North told a little black lie

January 28, 1963

If your bids and plays are always by the book and "honest," it is unquestionably good for your partnership but it is also easy for your opponents to play their best against you. So, in order to make life more difficult for them, sometimes you have to lie a little. But you can't lie to your partner very often. When you do you must take the responsibility not only for any bad result on that hand but for the loss of faith that could be costly in the future.

North and South, in the following deal, were a well-practiced and long established partnership. North is a brilliant player, famous for the success of his unorthodox actions based on "taking a position." In this deal, however, he took a position in the one situation where it is important to respond like a good soldier. It turned out he was wrong.

Some players would pass the North hand, but I feel it contains a perfectly sound opening bid. Counting three points for short suits, North has a total of 13 and a six-card suit to simplify any rebid problem. But when South jumped to four no trump, North began to worry about the fact that his opening bid was a rank minimum. In an effort to slow down his partner's reactions, he decided to apply the brakes by witholding the truth about his aces.

Unhappily for North, South had far too good a hand to be stopped short of slam. But when North showed only one ace, South feared that a lead coming through his king of diamonds might be dangerous; he elected to protect the situation by bidding the slam in no trump.

South won the opening diamond lead with his king and led the king and jack of clubs. There were a number of different ways to play for the slam, including an end play on West that might have succeeded. (West must come down to five cards, and if he holds three spades and the guarded king of hearts, he can be thrown in with a third round of spades and made to lead to declarer's ace-queen of hearts.) However, South elected to take two spade finesses, a play that offered at least a two-to-one chance for success.

He overtook his jack of clubs with dummy's queen and led a spade, finessing the 10. This lost, and a diamond was continued, won by dummy's ace. Declarer led to his ace of hearts, then ran the remainder of dummy's clubs, discarding three hearts from his hand. South had all sorts of chances running for him, but the spades were stacked and West was in no discarding difficulty, so the slam was defeated.

North's concealment of one of his aces was doubly costly in this case. Not only did it result in an inferior small-slam contract; it kept South from bidding a grand slam that could be made. With clubs as trumps, North can win 13 tricks either by ruffing two losing diamonds in the South hand, or by ruffing two hearts to establish South's queen so that he needs to trump only one diamond in dummy.

EXTRA TRICK
Even when you have taken liberties in the early stages of the bidding there is very little excuse for failing to answer correctly to a conventional call to show your aces and kings. If you don't trust partner to use Blackwood wisely, tell him before the game begins that you don't want to play the convention.

ILLUSTRATION

Both sides vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

[6 of spades]
[3 of spades]
[2 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

WEST

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

SOUTH

[Ace of spades]
[King of spades]
[10 of spades]
[9 of spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]

EAST

[8 of spades]
[2 of spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[8 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

NORTH

1 [Club]
3 [Club]
5 [Diamond]!
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH

2 [Spade]
4 N.T.
6 N.T.

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: jack of diamonds

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)