The im­por­tance of count­ing

Mal­colm Ewashkiw’s weekly col­umn on the world of bridge, with help­ful tips

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - GALLERY -

If you are a reg­u­lar reader of this col­umn, you will know that I em­pha­size the im­por­tance of count­ing. Scot­tish writer Hugh Kelsey claimed that “it is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that the abil­ity to count the hand is in it­self enough to make the dif­fer­ence be­tween a los­ing player and a win­ning one.”

All play­ers count the lit­tle things. They count trump to make sure that all the en­emy trumps have been drawn. They count points to de­ter­mine if they have enough to open the bid­ding. They count tricks to see if they will make their con­tract or de­feat the en­emy con­tract.

Where many play­ers fall down is in count­ing the in­vis­i­ble things such as the op­po­nents’ high- card points or their dis­tri­bu­tion. Both de­fend­ers and de­clar­ers can use the in­for­ma­tion gath­ered in this man­ner to their ad­van­tage.

To­day’s deal will test your skill as de­clarer - and you can be sure that count­ing will be in­volved. First, I’ll present only the North­South hands so that you will have a chance to play the hand your­self. Later, I’ll re­veal the full deal.

Af­ter three passes, South opened the bid­ding one spade. West dou­bled, North raised to two spades, and East bid three clubs. South knew he was close to game, ex­pect­ing short clubs in the North hand from the bid­ding, so he tried three di­a­monds hop­ing North held some­thing good in di­a­monds. West chimed in with four clubs and North’s op­ti­mistic four spades ended the auc­tion.

West cashed the ace of clubs and shifted to the five of di­a­monds. De­clarer played low from dummy and East won the queen. Back came the six of hearts to the king and the ace. West con­tin­ued with the queen of hearts, de­clarer ruff­ing.

Time to take stock. Hav­ing lost three tricks, de­clarer needed the rest. He would have to trump his los­ing clubs in dummy and then tackle the di­a­mond po­si­tion. De­clarer played a club, ruffed it with the ten of spades, re­turned to hand with a spade to the ace, ruffed the jack of clubs with the nine of spades, and led a spade back to his hand, draw­ing the last trump.

De­clarer was left need­ing to find the king of di­a­monds for his con­tract. He played two more rounds of trumps, West dis­card­ing the four and the jack of hearts and East the eight of hearts and the king of clubs.

De­ci­sion time for the di­a­mond suit. If West holds the king, de­clarer sim­ply has to fi­nesse; if East holds the king, de­clarer’s only hope is that he holds K- Q dou­ble­ton. If that is the case, de­clarer must play the ace. Which choice should de­clarer take?

Of course, the fi­nesse is much more likely to work, but have you been count­ing? You knew I’d get around to us­ing that word, didn’t you?

Re­mem­ber the bid­ding - three passes to you. And what high cards has each player shown so far? West led the ace of clubs and later played the A- Q- J of hearts. How many points is that? Can West hold the king of di­a­monds?

If he does, he will hold 14 high­card points. I don’t know any­one who would pass in first po­si­tion, or any other for that mat­ter, hold- ing 14 points. That means that East will hold the king of di­a­monds and de­clarer must play the ace hop­ing for the K- Q dou­ble­ton mir­a­cle.

In case you think that this is all well and good but I just made up that deal to prove a point, let me tell you that this deal came from ac­tual play. Did de­clarer suc­ceed? What do you think?

MAL­COLM EWASHKIW PHOTO

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