The Power of the Closed Hand by Barry Rigal


Board-a-match is a strange form of scoring -- it leads to attempting to justify non-bridge decisions. That is my excuse for opening 1NT from the North seat. Of course this right-sides all the side suits, but the 4-1 trump split and the heart honor location makes 4S tough on the third-and-fifth H3 lead.


                            S  Q J

Dlr: North                  H  Q 4

Vul: None                   D  A Q 8 5 4

                            C  A Q 10 4

             S  7                            S  A 10 9 2

             H  A 10 8 7                     H  J 9 3 2

             D  K 10 9 2                     D  J 7 3

             C  K J 5 3                      C  9 2

                            S  K 8 6 5 4 3

                            H  K 6 5

                            D  6

                            C  8 7 6


The best I could do was to take the HQ, cash the DA and ruff a diamond. Then I led a low heart from dummy, and that set West a sticky problem. If I had the HJ as either a doubleton and part of a four-card holding, it probably would be critical to take the HA now. Even if that was not the case, it was hardly clear that ducking the ace would gain a trick. Rightly or wrongly West took the HA and shifted to a club. When I put in the C10, that led to 10 tricks, as there were now just two trumps and a heart to lose.


Cover an Honor with an Honor by Barry Rigal


Both tables reached 3S by North in competition over 3C after East had shown clubs and hearts.


                            S  10 9 8 3 2

Dlr: East                   H  A 10

Vul: Both                   D  J 4 3

                            C  J 5 3

          S  4                             S  A Q J 5

          H  8 6 4                         H  J 7 3 2

          D  Q 10 9 6                      D  2

          C  A K 9 6 4                     C  Q 10 7 2

                            S  K 7 6

                            H  K Q 9 5

                            D  A K 8 7 5

                            C  8


Consider the play on a club lead. The best defense must be repeated club leads, but at both tables a trump shift at trick two went to the ace and a trump went back to dummy's king. Perhaps the best percentage line is to lead a heart to the ace to ruff a club, then to play hearts from the top. This is at least a genuine percentage line. Both tables however elected to lead a heart to the ace and run the H10. When this held, they could ruff a club and cash the hearts, claiming nine tricks. Of course on reflection East would probably regret his decision not to cover the H10 with the jack. That destroys the entries for the club ruff and holds declarer to eight tricks.




                            S  K J 10 6

Dlr: South                  H  K J 10 5 4

Vul: E-W                    D  A  7 2

                            C  7

          S  Q 8                           S  7 5 4 2

          H  Q 9 3                         H  A 7

          D  J 10 6                        D  9 8 5 4

          C  A K Q 9 5                     C  J 6 2

                            S  A 9 3

                            H  8 6 2

                            D  K Q 3

                            C  10 8 4 3


Both tables played 2H here, the contract played at most tables I expect. 3C goes for 300 on best defense, although it is easy to see how a heart lead lets 3C out for one down. Anyway, in 2H on a club lead best defense is to continue that suit (which leads to declarer making only 140 on the normal spade misguess). However, at my table the club lead to the queen was followed by a heart shift to the 10 and ace. I ruffed the club return, crossed to dummy and drew trumps. Now where is the SQ?

Well, since West, a sound bidder, has C A-K-Q and the HQ (11 HCP) and a very balanced hand, probably he needs the SQ for his opening bid -- unless he has the DJ. So it seems appropriate to play off all the top diamonds to see if West has the DJ. Rats, West does have that card!

This is the ending:

                            S  K J 10 6

                            H  5

                            D  --

                            C  --

             S  Q  8                       S  7 5 4 2                  

             H  --                         H  --                       

             D  --                         D  9                        

             C  A 9 5                      C --                        

                            S  A 9 3

                            H  --

                            D  --

                            C  10 8


I passed the S10 to West and claimed the rest. I was irritated of course, but not so irritated as to miss the fact in the postmortem that West had the chance to be brilliant (and to save half a board) by ducking the SQ. When I repeat the spade finesse, West wins and plays the CA, and the spade blockage leads to my being able to make no more than nine tricks.



The Most Challenging Suit Preference Signal Ever? by Barry Rigal


Look at this board and consider the defense to 3H by West.


                            S  9 7 6

Dlr: North                  H  5 3

Vul: None                   D  J 9 6 2

                            C  A 10 4 3

           S  K J                            S  8 5 4

           H  A K Q 10 2                     H  9 8 7 4

           D  10 7 5                         D  A 8 4

           C  Q 8 5                          C  K 9 6

                            S  A Q 10 3 2

                            H  J 6

                            D  K Q 3

                            C  J 7 2


West      North      East      South

-         Pass       Pass      1S

2H        3C         3H        All Pass


On a spade lead and continuation, declarer draws two rounds of trumps and strips spades, then exits in diamonds, leaving this position:


                            S  --

                            H  --

                            D  J 9 6

                            C  A 10 4 3

                S  --                      S  --

                H  Q 2                     H  9 8

                D  10 7                    D  8 4

                C  Q 8 5                   C  K 9 6

                            S  3 2

                            H  --

                            D  K Q

                            C  J 7 2


It is only at this point that both South and North can really come to grips with the real point of the deal. South gets to cash two rounds of diamonds and then has to decide what to do in clubs.

The auction and play thus far mark North with the CA. From South's perspective, if North has the CQ also, the defense has two tricks to come in the suit -- and if North does not have the C10 the defense has no chance! What's more, North with the C10 knows that if South has the CQ the defense have two tricks in the suit, and if he does not have the jack, the defense has no chance! So the key is who has the 8?

If South has it, he shifts to a low club to get his two tricks. If North has it, he has to signal South to shift to a low club (by following with his two lowest diamonds on the second and third rounds.) That way South puts in the 10 and gets two tricks in the suit. But if North does not have the C8 (and South knows he doesn't have it), he must shift to the CJ, giving declarer the losing option in the suit. If declarer goes up with the queen and finesses against North's  C10, he deserves to make his contract!

And, believe it or not, Curtis Cheek, playing with Billy Miller, found the CJ play -- but David Berkowitz guessed right to cover with the queen. Well done, everyone.