What about the patient?


On this deal from the Life Master Open Pairs, David Berkowitz conceived a brilliant plan and executed it to perfection. Unfortunately for him, the operation was successful but . . . well, you know the rest. Here is the deal played by Berkowitz

and Larry Cohen which resulted in 1 matchpoint out of 51.


                          Dlr: West, Vul: N-S


                            S  8 6 3

                            H  10 8 5

                            D  10 9 8 2

                            C  Q 10 4

           S  Q J 9 5 4 2                  S  A K

           H  K J 7 6                      H  9 4 3 2

           D  4                            D  Q 7 6

           C  9 5                          C  A K J 7

                            S  10 7

                            H  A Q

                            D  A K J 5 3

                            C  8 6 3 2


           WEST         NORTH         EAST         SOUTH

        Berkowitz        -            Cohen         -

           2S           Pass          2NT (1)      3D

           3H           4D            4S           All Pass


           (1) Asking for a feature.


Cohen was annoyed at himself for failing to double 4D based on the law of total tricks, which he has written about in three books. By Cohen's reasoning, the opponents had nine diamonds --Berkowitz was unlikely to have a void for his weak two-bid -- and his side was known to have eight trumps. Nine and eight equals 17, the approximate number of tricks on the deal if each side played in its best trump fit. If East-West could make 10 tricks, that would leave only seven for North-South, so a double would net Cohen's side plus 800 (and that's what would have happened in real life).

At any rate, it is easy to see how the East-West hands produced plus 450 at most tables. Berkowitz managed to go down, but he was pleased with his effort. Here's what happened.

North led the D10, which held, and he switched to the fiendish C10. Berkowitz was well on his way to getting the opponents' hands all wrong. Berkowitz cashed dummy's high spades and played a heart. South rose with the ace, which looked like a singleton -- and played a high diamond, ruffed by Berkowitz.

It looked to Berkowitz as though North had started with a 3-4-4-2 pattern, with four hearts to the Q-10 and the doubleton C10. If that was indeed North's hand, Berkowitz could prevail with a strip-squeeze endplay. The plan would be to force North to come down to all hearts, at which point Berkowitz could lead low from the H KJ7 toward dummy's H 943.

So, after ruffing the second round of diamonds and cashing the SQ, Berkowitz cashed another spade. Theoretically, this would force North to let go of a diamond, leaving him only one. If North ever discarded a heart, of course, Berkowitz could get his second trick in the suit simply by cashing the HK and playing another heart. So after North's diamond discard, Berkowitz could enter dummy with the CK, taking North's last club, and ruff dummy's third diamond, taking his last card in that suit.

That would prepare the stage for the denouement, the lead of a low heart from hand. That was the plan and it was well executed, but when the H7 hit the table and North followed low, the cold truth began to dawn. All was known when South won his singleton HQ, cashed a diamond and then played a club to North's queen.

Down one it was, but Berkowitz still liked his plan. It was a good idea, applied on the wrong deal.