Thursday, November 2, 2017

Glasgow, by Jim Kaplan

The largest city in Scotland with 1.2 million citizens, Glasgow once was a shipbuilding and marine engineering center on the River Clyde. An industrial decline set in by the Seventies, but this gritty western port rebounded so well that it was designated the cultural capital of Europe in 1990 and hosted the 1994 Commonwealth Games. It’s a city of contrasts: here a modern building resembling nothing so much as a tornado, there an 12th-century Gothic Cathedral with a tomb for the city’s patron saint Mungo (didn’t he play drums for the Beatles?). Our guide on a bus tour said safety-conscious Catholics should avoid Protestant pubs and vice-versa. This established an interesting scenario in my mind:

Doorman: “Protestant or Catholic?”
Me: “Pardon?”
Doorman: I’m sorry, sir, but I have to ask if you’re a Protestant or a Catholic.”
Me: “Actually, I’m an American Jew.”
Doorman: “Oh! Come right in!”

At the St. Andrew Bridge Club, players kept apologizing for the rain, and we kept telling them the weather in the Highlands was perfect for four straight days. This friendly establishment gives lessons for first-, second- and third-year players. It made sense that the most interesting hand on the night we visited gave us a great teaching opportunity. South was dealing, with no one vulnerable:

       NORTH
       S K 7
       H 6 5
       D A K J 7
       C Q 10 6 4 3

 WEST          EAST
 S J 9 8       S 6 5 4 2
 H J 9 8 4     H Q 10 7
 D 9 8         D Q 10 5 4
 C K 7 5 2     C A 8

       SOUTH
       S A Q 10 3
       H A K 3 2
       D 6 3 2
       C J 9
The bidding proceeded as follows:
 
 South  West  North  East
 1D     Pass  2C     Pass
 3NT    All Pass

 Opening lead: heart 4

O.K., now cover the East-West cards and answer the following questions:

How many hearts does West hold? Assuming a fourth-best lead, four. West is leading the lowest possible heart, since you have the two and three.

How many hearts tricks are the defenders likely to take? Two.

How many tricks do you have off the top? Three spades, two hearts, and two diamonds for seven.

How should you proceed? Many beginners will cash the seven winners right away. Don’t! That strategy will create winners in spades, hearts and diamonds for East-West.

The correct path is to win the opening lead and play clubs. There’s no way East-West can prevent you from winning your eighth and ninth tricks in that suit.

My editor Paul Laliberte provides a good analogy:

“The lesson to be learned is that of the renowned French fable, Le Lievre et La Tortue (The Tortoise and the Hare). ‘Slow and steady’ is indeed the best course of action when it is essential to develop tricks in NoTrump play. Don’t cash winners until you have promoted the tricks necessary for fulfillment of your contract. Initially, your winners should serve as a means of keeping suits under control while you establish ‘length winners ‘in one or more other suits. If you take the slow approach (that of the tortoise), you ultimately win the race for tricks. If (like the hare) you get off to a fast start by cashing all your winners prematurely, you may find that you’ve ‘come up short’ before you cross the finish line.”

To read all articles from the Jim Kaplan column, click here or the Jim Kaplan Column link under Learn to Play Bridge.

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