Break a rule and get a break

October 23, 1966

More people play bridge than play golf. but the area around a bridge table is considerably more constricted than it is around a putting green. This gives me a soothing explanation for the fact that Goren's gallery is never going to compare in numbers with Arnie's Army. Despite the difference in size, I'll bet there are more critics in my following. I hear from them frequently, especially when I violate one of my own rules.

For example, if I make a liberal preemptive bid, someone is sure to quote the chapter and verse of my book where I say that, to open with a preempt, you should be able to win within three tricks of your bid when not vulnerable and within two tricks when vulnerable. My advice is based on the sound mathematics that it does not pay to get set more than 500 points in order to prevent an opposing game. Nevertheless, there are occasions when experienced players tend to bend this rule for such good reasons as: 1) the preemptor isn't always set as much as he might be, 2) sometimes he collects a big profit because the opponents get too high, or 3) the opponents get to the wrong spot—missing a lay-down slam or bidding game in a suit where it can't be made. These profits help the preemptor amortize his debts when disaster strikes and still leave a bit of net gain if he doesn't carry things too far.

In today's rubber bridge deal, for example, the preemptor was right to bid for one trick extra because he had 100 honors and a hand where seven tricks were cold and an eighth was possible if partner had but two or three small hearts in a bust hand. The fact that declarer actually made 10 tricks was the result of a defender's carelessness with a spot-card.

On winning the first trick with his king of diamonds, West made the essential shift to a trump, without which South would have had a Cakewalk, since he would have been able to trump one of his losing clubs in dummy. But in leading trumps West made a terrible mistake. He led the 6 instead of the 4!

After winning East's heart king, South was not foolish enough to play for the long-shot chance that the player with the remaining trump could not win the trick when a club was played. But he was not disturbed over being unable to trump a losing club, because he no longer needed that play. South had been given virtually a sure thing by West's lead of the heart 6. He led a spade to the ace, returned the queen of diamonds and discarded a losing club. West won this trick and continued trumps. But declarer was able to win with dummy's 5 of hearts, and discard a club loser on the established jack of diamonds. He then conceded a club trick and claimed the rest to make his contract.

If West had not been a spendthrift—if he had led the 4 of hearts instead of the 6, declarer would have gone down two tricks. With no chance to trump a losing club and no second entry to dummy's diamonds, South would have to rely on the spade finesse. When it lost, East would put his partner in with a club lead, West would return the 6 of hearts and declarer would be stranded in his hand with two more club losers. The difference between the 6 of hearts and the 4 was exactly 820 points.

Both sides vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

[King of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[8 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

SOUTH
4 [Heart]

WEST
PASS

NORTH
PASS

EAST
PASS

Opening lead: king 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)