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Bridge in Paradise: by Neil Robinson

This hand was played by Andrew Robson in the 4th European Open Championships. It is a perfect example of whether to choose a technical or a psychological play to make a contract. South dealt and all were vulnerable. This was the bidding:

Imagine you are sitting South. West led the six of hearts and you see dummy and your hand as below. You may wonder about South opening 1C instead of 1D—Robson was playing an unusual bidding system. North’s double is negative, showing the unbid suits. You have a good stopper in hearts so you bid 1N and your partner raises to 3N. These are the North and South hands:

From the bidding, West surely has the ace of hearts so you are bound to win the first trick. You have four diamond tricks and three top spade tricks to go with it. But that still leaves you one trick short. Furthermore, you are wide open in clubs—a club switch will find you losing four clubs (at least) to go with the ace of hearts and you will be down. So, how do you make the ninth trick?
There are three possible routes there. You could play another heart, losing to the ace and hoping to make a second heart trick next. However, your opponents are experts so will switch to clubs immediately and get you down (dummy’s strong suits will put them off playing spades or diamonds). The second possible route is the technical one. Win the king of hearts on board and lead a low spade to the ten, hoping the jack of spades is with East. After all, this rates to be better than a 50% chance because West must have five or more hearts and therefore has fewer cards outside the heart suit. Do you see the third possible route? This is the psychological play in which you attempt to fool your opponents. Win the king of hearts and immediately lead a low club towards your hand. With luck your opponents will think you are trying to set up clubs and will continue hearts. So which would you choose? Andrew Robson tried the technical approach and went down when West showed up with the spade jack (see full deal below). I don’t really know what I would have done at the table, but I hope I would have led a club, because there is a special pleasure in fooling the opposition!

I would like to hear from readers about their favourite hands—please do contact me at [email protected] Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes all players. We have members from seventeen different countries already. For information on the Club go to the web site

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Bridge in Paradise