Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Art of Ducking

A bridge table is always a small theatre where we can see characters of all sorts.
North-South or East-West, you see go by... the Happy one, the Aggressive, the Nervous, the Arrogant, the Professor, etc.  And then there is the Expert: the-one-who-once-was-an-expert; the-one-who-wants-you-to-think-he's-an-expert; the-one-whom-everybody-thinks-he's-an-expert, etc.  There is also the Beginner:  the-one-who-apologises-for-being-a-Beginner; the one-who-wants-you-to-think-he's-still-a-Beginner; the-one-who-still-plays-with-the-beginners-because-he-doesn't-send-his-points-to-the-ACBL, etc.
At the local club, one night, you might see these three characters:
The first one, West, has been a good player but now he is only the Expert-who-is-always-right; he always find profound reasoning to justify his mistakes.
His partner, East, once had great ambitions but all she has left now is pretention.
Between the so-called Expert and the Pretentious, no partnership is possible, they just want to be clever.  She is not as strong as he is, but she would never admit it.  On defence, she questions, discusses, gets annoyed, cries out; he makes faces, doesn't answer, avoids discussion, etc.  They have something in common though: they know the art of ducking.
This art seems to distinguish the expert from the ordinary player.  To duck is an art, it is the last word in bridge.

The bidding:

Lead:  Ace of ♣.
Sitting South we have a Beginner.  Well, that's what the Expert and the Pretentious think of her and they don't even say Hello:  they already duck.
The Beginner's bidding is, to say the least, aggressive.  A quick look at dummy shows five winners; a second look tells her she has 6 losers: 4 clubs and the 2 major aces.  Well,  anyway, she tells herself, let' s go, my opponents seem so nice.
On the Ace of clubs, the Pretentious puts the 8; the Expert then plays the King of clubs, 9 from his partner.  Here, the Expert makes his first deep play: he plays a low club - yet another advanced form of ducking.  Declarer takes the Jack of clubs and plays a small spade: the Expert, who was not born yesterday, ducks and the King wins.   Life is so beautiful, people are so understanding,  rejoices the Beginner. I'm up to seven tricks. Now she lays a small trap, so small, childish:  she plays Queen of hearts from dummy: the Pretentious, all at showing her superiority, ducks:  8 tricks.
The Beginner, starting to feel respect for those altruistic souls, thinks: she has ducked once, she may duck twice.
Jack of hearts from dummy:  the Pretentious, keeping her cool... and her Ace of hearts, ducks again.  To duck once was already a superior play, but what can you say about the second duck?
Good heavens,  reflects the Beginner, there are no aces in this game. She even thinks of calling the Director.  We can see that she doesn't understand the expert's play:  To play your Aces, how vulgar! would have said the Pretentious.
But now, the Beginner, having received four tricks by gracious ducks, and before calling the director, becomes really vulgar and cashes 5 diamond tricks: 9 tricks and a cold TOP.
The last two tricks produce spectacular collisions between the Ace of , the Ace of ♠, the Queen of ♣, the Expert and the Pretentious, all in front of the Beginner who is still asking herself where are all those Aces everyone told her should exist.  We can see that she really doesn't understand the deepness of that expert play because who in the world can reduce 6 winners to 4?
Did I just make a squeeze?, she asks, dazzled.
They did it themselves, answers her partner. You have combined here many techniques: at bridge, there is the simple squeeze, the double squeeze and the triple squeeze; there is also the strip-squeeze (No, dear, it's not what you think!).  There is also the ordinary dummy, the dummy reversal and the double dummy.  You have just made a triple dummy plus an auto-squeeze by East-West, all of which was expressed by Jean de la Fontaine, a long time ago, when he said:  The dum(m)est of the three is not the one you think... or should we say the dummiest of the three is not the one you think.

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