It pays to be bad

March 13, 1961

In the early days of my career I became indignant with bids that I felt were bad. But I soon mellowed. It dawned on me that bad bids (i.e., bids I wouldn't have made) frequently made good drama. Without them, a bridge script could be dull, like errorless baseball, which can become distressingly mechanical. Not infrequently the team that wins is one that uses tactics which are so daring that at first they appear suicidal. Similarly in bridge, seemingly unsound procedures may succeed because they also surprise. What lent the following hand its interest was the necessity for a good play imposed by a bad bid.

The hand, which was played in a tournament, was subject to a wide variety of treatment both in the bidding and in the play, but the sequence of bidding that had the greatest number of adherents stopped at four hearts. In most cases, 10 tricks were made; in one, even the four-heart contract was defeated.

At the one table where South found himself in the precarious position of having to fulfill a slam contract, North was so pleased with partner's three-heart response to his cue-bid in spades that he leaped to five hearts. Since South had been brought upon the scene perhaps unwillingly, North should have been more chary of assuming this risk. If fortune had imposed a bust hand on South, 11 tricks would have been out of reach. Yet South contracted for slam without any qualms. This made sense. His partner having offered to produce 11 tricks singlehanded, South could consider the ace of hearts as the surprise card that could bring in the 12th trick.

When the king of spades was opened, South would have been willing to call the whole thing off. Indeed, one declarer, who simply didn't know what to do next after trumping the opening spade lead with dummy's heart 4, managed to get set at his game contract. Most players brought home 10 tricks by ruffing the spade, cashing the heart king, overtaking the queen with the ace and leading a club. In addition to losing one club, they had to concede a spade to East's ace and a trick to East's 10 of trumps, but they did manage to make the game.

Playing for a slam, however, our South had to find a plan that offered some hope of 12 tricks, no matter how great the risk. He did it by trusting in good breaks and in East's holding one crucial card—the 10 of hearts.

The opening spade was ruffed with dummy's jack of hearts. The king of hearts was cashed, then a low heart was led, and when East did not play the 10, declarer finessed the 9, which held. A club was led toward dummy. West ducked, and the king held. A low club was returned, and West won with the queen. He followed with a spade, forcing dummy's queen of trumps. A low club from dummy, ruffed in the closed hand, established the suit. The last trump was drawn, the jack of diamonds was discarded, and the rest of the dummy was high.

Needless to say, this was a top score on the deal. However, I fear that it cost North a great many points in future play by failing to punish him for his optimism.

EXTRA TRICK
If you are looking for experience in playing difficult contracts, get yourself an optimist for a partner.

ILLUSTRATION

Both sides vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]

WEST

[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[7 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[8 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[9 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

EAST

[Ace of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[10 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[10 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[10 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

WEST

1 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

NORTH

2 [Spade]
5 [Heart]
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH

3 [Heart]
6 [Heart]

Opening lead: king of spades

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)