Boehm on Bridge

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When I teach, I emphasize logic because logical thinking is essential at bridge. Logical thinking really amounts to clear thinking. How does one thought lead directly to the next?

August Boehm
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Source: June 2011 ACBL BRIDGE BULLETIN

Boehm on Bridge: Boehm Mots No. 11

When I teach, I emphasize logic because logical thinking is essential at bridge. Logical thinking really amounts to clear thinking. How does one thought lead directly to the next? A definition of a deduction is what logically follows from facts known or assumed. Drawing a deduction is a great source of satisfaction because it makes us feel intelligent which, in turn, makes us feel good about ourselves.

Try a bridge puzzle to exercise this faculty. With the opponents silent, the auction goes:

You Partner
1 1
1 3
4 Pass

Here are the club holdings:

 Q 10 3
 J 8 2

The opening lead is a non-club. In all likelihood, where are the missing high clubs? Because clubs is the only unbid suit, a club lead is expected. What club holding would discourage opening leader from leading one? If he had  A K, obviously he would lead an honor. If he held neither high club, clubs would be an easy lead. If he held the king, he probably would try a club, hoping for club help from partner, instead of leading an opponent’s suit.

Only if he held the ace would he look elsewhere. Thus, expect the A on your left and the K on your right. If you are trying to build a picture of the missing honor cards, this is a beginning.

That wasn’t too difficult. If you asked the right question, namely, what follows from the failure to lead clubs, the answers were pretty simple. Apply the same reasoning to another situation.

You are South; West opens 1, North passes, East raises to 2 (6-9), and your 2 overcall closes the auction. The opening lead is the 2; dummy displays  8 54, your diamonds are  10 7 3, and East plays the K at trick one (see diagram).

Dummy  854
You  1073

Two problems:

1. Call West’s distribution, and

2. Locate the missing diamond honors.

To begin a series of deductions, you need to acquire a few more facts. By consulting the opponents’ convention card, or asking them, you learn that they lead fourth-best, and their style is to open 1 holding 3-3 in the minors and 1 with 4 4. Let your Holmesian wheels start to spin.

What are the East-West diamond lengths? Seven missing diamonds were opened and raised. Do you think that East raised with three in an uncontested auction? I don’t think so either, so assign East four diamonds, leaving West with three. When would West open 1 on a three-card suit? In his style, 4=4=3=2 is the only distribution part No. 1 is solved.

How are the diamond honors divided? Presumably, West wouldn’t underlead the ace against a suit contract. That places the ace, alongside the known king, with East. If East held  A K Q 6, his correct third-hand play at trick one is the queen, the lowest of touching honors. He didn’t, therefore he hasn’t, which places the  Q with West. If West held the  Q J, he would have led the queen, but he led low; this locates the jack with East.

Our picture is now complete: East holds the  A K J x; West’s diamonds are  Q x x. Don’t look for East, who has announced 6-9 points, to hold much else. Plan the play accordingly.

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