Detroit Deals

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 04/07/2008
Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Detroit, Michigan

March was a rough month. The Nationals were in Detroit (it was a well run tournament, but it was cold--everyone I know got sick). The tournament was particularly tragic for me, as mid-week, I got a dreaded phone call. My mom (age 75) had died in a car accident. What a shock! She was super-healthy (jogged 2 miles every morning) and really in the "prime of life" if you can say such a thing about a 75-year old. After the services in New York I flew back to Detroit to rejoin my team.

With that somber news out of the way, let's do what takes my mind away from such sadness. Let's talk bridge.

The teacher in me (by the way, my Mom was a history teacher for grades 9-12) appreciated these first two deals from the Detroit Nationals:

Vul: Both
Dlr: East
?K Q 10
?A K 7 2
?3 2
? 9 8 4 3
?8 6 5 4
?8 2
?6 5
?A Q J 7 5
  ?J 7 2
?9 6 5 3
?Q 10 9 8
?K 10
  ?A 9 3
?Q J 10
?A K J 7 4
?6 2
    Larry Cohen  
-- -- Pass 1NT
Pass 2? Pass 2?
Pass 3N All Pass  


West (my partner David) led the ?7. This was a good choice, it turned out. Leading the ?Q would have blocked the suit. On another day (consider dummy with, say, ?Kxx and declarer with ?10xx) the ?Q might have worked better. However, it was IMP scoring, so the low club seems the best chance to defeat the contract (as opposed to holding down the overtricks). At trick one I put up the ?K and it held. What did I know?

Everything! I love it when a defender can know the entire deal at trick one. Here is what East knows:

  1. From the Rule of 11, he knows that partner started with the ?AQJ. (11-7=4 and East sees all 4 clubs above the 7).
  2. From logic, he knows partner has a 5-card club suit. Nobody would be anxious to lead low from only a 4-card suit of AQJ7.
  3. So, declarer has two low clubs.
  4. Declarer has no 4-card major (from the Stayman reply). So, declarer must be exactly 3=3=5=2 with five diamonds and two clubs.
  5. Partner has no HCP outside of clubs: dummy and East have 18 HCP and partner has 7 HCP in clubs -- that's 25; the other 15 are with the 1NT opener who promised 15-17).

Voilà! Declarer must have the hand shown. Of course, none of this matters, since you return a club and take the first five tricks for down one.

Here's another chance to place all the cards--this time in one suit only:

Vul: None
Dlr: East
?10 9 7 3
?A K 7 6
?A Q 10 6
?K 6 4 2
?J 8 4
?10 9 8 2
?8 7
  ?J 5
?Q 10 9
?A Q J 7 6
?J 5 3
  ?A Q 8
?5 3 2
?K 5 3
?K 9 4 2
Larry Cohen      
-- -- Pass 1NT (12-14)
Pass 2? Pass 2?
Pass 3N All Pass  


Maybe David should have bid diamonds, and maybe I should have led one. But, I prefer majors to minors, so I tried a fourth-best spade. (David loves to call me "golden arm" when I produce such awful leads.) Dummy played low and David put up the ?J. What did I know about the spade suit?

Everything! David would have played the ?8 if he had it (since dummy had the 10-9, the 8 would be cheaper of equals). Also, declarer must have the ?A (David would have played it if he had it). So, declarer had to have ?AQ8 and since he denied a four-card suit, David must have exactly the ?J5. That's nice. Aside from the lesson in card reading, this did not have a happy ending. Declarer cleared spades and easily made his game. On a diamond lead, it has no play. Next time.

I usually am a down-the-middle player, but I stepped out of character on this deal from the National IMP pairs when I picked up:

?Q 7 2
?7 6 5
?K Q J 10
?10 9 7

With nobody vulnerable, my partner dealt and passed. RHO opened a Standard 1?. What did I do with this 9-loser hand? I stuck in a 1? overcall.

I don't like 4-card overcalls, especially when 4-3-3-3. But, I desperately wanted a diamond lead. Also, I considered my opponents might both have balanced hands and belong in 3NT. Maybe my overcall (typically 5 cards) would scare them.

LHO cue-bid 2? to show a limit-or-better club raise. My partner doubled. Such a double (of a cue-bid) is lead-directing, so clearly, partner held the ?A. This was perfect. The opponents couldn't have an 8-card major-suit fit (North would have shown a major). Their best game must be 3NT, but neither of them would have diamonds stopped--both opponents would be "sure" they were off the first 5 diamond tricks.

RHO bid 3? and LHO tried again for game with 3? (showing spade cards--since he couldn't have spade length given his failure to bid 1?).

I knew RHO wouldn't be able to bid 3NT, but he did bid 3NT. What nerve! I suspected they were in the right contract. We'd cash only 4 diamonds and they would likely have the rest. I knew what to do. I doubled! How could they possibly sit? This surely would scare them out.

LHO redoubled. And...everyone passed! This was the full deal:

Vul: None
Dlr: East
?A K 5
?J 8 2
?9 8 4
?A Q 8 5
?Q 7 2
?7 6 5
?K Q J 10
?10 9 7
  ?J 8 6 4
?9 4 3
?A 6 5
?4 3 2
  ?10 9 3
?A K Q 10
?7 3 2
?K J 6
Larry Cohen      
-- -- Pass 1?
1? 2? Double 3?
Pass 3? Pass 3NT!
Double Rdbl All Pass  


As you can see, we took the first four diamond tricks and then declarer claimed his contract. Declarer must have been delighted to see the 4-3 diamond split. How did he know? I'll never know. One thing I do know--the score for 3NXX making is 800. (We still finished in the top 10--but this didn't help our final placing).

In the same session as our -800 debacle, David faced an unusual trick-two decision when he picked up this hand:

?A J 8
?J 10 6
?A K 9 8 5 3 2

The opponents were arguing with each other (a no-no--certainly during a live deal). Declarer said he thought North's pass was forcing, which is why he tried 6NT--expecting to make it. Anyway, for all David knew, 6NT was a good sacrifice against 6?. Everyone followed with a low club, leaving only the ?Q outstanding. What next?

If East has the ?Q (meaning he started with ?Qx), you can play a low club to him. Now, a spade through (it seems as if declarer has king-low), will give the defense all 13 tricks! Would you go for it? Or will you play safe and lay down your 3 top tricks? Or, maybe you can survive a low club (the greedy play) even if declarer started with doubleton queen.

As David was thinking, declarer showed his hand and conceded down 2:

Vul: None
Dlr: East
?7 6
?5 3
?K Q 9 6 4 3
?J 7 4
?A J 8
?J 10 6
?A K 9 8 5 3 2
  ?Q 10 9 4 3 2
?7 4
?8 7 5 2
  ?K 5
?A K Q 9 8 2
?A J 10
?Q 10
-- -- 3? 4?
6? Pass Pass 6NT!
Double Pass Pass Pass


Thank you, declarer! We took our down two for +300. Had David gone for the throat and underled his club at trick two, declarer would have claimed the rest--making six! A word about my 3? bid. This was also out of character. Things were going poorly, and I thought I needed to do something to get back on track. We play constructive weak two's, but our not-vul three-bids can be ridiculously light (not usually this ridiculous). This one worked out well enough (although many East-Wests made 4?--even 5?). In fact, If South had defended against 6? and guessed to lead the ?A (expecting dummy to be void in hearts) we'd have made it. I'd have ruffed in dummy, played the ?A, club ruff, spade to the jack, spade ace--claim seven!