Tim Seres and Mary McMahon at the 2000 Gold Coast Congress

The Sydney Morning Herald – 29 Ago 1971

TIM SERES, famous for his bridge stamina and his powers of concentration, writes:

One of the common mistakes in declarer play is to stop thinking before the contract is truly safe.

Here is a hand in point:

South is declarer in a contract of four hearts, after West has interposed 1. The lead of the spade three is won by declarer’s ten, East playing the nine. South should now pause to work things out. Having already avoided a spade loser, the contract should make unless there are two trump losers and two club losers. West ought to have the club ace for his one spade bid: even if he doesn’t, a 2 : 2 break in hearts or the king or queen singleton in either hand will still wrap things up.

Would you stop thinking at that point and lay down the heart ace? If so take a demerit mark for not noting the lead of the spade three and the absence of the spade two. This almost certainly means that West has five spades (and has led his fourth highest), a fact the interpose would tend to confirm anyway. At trick two, declarer should indeed cash the heart ace. Bad news comes from the left, as West shows out.

However, East has KQ7 of hearts left and declarer has sufficient depth in hearts to pull the heart seven in due course, losing only two trumps. Is that the full story? Should South now play a second trump? If not, why not? No marks for answers not backed by reasons. The reason that South should not play a second trump at once is bound up with two of the initial deductions by declarer:

1 that West has five spades (leaving East with a doubleton).

2 that the contract cannot now succeed unless West has the club ace.

The danger should really be pretty obvious once declarer reviews the situation intelligently. If he plays another trump, East will win and play his second (and last) spade. South wins and plays a third trump. East wins and plays a club. West wins with the ace and defeats the contract by returning a spade for East to ruff with his heart seven, This unfortunate out-come can be avoided if declarer sees the danger and nips it in the bud. It is the communication in clubs between the East-West hands that must be cut before East has been able to play his second spade. In short, South must play a club at trick three.

Should West win the club ace on the first lead of the suit, the communication will have been broken and South can then proceed with the routine task of extracting trumps. However, if West ducks, South must not only win the king, but also play the second club immediately. Othenvise the club suit will still provide an entry to the West hand for the fatal spade ruff. This is a neat hand, not because of any exotic squeeze or distribution, but simply because it gives declarer a chances to reap the rewards of a thoughtful approach.

The theme of communication is a complex one which threads through the whole fabric of play and defence. Everyone is familiar with the hold-up play in a no-trump contract. But it might not be so readily apparent that the communication-attacking play discussed above is a member of the same family.