Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Discovering wisdom

An interesting situation came up on the penultimate board of the Friday evening pairs from the Memorial Day sectional. After 1NT on my left (15-17) and a 2♣ (Stayman) on my right, I chose to double holding ♠62 K3 QT5 ♣KJT963 at favorable vulnerability. LHO bid 2 and this was raised to game. Partner led ♣4 and dummy hit with ♣2. Clearly, the double had not worked out well. Really, I should have bid 3♣, perhaps getting us to 5♣X for -500 and a 45% board (the best we can do as many of our teammates did not bid game). At this point, we were destined for about a 25% board.

However, I started thinking (always dangerous). Although there didn't seem much point in "discovering" whether partner had the ♣Q, it seemed like there was no possible advantage in playing the king. So, I played the 9, losing to the Q with declarer. I played the rest of the hand on the assumption that declarer had the ace. Imagine my chagrin when I discovered when the hand was over that it was partner who held that card. Our result had now dropped to about 10%.

We asked a couple of experts afterwards what they would have led and both said "the ace, of course." Yet, partner – and let me admit right now that it was my "better half" – insisted that low was the correct card. I didn't worry too much about it (it certainly hadn't cost us a top place as our performance in general was fairly mediocre), confident that I was right for once.

But in the morning, I got to thinking about it again. Let's say my club holding was KJT96, as it could easily have been for the lead-directing double at favorable vulnerability. Now, dummy might have shown up with two small clubs. Now, the lead of the ace would have guaranteed that declarer's queen was worth a trick. Underleading the ace would nullify that queen [this was Kim's argument, in fact].

Although we don't normally go about underleading aces at suit contracts, there are times when it is right. Clearly, one time for that is when partner has promised the king with his lead-directing double – yes, the double might be based on AQ but then partner wouldn't be looking at the ace! If the queen turns out to be in declarer's hand, she will never score a trick provided that a low card is led from the ace. And provided that doubler knows which way is up.

Furthermore, the discovery play was completely pointless in this circumstance, this was not a suit at which we could earn any more tricks, or with which we might do any damage by tapping. And, as I then realized, playing the king might have caused declarer to count out the hand incorrectly, assuming that I also held the ace.

So, I decided to apologize to partner and congratulate her on her thoughtful play.

A day or two later, a discussion of this very point on the BridgeWinners site was posted (board 3 of the challenge match between the BW team and the challengers). In this case, East "knew" that his partner didn't have the ace of his suit (spades in this case) because, after dummy came down, there were too many points on view (declarer had also opened 1NT in this board). So, he did decide to made the discovery play. But, in the discussion, he actually mentioned the possibility that, in general, partner could have underled the ace.

There are a couple of conclusions to draw from this experience: bridge is a game from which you can keep on learning; and it pays to seriously consider partner's point of view and agree with it if and when you feel convinced. This last little bit of wisdom is especially true if the person in question happens to be your partner in life as well as bridge!


  1. Good post and thoughtful play by your partner.

    Last time my partner decided to double a Stayman call, a different problem was created. I held the CA, and perhaps not being as thoughtful as was Kim, I led the CA. And then discovered that partner had decided to double Stayman on a QJ high suit. Now that declarer's otherwise-in-the-slot CK had been established, we were destined for a bad board!

    1. Well, you were in a no-win situation after the double. No way to get it right! People who double with QJxx(x) should be shot at dawn - just kidding :)

  2. I'm not a fan of discovery plays. Often they confuse partner and they place other cards in your hand.

    Good post!