The importance of counting
Malcolm Ewashkiw’s weekly column on the world of bridge, with helpful tips
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?