Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Thinking about the they played better thing

When people talk about why one team wins and one team loses it seems inevitable that someone will say that the other team won because they played better.  It happened today while I watch the last part of a knockout match in the European Open Teams.  I hear it all the time.  But this is not always the case.  The problem is that bridge is a game of percentages and in the end even if I show you both your hand and partners and let you pick the contract and you do it perfectly you may still lose the board.  Theoretically in a long match this should cancel out.  If you do the right thing often enough you will win but any gambler knows that in the short run luck is a big factor.  Frank Sinatra didn’t sing Luck Be A Lady Tonight in Guys and Dolls for no reason.

Ray likes to talk about a preliminary round of the Spingold where we were playing against a very good team as usual.  We were having a great game and while we didn’t know it we were up just a little going into a late board.  We bid a grand slam (don’t wince).  There were 13 top tricks unless trump was 4-0.  When Ray did not get a trump lead he swears he almost played the opening leader for all the trump and took a first round finesse but he didn’t and we didn’t qualify because of that hand.  We had bid to the best spot, we were leading, we deserved to win we really did and we lost.

So sometimes it bugs me when people imply that the only reason you could have lost was that they played better.  As Ray repeated recently I would rather say as a chess master once did; “Why must I lose to those idiots?”  If I stop thinking that way I probably should stop competing.

So, today this lovely hand came up in a losing cause.  It was a defense featuring Fantoni and Nunes.   With North-South Vulnerable, North (Drijver) opens 4 .  This is passed to partner who doubles.  The match is very close at this point and you know that.  Do you sit or bid?

East- Fantoni

Fantoni passed as I think most of us would at this vulnerability rather than scramble around looking for a fit.  More about the bidding later.  He led the 2 (I assume they lead low from two small).  Partner won the Q as declarer played the J.  This was the dummy.



Partner lays down the A which is ruffed.  Two thoughts here.  We had a great diamond fit and declarer has some clubs.  It looks like declarer might be 8-1-0-4, possibly another heart but not likely as partner might have continued hearts.  If declarer has the QJxx of clubs it looks like he will make it.  Even Q10xx is a problem.  Declarer now plays a club towards dummy as we duck and partner plays the 8.  So what is partner’s club holding.  Partner has three clubs likely and if the eight is a true card then he has QJ8, Q108, J108.  Why is declarer playing clubs anyway?  Does he want to get to dummy for a spade play?

Declarer continues with a club off dummy as partner plays the 10.  Okay cross out QJ8.  Declarer plays a low club.  What is happening and what should you do?

Declarer is obviously concerned about losing too many club tricks.  It seems like he might want a trump in dummy to ruff the fourth club if needed.  He knows the spade five is not very big but with only three missing it might play a role.  He knows where the spade king is on the bidding so there is no reason to take the finesse.

Would declarer play low with Qxxx of clubs?  Well he does know where the A is and maybe it’s doubleton.  It isn’t likely but ducking cost nothing.  This is not an easy decision as I look at it now but at the table Fantoni got it right.

I wonder if with J108 Fantoni would play the jack on the second round?  Maybe that was his clue. Anyway he overtook with the A and continued hearts.  Then when he got in on spades he could cross to Nunes with the Q for a heart which promoted his spade ten for +500 and a couple of imps against –420 for five diamonds making six at the other table.  When you are looking at all four hands as I was this seemed like a much easier decision than it must have been at the table.  And I foolishly said so.

Here is the whole hand.

One last word.  Do you like Nunes’ double?  I don’t.  I really don’t like doubling with a void in trump.  If Nunes bids 4NT then the partnership will get to at least five diamonds and possibly even six.  Six diamonds is not a bad spot on the auction and makes even with the bad breaks.  Bidding and making six diamonds was worth an extra nine imps.  They would have lost by one imp.  That really would have been unlucky.

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