Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Never Say Die

Two of my favorite pastimes are drinking beer and playing bridge.  Unfortunately, I usually have to remember to do these in the correct order.  Alcohol muddles the bridge brain.  But there have been several notable exceptions to this rule, particularly when I've been playing with Kim.

The first occurred several years ago now at the Life Master Pairs in Honolulu, our first attempt at that event. We realized what we were up against in the first session and, given our 42% game, decided to go back to our room and have a glass of wine with dinner.  It couldn't hurt, right?  We'd need at least 58% to qualify and that was simply out of the question in such an event.  But sometimes the bridge gods like to play jokes.  In the evening session, we scored 62%, winning our double-section (which included Zia and other luminaries) and easily qualifying us for the second day.

The latest happened just this last weekend, playing with Kim in the A/X pairs at the Sturbridge Regional.  Nothing really bad happened in the first session but we were a few too many times on the wrong side of average, scoring a disappointing 45.5%.  Still, we were going to have fun during the break with many of our bridge friends at the barbecue hosted by Brian Duran on a nearby lake.  Should we enjoy the full barbecue experience and have a beer?  Why not?

The fun over, we returned to the second session with no great expectations. But, as one of our bridge friends likes to say, the gift box was open!  A couple of decent things happened in the first round (four boards) which was worth about 64%.  We dropped just half a matchpoint in the second round for 98.2% (!).  With two of the seven rounds to go, we were at 73.5% although of course we didn't know that for sure.  Although I wasn't estimating, my gut feel was that we were having a 70% game.  Only in the last round did we slip a tad below average, finishing with 68.5%.  We were greeted by "how was your last round? You guys could win it."  Now, it was getting interesting!  I'd had a second-place finish in a regional A/X pairs and Kim had actually won a regional pairs event.  Otherwise, we'd won a single-session regional Swiss and a two-session sectional together.  Now I really wanted to win a two-session open regional event.

The trouble was we were two matchpoints behind the leaders.  I quickly checked the scores and found one that had been entered as 790 instead of +790.  That's one of the tricky aspects of scoring in a Howell movement  you keep switching directions so it's easy to go wrong.  Once we got that corrected, it was more than enough to put us on top.  It certainly was quite the comeback!

I'll just mention a couple of good (or maybe just lucky) decisions that helped us along the way:

All vulnerable, you hold ♠ QT7542 ♥ Q9874 ♦ 65 ♣ .  1 on your left, pass by partner, 2 on your right, alerted as inverted minors.  Your call?

Kim chose 2♠  which was doubled, ending the auction.  I produced  K  KT632  42  T8542 without any great enthusiasm, though it seemed at least I had one useful card!  Turns out we can actually make 3 on this hand, while 2♠  was down 2 for 500.  However, the opponents have 6, 6, or 6NT.  Never were we so happy to play in the wrong suit – a shared top for us.

Here's one where a couple of somewhat aggressive bids paid off.  I dealt the following hand with nobody vulnerable: ♠ QJT975  K6  876 ♣ A2.  What to open?  Some might open it 2♠.  I know some who would pass and await developments.  I don't like to open a weak two with two outside "cards" so I opened it 1.  This is not as crazy as it might seem, even though it doesn't meet the "rule of 20."  On the Zar points scale, this hand evaluates to 26, a minimum opening hand.  It's also a seven-loser hand, again worth an opening.  LHO passed and Kim responded 2♠, which shows either three-card support or a really flat hand with four spades.  RHO doubled and I raised the ante with 3 (bidding to our "law level").  This was passed out, allowing me to go quietly off two for a clear top.  The opponents could make either 400, 430 or 450 in diamonds, notrump or hearts respectively so even being doubled would have yielded a decent score.

But mostly, we were handed gifts, like the 640 for 2XX or the 800 for a "save" against a slam where even game doesn't make.  Sometimes you just get lucky.  Or just maybe it was our relaxed attitude that arose from the combination of a 45% first session, good food and a beer?

The moral of this story is that bridge is a game in which it is easy to take a wrong turn, but that whatever happens at the bridge table, you should never give up.  This applies at the level of your bridge career (or partnership), at the event level, on a particular board, and indeed after any card or bid.  When you first realize that you have just made a bad bid or play, set your mind to accept the fact that your bid or play was in fact correct and continue, based on that assumption, from that point forward.  And if you have a disastrous start to a session, put it behind you and play to win.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fit-showing jumps

A convention card that doesn't include fit-showing jumps is, to me, a little like a set of silverware without any steak knives.  Admittedly you don't need steak knives, or FSJs, at every meal, or session, but when you do need them, they are so much sharper than the alternatives.  And if we are to strive to be our best at the bridge table, we certainly need sharp tools, provided that they are easy to remember and don't stop us doing something else with them.  Although I've talked about fit-jumps before, I haven't taken the time to define them well, inasmuch as it's possible in a blog.  And, you won't be able to find very much useful in the literature or on the web.  So, with apologies for the inordinate length, here goes...

Let's start with why?  In their excellent book Partnership Bidding at Bridge The Contested Auction, Andrew Robson and Oliver Segal, explain that the need for fit-jumps comes about because of the rather pesky habit the opponents have of butting in to our auctions.  This is especially likely when we have a good fit – because they have a good fit too and, if they are worth their salt, will try to use their fit to disrupt our auction.  It is well known, however, that guessing is a tricky art and it's therefore better to try not to make the last guess.  What this really means is: try not to make the last uneducated guess.  In turn, that obliges us to impart as much information in the few bids we will be allowed so that partner becomes as educated as possible.

Let's take a look at an actual hand from the 1992 Olympiad.  Imagine that you are on the Brazilian team and you deal yourself this nice hand: ♠AQ9874 AT94 – ♣K83.  LHO bids 3 showing the red suits and partner responds 3 which shows a limit raise or better in spades.  RHO bids 3NT which I'm not exactly sure about, but perhaps is a sacrifice-control bid – inviting partner to sacrifice with the right hand.  Obviously, you're going to bid but what is best?  The actual player bid 4♠.  This could easily have been passed out (we are cold for 7♠).  Even though LHO didn't cooperate with a sacrifice, RHO now went to 5.  Our hand bid 5♠ which again was about to be passed out.  RHO bid 6!, a clear breach of discipline.  Would you believe that the same thing happened once more and 7 was passed around to partner.  He bid 7♠ and there it rested.  The Brazilians won 17 IMPs when their opponents stopped in 5♠.  How much better would it have been to know more about partner's hand!  Let's take another look at this hand further down.

There's a well-known bridge aphorism that states "the five-level belongs to the opponents." But we all know that this is a gross simplification.  High-level decisions can be the toughest and most profitable/expensive that you will typically face and a little science can help enormously.  Making the wrong decision regarding bidding a game might cost you 6 or 10 imps.  Making a bad high level decision can easily cost 15 imps or more.

Now, we get to the how?  Let's say that partner has opened 1 and RHO has overcalled 1♠.  We have several standard ways to raise partner.  Let's take a look at each of them:
  1. 2
  2. 3
  3. 4
  4. 2♠
  5. A splinter bid (3♠, or 4 of a minor)
  6. Delayed raise after passing, making a negative double or bidding 1NT or two of a minor (assuming we get another opportunity).
I think that we can immediately eliminate the last group of possibilities (delayed raises) from our discussion because very few of them will describe hands that will want to do something if the auction jumps to 3♠ or 4♠ by the time it gets back to us.  And if partner doubles a high-level contract, we won't feel compelled with one of these hands to take it out.

The first option shows an ordinary raise, probably on three pieces or four with a flat hand.  The second option shows a more preemptive raise with four pieces and the next option is preemptive with five pieces.  Again, we don't expect to be bidding again with any of these hands, although I suppose it's possible that we might bid again after jumping to 4 if we have an exceptionally distributional hand.

Obviously, a splinter bid of 3♠ will likely be great news to partner and he will be able to make an intelligent decision if the next player bids 4♠.  If we don't bid 3♠, it's very likely that LHO will want to bid some number of spades because they almost certainly have a good fit.  Partner will know that we have all of our values in "our" three suits. However, do you play that splinters in competition are unlimited?  Or do you limit them to, say, 10-12 hcp?  In that case there will be other hands that you cannot describe with a splinter.

What about the other splinter bids?  They will be descriptive but they will leave open some doubt as to whether we have (wasted) values in spades.  The shortness in clubs or diamonds is not likely to be such good news to partner.  Furthermore, such splinters are not nearly so compelling as the splinter in the overcalled suit.  Why?  Because at this point, there is no direct evidence that they have a fit in that suit.  So the auction is less likely to have gone into orbit by the time it gets back to us.

That brings us to the cuebid of 2♠.  The way most pairs play, a cuebid doesn't even promise a fit.  It could be a hand with game-going values that's looking for a spade stopper.  A cue-bid with support can represent just about any hand that is interested in a game or slam contract, and can be anywhere from a 4333 limit raise with three trumps all the way up to a moose. It might include some hands that you considered too strong for a splinter (if you play that way).

While we're thinking about all the different possible hands a cuebid can show, we might also note that we didn't assign any meaning to 3♣ or 3, the "jump-shifts in competition".  How useful are such bids as natural suggestions of a place to play?  Not very.  It's seldom that we want to suggest our own suit preemptively at the three level after partner has opened.  It's rarer still if we happen to be a passed hand.

And note also that we didn't assign a meaning to 2NT.  Normally, that will show an invitational balanced hand with stoppers in the enemy suit.  Again, we might ask "how useful is that?"  Bidding a natural 2NT in competition is rarely right.  If partner passes, we will wish that we had tried for a penalty.  If he bids on to 3NT, we will not be able to relax because opening leader on our left will likely know what is best to lead and, if it is RHO's suit, he will have the tempo advantage and the necessary entries right from trick one.

Enter the Fit-showing jump

The fit-showing jump is exactly what it sounds like: it's a jump in a new suit, opposite an opening bid or overcall, and after intervention on our right (bid or double), that guarantees a fit for partner and values in the suit bid.  It's forcing to the next higher contract in partner's suit.  If that suit is x, the fit-jump will be above 2x (forcing to 3x) and below 4x (forcing to 4x). Why is that useful?  Because fits and fitting values are what build tricks in bridge, especially in a suit contract.  The knowledge that we have a double fit, may be sufficient to warrant outbidding the opponents to the five level.  On the other hand, evidence of wastage or nothing fitting outside the trump suit suggests that we may want to double and defend.

So, how good should our hand be to make an FSJ?  A fit-jump which forces partner to the three-level suggests a hand where we're comfortable declaring a three-level contract.  That doesn't mean necessarily that we expect to take nine tricks.  The "law of total tricks" suggests that we should almost always be willing to play at the three level if we have four trumps and some shape.  But since the fit-jump will promise values in our side suit, and is primarily a constructive tool, we won't be making a fit jump with a fitting Yarborough.  After partner has opened 1♠ and RHO has overcalled 2♣, we should be willing to bid 3 with ♠T964 AQT5 4 ♣T653.  To put it another way, as long as our side has approximately half the points in the deck, especially when we have a fit, we should be willing to compete with any constructive action, including an FSJ.  We are talking about minimum strength here.  There really is no maximum.  Because the fit-showing jump is forcing, you will get at least one other chance to bid.  And, of course, partner can bid beyond the agreed contract if he has appropriate extras.

And how good should our suit be when we make an FSJ?  We're basically saying that all or at least most of our values, and especially our non-ace values are in "our" two suits – partner's suit (for which we have a fit) and our side suit (the one we are bidding).  If partner has three to an honor in our side suit, that will be a fitting value and we will have a double fit.  Even four small would be a good double fit.

And how good should our fit be?  This depends on overall strength and shape (including the quality of our suit), but three to the ace, king or queen should really be the absolute minimum.  Partner will expect us to have four card support.

And now we come to the question of how high should we bid?  The normal definition of a fit-showing jump requires a jump to the level below the contract with which we feel reasonably comfortable.  However, this brings up two very important questions: what does a jump to the four-level mean and what does it mean if RHO jumps and we don't?  These are questions that each partnership has to work out.

Robson and Segal recommend using fit-jumps instead of the new-suit splinters.  That's simply because they are more descriptive – pinpointing the values that are going to be useful. There's also the minor point that the next player will not be able to double our splinter to show values there, which might tip the opponents off to their double fit. They also recommend the "fit-non-jump" in the case where RHO has made a weak jump overcall and the new suit we bid ranks below partner's suit.  Again, the usefulness of introducing a new suit at a high level without support for partner is generally low.  This treatment is optional though and definitely requires partnership discussion.

R & S further recommend using 2NT as the four-piece balanced raise, rather like extending Jordan/Truscott to overcalls in addition to doubles.  The balanced invitational notrump hand can usually be shown by making a negative double first and then bidding 2NT.  Again, individual partnerships have to decide if this extra degree of complexity is worth it.

Barbara Seagram and David Bird have also treated fit-showing jumps in their book 25 More Bridge Conventions You Should Know.  Their recommendation on splinters versus fit-jumps is different and possibly a more playable scheme.  If both a jump and a double-jump are available, then the lower is the fit-jump and the higher is the splinter.  Since the fit-jump is essentially making a statement about shape/texture rather than strength, this makes sense (fit-jumper can always raise to game later with sufficient strength).  When only one level is available, they recommend partnership discussion (or perhaps flipping a coin).

One point to note that might not be immediately obvious.  When you make a fit-jump, only partner knows immediately whether we (and therefore they) have a double fit.  They might be able to infer looking at their own hand that we don't have a double fit, but they cannot know if we do.  That's why I tend to favor fit-jumps over splinters in the other two unbid suits -- in the event that we don't have a double fit, it makes it too easy for them to double and possibly find a fit they didn't know they had.

Some hands (partner opens and RHO overcalls):
  • 1 (1♠): ♠642 KT5 A64 ♣QJT5: 2♠ – three trumps, invitational or better (in this case, a marginal invitation).
  • 1 (1♠): ♠A6 KJ95 642 ♣Q975: 2♠ or, playing the full system, 2NT – to show four pieces.
  • 1♠ (2♣):  ♠KT64 AQJ5 64 ♣T53: 3 – kind of a limit raise and game try all rolled into one bid, so much more descriptive than 3♣!
  • 1 (2♠): ♠K6 KJ95 62 ♣AQ975: 4♣ – game forcing heart raise with a good club suit.  If LHO bid 4S now, partner will be very well placed to know what to do.
There is one other consideration which is especially important when RHO doubles.  It is now quite likely that LHO will end up as declarer if we don't outbid them.  Partner will be on lead.  That lead, especially at matchpoints, can make or break our defense.  The fit-showing jump will give partner a very good idea what to lead.  He will particularly appreciate our thoughtfulness when he holds the ace of our suit.

Fit jumps in action (or not).

First, let's go back to the hand we started with.  We have ♠AQ9874 AT94 – ♣K83 and the auction goes as before 1♠ 3*.  This time, partner bids 4♣ (a fit-non-jump showing a spade fit and a club suit and wanting to play 4♠ at least).  Look at our ♣K and void in diamonds, together with the A and quite likely no loser in spades.  Wouldn't we want to at least investigate slam?  Let's suppose we now bid 5 (if possible), exclusion key card Blackwood.  Partner will bid 5NT (two key-cards outside diamonds).  That means we have all the relevant keycards, including the trump Q.  Now, we bid 6 asking if partner has the K.  He does and bids 7♠.  Isn't that more elegant than relying on the opponents to bail us out three times?  If RHO bids 5 over partner's 4♣, we will still be well-placed to get to slam, knowing that he has good working values.  We might not reach the grand, but we will certainly get to a small slam.  Partner's hand, by the way, was ♠K632 K6 QT3 ♣AQJ4.  He does have a little potential wastage in the red suits, but still has a full 10 hcp in the black suits.

A hand from the 1973 Bermuda Bowl involved a tricky defensive problem.  Put yourself in the shoes of B. J. Becker playing for "North America" against Brazil, the home team and eventual bronze medal winner.  Vulnerable against not, you deal yourself ♠AQ743 8 AQT9 ♣JT5 and open 1♠.  P. Branco on your left doubles and Jeff Rubens, your partner, bids 4♣, a fit-showing jump showing willingness to play 4♠.  M. Branco on your right now bids 6 and all pass.  You lead the A and all follow.  Dummy is ♠KJ2 Q74 K6 ♣A8763. Based on partner's club bid, you know that declarer has at most one club so there are no losers there.  He can ruff any diamond losers so the only possible continuation is the ♠A for down one.

Unfortunately, for this hand at least, Becker and Rubens were not playing fit-jumps and Rubens' actual bid was 4♠.  Given that he didn't seem to have much in the way of high cards, Becker reasoned that he would have five spades and therefore no spade would be cashing.  If declarer had two clubs, it might be fatal to try to cash a spade, so he switched to a club.  Away went declarers spade loser on the  ♣A and the slam was made.

The Flip Side

What do we lose by playing fit-showing jumps?  We lose the ability to make most preemptive bids of our own suit in competition and, depending on our agreements, we lose the ability to splinter in one of the two side suits (we always retain the splinter in the overcalled suit).  We also lose the option of making a strong jump shift in competition, but nobody I know actually plays that method.  If we play 2NT as the four-piece raise for both overcalls and doubles, then we give up the immediate natural 2NT call, as described above and are obliged to start with a negative double and bid 2NT at our next turn if available.  If we play fit-non-jumps over weak jump overcalls, then we lose the natural meaning of the call (of a lower-ranking suit) as a forcing (or non-forcing) bid showing a good suit when we don't have a fit (if we have a fit then we can still make the same bid). 

What can go wrong?  The worst thing that can happen obviously is that partner forgets and passes the jump bid, thinking that it is preemptive but this seems unlikely to me.  New suit jumps are never really expected and will always ring a bell.  Most of the time the opponents will continue to bid their suit (they have a big fit too, remember).  Assuming that there are no unauthorized information issues from partner's failure to alert, you can still give a delayed raise later.  Even if the FSJ is passed out, it may not be a total disaster.

What about the times that you have a long strong suit of your own and want to preempt but can't because you would be showing a fit?  Partner opens 1♠ at favorable vulnerability and RHO overcalls 2.  Our hand is ♠6 95 6 ♣AQJT97532.  Darn, we just agreed to play fit-showing jumps and now this hand comes up.  All is not lost!  The first option is to pass and then bid our clubs later (that will not be a fit-showing jump since we didn't do it right away – that will show clubs and more clubs).  But suppose that we're willing to bid 5♣ if it's reached 4 by the time it gets back to us?  Why not bid 5♣ now?  Fit-jumps only apply when they are either just below four of partner's suit or in the level below that.  In this case, the only possible fit-jump calls are 4♣ and 4 (because RHO didn't jump and so 3♣ and 3 would just be normal club/diamond calls).


Fit-showing jumps describe a hand very accurately during a competitive auction and can not only help partner decide whether to bid on or defend when the next player uses up bidding room but also, if partner ends up on lead, will provide a very useful guide as to the best lead.  They are easy to remember and recognize and we don't give up much by playing them.  As with most conventions, there are a few things for partnerships to discuss before agreeing to play them.  Although fit-jumps are alertable because they are a treatment that the opponents have a right to know about, they are nevertheless essentially natural bids showing real values.  And they're fun too when they occur, although they don't come up very frequently.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Adequate support?

A hand arose yesterday playing in a regional Swiss, where I was able to put down exceptional trump support.  It sometimes happens that due to some conventional sequence, dummy comes down with a really good suit "in support" of declarer.  But it's unusual to put down a dummy with quite this good support for a suit bid naturally, albeit in response to a takeout double, by partner.

My hand was ♠AJ AKQT862 64 ♣J3 (spots approximate).  LHO bid 1♣ and there were two passes to me.  I doubled.  LHO bid 2♣ and partner surprised me by bidding 2.  I raised to 4 and partner made it exactly.

I expected a push, but strange things can happen.  At the other table, LHO redoubled after the double and our counterparts also bid to 4.  However, our teammates sacrificed in 4♠ and pushed their opponents to 5 which was doubled.  The defense went a little differently (partner's ♣Q got ruffed and was therefore unavailable for a discard).  The result was down two, giving us a 15 IMP swing.  Partner's hand was ♠J73 J974 K52 ♣Q93.

Tomorrow, I will again address the concept of fit-showing jumps in a blog whose length will be in proportion to my heart support on this hand.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Support/Cooperative Doubles

The "Support Double", developed by Eric Rodwell, is one of the most universal and useful conventions in tournament bridge.  I haven't seen the original definition but here is the basic idea:

Whenever you have opened in a suit, partner has responded at the one-level, and right-hand-opponent has bid such that you would be able to raise partner to the two level – then said raise will promise four-card (or more) support, while double will promise three-card support.

There are a number of questions that this opens up, however:
  1. If you pass instead of raising or doubling, does this guarantee fewer than three-card support?
  2. Do you need to have a minimum point-count?
  3. What if partner already promised five cards in his suit, should you still double with three? if not, then what does double mean now?
  4. While the original description precludes it, what if RHO made a jump?  Could we agree that it's still a support double?
Regarding the first point, Rodwell himself is on record as having said that if you have a weak hand, perhaps a third seat opener, and you wouldn't have made a three-card raise sans competition, then you aren't obliged to double (i.e. you can pass).  For the second point, a big factor is your 1NT range.  Support doubles are made on balanced hands probably 80% of the time.  So, if you play 12-14 notrumps, then you won't have a 12-14 balanced hand when you make a support double and thus will typically not be making a support double on a "dog".  Regarding the third point, I know many experts play that support double is still on if partner promises five cards, which can happen in the auctions 1♣ 1 1♠ 2 X or 1 1 1♠ 2 X.  That has the advantage of simplicity.  My take on this is that it should not be a (strict) support double, but rather a cooperative double (I certainly wouldn't advocate playing penalty doubles in this situation).  I will go on to show that support doubles are essentially a particular species of cooperative double, so that there really isn't any difference in the two approaches.

My particular interest for this discussion lies in the fourth point.  I have recently come across a pair (I'm closely related to one half of this pair) that extends the range of the support double up to the three level when a jump intervenes.  Of course, it must show some extras.  Here's what it says: I'm one card short of being able to raise your suit directly, partner;  I have extra values;  I have a relatively balanced hand;  I'm relatively short in the opponent's suit.  This is precisely the definition of a cooperative (or do-something-intelligent-partner) double.  By the constraints of the game, I can hold only thirteen cards.  Let's say I already opened a suit, so that's four (or more) right there.  I've got three-card support for partner (now we're up to seven, plus).  I've only got six other cards (fewer perhaps).  If six of them were a second suit, I think I'd have no problem finding a bid.  If I had a five-card side suit, I probably wouldn't have a problem.  But what if my second suit is only four cards long and I've got, say, two cards in the enemy suit.  That's precisely when I need to be able to make a cooperative double.  Insufficient cards in our suits to have a clear call, extra points, and a couple of cards in the opponents' suit which will be helpful if partner decides to convert the double to penalties.  
East intended the double as a "support double" but this auction apparently hadn't been clearly determined in advance.  They eventually bid up to 6 (for 5 matchpoints out of 13) but missed the cold 7.  So, you see, whether you call it a support double or a cooperative (DSIP) double, it really amounts to the same thing.  At the two-level (the traditional domain of the support double), given that we might both have minimum hands, it makes sense to have the support double show exactly three.  But at a higher level, you might still make a cooperative double with only two card support for partner – but then you will have compensating strength.

Thus, the cooperative double and the support double stand together with some other conventions that deny the ability to show primary support of partner's suit and/or request partner to show secondary support.  Examples include fourth-suit-forcing, new minor forcing, the forcing notrump.

The reason for all this difficulty of course, is that, in a constructive and forward-going auction, we generally do not like to raise with three (in case partner has only four) and we tend not to rebid suits unless we have six (in case partner has only two).  This leaves the finding of a 5-3 fit one of the trickier aspects of bridge.  The support double and its more general cousin, the cooperative double, are one of the tools that can help us in this quest.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Venus Flytrap

Tuesday June 5th was the much heralded day of the Transit of Venus.  Eight years ago, I tried to see it using a pin-hole camera mechanism but the sun was elusive.  This time, the sun was definitely on sabbatical and so I watched the start (and the end) of the phenomenon live via internet.  During the less interesting part, I went to play bridge at the club.  The date of the next transit, you ask?  2117.

While we're on the subject, The Venus Flytrap is a carnivorous plant that offers its victim a nice juicy taste of nectar and then closes the trap around the hapless insect.  The proffering of gifts followed by springing a trap is a well-known ploy in bridge.  Unfortunately, this time I was the incautious victim.

You'd think I'd been around long enough and read sufficient books to be wary of Greek gifts. Well, maybe at the start of a session.  But by the time the last board hit the table, and with several hours more work to do late that night, my brain just wasn't up to it.  But it's my journalistic duty to give credit where it's due, in this case to our senior Grand Life Master, Bill Hunter.  He dangled a lifeline in front of me and I grabbed it!

My partner was my GNT teammate Leo in our first matchpoint event as a pair.   And as noted, it was the last board, having achieved a good score on the first board.  Spirits were high, although energy was low.

1♣ promised only two clubs.  The lead was ♣A followed by ♠A and then ♣K, although it's possible that South played the ♣Q at trick three which would have told me that he had at least 13 hcp.  I regret to say that I cannot remember.  It had already been a long day.  The first question is whether to pitch a diamond or to ruff.  There are probably good arguments for the pitch, especially at teams, but I chose to ruff.  There wasn't much to choose between the finessing positions of the red suits.  But which type of finesse should I use.  Running the ten has the advantage that if the finesse appears to be working, we can try it again and that's good enough to make game.  On the other hand, if the first finesse loses, it would have been nice to retain the T in order to get back to try the other red suit.  Was there any way to guess?  Nothing significant, I felt.  For whatever reason, I chose to start by running the diamond ten.  If it lost, I'd almost certainly have to try to drop the HQ.

It did lose and I was well on my way to making my contract.  After some thought, Bill returned – a club!  I ruffed, winning the trick in my hand. Stop right there (I didn't).  Why is this wily old fox making life so easy for me?  A moment's thought would have made it all clear.  He had the doubleton Q of hearts!  Unfortunately, I didn't stop to think and the result was down one and a poor score.  Many were in 3 only, making without any undue effort.

Whether it's an insect and nectar, Trojans and a wooden horse, Snow White and an apple, or an act of apparent generosity at the bridge table, the lesson is the same: don't trust that gift from your adversary!