Sleeping on the Couch

The continuing misadventures of Dave playing bridge with his wife, Anne.”

By Dave Caprera, Denver, Colorado


“To Be Young Again”

In the “old days”, folks would sit in their living room on Sunday nights and watch TV. Growing up in my house, it was the Ed Sullivan Show. Well Ed and Topo Gigio are no longer with us, so on Sunday nights Annie and I might be found on the couch with the big screen plugged into the computer and logged into BBO to watch a training session of young bridge players aspiring to make the U.S. Junior Team which will travel to Italy next summer for the world championships. It is a “really good show.”

Watching junior bridge can be very exciting, even more so if you are watching a team you happen to coach. While the play can be a bit erratic, it is the bidding that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. Consider the following deal from a recent team game.


 EW vul                        S 1085

                             H AKJ10

                             D QJ83

  •                           C 104


S KJ9762                                                                    S Q3

H Q94                                                                         H 6532

D 1072                                                                       D K4

C 6                                                                             C KQJ32

                             S A4

                             H 87

                             D A965

  •                           C A9875


South               West                 North               East

  -                       -                       -                     1C

Pass                  1H                   Dbl                  1NT

2H                     2S                   3H                   Dbl

Pass                  Pass                 Pass


Opening lead: S2 (or spade 2)

East dealt and opened 1C. No self respecting junior would ever consider passing a balanced, aceless 11 count with no spot card higher than a six.

South passed (I am surprised he didn’t bid 1D). Don’t worry, he will bid later.

West bid 1H which by their agreement showed four or more Spades. (Juniors like gadgets and fancy methods. I also happen to like transfer responses to a potentially balanced 1C opening and I believe it will become more common in years to come.)

North doubled, apparently showing Hearts (“he stole my bid”), and here I do think the very chunky four card heart suit warrants action. (In the post mortem, North said that he thought his double also showed Diamonds. One possible defensive structure to counter transfer responses where a 1C opening could be short is to play that double shows Hearts and Diamonds and 1S shows Hearts and Clubs. But North had neglected to let South know that this is what he thought he was doing!)

Back to East. Of course he can pass, but to no one’s surprise he rebid 1NT. I am guessing that this showed exactly two Spades. It did not show extra values. One might also expect it showed a better heart stopper than 6532.

Everyone else is bidding and South has three aces and the best hand at the table. He realizes he should do something. The question is, “What does double mean?” In my world I would say it shows values and some club length, penalty oriented. But in junior bridge “all low level doubles are takeout.” That way you get to bid more often. But instead of doubling, my man South opted for 2H!

West made his normal 2S rebid. Of course, that did not end the auction. (At the other table North -South were not in the auction and West played in 2S and went down two tricks.)

Over 2S, North having excellent support for partner’s “2H overcall”, raised to 3H. He could hardly do less.

And, of course, East with a trump stack and the opponents not vulnerable doubled for penalties. This ended the auction.

Sitting on the couch, I am totally drained. My team is the North-South pair. They have just landed in a 4-2 fit at the three level, been doubled, and IT IS COLD FOR TEN TRICKS. I am just hoping they take nine.

The play proved just as exciting as the auction. The opening lead was the C6 to East’s jack and South’s ace. South chose to duck a Spade to East’s queen. When East now cashed the top club and West discarded a diamond, the East-West distribution was totally known to declarer.

The play now took a circuitous detour. East continued with a small club, South played the nine, and West, rather than ruffing to shorten dummy and promote a trick for partner (West “knows” East has four Hearts for his double?), discarded another diamond while a spade was discarded from the dummy.

From the bleacher seats, and looking at all four hands, we see that South can now take 11 tricks.

Go team! There is a problem however. Can South possibly imagine that East does not have the HQ?

Here is the position with South having lost two tricks and on play.

                                            S 10

                                            H AKJ10

                                                        D QJ83

                                                        C -

S KJ976                                                                              S 3

H Q94                                                                                 H 6532

D 10                                                                                    D K4

C -                                                                                      Q 3

                                             S A

                                             H 87

                                             D A965

  •                                           C 87


South cashed the SA and played a heart to the ace, followed by the king, and a third heart. West won and continued with the SK. The hand now collapsed. In the end, South was down one for minus 100. No great loss but an opportunity wasted.

One of my coaching lessons is that some deals are worth more than others. Vulnerable games, slams, and doubled part scores are deals where that little man should be standing on your shoulder and whispering in your ear, “Play carefully, take your time, this one counts.” In the diagramed position, could South ensure nine tricks?

What happens if South takes the “losing heart finesse” instead of cashing the SA? Even if East were to win and play another club which West ruffs, declarer discards from dummy and has the rest of the tricks.  If East were to win and play the CQ declarer ruffs in dummy, cashes the two remaining trump (pitching diamonds), finesses the diamond, and now has no losers other than East‘s long heart. If East returns anything else, declarer makes an overtrick. And if the losing finesse actually wins, it is happy days are here again. 

Exciting? You bet. Annie was so spent from the action that she soon was sleeping on the couch. (True story.)

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