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The fellow who hands out advice in any field is, of course, leading with his chin, but he is in a particularly hazardous position in bridge. The advice may be perfectly sound, but it becomes progressively less so as it is passed from person to person. Mr. Alexander Pope knew what he was talking about when he referred to a little learning, and he might have added that a little truth is equally dangerous.
Getting down to cases, I have been preaching for a long time that "an opening bid facing an opening bid will produce game." And so it will—with reasonable qualifications. On a recent occasion, however, this slogan of mine was tossed right back in my face by a friend—temporarily a bit irate—who found that it did not apply to the following case. I sympathized with him but tried to convince him that it wasn't my slogan that was at fault.
Unfortunately for my friend, who was North—and for myself, sitting just behind him (at his request)—South went down one at his five-diamond contract. Whereupon North turned to me and said with some acerbity, "You and your nursery rhymes! I had an opening bid facing an opening bid—so why didn't we make game?"
I could have turned the other cheek, but for one thing I'm rather fond of this "nursery rhyme," since it has pulled in a lot of points for me throughout the years; and, for another, if you can't fight with your friends, whom can you fight with? (There was a third point, but I'll get to that later.) So I told him that the slogan doesn't apply to minor-suit games needing eleven tricks, and that he might have considered the advisability of getting to three no trump. Granted, I continued, it would not be proper for North to bid no trump himself as a second-round response to South's diamond rebid, because whatever strength South might have in clubs should be led up to, not through. The wise thing for North to do was to underbid a shade, raising to only three diamonds instead of four, and his partner undoubtedly would have been happy to veer into three no trump.
My third point—which I didn't discuss with my friend because his partner was a nice fellow and I certainly didn't want to embarrass him—was that the five-diamond contract, inferior though it was, could have been made. South actually grabbed the first trick with his heart king, drew trumps and tried to pass a spade into the West hand, but he had no luck with this plan, and so he finally had to try for the club ace on-side. No luck there either, and down he went.
It would have been a very good idea for South to let West win the first trick. West could do no better than continue hearts. South wins, pulls the opposing trumps, discards a spade on the heart ace, and then cashes the king and ace of spades and ruffs a spade. With that suit breaking 3-3, South has a parking spot for a club and doesn't have to worry about the position of the club ace. If spades don't break, he can try for the favorable club lie as a last resort.
But I still say that my friend should have bid only three diamonds, not four, instead of trying to fix me for writing nursery rhymes.