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Counting Out the Club Queen - Bridge 216

The Queen was in the parlor eating bread and honey. She could afford to do so because her husband, the King, assiduously counted out his money in the counting house and, more pertinently, his opponents' distribution and points at the bridge table.

In a recent high-stakes money game, the King had the opportunity to show off his counting skills on two successive hands. He was playing in the South seat, opposite his regular partner, the Court Jester, who, despite the title, was a serious and gifted player.

In the first hand, the King's RHO (East) dealt and opened the bidding with a weak 2 bid, showing 6 cards in the heart suit, normally with at least 2 honors and less than 11 points. The King's overcall of 2♠ was raised to game by the Jester. 


♠ J 9 8 3

J 4 2

K J 6

♣ A 10 5


♠ A K Q 4 2

6 5

Q 9 5

♣ K 9 4

West led the A and when the Jester tabled dummy, the King saw he had 4 losers: 2 in Hearts, 1 in Diamonds and 1 in Clubs. He could do nothing about the red suit losers so, short of an error by the opponents, the only hope of bringing home the game contract lay in finding a favorable positioning of the ♣J and ♣Q. If East, who was likely to be short in Clubs, held either of these missing honors as a singleton, it would fall under the King's ♣K and he could finesse West for the other, while if East held both these cards as a doubleton, they would fall under the ♣A and ♣K, rendering dummy's ♣10 a winner.

East won the Heart continuation with the K and led the Q which the King prudently trumped high in hand with the ♠Q. His Majesty then drew trumps in 3 rounds ending in his hand, West discarding Diamonds on the second and third rounds, while East followed to all 3. He next played the 9, won in dummy with the K, and led dummy's J. East played low

and West, after winning the trick with the A, safely exited his hand with his remaining Diamond. This time East discarded a heart. The King won the trick with the Q in hand and laid down his ♣K, felling East's ♣J. Now came the crucial question. Where was the ♣Q?

Well, dear reader, if you had been counting the opponents' cards as the King had, you would know that East, with 6 Hearts, 3 Spades and 2 Diamonds, had a doubleton Club. Therefore you would not be surprised that His Majesty next played a Club to dummy's ♣A felling East's hapless ♣Q and bringing home the game contract.

The King was not one known for resting on his laurels or letting himself be distracted by affairs of State or domestic issues, such as the fate of the maid while in the garden hanging up the clothes. No, he was fully concentrated when again declarer on the very next hand, this time a modest 2♠ contract.


♠ 10 8 6 4

9 5 3

K 7 6

♣ K J 9


♠ Q J 9 7 5


Q J 4

♣ A 10 3

His Majesty, again sitting South, opened 1♠ which the Jester raised to 2♠, all passed, with opponents remaining silent throughout the brief auction. West led the ♠A, on which East played the ♠3, followed by the ♠K. To the second Spade, East played the ♠2, completing an "echo" in Spades indicating to his partner that he wanted him to switch to the highest of the remaining suits. Correspondingly, West led a Heart to East's A. East won the next trick with the K and led a third round of Hearts, trumped in the closed hand while West followed low.

At this point, having already lost 4 tricks and with a certain loser in Diamonds, the King had to locate the ♣Q to make the contact. He could finesse for her either way. In such a situation, in the absence of any further information, one would lead the ♣J from dummy and, relying on East to "cover an honor with an honor", would go up with the ♣A if East did not play the ♣Q and finesse West for that card. But the King knew there was additional information to be had: Both opponents had shown up with 7 points so far and neither had entered the bidding, therefore whoever had the A, couldn't also have the ♣Q, for with 13 points they would surely not have remained silent. His Majesty consequently played Diamonds, and after West showed up with the A, he confidently and successfully finessed East for the ♣Q. Contact made. More bread and honey for the Queen.

The moral of the rhyme is clear: At the bridge table it pays to concentrate and count.



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Monday, 22 July 2024

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