The simplest gifts are often the best  

Eric Kokish  

BRIDGE experts pride themselves on their mastery of the endgame, projecting the play to a late stage, then reading the situation with the requisite accuracy to negotiate a vital trick. There are many occasions, however, when the needed trick can be obtained much earlier in the play. When you find yourself wondering how you should guess a critical suit or how you should determine which suit to broach, that is often a good moment to consider the possibility of having your opponents do your work for you. And sooner rather than later.

This deal was played in the 1991 NEC World Junior Teams Championship final


  South Dealer Q 5    


Love All

 Q 8 5 4





 A 10 8 6





 10 7 6









J 8 3     K 9 4 2

 J 6 3


W                          E

 K 9 7

 J 7 2



 4 3

 Q J 4 2



 9 8 5 3









 A 10 7 6





 A 10 3





 K Q 9 5





 A K




















At both tables, South declared 3NT to the lead of the club deuce, fourth best. The Canadian declarer played on hearts at every opportunity

and when the suit did not behave too badly, he established an extra trick for his ninth winner.

At the other table, Brian Platnik for USA II won the king of clubs and played the king-queen of diamonds to confirm that he had four winners in that suit. Then he cashed the ace of clubs, led to the ace of diamonds and called for the ten of clubs. West took two club winners and declarer threw a heart and a spade from his hand and a heart from dummy. Now West had to open up one of the majors for declarer to hand him his ninth trick.

No guarantees about the clubs, to be sure, but had they been 5-3 after all, declarer might still have had a chance to guess the major in which the defence eventually chose to exit. 


THE next deal was played in the 1990 Canadian Invitational Pairs in Toronto  

  North Dealer Q 10 3    


E-W Game

 K 9 2





 J 9 8 5





 Q 10 2









9 3     J 7 5 4

 10 4


W                          E

 Q J 7 6 3

 K Q 6 4 3 2




 8 6 4



 A J 9 5









A K 6 2





 A 8 5





 A 10 7





 K 7 3




Billy Cohen declared 3NT from the South hand and was treated to a low diamond lead, East discarding a heart. That gave declarer his

 eighth trick, but with clubs and spades behaving badly, the ninth might have been a problem.

Cohen played ace, king and another heart and put his cards on the table. East had to concede the game-going trick after taking his hearts, and would have had to do so even if he had kept a fifth heart. Simple but beautiful.


The next deal from the quarter-finals of the Yokohama World Team Championship in 1991, is more complex and perhaps less pure, but it is no less delightful.


  South Dealer 10 5    


N-S Game

 6 4





 K Q 6 5 3





 A 9 8 4









J 9 8 2     K 7 6 4 3

 Q 7 3 2


W                          E

 K J 10

 10 4



 J 9

 7 6 2



 K J 5









 A Q 





 A 9 8 5





 A 8 7 3





 Q 10 3




At most tables where West led a heart against 3NT, declarer, fearing a switch to spades, took the king with the ace immediately and advanced the queen of clubs (psychologically this is probably worth the very occasional agony of having West show out, because the queen will often hold no matter who has the king). East won, took two high hearts and switched to a spade. Forced to choose the right finesse, most declarers won the ace of spades and took a second losing finesse in clubs to fail by more than one trick.

Two declarers, Steve Weinstein of USA II and Pablo Lombardi of Argentina , did considerably better (perhaps recalling the deal played by Brian Platnick, which appeared in an early issue of the Yokohama Daily Bulletin). They ducked two rounds of hearts, which appeared to be 4-3, hoping that East would not switch to spades. They won the third heart, played three rounds of diamonds (unblocking), ending in hand, then exited with the fourth heart. West had to lead a black suit to concede a ninth trick.


And, finally, a deal played by Zia Mahmood in 1980, first reported by Phillip Alder...


  North Dealer K 10    


Game All

Q 9 7 2





J 6 3





 A 7 3 2









J 9 2      8 5 4 3

 8 5


W                          E

 J 10 6 4 3

 Q 10 8 2



 A 9 5

 Q 10 8 5












A Q 7 6










K 7 4





K J 6 4

























West led the eight of hearts against 3NT and Zia called for the nine to tempt a cover. He took East's ten with the king, cashed the ace of hearts, and led a low club. When West followed with the five, Zia played dummy's seven.

This innocent-looking play guaranteed his ninth trick. A heart or a spade are obviously fatal to the defence; if East has a club, the suit is 3-2 or the queen is onside; if East plays a diamond, Zia ducks and has time to develop a diamond trick lest the clubs prove unfavourable, as here. Sure, West could have played the ten of clubs, but even if he had, he would have been left on play, and his best play, a spade, would have given Zia a free finesse of the ten with lots of other options in reserve. As it went East was squeezed in the majors on the third club and Zia finished with an overtrick.


My BOLS tip is:

The simplest gifts are often the best.