Today’s deal is from the Round Robin stage of the 1999 Canadian National Teams Championship. North was Roy Hughes, South Irv Litvack.

Kokish: Pretty good hand for a normally weak jump to game, Roy.

Hughes: Canadian Club

Kraft: Let me explain that cryptic rejoinder. Not the widely acclaimed whisky but rather the less-widely acclaimed home-grown bridge system, thrust by Irv (its creator) upon a string of unsuspecting partner-victims over the years. With South limited to 16 points by the failure to open a strong club and the possibility of a moderate four-card suit, North’s jump to game was really the practical indicated bid. Furthermore, North, whose second love is positive numbers ending in two zeroes (his first is the piano), had a bit more going for him; his bid might goad his opponents into 4 and a big penalty.

Dealer East. N/S Vul

K 9 7 2
A J 7 2
Q 10 6 5
10
A J 8 6 4
K 9 6
9 7 3
A 3
Q 10 3
10
K J 4 2
8 6 5 4 2
5
Q 8 5 4 3
A 8
K Q J 9 7
West North East South
Hughes Litvack
Pass 1
1 4 Pass Pass
Pass

Opening Lead: 3

With 4doubled likely to cost 500 points and little chance to jockey North/South to the five-level, it will be much better bridge in the long run to defend 4 with the East/West cards. Particularly when West finds the best lead of the 3, as he did at the table.

Beverly Kraft & Eric Kokish
Beverly Kraft & Eric Kokish

Declarer called for dummy’s Q, covered by the king and ace. He led the 7 towards dummy’s blank ten and, without missing a beat, West went in with the ace to continue with the 9, which held. West cashed the A before declarer could establish the 6 (leading the ten to smother the seven) and continued spades. Declarer ruffed in hand, led a trump to the jack, and soon lost a trump to West for one down.

Moments later, South was kicking himself. “I should have made it. Instead of playing a trump to the jack, say that I play K and another club. West discards, but I ruff my winner in dummy, play K, spade ruff, East following.

By now, I know that West has five spades, two clubs, and (apparently) three diamonds, leaving him with three trumps. I intend to play him for the K in any case, but now I can see that the best play is to lead the queen from my hand, winning against singleton nine or ten in East. If West covers, I win, ruff myself in with a spade, and finesse against the other minor trump honour.”

Perhaps spotting the easy-to-overlook winning line so soon after missing it should earn a consolation prize.

Kokish: No matter how skilled and experienced you may be, you have only so much energy to expend. If you use some of it to pick apart a deal that you won’t be able to replay, you might find that you could have used that energy to master a fresh deal later on.

Kraft: Fortunately for Team BALKAM (Eric Balkam-Mike Betts, John Stewart-Don Presse, Maritimers all, and Hughes-Litvack, Toronto), energy happens to be a commodity in which Irv is invariably long. In the strongest CNTC field in many years, BALKAM played with flair and consistency and won the round robin.