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
|A J 8 6 4
K 9 6
9 7 3
|Q 10 3
K J 4 2
8 6 5 4 2
Q 8 5 4 3
K Q J 9 7
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.
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.