Why Count at Bridge ?
On 14 December, 2012 At 19:47
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Do you count at bridge ? Do you look at the cards partner and opponents play in order to count ?
If you say yes, I want you as my partner.
If you say no, why do you play bridge?
If you say you can’t, I don’t believe you.
A bridge teacher I knew died three years ago. He was my best friend and my bridge partner for 7 years; we began together and won our life masters together. Then we lost contact. Why? Let’s say life got in the way. Things happen. He became a bridge teacher, a very successful one. He could have been a successful player too. But life got in the way again.
Anyway. This bridge teacher was very popular, every women wanted him as son-in-law, husband, lover or what you want.
But… but his basis for teaching all those women who adored him and men (few) whom he amused was: bridge is above their head, they can’t count, so I might as well amuse them.
He was very, very popular.
My approach is radically different: I say You can count. Bridge is not a mystery, not a riddle, not an enigma. Just count. You are an adult, you went to school, they taught you numbers, 1, 2, 3, etc. You can count your money, you can count sheeps when you don’t sleep, you can count people in front of you at the cashier, you can count women you made love to. One of our students says 80 (are you envious? I am‼), and he can’t count at bridge.
Bridge is not counting to 80, it is counting to 13. It is not rocket science, it is not understanding women (who can?). It is just counting to 13… 4 times.
So here is the thing.
You LHO Partner RHO
1 2 double pass
Your hand :
A J 2 3 A Q 8 7 6 K x x x
All vul., you decide to pass. If you have no game, +200 will be a top. If you have game, meaning partner has a game going hand, you should be able to get + 800. And defense is so much more fun to play than declaring. It is more exciting, more challenging, you can feel your heart pounding, you sit at the edge of your chair, eyes wide open, almost shaking with excitement. It is what bridge is all about: it is the only moment when you play as partners, when you are two players together with a single mind, exchanging information, giving signals, trying to visualize declarer’s hand, trying to see quickly what will be his plan.
2 doubled, WOW‼
Partner leads the 4 of diamond. Your leading system is 3rd from even, low from odd.
6 x x
Q 10 x x x
Q x x
A J 2
A Q 8 7 3
K x x x
Declarer plays the King from dummy, you win with the ace, declarer following with the 6, and you play back your singleton heart. Declarer ducks. Partner wins with the king and plays back the 2. You ruff. What do you do now?
From the heart 2, lowest from original holding, you should know partner has 4 cards in heart. You also know he has only 1 spade. As he didn’t lead his lowest diamond, he should probably have 4. Did I lose you? Do you say this is too complicated?
LHO jumped to 2, he has 6 cards in spades; partner therefore has only 1 spade. Partner made a negative double, showing hearts; he could have had 5 cards in hearts, but the 2 he played back told you he has only 4.
So you know declarer has 6 spades, most probably KQ10xxx, and 3 hearts Axx.
If partner had had AK of hearts, he would have led the Ace.
What about the minors ?
As partner didn’t lead his lowest diamond, he should have 4. Can you obtain confirmation of that? Yes, play the Queen of diamond and the card partner plays will give you that information. So you play the diamond Queen, partner follows with the 2, confirming 4 cards.
So, if he has 1 spade, 4 hearts and 4 diamonds, he has 4 clubs. Rocket science all this? Above your head? You have enough problems in life, you say?
Let me torture you more.
Who has the club ace? You don’t know? Partner has to have that Ace.
He made a negative double of 2, showing hearts obviously, but also some points. The double of 2 forces you to the 3 level, so he needs to have 10+ points for that. So his hand is:
K J x x
J x x x
A J x x
What do you play now? You know you can ruff the 3rd heart. You know you can put partner in hand with his club Ace. This is what you see now.
6 x x
Q 10 x
Q x x
8 7 3
K x x x
If you play small club, partner may play back a club, and you will not ruff a second heart with your spade Jack. You see that with perfect defense, you can collect +800. If you collect +800, that declarer will remember it for a long time.
Perfect defense is what you want, not for +800, just for the beauty of it, the beauty of playing your cards in perfect order, of telling partner exactly what you have and what you want, of preventing partner from making a mistake. You have to think for your partner, you have to enter in his mind, to make it perfectly clear for him (or her) what you expect. If you play a club to partner’s Ace, how can you prevent him from playing back a club?
Your counting has told you declarer has only 2 clubs. Take your time, think. Do you see?
You pull out a club, put it back and think more.
Then it dawns on you: play the club King first. How can I play the club King when the Queen is in dummy, you say??? Trust me, play the club King, all follow.
Now small club to partner’s Ace. She then starts to think. You tremble with all your body.
Will she play back a club, thinking you have only 2? Did she count also during the hand? Did she do the hard work like you? How can you have only 2 clubs if declarer has 2?
Will she give up because it is too tough to count? Will she betray your confidence by being lazy or inattentive?
She pulls out a card, keeps it still in the air for a few seconds. You know now she will make the right play, she always does that, holding the card in the air like that, torturing you with pleasure.
A heart appears on the table! This is heaven. You ruff, play the spade Ace, +800.
Perfect defense, perfect bridge, perfect partners. What more do you want?
And she is also my wife J.
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