The Art of Card Reading at Bridge (Part I)

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In each of these deals the South declarers either had to create actively a position that enabled them to obtain a count of one of the opponents’ hands, or…

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On 15 December, 2015 At 12:17

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The Art of Card Reading
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The Art of Card Reading at Bridge By Fred L. Karpin

From Simple Hands to Less Simple 

In each of these deals the South declarers either had to create actively a position that enabled them to obtain a count of one of the opponents’ hands, or, having obtained a count, they had to come up with an expert play to take advantage of their knowledge. Thus, as will be observed, these declarers really had to work hard for their rewards: the fulfillment of their respective contracts.

Deal 1 In this deal South arrived at a small-slam contract which, in the post-mortem analysis, was revealed to be not a difficult one to handle properly. I think the above statement will be concurred in by everyone—after South’s play has been observed. Actually, winning play necessitated nothing more than applying a “little thing” that the counter had stored in his arsenal of winning techniques. Yet this “little thing,” which is possessed by all bridge players, would not have been evoked by the noncounter, who, instead, would have tended to rely on pure guesswork.

East-West vulnerable. South deals.aaxx

Let’s assume that you are occupying the South seat. When the deal was actually played, the South declarer was Barry Crane of Hollywood, California. As soon as the opening lead is made and you survey your assets, it becomes apparent that you have two potential losers, one in clubs and one in hearts. You realize immediately that the loss of a club trick is inevitable, and, simultaneously, that the sole hope of fulfilling the slam rests squarely on your ability to ferret out the location of the heart queen and then to finesse successfully against that card.

After you capture the opening club lead with your ace, you cash the king, ace, and queen of trumps, noting that West follows suit to all three rounds, while East follows suit to just one round, discarding two low hearts on the second and third trump leads. Then come three rounds of diamonds, with the observation being made that both opponents follow suit to all three rounds.

Where are you now? Do you have any clue—or an inkling of a clue—as to whether East or West possesses the heart queen? Well, you might say that East is the favorite to have that crucial card, since West was dealt three spades, three diamonds, and one club (leaving him with six unknown cards) , while East was dealt one club, one spade, and three diamonds (leaving him with eight unknown cards). As an approximation, you are ahead of those bridge players who have not learned to do any serious counting.

But, really, you don’t have any strong feeling that East has the heart queen, do you? What next? Since the loss of a club trick is inevitable, why not lead your jack of clubs at this point (as our actual declarer did) , giving the defenders the trick? Perhaps they will then provide you with some information. So you lead the jack of clubs, which West takes with the queen. West plays back the high ten of clubs, which you ruff. On this trick East discards a low heart. West’s hand should now be an open book to you. West was known to have started with three trumps and three diamonds, and with East having failed to follow suit to the third club lead, West is now revealed as the possessor of six clubs. Thus twelve of West’s original thirteen cards have been accounted for. Your next play is the four of hearts to the board’s king, West following suit with the deuce. Dummy’s jack of hearts is then returned, and whether East covers or doesn’t cover with the queen, you have just brought home your contract by avoiding the loss of a heart trick. These were the four hands:


1. What if East had followed suit to the third club lead? Well, in this case you would have known nothing more than that East was dealt one spade, three diamonds, and three clubs (six unknown cards) ; and that West was dealt three spades, three dia-monds, and three clubs (four unknown cards) . On percentage (as contrasted to the guarantee you actually did receive) , you would finesse against East for the heart queen.

2. What if West had opened, let us say, a trump originally against your six-spade contract. How would you then have proceeded in your play? The answer is: in exactly the same fashion as you did, by drawing trumps and cashing your three diamonds. Then would come the ace of clubs, followed by the jack of clubs. The same position actually achieved would now be reached, with West leading a third club, East failing to follow suit. It should be pointed out, perhaps naïvely, perhaps not, that when West was thrown into the lead with his club queen, he really had no choice but to exit with the ten of clubs. If, instead, he led a heart, you would make three heart tricks via a free finesse. And if West returned a diamond instead (if he had had one) , you would have trumped this lead in dummy while simultaneously discarding the four of hearts from the South hand.

To be continued…

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