Source: The Hand of Adversity By Charles Goren

It’s an ill blow that winds up doing good to no one. The bad bidder contributes unwittingly to the science of better play, and many a brilliant coup has been born of adversity sired by some previous atrocity in the bidding.

Few thrills compare to the experience of bringing home an “impossible” contract. Here is one such forlorn hope that appealed to me in a recent game.

Dealer West N/S Vul

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

The Bidding:

West North East South
Pass Pass Pass 1
Dbl Pass 1 4
Pass Pass Dbl End

Opening lead: Q

Charles Goren
Charles Goren

West’s take-out double of one heart was one of those things. His enthusiasm might have been induced by a sudden misapprehension that he was playing klaberjass, or even gin rummy, for either of which games his hand was well suited!

Seeking a suggestion of method in his madness, it would appear that his purpose was to find a spot in which to sacrifice against the adversaries’ anticipated game contract. I do not admire his judgment, but such is the most generous interpretation I am ready to make.

South’s leap to game was based partly on the merits of his hand and extensively on righteous indignation. East doubled, West led the queen of clubs, and the battle was on.

With dummy’s ace of diamonds a lonely beacon in a sea of worthless cards, it was evident that South would need to back his enthusiasm with some extremely accurate play. Fortunately there were some broad clues.

West’s initial pass and his apparent lack of high cards gave evidence that his double of one heart must be based on a distributional situation. West must be short of hearts. If he has none, the situation is hopeless, since East would be bound to win two trump tricks with five to the king-10. South had to assume that West held one heart, and he saw a glimmer of hope if that singleton happened to be the 9, the 10 or the king. South therefore laid down the ace of hearts and was gratified to drop West’s 9.

Now the time had come to make use of dummy’s lone entry. South played to the diamond ace and returned a small trump. East played the 7 and South finessed the 8. The queen of trumps drove out the king and when South regained the lead he drew East’s last trump with the jack.

By this time South had a feeling that all would be well. West had probably begun life with a 4-4-4-1 distribution, leaving East with exactly two diamonds. If only one of them had been the king…. South led a low diamond and discovered that it was!

Declarer lost only one diamond, one spade and one trump trick. But observe that if he had used the diamond ace to make the first trump lead from dummy, a successful finesse of the jack would still have left him with two losing hearts—one too many to bring home his “impossible” contract.

Extra tricks: “A trick is a trick,” as the adage has it, but its value may be doubled if you postpone winning it until you are able to make a favorable return lead.