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Monday, December 3, 2007

Best New Book? Try an Old Book!
by Jim Kaplan

At this time of year I usually recommend a hot new book, but my current choice is an old book still making headlines: Why You Lose at Bridge by S.J. Simon.

Voted the best bridge book of all time in a 1994 survey, the 1946 classic teaches modern lessons despite ancient practices like using strong two-bids and opening four-card majors. Simon applies simple mathematical logic to bidding and play.

Sitting East, you hold:
    S Q J 10 9
H x x x
D x x x
C x x x
The bidding has proceeded as follows:
    North     East     South     West
1S Pass 2S Pass
3S Pass 4S Pass
Pass ?
Anything you’d like to say?

Certainly, Simon says: double! You hold only three high-card points, but you’re going to make two tricks defending a spade contract. What does that leave your partner with? Since North-South bid a tenuous game and never investigated slam, partner has something like this:
    S —
H K Q x x
D A J x x
C x x x x x
With about 10 HCP, partner should take another two defensive tricks — enough to set the contract.

“Against confident bidding, wait for a moral certainty [before doubling],” Simon writes. “But against eventual contracts, when you can infer that the cards are badly placed for declarer, double on a couple of picture cards and hope.”

As declarer, you should consider defenders’ cards and where they may sit. Let’s say you’re contracting for 4S with these cards:
S K 8 6
H K J 10
D A 8 7
C K J 10 9

S A J 9 4 3 2
H A 4 2
D 5 4
C A 7
How, Simon asks, should you play the spade suit to guard against a 4-0 break?

In truth, most of us wouldn’t even consider the possibility of a safety play. We’d intend to cash the king, then the ace, and hope for 2-2 distribution. But as soon as you cash the king in Simon’s example, East shows out and you have two trump losers. If you’d imagined either defender holding Q-10-7-5 and thought it through, you’d conclude you should play the ace first.

The book is loaded with these useful, timeless illustrations. Why You Lose at Bridge is available from $5.49 on EBay and $6.25 on amazon.com

Loomis Communities of South Hadley is staging a summer-long bridge marathon to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. The goal is to have three to five 10-pair divisions for women, men and mixed pairs. In each division, pairs will play a twice-monthly round robin from May 1 to September 15. On September 21, there will be a recreational game from 3 to 5 p.m., followed by a buffet supper and awards presentation. For further information, please call Lita Seyffer at (413) 534-7759.


Liz Castro said...

Jim, would you mind explaining in more detail why you'd play the Ace first? Then, what would you do?


Anonymous said...

If you play the king first and East shows out, West has the queen-10-x-x and will win two spades. If you play the ace first and East shows out, you can finesse the 8 and hold spade losses to one.

If you play the ace and WEST shows out, you can cash the king and finesse against the queen-10 using the jack-9. Still only one losing spade.

Liz Castro said...

OK, I see. I was still thinking East had Q J 10 9.