Wednesday, March 26, 2008

An Enchanting Tour de Force in the Land of Enchantment
by Jim Kaplan

My wife and I just spent two weeks in New Mexico hiking trails, admiring mountains, swooning over sunsets and, above all, listening to country music on 106.3 FM (the Range):

Talkin’ ’bout a bunch of shiiiiiiiiffft work
A big ol’ pile of shiiiiiiiiffft work
Seven to three
Three to eleven
Eleven to seven

In ever-accommodating New Mexico, visitors enjoy a meditation room at the airport and free coffee on the road. It figured that I’d benefit from an especially rewarding hand in a Santa Fe duplicate game. Partner Lucia Hilton and I were sitting North-South, with West dealing and North-South vulnerable:

NORTH (Hilton)
S 10 8 4 3
H Q 8 5 2
D A Q J 10
C 7
WEST EAST
S J 6 5 S Q
H A J 10 9 6 H K 7 4
D K 8 7 D 9 5 4 3
C J 8 C A Q 6 5 4
SOUTH (KAPLAN)
S A K 9 7 2
H 3
D 6 2
C K 10 9 3 2

The bidding proceeded as follows:

West North East South
Pass Pass Pass 1S
Pass 2D* Pass 4S
All Pass

* Limit values and 4+ spade support

Opening lead: heart ace

The auction showcased three different systems I love:

The Rule of 15. After three passes, open when your high-card points plus the total of your spades equal at least 15. With 10 HCP and five spades, I qualified for a 1S bid.

Two-way Drury, which is not as complicated as it sounds. When partner opens the bidding with 1H or 1S in the third or fourth position, a response of 2C shows a limit raise with three trump while 2D shows a limit raise with 4+ trump. Preferable to a jump raise, the Drury bids enable partners who open weak in the third or fourth position to end the bidding at the two level. With four trump and a good 12 dummy points, North correctly bid the alertable 2D.

Should South bid 2S, 3S or 4S at this point? Columnist Marty Bergen insists on bidding game after a limit raise when you have a singleton or void. I could do no less.

West won the opening lead and continued with the heart jack, ruffed in hand. I cashed the ace-king of spades and got the bad news about trump distribution. As surely as good news follows bad, I successfully finessed the diamond 10. Back came a club to East’s ace followed by the heart king that I ruffed. After I took another diamond finesse and then crashed the diamond king under my ace, I conceded a spade and claimed for a clear top.

Interestingly, I didn’t play the hand right. “You should have finessed the diamond before drawing trumps and then led a club to the king before trumps,” says column vetter Marty Fleisher, a leading U.S. player. “What if in the actual hand West had won the ace of clubs and drawn a third trump? You’re down even with Kxx of diamonds on side. It’s important to lose a side trick before giving up trump control.”

In any case, we bid and made game with 19 HCP. Just another day’s work in the Land of Enchantment.

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