In most bridge games nobody likes a Jack Dalton. For the benefit of younger readers, the stalwart Dalton was a fictional hero of some years back who invariably turned up at the scene of desperation in the nick of time, shouting: "Jack Dalton to the rescue." But unwise bridge rescues often cost heavily. It is usually less expensive to let your partner extricate himself, if he feels it is necessary. But not always.
The following hand occurred in the final match of the Masters Knockout Team championship in Toronto. It was an all-Canadian final between the heavily favored team of Eric Murray and the Cinderella group of Bruce Gowdy. Murray won, but it was a close match until the last board. Indeed, the result might have gone the other way if Gowdy had emulated Jack Dalton on this hand.
It is my own guiding principle that when I am surely going to lose a lot of points anyway, I am willing to risk losing a few more in the hopes of being able to better a bad bargain. It is fairly certain that North-South is going to absorb heavy punishment at two diamonds doubled. If partner cannot stomach three clubs and must return to three diamonds, the extra 300 points lost probably will not greatly increase the number of International Match Points the opponents will collect. So, had I been North, I would have bid three clubs and, in this instance, been lucky enough to find partner with good support.
Let me compliment Murray's guts in doubling the two-diamond bid for a takeout and Kehela's judgment in converting this into a penalty double by passing. Four hearts would be very hard to bring home and, in any case, East-West's keen defense collected more than the value of a vulnerable game.
West led a club, which East ruffed. Murray returned ace and queen of hearts, and Kehela overtook in order to give East a second club ruff. South ruffed the third heart and made a fine play when he led the diamond king, losing to the ace but pinning East's queen. Kehela countered by leading the king of spades. Had South let this hold, he would have spiked Kehela's gambit, but he won with dummy's ace and returned to his hand with a club. The jack of diamonds was cashed and the 9 led to force West's 10. Now Kehela was able to put Murray in with the queen of spades, and a spade continuation provided a classic trump promotion. West was down to the lone 6 of trumps, but he was bound to take a trick with it when the spade lead came winging through the declarer, whose trumps were now headed by the 7. South was down three tricks for a whopping loss of 800 points.
At the other table the North player for the Murray team opened with one club and, after a spirited competitive auction, played at four clubs doubled. This was down one for a net of 600, or 12 IMPs, to Murray.
Most of the time you will lose points by rescuing your partner. But, when the situation is so desperate it can scarcely be worse, it is worth risking another 200 or 300 in order to try to find a safer landing place.