I don't always have the patience and skill to bid scientifically, so the other day I was glad to read the great Terence Reese touting the virtues of bulldozing. Must we always help our opponents with their opening leads?
In a club game, with nobody vulnerable, I am the dealer. I pick up:
This is only the second hand I've played with this partner, Chuck Adelman, so we don't have many agreements. Chuck and I played chess together 20 years ago, but since then we've both found our way to bridge. There aren't many losers in this hand, but 2 would be an overbid. So I open 1.
LHO overcalls 1, and Chuck bids 2, which sounds like at least a limit raise in s. Wonderful. RHO bids 3. Now what?
Well, Chuck would probably take 4NT to be RKCB for s, but remembering Reese's advice, l decide not to waste time. 6. If Chuckie complains about my buffalo tactics, I'll use our lack of agreements as justification. "I was worried you'd take 4NT as natural." Nobody doubles, and the A is led. The 40 year old chess master tables:
When I hold the K, I am always happy to see the A led. After everyone plays low, LHO continues with the 10. I am momentarily worried about getting ruffed, but when RHO follows suit, I can claim: draw trumps; throw off my little s on the s, and my hand is good. (Not that I claim right away; as Bob Teel once told me, "Playing is faster than claiming.")
The opponents are nice folks, but since they're married, they immediately start bickering after the hand. Wife wanted Hubby to switch to a at T2 in order to set up her K, but I can rise A and take the same 12 tricks.
The killing lead was a . I'd be forced to finesse, it would lose, and I'd go down at least 1. Now look what would have happened if I hadn't taken Reese's advice. I'd bid 4NT; partner would respond 5 (showing 1 or 4 key cards); and if East wants to be able to complain later about her K, she can double 5 for a lead. She'd be lucky that Chuck's key card was the A, but the double can gain in other ways: Hubby might hold the Q and an outside trick, or--even more likely--it might confuse us.
I really can't blame West for leading the A. When people jump to slam, they're often off a cashing ace-king. But not this time.
Should I make the hand on a neutral lead? I can draw trumps, but then what? The finesse is a true practice finesse: nothing is gained if it works, while I'm down for sure if it loses. No, the only hope is to set up the s for pitches. To do that, I must find an opponent with the Ax--I'll lead past that ace towards my honor, and then duck one on the way back, watching the ace helplessly pop up. This was LHO's actual holding. Do I know to play LHO for this rather than RHO? I have two indications: first, LHO's 1 overcall promised more points than RHO's 3, so maybe LHO has the ace; second, people don't like leading from ace-empty, so the fact that LHO didn't lead a (on this scenario) is a mild indication that he held the ace. That isn't much, but I can't think of anything better to go on.
Suppose a is led, I draw trumps ending in hand, I lead a club towards dummy, and LHO shows out. This is disconcerting, because I wanted LHO to hold Ax, but this is actually good news. The lack of honors marks LHO with the K for his bid, so the elimination endplay is nearly certain: my Q is taken by the ace; the J return (say) is won in hand; the J is finessed; the A cashed; the Q is won by LHO's king. Now LHO has only pointy cards left, and so I can sluff the losing I have in hand.
Come to think of it, even if LHO follows suit and my Q falls, I should try to endplay LHO: win the return, finesse the diamond jack, A, Q to the K, hoping LHO doesn't have any s left. On a very good day, RHO might even return a , allowing an immediate club sluff. There are many ways the hand might be made. Still, I got rather lucky.
Chuck and I won the event, despite having only 400 master points between us. For this, I credit Chuck's exemplary partnership qualities. He maintained a good sense of humor throughout the session.
Also, it didn't hurt that I made this hand--when you get lucky early on, that puts you in a good mood. Not only do you concentrate better when you're happier, but you bid more aggressively. And bidding more aggressively is usually good, unless you were a little nuts to begin with.