The Sport of Kings (& Queens & Aces)

The Sport of Kings (& Queens & Aces) by Derrick Browne 

It was under the presidency of Juan Antonio Samaranch that the International Olympic Committee accepted bridge as an Olympic sport. Samaranch again demonstrated his support of bridge by attending the European Champions Cup, where he stated that bridge had gained recognition from the IOC because it is a true sport. However, despite being held as a demonstration sport at the 2002 Winter Olympics, the flame of Olympic interest in bridge dimmed.

Most serious bridge events – such as Olympiads – have been run as teams, while pairs is the other popular format. Today’s deal, however, comes from the 6th Generali World Masters Men’s and Women’s Individual Championships, held in Verona in September 2004. In an Individual, you keep changing partners. Because of this, everyone played the same system, basically French Standard: 5-card majors, strong notrump, weak twos in the majors and 2D as an 8-9 trick hand with 2C normally game forcing (like a back-to-front version of Benjamin Twos).

American Tobi Sokolow won the Women’s, while Italian Norberto Bocchi won the Men’s. In the hand below, he bid a tight game which his partner of that round, Jiansheng Jin of China, managed to bring home:

EW vulnerable, dealer North.

WEST              EAST
 K964             Q875
 Q52              86
 AKQ52            T72
 T                Q865

W         N         E          S

          Pass   Pass       1H

Pass    2H    Pass        3C 

Pass    4H    All pass

After agreeing a major suit at the 2-level, a bid of a new suit (such as South’s 3C) is a “trial bid”, showing some length in that suit and inviting game. Bocchi, sitting North, had a fairly minimum hand but the stuff he had was mainly in his partner’s two suits, so he accepted the invitation and bid the marginal game.

Tony Forrester, sitting West, had been deterred by the vulnerability from overcalling his diamonds but now, of course, he led two top ones. The second round was ruffed by Jin who then drew one round of trumps with the HA. The diamond had been his only sure loser but Jin could see there was a fair chance that he would end up losing a trick in each of the other suits too. He tried finessing to the CJ. This lost to the CQ, but Jin still had chances.

Jason Hackett, sitting East, could have put paid to these chances by leading a spade but instead he chose a diamond. In principle this is a sensible strategy, forcing declarer to ruff in the long hand (the hand with longer trumps), but on this occasion it allowed Jin to succeed.

After ruffing the diamond, Jin cashed the HK. The HQ did not fall so now he left it outstanding, instead playing his clubs so he could discard dummy’s spade losers and eventually ruff a spade. West could take his HQ when he wanted but that would be the third and last trick for the defence.