The French make dangerous bridge opponents. Any international competitor who has been chastened by defeat knows that behind the Frenchman's disarming politeness is an intense desire to beat one's brains out. This is particularly hard to remember when competing against French women. Their invariable charm and chic often cloud their reputation as very practical players.
One such lady is Mme. G�rard Bourchtoff, wife of a member of the French team that won the first World Bridge Team Olympiad in Turin last spring (SI, May 16). As quiet and small as her more famous husband is stentorian and burly, Mme. Bourchtoff (West) demonstrated a practical approach to the problem she encountered in the defense of the following hand. It was her job to find an entry to her partner's hand—which required some cool calculation.
The hand was played in a match-point pair game. In this kind of competition a score of minus 200 points is usually the kiss of death, because it is more than the opponents could probably earn from any part-score contract of their own.
Mme. Bourchtoff made her first bright move when she led the singleton jack of diamonds, declining the more obvious king of clubs lead. This decision must have been inspired by feminine intuition; if she had chosen the "safe" lead of the king of clubs, the contract could not have been defeated.
Declarer won the first trick with the diamond king and returned a low club, setting up the threat of a club ruff by dummy. Now, when Mme. Bourchtoff won the queen of clubs, if she knocked out dummy's trumps by cashing her ace and leading another spade, declarer could draw the defenders' remaining trumps, go to dummy with a diamond, discard a club loser on the third diamond and take a successful heart finesse, making three-odd. But West did not make that mistake.
Instead, she led a low trump. East's jack forced declarer's king. Another club lead was won by the club king, and West cashed the ace of spades, removing dummy's remaining trump. Next came the daring but essential play of the 3 of clubs.
Mme. Bourchtoff recognized that South must hold the ace of hearts as part of the required strength for his opening bid. Hence, the only hope of getting partner on lead was to find him with the club 9.
She led her small club, and East was somewhat surprised when his 9 won the trick, but he was in no doubt about what to return. His diamond lead was ruffed by West, the ace of clubs was cashed for the setting trick, and then West threw declarer back into his own hand by leading her last trump.
Thus deprived of ever making a lead from dummy (once he had failed to win the first trick with dummy's diamond queen), declarer now had to surrender a trick to the heart king, and went down the magic number—two tricks, 200 points.
Don't be a blind hoper. Give your opponents credit for holding the high cards their bidding indicates. Then, if you believe there is a chance your partner could have the card that will lead to the setting trick, play him for it. No matter how daring your play may seem, it is worthwhile.