August 26, 1974

Two Can Do The Crist Twist

A retired book editor from Texas has come up with a challenging new two-hand version of the game that is also a good deal of fun for one

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[Ace of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]

The last packet, from which he has to select his 13th card, includes two spades, the 9 and the 2, and two clubs, the king and the 2. Assuming that this is the first deal of the game or that making six spades will at least tie the previous slam, which card would you choose?

It is tempting to take the 9 of spades, ensuring that you will win all the spade tricks. But your chance of avoiding two heart losers hinges largely on West's having the bad luck to draw both the king and queen of hearts in the same packet, in which case he could choose only one. Failing this, you might also succeed if you could establish a dummy containing no more than two hearts and enough trumps to ruff one of your heart losers. You may be sure, however, that West will try to take exactly three hearts, including the king-queen, and as many spades as he can collect.

So the 9 of spades is out, as is the spade deuce for the same reasons, and the king of clubs will not improve your chances of avoiding two heart losers, either. But it may be that keeping the lowest card in the deck will save the day. Why? Because this will force West to try to select the king and queen of hearts and the king of clubs along with all the spades he can gather, and there is a good chance that more than one of these key cards will turn up in a single packet. Thus you keep the club 2.

But suppose luck is with your opponent and he is able to build the West hand shown in the diagram. Do you give up on your six-spade contract? Not if you have calculated your play with care.

If West leads a spade, you cash three trumps and the ace-king of diamonds, then lead the jack of hearts. Should West take the trick, any card he returns will let you get to dummy with the 10 of hearts, the queen of clubs or the good diamonds, on which you discard your losers. If West ducks the heart jack, you cash the ace and throw him in with a heart for the same result. Nor will any other opening lead help. A diamond lead alters nothing. Leading the king of hearts lets you win and, after stripping trumps and top diamonds, you lead the jack of hearts. West is cooked whether he wins this heart or the next one.

A low club opening won in dummy sets up a similar endplay. You take the ace-king of diamonds and run all your trumps. If West unguards his club king, you cash the ace and lead the heart jack. Or, if West discards a heart, you cash the heart ace and lead another heart, winning the last tricks with a heart and the club ace.

Deals involving such complex playing problems are infrequent, but they come up often enough to require that some hands be played out. In short, Crist's Twist offers definite possibilities for family play. And it will serve as a good alternative for two experts who would otherwise be forced to make up a game with a pair of arrant duffers or play something other than their beloved bridge.

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