Ted's Bridge World Dante's Infernal

A Different Kind of Trump Suit-Preference

The Swiss Teams invariably provides a wealth of wonderful hands.  This one decided the match between the two top teams at the recently concluded Orangevale Sectional.


Opening Lead: 10

It certainly was right for south to take a bid at his turn.  Game could easily have been on for his side opposite the right 12-count: Kx KJx Axxxxx Jx, for example.  Vulnerable at imps, however, it would have been more prudent to have opted for a responsive double.  Good players expect a 5-card or longer heart suit for such a bid.  Moreover, north might have had a 4-card club suit and serious shortness in hearts.  If there is an alternative, it is best not to put all one's eggs into one basket.

West's double of 3 was the only game-try available.  From the bidding and his own holding, east inferred heart length in his partner's hand.  Based upon that conclusion as well as a lifelong love of penalty doubles in general, he opted to defend.

Declarer immediately cashed the two top diamonds, discarding a spade.  That was not a good choice, for the spade ace was very likely to lie in the west for his strong bidding, making a spade trick available later.  In fact, declarer actually could have escaped for down one by leading a heart or club from dummy at trick two, with good guessing thereafter.

Once declarer called for the diamond king, he could have played any card in his hand on that trick and still gotten out for down just two; but a disastrous follow-up ensued.  At trick three declarer inexplicably ruffed a diamond with the deuce of hearts.  West was happy to overruff with his three-spot.  Then he cashed the ace of spades, partner playing the nine, to this position:


Declarer had opened the door to a three-trick set.  Do you see it?

Although west could have sat back and guaranteed defeat of the contract by winning two aces and three trump tricks in his own hand, he knew that his partner must have something over there for his raise and final pass.  Could he have the king of clubs, and perhaps the queen as well?

The answer was a resounding no.  Having three choices of plays on the spade lead, east opted to contribute his highest card.  Since he was warning west off the club suit, there could be but one conclusion: partner must be looking at a trump honor!

After due deliberation, west trustingly underled the sure setting trick, playing his five of hearts to partner's king.  East followed up with the queen of diamonds, ruffed and overruffed.  West drew dummy's last trump with the ace, then played on clubs.  East got a club trick at the end, for three down.

Had east's heart been just the queen, it still would have been a two-trick defeat.  In an otherwise bland set of boards, this result represented the margin of victory in the match.


Admittedly, east's brilliant suit-preference play to imply a trump honor was a rare and exotic opportunity.  Unfortunately, letting a defender overruff with a small trump is far too common an occurrence.  Many players at Dante's Infernal have failed to assimilate this time-honored maxim:

Never send a boy to do a man's work.

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