BEWARE OF YOUR TRUMP TRICKS. WHEN YOU SEE A CHANCE FOR AN EARLY OVERRUFF,

DON’T BE IN TOO MUCH OF A HURRY TO TAKE IT.

by Jean Besse (Switzerland)

 

Jean Besse, of Switzerland, is one of the fixed lights of European bridge. He has played in more European Championships than any other player. A Swiss team without him would be like Hamlet without the Prince. Switzerland has often been in a challenging position in the European Championship but has never quite won the title. The country’s best Olympiad performance was fifth place in New York in 1964.

In 1954 Besse, and the legendary Karl Schneider, were enlisted by the French, winners of the European that year, to represent Europe against the U.S.A in the Bermuda Bowl. The experiment was a mixed success and since then Europe has always been represented by a complete team from the winning country.

A mathematician with brilliant qualities of mind, Jean has made a career in the computing world. He is a bridge player of unsurpassed inventiveness, as is evident from his column in the Journal De Genève and from his Bols Tip, entitled ‘Beware of Your Trump Tricks’. By ‘beware of’ he means, be sure you put them to the best possible use.

‘Bobby Fischer once said: "You have found a very good move. Fine! This is the time to think again: there probably exists a better one"

Bobby, of course, was. talking about chess. His advice, however, applies also to bridge – and especially to the situation where a defender sees an opportunity to make an easy trump trick. Surprisingly often, it will pay him to look for better things.

‘Players soon learn that by not overruffing the queen with K102 behind declarer’s AQJ987 they can ensure two tricks. The following, however, is less obvious:

    ª Q 2    
    © 8 6    
    ¨ K J 9 5    
    § Q 10 9 7 6  
ª A 9

N

ª K 8 3
© Q 3 2 W

E

© 9 7
¨ Q 4 3 2   ¨ A 10 7 6
§ A K 5 4

S

§ J 8 3 2
    ª J 10 7 6 5 4  
    © A K J 10 5 4  
    ¨ 8    
    § --    

‘The contract is four spades. South ruffs the opening club lead and sets out to establish his side suit: he takes two top hearts and ruffs a heart in dummy with the queen of spades.

‘If East yields to the temptation of overruffing with the king, South loses only one other trick and makes his contract.

‘But if East refuses to overruff, the declarer is bound to lose three trump tricks no matter how hard he tries. With a diamond loser in addition, he is defeated.

‘ The idea of not overruffing soon becomes familiar when you hold either length or strength in the trump suit. Somewhat less well known are those cases where the defender with the shorter or weaker trump holding may gain a trick for his side by employing the same tactics.

    ª 9 2    
    © 6 5    
    ¨ A K Q 4 3  
    § A K 5 4    
ª Q 7

N

ª K 6 5
© 10 7 W

E

© A K Q 9 8 2
¨ 10 9 8 7 2   ¨ J 5
§ J 9 6 2

S

§ 10 8
    ª A J 10 8 4 3  
    © J 4 3    
    ¨ 6    
    § Q 7 3    

‘South plays in four spades after East has overcalled in hearts. West leads the 10 of hearts and East plays off the three top cards in the suit.

‘If, on the third round of hearts, West jumps in with ªQ, declarer will discard from dummy and thereafter will have no trouble picking up East’s trumps. Instead, West should rise to the occasion by discarding a diamond! After ruffing this trick in dummy South will have to lose two trump tricks – and his contract.

‘In that example, refusal to ruff with the queen in front of dummy’s 92 was no more than good technique. Dare you go one step further? It is possible to blend the technique of trump promotion with deception, as in this example:

 

    ª 9 2    
    © 6 5    
    ¨ A K Q 4 3  
    § A Q 5 4    
ª J 7

N

ª K 6 5
© 10 7 W

E

© A K J 9 8 2
¨ 10 9 8 7 2   ¨ J 5
§ J 9 6 2

S

§ 10 8
    ª A Q 10 8 4 3  
    © Q 4 3    
    ¨ 6    
    § K 7 3    

‘Again the contract is four spades and West leads the ©10, East playing off ace, king and a small one. On the third round West ruffs declarer’s queen with the seven of spades!

‘Declarer overruffs with dummy’s 9 and continues with the 2. When East follows with a small trump declarer is confronted with a problem. If he goes up with the ace he may lose two trump tricks to East’s possible KJX. If he plays the queen he may lose to West’s possible KX (for with this holding West would certainly ruff low, not with the king).

‘Declarer may very well decide that his best chance is to ruff with the 10, which seems to take care of both possibilities. It will be a shock to him when the 10 loses to the now singleton jack and he has to lose to the king as well.

‘Even when you hold a single isolated trump and this is of a lowly rank, you should still think twice before overruffing with it. Being now in full command of the subject, you will easily manage East’s hand in the final example:

    ª J 9 8 7 6 5 4  
    © 5    
    ¨ 10    
    § J 10 3 2    
ª A K Q 10

N

ª 3
© K Q 10 2 W

E

© 9 6
¨ Q 9   ¨ J 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
§ 8 7 6

S

§ 5 4
    ª 2    
    © A J 8 7 4 3    
    ¨ A K    
    § A K Q 9    

‘The contract is five clubs and West begins with two top spades, South ruffing. Declarer cashes the ace of hearts and ruffs a heart with §10, since East has discarded a heart on the second spade and threatens to overruff. Declarer continues with a club to the king and a heart ruff with §J. After a diamond to the ace the position is:

    ª J 9 8 7 6    
    © -    
    ¨ -    
    § 3    
ª Q 10

N

ª -
© K W

E

© -
¨ Q   ¨ J 8 7 6 5
§ 8 6

S

§ 5
    ª -    
    © J 8 7    
    ¨ K    
    § A Q    

‘South leads a fourth round of hearts and ruffs with §3. Should you now, as East, overruff with your lowly five-spot you will have to lead diamonds to South’s king, enabling him to draw trumps and claim the contract.

‘But you, of course, refuse to naïve overruff! This leaves declarer locked in dummy, compelled to force his own hand in spades and lose the last two tricks to the 8 of trumps and the queen of spades.

‘My bridge tip is this: Beware of your trump tricks. When you see a chance of an easy overruff, don’t be in too much of a hurry to take it. You may gain still more tricks by holding back’.

In a later issue of the IBPA Bulletin Besse followed this rich offering with another example

    ª K 10 5    
    © 6 4 2    
    ¨ A K Q J    
    § K 8 3    
ª A 6 2

N

ª Q 3
© 5 W

E

© A Q J 10 9 3
¨ 10 9 5 4   ¨ 8 3
§ Q 10 9 6 5

S

§ J 7 4
    ª J 9 8 7 4    
    © K 8 7    
    ¨ 7 6 2    
    § A 2    

North opens 1NT in fourth hand, East overcalls with two hearts, and South becomes declarer in four spades.

West leads his singleton heart, East plays the ace and returns with the queen, which is covered with the king. West ruffs and then … but there is no hereafter! As East passed originally, South gauges the trumps correctly and East never comes in to cash his heart winner.

From West’s angle, the best hope is to find partner with a trump entry. If he declines to ruff (or ruffs with the ace, which would be essential with AX) he enables partner to gain entry with the queen of spades.

Jean might like to add this deal to his collection:

 

    ª A 8 4    
    © 6 5    
    ¨ Q 5    
    § J 8 6 5 4 3    
ª K 3

N

ª 2
© K 10 9 7 W

E

© J 8 3
¨ J 9 6 4 3 2   ¨ K 10 8 7
§ 2

S

§ A K Q 10 7
    ª Q J 10 9 7 6 5
    © A Q 4 2    
    ¨ A    
    § 9    

Playing in four spades, South ruffs the second club with ªQ. West looks the other way, discarding a diamond. South should play ace and another heart now, but if instead he crosses to the ace of trumps and finesses the queen of hearts he loses the contract. West wins and cashes his trump winner, leaving declarer with two heart losers and only one trump in dummy.