Winning with a loser

October 22, 1961

So great is the popularity of bridge tournaments in general and mixed pair events in particular, that the hotel lobby just before the opening is usually a scene of indescribable confusion. In the midst of one such crush in which players were finding it all but impossible to locate their partners, my good friend Margaret Wagar of Atlanta drolly remarked, "I wish I was playing with Bill Root."

Margaret was referring to the fact that the 6-foot 8-inch Root literally towers over the crowd; however, she might well have meant it in another way, for Root is also a tremendous player, as witnessed recently by his team's victory in the Masters Knockout Team event in Washington, D.C.

Here is a deal he played in a recent rubber game; the part-score situation made the bidding tactics much as they would have been in tournament competition.

West could have made eight tricks at diamonds, so North-South were much better off bidding three spades—provided Root, playing the South hand, brought home that contract and the rubber.

Dummy's jack of clubs was played on the first trick and was covered by East's queen and taken by South's ace. Declarer led the queen of spades, and when West won the trick, he shifted to the ace and then led another diamond, which was won with dummy's king. Declarer took advantage of the opportunity to make a winning heart finesse with the queen before leading a second round of trumps.

East had played high-low on partner's diamond leads, announcing a doubleton. He had also echoed on the trump leads. But an echo in the trump suit conveys an entirely different message. It announces a holding of more than two (usually three) trumps and suggests ability to win a trick by ruffing. So, when West led the queen of diamonds, Root was warned that if he trumped with dummy's 8, East would win the trick by overruffing with his 9. Later on, the defenders would have to be allowed to win a heart trick as well, and the contract would be defeated.

Root saved the game by swapping one loser for another and coming up with a profit on the transaction. Instead of surrendering the trick to East's 9 of spades, declarer let West's diamond queen win, discarding a heart from dummy. East also discarded a heart, and West did his best to make things difficult by continuing with a fourth round of diamonds.

This threat was met by discarding still another heart from dummy and trumping in the South hand. It did not matter that East discarded a third heart. South led a low heart at once and trumped in dummy while East still had to follow suit. After cashing the king of clubs, South ruffed a third club lead, drew East's last trump and won the ninth trick with the ace of hearts, scoring the game and the rubber.

EXTRA TRICK
The coup employed to bring home this contract is called throwing a loser on a loser. It has many uses. Sometimes it saves a trick by enabling you to cut communications between the opponents, thus keeping the dangerous hand out of the lead. Sometimes, as in the foregoing, by not making a futile effort to save one trick you can successfully avoid losing another.

ILLUSTRATION

Both sides vulnerable and 60 on score South dealer

NORTH

[8 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[8 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

WEST

[Ace of Spades]
[King of Spades]
[10 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[6 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

EAST

[9 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Spade]
PASS
3 [Spade]

WEST

2 [Diamond]
3 [Diamond]
PASS

NORTH

2 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: 6 of Clubs

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)