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Beware bridge players bearing gifts

Jim Jacoby 


YOU bridge players do a lot of humdrum and routine work. Consequently it's very easy for you to be lulled into that well-known false sense of security. Of course, in theory you should play your heart out on every deal, but as a practical matter you just don't.

It helps to get the adrenaline going, but how do you do it? This is a problem you must solve individually. But perhaps I can help with a tale from an old legend.

In Virgil's Aeneid, the soothsayer Cassandra warned the Trojan warriors: 'Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.' (I fear the Greeks, even bearing gifts.) Nevertheless, the soldiers of Troy took the gift of the wooden horse into their city. Virgil little knew that his story could assist bridge players thousands of years later. Yet, with due acknowledgement to that ancient poet, my tip to you is 'Beware bridge players bearing gifts'.

 

THERE is a wealth of deals with Trojan horse themes. Here is one from a recent knock-out teams final at a US regional tournament:

 

East Dealer

 K 2

 

 

           

 

N-S Game

 K Q 7 3

 

 

 

 

 J 10 2

 

 

 

 

 K Q 4 2

 

 

 

 

 

N

 

 

 Q 9 3

 

 

 J 10 7 5 4

           

 J 10 6 2

 

W                          E

 9 5 4

 6 5

 

 

 A K Q 9

 J 9 8 5

 

 

 6

 

 

 

S

 

 

 

 

 A 8 6

 

 

 

 

 A 8

 

 

 

 

 8 7 4 3

 

 

 

 

 A 10 7 3

 

 

                           

W

N

E

S

 

 

Pass

1♣

Pass

1

Dbl

Pass

1♠

2♠

Pass

2NT

Pass

3NT

All

Pass

 

 

                           

 

 

 

Declarer won the three of spades lead with dummy's king and cashed the king and queen of clubs. When East showed out on the second club there were only eight tricks. But declarer sent his wooden horse to the gates of Troy. He

led the jack of diamonds from dummy. East, a good intermediate player, surprised VuGraph onlookers by cashing out all four diamonds, so that the subsequent play of the ace of spades squeezed West in hearts and clubs.

 

NEXT we have a familiar theme:  

  South Dealer  J 10 9 8    

 

Game All

 K 8 2

 

 

 

 

 4 3 2

 

 

 

 

 4 3 2

 

 

 

 

 

N

 

 

K     3 2

 A Q J 10 9 6

 

W                          E

 5 4 3

 J 10 9

 

 

 8 7 6 5

 J 10 9

 

 

 8 7 6 5

 

 

 

S

 

 

 

 

 A Q 7 6 5 4

 

 

 

 

 7

 

 

 

 

 A K Q

 

 

 

 

 A K Q

 

 

 

South plays in Six Spades after West has overcalled in hearts. West leads the ace of hearts and continues with a second heart, putting the lead in the North hand so that declarer can (hopefully) take a losing trump finesse. But now that you are aware of the clever traps these bridge players set, you of course simply play the spade ace and sneer as the king comes clatttering down.

 

AN exciting demonstration of the wooden horse play occurred in a world championship. Bobby Wolff was the star, while the victims were Svarc-Boulenger of France.

 

  South Dealer K 8 5    

 

Love All

 K 10 3

 

 

 

 

 A Q J 3 2

 

 

 

 

 J 7

 

 

 

 

 

N

 

 

A 10 6     J 9 4 2

 Q 9 6 2

 

W                          E

 5

 8 6

 

 

 9 7 5 4

 K 9 7 2

 

 

 A 10 8 4

 

 

 

S

 

 

 

 

 Q 7 3

 

 

 

 

 A J 8 7 4

 

 

 

 

 K 10

 

 

 

 

 Q 6 3

 

 

                           

W

N

E

S

 

 

 

1

Pass

2

Pass

2

Pass

4

All

Pass

 

Boulenger, East, won the two of clubs lead with his ace and, after brief reflection, returned the four of clubs. Svarc, West, won with the king, played the ace of spades and continued spades.

From South's angle there was no certainty that a bridge gift had in fact been offered and yet...! Svarc would surely be unlikely to cash the ace of spades unless he felt he had some good chance of taking the setting trick later. (Without such expectation, he might, for example, have played a low spade, hoping to find East with the queen.)

Accordingly, Wolff won with the queen of spades and played the jack of hearts, which was covered by Svarc with the queen and taken by the king in dummy. Declarer returned to his hand with the ten of diamonds and led the eight of hearts. When Svarc played low, Wolff called for the heart three...! How did it all happen?

Simple enough. Declarer decided the prompt play of the third trick for the defence suggested the queen of hearts was in the West hand. Then, when West readily covered the jack, there was a further deduction that a player of Svarc's calibre would not play the queen from Qx or Qxxx. (With such a holding, West would have to allow for the possibility that declarer originally had AJ98x(x) in hearts.)

 

So the play of the queen of hearts was a gift: a gift that tested our declarer. Fortunately for the Aces' world championship aspirations that year, Wolff passed the test.

 

Let this be my BOLS bridge tip to you:

When a good opponent seemingly gives you a present, stay alert!
 Watch for a trap! Beware bridge players bearing gifts!

 

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