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Simple Arithmetic? By Carl Dickel

Carl Dickel
Carl Dickel


There are plenty of married couples in my bridge club, but none of them play together on a regular basis. One would have imagined that soul mates would form a successful partnership, but not so. There surely must be some exceptions but as of now no names spring to mind.

In my club, Bill and Nan are a happily married couple, but to maintain married bliss, they play together on odd occasions only, such as in the Dunmow Flitch. In club tournaments they contrive to play in the same position, so that when they get home they can compare score sheets. Unlike Mick Jagger, Bill gets plenty of satisfaction from this practice, as it is a boost to his ego when he has made the extra trick or has reached a better contract.

They were both at South in a tournament in which this hand was dealt.

North-South game: West Deals

spade suit KJ53


spade suit A1097

spade suit

spade suit Q8642

With Bill at South the bidding went: –

West North East South
1 Dbl 2 4spade suit
All Pass

West led the queen of hearts and when dummy was displayed, Bill felt happy about the result with losses restricted to a trump and two clubs. He blithely threw a club from dummy and after winning in hand, he led a small trump to the jack. When East discarded the six of clubs, it was all too painfully clear that two trumps and two clubs had to be lost. He conceded one down and opponents did not argue. Bill was no mathematical genius, but this was a matter of simple arithmetic. Four from thirteen leaves one shy.

At home later a comparison of score sheets showed that Nan had got to the same contract, but to Bill’s surprise had somehow made ten tricks.

“Did West lead a trump?” he asked.

“No, he led hearts” she replied.

“Did someone revoke?”

“No, there was no revoke.”

“Did East discard the ace of clubs?” he then asked, sarcastically.

“Yes, that’s right, and he did the same with the king of clubs” she answered brightly.

Now thoroughly confused Bill said, “Just tell me exactly what happened,” and she did.

“I won the heart lead, throwing a club from the table and played a spade to the jack, and East signaled in clubs. I took the ace of diamonds and ruffed a diamond. I won the king of hearts and then started trumping in like crazy in hearts and diamonds, and West was never able to trump over. I had already made four tricks and when I trumped three times in each hand, I found I had made ten tricks.”

It came to Bill in a flash. West had made the last three tricks with A 10 9 of trumps, while East had had to endure the torture of discarding his ace and king of clubs on his partner’s trumps.

Said Nan, “You said that thirteen minus four leaves nine, but I was never any good at subtraction. I was much better at addition.”

It is all very well to count your losers, but check up on your winners.

A strange metamorphosis had taken place on this hand. West’s two trump winners had increased to three, but East’s top clubs had evaporated.

Our second hand would not have suited Nan in the least, as a lot of subtraction from thirteen was involved. Seeing only the East-West cards, you are asked to follow the play until only four cards remain, at which point you are asked to assess your prospects of success.

spade suit

spade suit

Bidding: –








It was the last of West’s thoughts that he might have to play the hand, far less in 6NT. When North led the ten of spades and dummy showed, West brightened up quite considerably, counting on twelve easy tricks and thirteen with a break in a major.

Winning the ace of spades, he started off blithely with two top diamonds, but when North discarded a club he was jolted back quite a bit. Subtraction tells you that South started with five diamonds.

You play off the three top hearts but again North discards, this time with a spade so North had ten black cards. On the king of spades South discards a club and as he has shown 5 diamonds, 4 hearts and 1 spade, he is left with 3 clubs and if your brain is still active, North must have started with 5 spades, 2 hearts 1 diamond and 5 clubs. You cash two more diamonds and these four cards remain:

spade suit

spade suit

As North started off with 5 clubs it is 5-3 on or 62.5% that he has the king. With all the evidence at your disposal I ask you to continue.

I hope my remarks about percentages has not diverted you down the wrong road, because the contract is a certainty, irrespective of the whereabouts of the club king.

You cash the ace of clubs and follow with the jack of spades. If South has the king of clubs, you can enjoy the sadistic pleasure of watching him squirm, as he has either to discard it or surrender a red suit winner. If he discards a small club, you will know that North has the club king, so you let him have it and he has to give you the queen of spades.

by Carl Dickel


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