Poor Bridge of the Week
How Good is Your Opponent?
By Phil Smith

Here follows a description of a hand that was played badly by a declarer. The declarer play can only possibly make any sort of sense at all if the defender is a good player, and only then when he is also one who enjoys the art of the Grovner Coup. I should be clear: the person who gave me the hand defended at the table, not me. As everyone knows already, I'm not much of a player, so against me the play would have been irrational. Which it probably was in any event. Anyway, the complete deal was as follows:

Both Vuln
Dealer S
HA J 9 5
DA Q J 10 8 7 4
SQ 5 2
H4 3 2
DK 3 2
CA K J 3
SK 10 9 7 6
H10 8 6
C7 6 5 4
SA J 4 3
HK Q 7
D9 5
C10 9 8 2

The auction, I am told and have no reason to doubt, was as follows:


Thanks to the DK being onside, twelve tricks in diamonds (or hearts for that matter) are possible, but North-South chose to stay out of slam and picked the ever-popular 3NT instead. As this hand was played in a teams game, that isn't actually all that bright, but not surprising or poor.

The defence kick of with the top two clubs, but when they realise that they will need a trick outside of clubs, and not fancying setting up a trick for declarer, West switched to a spade. This runs to the King and Ace and it is time for declarer to tackle the diamonds. First up, the D9 is run and holds. Fine. Next up the D5 is led, and the ace is played from dummy.


Did Clive Owen, sitting East, duck with the king doubleton of diamonds for no particular reason? You know, just to not allow the defence to cash the setting tricks when presented with the opportunity? No, obviously not: it would seem the 100% obvious line of taking the finesse again and then cashing the diamonds to make the contract was given up on, for some reason. Malcolm Oliver (West) pounced on the chance to defeat the contract via cashing the appropriate winners and pick up the gifted IMPs. Later, they went to the bar and told me all about the hand.

Special Bonus Article: Nick Suffers a Blockage

There comes a time in the development of every bridge player where elementary mistakes can no longer be simply passed off as the mistakes of a novice. No longer is it the case that the phrase 'oh well, I got that wrong' will do. And it is at this momentous point that we meet the irrepressible Nick Schurch (that's pronounced Church, by the way). Nick, almost proudly, announced that he had made a mistake so bad that it was his first poor bridge of the week. Even his partner, a novice player, noticed his error and pointed it out to him! Well, I reviewed that hand and was happy enough to present it here for everyone's general education.

The full deal is as follows, which yielded a competitive auction to 4S by South.

SA K 9
H3 2
DA K Q 10 7
C10 8 3
SJ 4
HA K J 8 5
D8 3 2
CQ 4 2
S10 5 2
HQ 9 7 4
DJ 9 6 5 4
SQ 8 7 6 3
H10 6
CK J 9 7 6 5

Now 4S — which is a perfectly reasonable contract to bid — doesn't really have any play. Nick, declaring the hand as South, received the HA lead, which was followed up by the HK, and then the club switch. Having started off with some flawless cashing, the defence stumbled at trick four: East decided to lead a diamond!!! With four diamonds, five spades and the CK now ready to cash, ten tricks should have been easy enough to wrap up. But wait: Nick had other, poorbridge, ideas. Rather than play the S9 to the Queen and then a low spade back to the Ace, King, making the contract whenever spades break 3-2, Nick chose to cash the spades from the top and leave the position:

DA K Q 7
C10 8
HJ 8
D3 2
CQ 4
HQ 9
DJ 9 6 5
S8 7
CK J 9 7

With all those tasty diamonds sitting in dummy, waiting — nay longing — to be cashed, it was a pity that Nick was locked in his own hand with no way to get to them. So Nick drifted one off, and learned a valuable lesson: check on your entries before, in haste, you cash your tricks in the wrong order. He also got a word or three from his partner, and a poorbridge of the week for his efforts, too!