Sunday Times - - Puzzles -

Open­ing lead — queen of hearts.

To be a good bridge player, you must not only make as few mis­takes as pos­si­ble, but also bid or play in such a way as to in­duce the op­po­nents to make as many mis­takes as pos­si­ble.

Nei­ther goal is easy to at­tain, but one of the most ef­fec­tive ways of putting pres­sure on the op­po­nents and caus­ing them to err is by mak­ing pre-emp­tive bids at a high level.

For ex­am­ple, take this hand played in a world cham­pi­onship match be­tween Italy and the US. At one ta­ble, where the Ital­ians held the North-South cards, the bid­ding went as shown. The Amer­i­can West opened with four clubs, and North dou­bled for take­out.

South now had a dif­fi­cult prob­lem to solve. To pass was out of the ques­tion, so he had to choose be­tween bid­ding four or five di­a­monds.

South opted for five di­a­monds, which turned out very badly. East dou­bled, and when the smoke cleared, South was down four. West led the queen of hearts, which held, and shifted to the king of clubs. East ruffed dummy’s ace and played the A-K and an­other heart. De­clarer ruffed high, but East still had to get two spade tricks for plus 700 (800 in to­day’s scor­ing).

At the sec­ond ta­ble, with an Amer­i­can pair now North-South, the bid­ding went:

At this ta­ble, West opened three clubs, not four, so there was less rea­son for a jump-re­sponse by South, and North passed the three-di­a­mond re­sponse. South fin­ished down two for a loss of only 100 points. The Ital­ian West should have fol­lowed the gen­eral rule that when you make a pre-emp­tive bid, you should pre-empt as high as pos­si­ble. Had he opened with four clubs, the re­sult at the first ta­ble might well have been du­pli­cated.

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