (LHO showing out), you played the A and the 3, RHO won and returned the K to your A.

AKQ8
62
J
 
J6
QJ
J107
         (You've lost 2 tricks)

Now you "crossed" to your hand with a . But we don't usually call it crossing when you get ruffed. This is what actually happened. After ruffing, RHO cashed his Q, and you're down doubled. Were you unlucky that s split 7-0? Of course, but you got what you deserved. You had a 100% line available: ruff your good and draw that lurker ("lurker" is British slang for a small outstanding trump). True, you can no longer make 5 by throwing your last on the J, but 4 doubled making 4 should be a top board. Ivan Boesky was wrong: greed is bad.

Final Thoughts

N-S vulnerable
AKQ8
A93
10975432 A62
J73 K875
853 KQ9         (Dealer)
862 J6 AK10954
QJ10642
J1074
Q          Auction: 1 2 P 4; Dbl All pass.

After your gets ruffed, feel free to complain that if West had 7 s, she would have pulled East's double to 4. You can also claim that East should not double 4 with a void, since partner's pull to 4 would be so predictable (and so undesirable). Bridge writers who assume that you can bank on these nice inferences don't play in my club.

If East had let the contract go undoubled, then the play might have gone exactly as it did. However, this time declarer would be blameless. 4 making 4 would be nothing special; at matchpoints, it would be worth risking a 7-0 split in order to go for an overtrick.

(Thanks to Jim Mendelsohn, who declared this hand and was a good enough sport to tell me about it.)