Source: Harold Schogger
Jens Auken

It is often stated that the best a bridge player can do is always play in an even tempo. That statement is wrong. How many tricks have been lost by not playing in an even tempo?

We have all tried playing in an even tempo and a trick too late realised that at the trick before we should have stopped to think. Instead we made a mistake. We are beyond the point of no return now, and there is no way to recover. We say once again, ‘Sorry partner, I lost concentration.’ But maybe it is not good enough to concentrate if you do it in an even tempo.

My belief is that on almost every bridge hand there is a point of time — a trick — when the action of a bridge player is decisive for the fate of the contract. The spotlight is on him. What he is doing the rest of the time is not decisive as long as he does not do anything foolish. I call that point the ‘kill point’. If you are clever at spotting kill points you are a strong player and you will gain yet more strength from being able to relax the rest of the time.

DURING the Philip Morris European Mixed Championship in Bordeaux the Norwegian player, Ludvigsen, played in the teams against the eventual winners, Ginette Chevalley and Paul Chemla. Ludvigsen gave me this hand when I told him about my tip.

West Dealer, Game All

The opening lead was the ace of clubs, followed by a diamond switch to dummy’s ace.

South continued with the jack of clubs from dummy and saw to his horror the ten of clubs on his right. He had not unblocked the nine of clubs on the first trick. West ducked and South had no sure way to get to his hand or to make his contract and in the end he went down.

South’s kill point was at trick one when he should have unblocked the nine of clubs, a play that could never cost. He could then lead the jack, overtaking with the queen when the ten turned up. South missed his kill point.

Kill points occur often at trick one for declarers. But usually crop up later in the play for defenders, simply because defence is more difficult than declarer play.

Defending as West against Four Spades on this hand, I cashed the two top hearts and, with a certain trump trick to come, I got off lead with the obvious diamond: an honour with partner and the contract would be one down if South had at least four diamonds.

South had listened to the bidding, however, and took the diamond queen with the king to proceed with the ace and a low trump. More or less endplayed, I switched to a low club to partner’s nine and, after a short pause, South’s king. I had missed the kill point! Three rounds of trumps, and I would be finished. South correctly cashed two rounds of trumps, the other top diamond, and then the last trump, squeezing my hand in the minor suits.

Awareness of the kill point would have made me stop to think at the moment I could see three defensive tricks and a probable fourth. South’s distribution could easily be 5-2-4-2 with the queen of spades and king of clubs, all I had to do was switch to a club at trick three and continue clubs later to break up his communications for the simple squeeze. The bidding had already told declarer about the lie of the remaining high cards.

 My BOLS bridge tip is simply this:

Develop an ability to spot kill points.

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