Count the opponents’ hands – but when you have counted them, play intelligently.

 

Pietro Forquet  (Italy)

Pietro Forquet scored his first European Championship victory in Venice in 1951, looking for all the world like a brown-haired, fresh-faced English schoolboy. Thirty years later, winner of innumerable world championships and an important figure in the banking world, he still has a youthful, almost innocent, air.

   His main partners have been Chiaradia, Siniscalco, and Garozzo, and with each he has formed a partnership of outstanding quality. He has had successes also with other famous Italians, Avarelli and Belladonna.

   Forquet is not a thruster, like Garozzo or Belladonna. He is like a tennis player or golfer who just goes on and on, never seeming to make a mistake. Such players are very hard to beat at any game.

   Italians are supposed to be temperamental, but Pietro never shows the slightest emotion. He is what the sporting journalists call ‘a model for any young player’. There was the famous occasion at Stockholm in 1956 when he and Siniscalco had a misunderstanding at the level of seven and played in 7NT doubled with no guard in the opponents‘ long suit, which was duly cashed. Not a word was said and they proceeded to the next deal as though nothing unusual had happened. Their French opponents were more shaken than they were!

   Forquet’s tip is entitled ‘Count the Opponents’ Hands, But…’

   ‘How many times have you heard the excuse, “Sorry, partner, if I’d guessed correctly I’d have made the contract”? And how many times has this so-called unlucky guess truly unlucky?

   ‘For example, tale a look at a hand that my partner played in a recent pairs event:

ª J 9 8

 

 

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K 9 7 5

 

 

 

 

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A 4 3

 

 

 

 

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8 7 6

 

 

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10 3

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7 6 5

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10 8 3 2

W                 E

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Q 4

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Q J 10 9 8 6

 

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7 3

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4

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Q J 10 9 5 3

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A J 6

 

 

 

 

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K 2

 

 

 

 

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A K 2

 

 

‘We reached the good contract of six spades, my partner playing the hand in South. West led his singleton club and East’s 9 was headed by the ace. Declarer drew three rounds of trumps, finishing in his own hand (!). Crossing to the dummy with the ace of diamonds, he successfully finessed the jack of hearts. Then he cashed the ace of hearts, dropping East’s queen.

‘My partner had now, as they say, reached the crossroads. The contract was guaranteed (he could count on five trump tricks, three hearts and four top cards in the minor suits), but the overtrick hinged on guessing the heart position. Had East started life with the doubleton queen? Or did he have Q-10-4 initially, in which case the false card of the queen would have been mandatory on the second round? As this was a pairs event, the overtrick was of course vital, and my partner spent a good deal of time pondering his choice. In the end he played a heart to the king, hoping to drop the 10, and made only twelve tricks.

”Sorry, partner”, he said, and explained that he had taken the finesse against the 10 – and it had failed – he would have gone down in six spades, having no further entry into dummy. At this point I gave him my Bols Bridge Tip (or rather, part of it): Count the opponents’ hands!

‘He should have won the third round of trumps in dummy and then taken the heart finesse. With twelve tricks in the bag, he could now set about obtaining the vital count by playing three rounds of diamonds, ruffing the third round. The king of clubs comes next, the play to this trick revealing West’s distribution: two spades, six diamonds, one club and therefore four hearts. Declarer can finesse dummy’s 9 of hearts for a certain overtrick and a much better score on the board.

‘Now we come to the second half of my Bols Bridge Tip, and it, too, has a story behind it. I was recently playing rubber bridge with my wife, who sometimes accuses me with considerable emotion (but, in my opinion, very little justification) of taking a superior attitude to her at the table. In consequence, she says, I fail to concentrate fully – and here she may be nearer the truth, as the reader may judge from a hand I played that evening in 6NT.

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KQ75

 

 

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9 8 5

 

 

 

 

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A 10 8

 

 

 

 

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4 3 2

 

 

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A 3 2

 

 

 

 

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A 10 6

 

 

 

 

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K J

 

 

 

 

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A K Q 8 6

 

 

‘West, who had opened the bidding with three hearts, led the king of hearts. East discarded a diamond and I won with the ace, continuing with five rounds of clubs’.

(With eleven tricks on top, assuming that the clubs will break, you might have expected declarer to rectify the count for a squeeze by ducking the first round of hearts. Forquet doesn’t comment on this, but if you look at the hand again, remembering that West has opened three hearts, you will see that a squeeze is most unlikely. The only menaces are in spades and diamonds, and the odds are East will control both these suits. As East sits over the dummy in both suits, you will never be able to squeeze him.) Resuming the narrative:

‘West and dummy each discarded two hearts on the long clubs and East parted with two small diamonds. I cashed the ace and king of spades and all followed.

   ‘Now, I am a consistent fellow and follow the advice I give to others, so at this point I applied the first part of my Bols Tip and began to count the opponents’ hands. West had started with seven hearts, three clubs and at least two spades. His thirteenth card was either a spade or a diamond. If it was a spade, the diamond finesse through East was a mathematical certainty, while if West held a diamond, the odds were 7 to 1 that his diamond was not the queen. Armed with this analysis, I led a diamond from dummy, finessed the jack … and went DOWN FOUR. This was the complete deal:

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9 8 5

 

 

 

 

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A 10 8

 

 

 

 

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4 3 2

 

 

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9 6

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J1084

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K Q J 7 4 3 2

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---

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Q

 

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9 7 6 5 4 3 2

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J 9 7

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10 5

 

 

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A 3 2

 

 

 

 

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A 10 6

 

 

 

 

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K J

 

 

 

 

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A K Q 8 6

 

 

”Sorry, partner”, I said, trying to make the best of it. “With the diamonds 7-1, you must admit I was unlucky to find the singleton queen in West’s hand”.

”Down FOUR?” said my wife.

  ”Yeah, an unlucky hand”, I said, hoping she’d fail to notice my error. (Have you seen it?)

  ”Wouldn’t it have been better to end-play East with the fourth round of spades?” she asked.

”Sure, I could have”, I replied. “But it wouldn’t have helped. If East held the queen of diamonds, and exited with a low one, the suit would have been blocked”. (I was beginning to realize she’d been my mistake.)

”Blocked? How can that be? I would have cashed the king of diamonds instead of taking that silly finesse. If West showed out, that would mean the spades were 3-3 and there would be twelve tricks on top. If West followed with a small diamond, I would simply cash the queen of spades and lead dummy’s last spade, discarding the jack of diamonds on it. East would hen have to lead into dummy’s A-10 of diamonds at the end”.

   ‘As you see, my wife as quite right, and it is to her that I am indebted for the completion of my tip:

   ‘Count the opponents hands – but when you have counted them, play intelligently!

 

   That was a good story, well told, though perhaps it had the form of a magazine article rather than a Bols Tip. My idea of this competition, though the adjudicators didn’t always agree, was that the reader should be able to say to himself, ‘Ah, yes, that’s something I would not have thought of, but I will next time’. For example, on the subject of taking a count of the opposing hands, there was an instructive point in a deal described by the Argentine international, Carlos Cabanne. It is necessary only to show the distribution of the club suit, which was:

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§ K 10 7 4

 

§  J

 

§ A Q 9 8 5 3 2

 

§ 6

 

 

South was in four spades and West led the jack of clubs, a suit that East had bid twice. The jack was covered by the king and ace, and East attacked a different suit. Later in the play the declarer, to complete his count, had to decide whether the clubs were 7-1 or 6-2. (There had been no opportunity to test the suit by ruffing a round.) The fact that East had not returned a club at trick two seemed a slight indication, and South played on the assumption that of a 6-2 break, which turned out to be wrong.

Do you see what this is all about? The point is that Cabanne, the declarer had no particular reason to cover the jack of clubs at trick one. If he refrains from doing so, then West, if he has a second club, will doubtless lead it; if he does not, he can be read for a singleton. The conclusion is, Don’t prevent the opponents from revealing their distribution.