Preventing Partner from Guessing Wrong
One habit to which I unconditionally plead guilty is that of being a Pack Rat. The dictionary definition refers to compulsive hoarding and no doubt, I fit the bill because my aversion to discarding items of non-intrinsic value has gotten the best of me. It is one thing to take pride in our home’s Trophy Room shared by both Norman and Bobby. A quick occasional dusting coupled with a bottle of Wright’s Silver Polish comes in handy every few months (or when I am expecting company). But, I have no excuse for the endless stacks of boxes of programs, articles, clippings, ACBL bulletins, WBF briefcases, et al. with which I have trouble parting. It wasn’t bad enough I dragged Norman’s from Philly to Dallas to Las Vegas, but how could I keep Norman’s memorabilia and discard Bobby’s? No way!
One item responsible for much of the space consumption is the Annual World Bridge Federation Collection of hands. Bobby’s stash goes back to 1970 and even when he did not participate in the event as a contestant, he attended in an administrative capacity … missing very few .. and his colorful stack seems to reach to the sky. To this day, he still savors the joy of going over some of the impressive brilliance of those who played — and reminisces of the lifelong friendships of yesteryear — often recalling to me special happenings or celebrations which will live within him forever.
The other day his 2009 WBF Sao Paulo Book arrived. Though he is ‘semi-officially retired’ except for his Aces on Bridge Column, he is totally consumed by the vast amount of pro bono work in which he enjoys participating — but of course I tear him away from his computer twice a week for our duplicate forays. Sometimes, I wonder how he can pack so much into a day (especially nearing 78 and probably never playing better) … but hold everything. When the book arrived accompanied by a lovely note from WBF President, Jose Damiani, everything stopped as he began flipping the pages. That night, half asleep, I heard a voice whisper, "Honey, are you up?" "Well, if I wasn’t then — I certainly am now," I replied, humoring him. Rousing me from la-la land, he beamed. "Look at this hand!" (Just what I wanted to see at 11:30 p.m.) It appeared on page 206 (Set 3, Board 33) (semi-finals of the Bermuda Bowl Matchup between Italy and Bulgaria).
The auction actually began with a strong 1C bid by North, 2C (natural) by East; Double (negative) by South; 3C (support) by West; Double (takeout by the opener); 4C by East and eventually 4H by South which ended the auction. The West defender (Versace) led a club which was won by Lauria (East). Here is the entire hand:
Lauria, looking at dummy, must have known that it was imperative for partner to have the spade ace for the hand to be beaten and most likely led his singleton instinctively and quickly. However, he does have the moral and legal responsibility to lead all cards in tempo.
The problem is twofold: (1) Leading your singleton in a timely fashion; and (2) Helping partner to know whether it is a singleton or doubleton (other than by tempo). The fast return of the S6 was actually appealed** and the declaring side argued it was an obvious singleton and partner knew to win the SA and return it for the ruff. If partner had the trump ace (which he needs to beat it anyway), it is important for Versace to know if it is a singleton (giving him the immediate ruff as he could never reach him again) or a doubleton (in which case he must keep communication by ducking and winning the return after partner hops up with the HA). Still rubbing my eyes and listening with half an ear, I conceded it was a tough problem and dove for the pillow but there was no peace for the weary, as he excitedly continued ..
Bobby said, "Don’t you see it"? Moi? Give me a break? It was really a baby play for him (and yet not one of the analysts came up with Bobby’s solution which would have made life easy for the defense)! CASH THE TRUMP ACE FIRST AND THEN LEAD YOUR SINGLETON; PARTNER WILL HAVE NO ALTERNATIVE BUT TO WIN IT AND GIVE YOU THE RUFF. In retrospect, it sounds logical and easy — and yet until now that defense was never suggested. With the actual return of the spade, Versace had to decide whether it was a singleton or doubleton – and he guessed right. However, he should not have been placed in that unenviable position!
**What actually happened: The Appeals Committee cut the baby in half, judging the Italians would defeat the contract only half of the time and the other half of the time it would make. They must not have considered the right defense. If they had — they would have denied the Italian claim because of the out of tempo spade return due to the inferior play of NOT cashing the HA first, but rather leading his spade prematurely. The proper appeals ruling would have been 4 hearts bid and scored up to the Bulgarians because Versace should have ducked the initial spade return when partner did not cash the HA initially. From Versace’s perspective, if Lauria had a DOUBLETON spade and, of course, the theoretical heart ace (which he needed to beat the contract), he WOULD NOT cash the HA first, but rather lead what appears to be his doubleton spade, which Versace should duck to preserve communication for the eventual spade ruff. Then after declarer leads trumps, Lauria would win his trump ace and continue spades for the eventual setting trick of the spade ruff. In the other room, 4S (not 4H) was bid and made.
I love playing with an eleven-time world champ and learning from him — but not at midnight. However, If ever a hand justifies his world renowned reputation — this is the one!