The Benefits of Study by Sartaj Hans

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At the expert level, most of the problems solved at the table are situations that have been seen before. They might have been…

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SARTAJ HANS
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Source: BridgeWinners; The Benefits of Study by Sartaj Hans Dec. 29, 2014

At the expert level, most of the problems solved at the table are situations that have been seen before. They might have been encountered in actual play, read in a book or noticed during the post-mortem.

In order to increase competitive success, it pays to invest in building a repertoire of techniques. Some situations one studies may not arise for a long time, but when they do, the likelihood of getting them right increases significantly.

Garry Kasparov once said that for a Grandmaster to improve at chess, one should study 80 percent of the time and play 20 percent of the time.

This article is the story of some of my experiences around the benefits of study….

Consider this defensive problem: aaxx

Benito Garozzo-Dano De Falco

Benito Garozzo-Dano De Falco

You lead a top diamond and partner shows a doubleton. What now?

About ten years ago, in a BBO internet match, ex-world champion Dano de Falco made a play I had never seen before.

The hand was something like this…Click NEXT to follow the play

The club switch at trick two was critical. The defence needs to build its trick in that suit before it loses trump control.

If East issues a spade ruff at trick two, the defence can no longer prevail. Declarer can discard a club on a winning spade, condensing West’s trump winner and East’s club holding into one trick.

I was quite impressed by this farsighted play. Perhaps it has been documented in a textbook but I had not come across it.

Anyways, this knowledge helped me spot the winning play in the defensive problem given before.

The full hand is :aaxx

The winning play is to play a spade through the King now and delay the diamond ruff. It may not be a 100 percent play but on the actual hand it was spectacularly successful. Giving partner a ruff straightaway leads to the defense forfeiting the second spade trick. Declarer comfortably makes.

It is extremely unlikely that a play like this can be implemented at the table without prior knowledge.

Brings us to the first advantage of study : It helps you make the right play !

Are there any other reasons?

Playing in the Blue Ribbon Pairs, partner drives my pessimistic downgrade from a 14-16 1NT opening to a grand slam.aaxx

On a heart lead to the ten and jack, what is the precise order of play ?

Writing up a recent hand helped me refine my understanding of such situations.

Thanks to that piece of analytical work, I could see the technical solution fairly quickly.

Requirement : If spades are 5 – 0, we need to ruff three spades.

Deduction : Thus we can afford only one round of trumps before testing spades.

Action : Spade to the Ace.

Say both follow…

Requirement : If spades are 4- 1, we need to ruff only two spades.

Deduction : Thus we can afford another round of trumps

Action : Heart to the King

Say someone shows out…

Requirement If spades are 4 – 1, we need to ruff twice to set them up.

Action Spade to the King, spade ruff, diamond ruff, spade ruff, diamond ruff, claim

This could be the critical way of playing when one opponent held three hearts and four spades.

This precise approach certainly requires prior exposure to similar techniques.

Brings us to the second benefit of study : Play A La Kramnik.

Are there any other reasons?

After the bridge, Monday night at the pub, we often go through the hands. One evening I get asked:

“How does Deep Finesse make twelve tricks in spades on this hand ?”

aaxx

Can you see how?

Tim Bourke’s article on the two-trick squeeze had recently been published on Bridge Winners. “Declarer can build the club trick and pull trumps. On the last trump, East is caught in a two trick squeeze.” I replied in great style.

Click NEXT to follow the play:

East is squeezed for TWO tricks.

If he discards a heart, declarer plays three rounds, building both the deep heart and a diamond trick.

If he discards a diamond, declarer plays Ace and another, building the Q and getting a free heart finesse.

I felt pretty smug after rattling off this answer. This one is practically impossible to get right unless you’ve seen it before.

Brings us to the third advantage of study : Be a hero at the pub!

Now that’s the BEST reason!

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