A second line of defense

November 25, 1963

Military tactics and strategy are closely paralleled by many bridge situations. But the good player, like the good general, has to decide whether it is more important to "git thar fustest with the mostest" or to hold up long enough for the reserves to arrive.

In the deal shown below, for example, it was essential for North-South to use one tactic in the bidding and another in the play. The declarer tossed away a bidding triumph by failing to let his reserves bear the first shock of the enemy attack.

East and West had an excellent sacrifice available at five hearts; they could not have been defeated more than 200 points. Indeed, five hearts doubled might have proved a triumphant success. If North-South failed to lead diamonds quickly, East-West could drive out the club ace and make the contract. But West did not have anything like a sound overcall after the one-spade opening, and East could not take action after the bidding had reached a point that would commit his side to launching out at the three level. Fortune usually favors the heaviest artillery, and in bridge the spade suit provides the biggest guns. (This, by the way, is the reason a good player will shade the requirements a trifle if he can open the bidding with a spade.)

With trump length, West opened his long suit even though this meant leading away from a king. East won with the heart ace and continued hearts; South ruffed and immediately his position became dangerous. He began to draw trumps but stopped after two leads when East showed out. Declarer shifted to diamonds and would still have made his contract if East had grabbed the ace on the first lead of the suit. But East bided his time. When he won the second diamond lead, his partner completed an echo showing a doubleton. East led a third diamond for West to ruff, and declarer still had to lose a club trick.

It would have been worse for declarer if he had avoided the diamond ruff by drawing all of West's trumps. When East got in with the ace of diamonds, the defenders would have three good hearts, setting the contract two tricks.

South threw away the contract by his haste to trump the heart continuation. He could have stalled for time to bring up his reserves without its costing him a thing. His club deuce was an inevitable loser, so he should have discarded it on the second heart lead. Then, if the opponents continued to attack with hearts, declarer could accept the ruff in dummy, retaining the five-card trump length in his own hand. He could then afford to draw all four of West's trumps and would have another trump left to control the heart suit after he had surrendered the lead to the diamond ace.

ILLUSTRATION

Both sides vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

[King of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[10 of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

[8 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]

SOUTH

1 [Spade]
4 [Spade]

WEST

PASS
PASS

NORTH

2 [Spade]
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS

Opening lead: 3 of hearts

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)