Friday, October 25, 2013

A lead is worth... a thousand words!

You have:

And you hear the following auction:

Over 4♠, you toy with the idea of bidding 5 but you have read The Book (Law of Total Tricks) and you pass in tempo. You try nevertheless to remember what Larry Cohen says about double fits (2♠ shows hearts and clubs) and the following adjustments to the LAW.

While you are busy googling, your partner leads the 6 of hearts.

On the heart 10 from dummy, you win the Ace, declarer playing the 7.

How do you continue?

First, you have to think.
  • Your partner guarantees at least 5 hearts and 5 clubs, so declarer has 5-6 spades, 1 heart, 1-2 clubs and so... 4-5 diamonds.
  • If declarer has 5 spades, 1 heart and 2 clubs, he has 5 diamonds and your partner will ruff the diamond return.
You raise up on your chair, wide awake now, a bit excited, like before a great event. Do the math again: if declarer has 6 spades, 1 heart and 2 clubs, he has only 4 diamonds and partner doesn't ruff the 1rst diamond.

How can you know what he has?

You don't play any card yet.

You could play the Ace of clubs in order to see what will happen, but that would not be enough to set the contract, even if your partner ruffs diamond. After the heart lead, the only entry back to your hand is the club Ace.

To defeat this contract, you have to play diamond for a ruff, asking for a club return and play a second diamond, for one down.

It's so tough! How can you know for sure?

Let's review from the start.

You and your partner lead 3rd from even, low from odd. Your partner led the 6 of hearts, dummy played the 10 and declarer the 7. There, everything is before your eyes... and you don't see anything.

Look again: partner led the 6 of hearts (3rd from even, low from odd), dummy played the 10 and declarer the 7.

You got it? No? Are you blind? Ask yourself: what are partner's hearts ? The King, and then?
You and dummy had AQJ10982 and declarer played the 7.
What's left ? Under the 10, you never look, you say? Why do you play bridge then?

So I will tell you. Partner has K6543.
So? you ask again, blind now by choice or by laziness.
Look again: K6543. With these cards, partner has led the 6, and you normally lead low from an odd number. She led the 6. Why the 6? She led 2nd, and not 5th. Why?

If partner led 2nd and not 5th, she wanted to tell you something. The heart 6 is an abnormal lead, absolutely contrary to your understanding. This strange play form partner is not a mistake, she did not choose the 6 at random. She is trying to tell you something, she is doing all she can to transmit a message within the limits of the bridge language. The heart 6 tells you: Look and look again, think, WAKE UP!

This heart 6 confirms declarer's distribution: 5152. The heart 6 says: Come back diamond, I will ruff. Why diamond? Because, apart from the King, the heart 6 is the highest card possible she could play from this holding to ask for a diamond return. You can now almost hear your partner's voice, applying all the force of her mind, trying to communicate with your mind, repeating in her head: diamond, diamond, play a diamond, play a diamond.

While all this is going on, you didn't look at your partner and she didn't try to influence you by shifting on her seat or by sighing. You are bridge players and you practice active ethics. The heart 6 uses a legal way to tell you something and you finally got the message.

Your hand again:

So you decide to return diamond. Which diamond? The 2, obviously, asking for a club return.

Trembling, you put the diamond 2 on the table. Declarer plays small. Your partner pulls out a card, keeps it hovering over the table, without showing it yet. Is she a sadist?

No, you know her: upon winning a trick, she always does that. You now know that you found the perfect card to play.

Did declarer follow your thoughts? Is he aware of what is going to happen to him?

When the small spade from partner appears on the table, ruffing the diamond, declarer literally jumps on his seat. Your partner comes back a club, you win the Ace and play a second diamond. Declarer will go down 2, partner having also the Ace of spades.

Opening the traveling sheet, poor declarer shakes his head. He is the only one to go down :
"It’s not my fault. You saw this defence. I couldn't do anything, it's not my fault."

That’s bridge. Each and every card has a meaning. You have to look, think, analyse, decipher, in order to see if partner is sending you message. If there is no message, it is still a message, partner is saying: Nothing useful to say, nothing urgent to do, just play normally.

But if the lead is abnormal, really out of your understandings, partner is trying to tell you something. It is your job to look, look and look again, to think, think and think again, to count, count and count again. In every situation at bridge, it is your job to take your time.

And this article makes 1000 words.

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