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Could’ve, Should’ve

My Bridge was still far from error free, but I always sought to learn from my mistakes. Sometimes I had the opportunity to teach others from these errors too.

I remember my 1991 Bols Bridge Tip (winning 2nd place): “Play a pre-emptor who leads his suit for a singleton trump”. This was triggered by a Cap Gemini deal I mucked up.

Why should a pre-emptor who leads his suit normally have a singleton trump? Simple really. A pre-emptor’s most likely shape (by far) is 7321; he will surely lead his singleton against your trump contract...unless it’s in trumps.

West Deals
Both Vul
K J 10 4
6 4
J 8 4 3
K 4 3
5 2
K 6 5
A J 10 9 6 5 2
W   E
Q 7 6
A 10 7 2
A Q 7
Q 8 7
A 9 8 3
K Q J 9 5 3
10 9 2
West North East South
3 ♣ Pass 3 NT 4 
Pass Pass Pass


On the deal in question, I would have done better to pass Three Notrumps (or better, double) and lead the king of hearts. However West’s ace of clubs lead gave me a chance in Four Hearts. I ruffed, and now crossed to the king of spades, discarded a diamond loser on the promoted king of clubs, then led a trump to the king. Essentially I was playing for both majors to split, with the queen of spades being doubleton (for the lack of a dummy entry to finesse). I ended up down two.

I should have reasoned that West’s failure to lead a side-suit singleton meant he was likely to be 7321 with a singleton trump. The indicated line is as follows:
Cross to the king of spades, discard a diamond on the king of clubs, then lead the jack of spades (the last time I can finesse). Assuming East plays low, I now lead a trump and, playing East for  A10xx (by far his most likely four-card holding), finesse the nine. I can now force out the ace of trumps, and claim my game, losing two diamonds and a trump.

If, at Trick Three, East covers the jack of spades with the queen, I win the ace and lead the king of trumps. Whether or not this is taken by the ace, I can cross to the promoted ten of spades and lead a second trump to the nine. Either way - vulnerable game made. Could’ve should’ve.

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