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Bridge: Wait a minute, medics will arrive

Jim Boren was a humorist and writer on “bureaucratese,” in which he poked fun at what he called “the vacuumental thinking and idiotoxicities of Washington.” He said, “I got the bill for my surgery. Now I know why those doctors were wearing masks.” Some bridge players would benefit from being allowed access to a bridge doctor, who would explain how to keep a contract alive.

Bridge: This is “impossible”

Henri-Frederic Amiel, a 17th-century Swiss philosopher and poet, said, “Doing easily what others find difficult is talent; doing what is impossible for talent is genius.” Yesterday’s deal was difficult; today’s requires genius.

Bridge: Good guessing and poor thinking

Our man A.N. Other continues in good form: “Anybody could get rich if he could guess the exact moment at which a piece of junk becomes an antique.” Any bridge player could get rich if he could work out the exact moment to make an unusual play that is correct. In this deal, West leads his heart six against three no-trump: jack, king, seven. East returns the heart three, covered by South’s four. How should West

Bridge: Do not be greedy, you can settle for 10

A.N. Other’s latest is: “A glutton’s greedy sense of taste shows little sense but lots of waist.” At the bridge table (unless you are playing in a pair event, where overtricks can be valuable), a greedy player who risks his contract trying for an overtrick shows little sense and lots of waste.

Bridge: One-two punch gives extra power

That well-known wit, A.N. Other, said, “The young man who stands on his own two feet has probably failed his driving test.” A bridge player of whatever age who failed to make a contract perhaps used only one line when two were available. In this example, South is in four hearts. West leads the spade queen.

Bridge: What is the role of that card?

Jane Goodall said, “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.” A bridge player might add the word “card” after each “individual.” However, sometimes the role of a particular card may be difficult to discern.

Bridge: If declarer stumbles, make him fall

When a declarer stumbles, making a mistake, it is the job of the defenders to make sure that he falls, unable to pick himself up and still make his contract.

Bridge: The lead you do not want

Alexander Smith, a 19th-century Scottish poet, said, "Everything is sweetened by risk." Not when you are a declarer! Then, you should aim to make your contract without risk.

Bridge: From the “erroratic” to the well defended

In the last two days, we have looked at deals in which a lot of errors were made. Let’s end the week with one where the bidding was sane and the defense excellent.

Bridge: The wrong slam and the best defense

Anne Tyler said, “People always call it luck when you’ve acted more sensibly than they have.” That is often true, but there can still be matters out of your control. Take today’s deal, for example. Look at only the North-South hands. In which contract would you choose to play?

Bridge: Learning from errors of others

All bridge players make mistakes. But each hopes to learn something from those errors.

Bridge: Listen closely to auction

Thomas Fuller, an English curate, author and historian who died in 1661, said, "If thou art a master, be sometimes blind; if a servant, sometimes deaf." If thou art a bridge player, be never deaf nor blind. Listen carefully to the auction and watch closely every card played.

Bridge: Another two chances for success

At the bridge table, one wishes that all wisdom isn't summed up in two words -- play and hope. Yes, you will often be hoping for the best, but ideally you find a 100 percent line of play or defense.

Bridge: The options start at trick one

Yesterday, I stressed considering your options at trick one. Here is another example. If South plans carefully, he has a good chance to make his contract. But if he plows forward thoughtlessly, he will probably fail. South is in four spades. West leads the club king, and East signals with his jack. What should declarer do?

Bridge: Try to consider all of the options

J. William Fulbright, a Senator representing Arkansas from 1945 to 1975, said, “We must dare to think ‘unthinkable’ thoughts. We must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world.”

Bridge: Game is full of inferences

Who said, “We do not learn by inference and deduction and the application of mathematics to philosophy, but by direct intercourse and sympathy”? Interestingly, when hunting suitable quotations for these columns, this is the first I found exactly word for word credited to two different people; in this case, Henry David Thoreau and Richard M. Nixon. Is it possible that Nixon borrowed from Thoreau?

Bridge: When it looks bad, be an optimist

At the bridge table, players tend to be optimists or pessimists. In this deal, for example, look at the East and North hands. East is defending against four spades. West leads the club jack. What should East do?

Bridge: With two chances, try them both

At the bridge table, the more chances you have to make your contract, the better.

Bridge: Take your time at the beginning

Bridge players always think — although experts think more than others. Today’s deal requires careful thought. South is in three no-trump. West leads his fourth-highest heart. What should South do after winning with his jack?

Bridge: Partner may tell you

If you’re forming a new bridge partnership, make sure you discuss as much as possible, especially leads and signals.

Bridge: The odds rule most of the time

The trick is always to play bridge — whether in pairs, teams or Chicago — keeping the odds in mind. In today’s deal, what is the right way to play the heart suit for no losers?

Bridge: Distribution reading for declarer

Ajay Devgan, an Indian film actor, director and producer, said, “By getting into distribution and production, I am actually widening my base.” Many less-experienced players do not pay as much attention to hand distributions as they ought. In today’s deal, South read the end-position well by counting out the West hand.

Bridge: Try to handle the distributions

Edward R. Murrow is a central character in the World War II book “Citizens of London” by Lynne Olson (Random House). Murrow said, “The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.”

Bridge: Sometimes it helps when you guess well

Since bridge isn’t always a perfect science, capable of exact calculation, every player has to guess occasionally. But when you have to guess, consider each sensible choice and try to select the one that you think will work most often.

Bridge: Some hands should be straightforward

Baroness Edith Clara Summerskill, who was a Labour Party member of British Parliament from 1938 to 1961, said, “Nagging is the repetition of unpalatable truths.” That does not apply to nagging in bridge classes, where the teacher is repeating truths about the game. Look at the South hand in today’s diagram.

Bridge: Deduce the danger

Confucius, whose real name was Kong Qiu, said, “He who learns but does not think is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.” Bridge players who do not think lose a lot of contracts unnecessarily. Bridge players who think but do not wonder about what might go wrong will also lose some contracts.

Bridge: Audition the auction to place cards

Lea Michele, an actress and singer, said, “I didn’t know I could sing until I auditioned for ‘Les Miserables.’ My friend was auditioning, and I wanted to audition too.” Many bridge players would find out that the game isn’t as hard as they thought if they spent longer auditioning every auction, asking themselves what each call means.

Bridge: How to plan the play

Today is a particular milestone for me. I have been writing this column for just over 22 years and this is my 7,000th. Please permit me to show you one of my favorite deals. It occurred in 1968 while I was in high school, playing in a duplicate at the Newport Bridge Club in Monmouthshire, England (now Gwent, Wales). I was partnering with one of our school bridge team, Tony Disley.

Bridge: Analyze the opening lead

Mark Twain said, “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” That can also apply to bridge. The player who does not pay any attention to the opening lead has no advantage over the player who sees it but fails to work out what information it imparts.

Bridge: A good spot-card improves the odds

Michel de Montaigne, a 16th-century French essayist who was well-known for combining intellectual exercises with casual anecdotes, said, “In nine lifetimes, you’ll never know as much about your cat as your cat knows about you.”

Bridge: Keeping trumps under control

In the “Get Smart” television show, the agents from Control usually battled against the bad guys from Kaos. To be successful, bridge players must know how to control the trump suit; otherwise, the play might become chaotic.

Bridge: Which suit do you bid second?

J.P. Morgan of banking fame said, “A man always has two reasons for doing anything — a good reason and the real reason.” A bridge player chooses a bid for two reasons — to describe his hand as accurately as possible and to reach the right final contract. Of course, they are symbiotic, one helping the other.

Which suit should south attack first?

In today’s deal, though, South’s problem is which suit to dig at first.

Bridge: Defenders count points, too

Mogens Jallberg from Denmark said, “In democracy, it’s your vote that counts. In feudalism, it’s your Count that votes.” The more that bridge players count, the better they will play. In yesterday’s deal, declarer placed the missing high-card points by referring to the bidding. Today, let’s show a defender doing it to advantage.

Bridge: If a card is useless, maybe sacrifice it

Bridge players can relate to that. Interestingly, though, the environment is less certain in bridge, where there are unseen cards, than in chess, where the position of every piece is known.

Bridge: Need two tricks go for two tricks

In this deal, how should the committee play in three no-trump after West leads the heart jack?

Bridge: Good defense needs work in tandem

Matt Drudge, creator of the Drudge Report, said, “The Internet feeds off the main press, and the main press feeds off the Internet. They’re working in tandem.” That sounds like good defenders, who work in tandem to defeat declarer.

Brige: When you have points but no good bid

When you are in a predicament at the bridge table, consider the various sensible options and decide between them.

Bridge: What to bid with a two four card suits.

What did James Thurber believe is the one human achievement that made the long trip up from all fours seem well advised? You have two four-card suits. The player on your left opens one of another suit, your partner makes a takeout double, and righty passes. Assuming you do not have enough high-card power to jump or to cue-bid, which suit would you bid first?

Bridge: Do not play by rote; consider alternatives

Bridge players usually know the goal of a deal. For each side, it is to win a certain number of tricks. (The exception is when playing in a matchpointed duplicate. Then the target for declarer might be to win an overtrick or two; for the defenders, perhaps to hold the contract to plus one. That is why pair events are so tough.)

Bridge: Another combination worth many points

At the bridge table, declarer, after observing the dummy, collects facts — winners and losers — and reflects by combining them.

Bridge: You need to keep crossing to the dummy

Groucho Marx said, “A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.” Not a superstitious man, he. And bridge is not a game for the superstitious, with its 13-card hands and 13-trick deals. To get from one hand to the other, you often have to be careful with your cards. How does that apply in this deal?

Bridge: Count losers and lose the extras

James Patrick Murray, a former sportswriter, said, “Show me a man who is a good loser, and I’ll show you a man who is playing golf with his boss.” That reminds me of a story about Sam Snead, who still has the most wins on the PGA tour. While an office boy, he was playing golf with his boss. They reached a downhill par 4 that was more than 300 yards. Snead, who had the honor, waited. His boss suggested that Snead should hit his drive. Snead pointed out that the foursome in front was still putting on the green. “Do you want a job tomorrow?” asked his boss.

Bridge: Usually play low, sometimes high

Tryon Edwards, a 19th-century theologian, said, “The secret of a good memory is attention, and attention to a subject depends upon our interest in it. We rarely forget that which has made a deep impression on our minds.” That is so often true. However, bridge fascinates many people who do not have a good memory for what has happened at the table. They also do not remember when to break the “golden rules” of the game. Which dictum should West break on this deal?

Bridge: You should prepare for the worst splits

Robertson Davies, a popular Canadian author, said, “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” I suppose that applies to bridge players, except that they must also try to “see” the opposing hands, imagining where the key missing cards lie.

Bridge: Trick opponents and let defenders hunt too

Otto von Bismarck said, “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election.” Bridge players do not so much lie after a deal as not realize that they failed to take as many tricks as possible.

Bridge: Can you spot the second chance?

At the bridge table, do not judge a deal totally from your first glance; give it a second look to check that you have not missed something. So, have a second slice of toast this morning. South is in four spades. West leads the heart king and continues with the heart queen. How should declarer plan the play?

Bridge: The entry exam comes early today

On a game show, a prize was a trip to a European destination with a week in a luxury hotel that, according to the announcer, included 24-hour access to the contestant’s room! At the bridge table, access to one hand or the other can be vital to enjoying success. How does that apply in this deal? Against three no-trump, West leads the spade nine. How should South plan the play?

Bridge: Anticipate what is going to happen

Bridge experts, though, are always anticipating trouble, and in this way they manage more plus scores than those who always assume everything will work out perfectly.

Bridge: Have rest from majors

At the bridge table, if you do the right thing, it might both gratify and astonish your partner!

Bridge: Here’s one way to bid a big major 55

We have reached the last step of bidding major two-suiters opposite a one-no-trump opening: a strong hand with at least two five-card suits. You may have your own method, but mine is to respond three spades — as in today’s deal.

Bridge: From 5-4 hands to 5-5 holdings

This week, we are looking at responder’s actions when he has a major two-suiter opposite a one-no-trump opening bid. Having covered 5-4 hands, now let’s move to 5-5 holdings.

Bridge: Gaming with both majors

For the last two days, we have looked at responder’s inviting game with 5-4 in the majors opposite a one-no-trump opening bid. What does he do with game-forcing values?

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More on showing major two-suiters

How responder shows a major two-suiter opposite a one-no-trump opening bid depends upon his high-card count.

Bridge: Look at a weak hand with a long minor

what would you respond? The first question is: Does your partnership use transfers into the minors? If you do, you should go via that route, perhaps responding two spades. (And then two clubs followed by three clubs would show a four-card major, long clubs and at least enough points for game.)

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Bridge: Stayman then three minor

What does it mean if, after opener begins with one no-trump, responder bids two clubs, Stayman, then rebids three of a minor?

Bridge: Sorry, partner, I played too quickly

Perhaps one half of the mistakes at the bridge table can be traced to playing too quickly and not taking enough time to think things through.

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Bridge: Two chances are better than one

One guesses that plans might have been drawn first. However, a bridge contract will have more chance of success if declarer has two ways to get home and is able to try them both — as in this deal.

Bridge: Some possibilities although not endless

This deal has a few possibilities, which you have probably seen before, but one of them still evades most players.

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Bridge: Give one up to get many back

That is certainly true in soccer, but not in bridge. There is an old saying that runs along these lines: If you watch a beginner play in three no-trump, he wins the first eight tricks and loses the last five. In contrast, an expert loses the first four and wins the last nine.

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Bridge: Listen to their bids

Robert Bresson, a French film director, said, “Cinema, radio, television, magazines are a school of inattention: People look without seeing, listen without hearing.”

Bridge: Bidding helps defense

It is only a successful bridge player who listens carefully to the auction and uses the information to guide his defense. In this example, how should West hope to defeat four spades after he leads the club ace?

Bridge: More points, high support

At the bridge table, we score well when, inter alia, responder rebids well — our theme this week. Look at the North hand. What should North bid on the second round?

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Bridge: Bidding has it’s surprises

Is bidding 10 percent what your partner bids and 90 percent how you respond to it? Not really; it ought to be an equal division of labor.

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Bridge: One more rebid problem for opener

South might believe he faces a dilemma in this deal. He opens one club, which might be with only a three-card suit. When his partner responds one heart, should he rebid two clubs to confirm that he has a real club suit, or one spade to show his major?

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Bridge: With more points bid three times

Or if your pet is ill, call in three vets who are good bridge players. Have a look at the North hand in today’s diagram. It has the same distribution as yesterday’s, 3-1-5-4, and the uncontested auction starts the same way: one diamond — one spade.

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Bridge: It can be right to raise with three

Bridge players do not need to practice that often — but it would be beneficial if they did.

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Bridge: With more points jump on round two

At the bridge table, if you have the necessary values, sometimes you have to jump. But at least you can do it while staying firmly anchored in your chair.

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Bridge: Too many losers? Eliminate one

If you get the maximum of information at the bridge table and use it wisely, you will make the minimum of errors.

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Bridge: Check the lead to guide the defense

At the bridge table, the use of logic should lead to the correct conclusion.

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Bridge: After side suits, go for trumps

That is a great attitude for up-and-comers in anything, including bridge. But at times there is a need to trump everyone with a trump card. In this deal, South is in four spades. West leads the diamond king. How should East plan the defense?

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Bridge: When side tricks have dried up

So far this week, we have been looking at defenses in no-trump contracts aided by placing declarer’s high-card points based on the bidding and play. Suitably assisted, one defender has known which suit to attack to gain sufficient tricks to defeat the contract. Now let’s move to trump contracts.

Bridge: Tricks point to defense

At the bridge table, be active in counting points and figuring out tricks, both yours and theirs. In this deal, West is trying to defeat three no-trump. He leads the spade queen: five, two, king. South plays on clubs, putting West back in. What should he do next?

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Bridge: Go for chance you have

At the bridge table, you desire to make or break the contract, using reasoning and various habits — hopefully all good. And sometimes you have to go for any chance that you have.

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Bridge: If a call will probably win, go with it

At the bridge table, you will not always have the perfect hand for a given call. You must play the percentages. If a call will probably win, go with it. But remember that nothing works all of the time. This applies when you are balancing with a weak hand.

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Bridge: Do not forget to count the points

It is a sad fact of bridge that it does not matter how great your bidding might be. If you do not make the contract, the opponents get points.

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Bridge: Encore for no-trump jump

Colin Hay, a Scottish-born musician who came to prominence as lead vocalist of the Australian band Men at Work, said, “I don’t walk off and come back for encores. I figure I can add four weeks to my life that way.” In a bridge column, though, encores can help to reinforce the point being made by the writer.

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Bridge: Two-no-trump overcall

In bridge you must use your brain to gain the most from each hand you hold. And in this week’s columns, we are looking at balancing, when one player, if he passes, will end the auction.

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Bridge: Get from here to there

I suppose that has a parallel in bridge. He that playeth on one suit before he hath some sort of entrance into that hand elsewhere, goeth to destruction and not to success. In this deal, how should South play in three no-trump after West leads a low heart?

Bridge: If that was tough, try this one

At the bridge table, we know how many tricks we need to win. The real difficulty can be knowing how to do that. In this deal, for example, South needs 10 tricks to make four spades.

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Bridge: Variation on a theme

Gene Mora, who writes the “Graffiti” cartoon, used this line: “If at first you do succeed, try not to look surprised.” If you work out the right line of play in this deal, try not to look surprised! What would you do in three no-trump after West leads his fourth-highest spade?

Bridge: If it’s a loser, do not ruff at first

At the bridge table, a loser usually gives a trick to the opponents. Sometimes, though, taking that trick can be costly. In today’s deal, what should be the

Bridge: Stop to consider the tricks needed

Jack Benny, when talking about comedy, said, “It’s not so much knowing when to speak, as when to pause.” That is so true — timing is everything. And it applies to many bridge deals, not just for declarer but also for the defenders. In today’s deal, who should come out ahead in four hearts after West leads his fourth-highest club?

Bridge: Do the best that you can do

Robert Orben, who is primarily a comedy writer, said, “There are days when it takes all you’ve got just to keep up with the losers.” He was not thinking about bridge, but he could have been. When you are in a trump contract, you should start by counting your losers. Then, if there are not more than you can afford, you should draw trumps as quickly as possible. But if the loser count is too high, you must calculate how to reduce the number.

Bridge: At first trick, look down road

In “Peanuts,” Peppermint Patty struggled greatly at school. In one cartoon, she cries, “I know the answer! The answer lies within the heart of all mankind!” There is a pause as the reader moves to the next panel. “The answer is 12? I think I’m in the wrong building.” If you go down in a contract, especially one for 12 tricks that you should have made, you will probably wish you had chosen to visit a different building.

Bridge: When your partner overbids

Surrealist painter Salvador Dali said, “At the age of 6, I wanted to be a cook. At 7, I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.” If your partner’s ambition in the bidding carries you to heights that your cards do not justify, try to find a line of play that will justify his optimism.

Bridge: Bumper crop from many countries

Thank you to everyone who entered my latest Christmas Competition. This was the second-biggest entry ever (behind 2000, the year with the senryu element), with emails and mail being received from around the planet, which was fun. The best entry came from Craig Cordes of Baton Rouge, La.

Bridge: After a reverse, you may show five

Groucho Marx said, “A child of 5 would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of 5.” In bridge, it is a “rule” that if you bid a suit on the first round of the auction and partner does not raise your suit, then, if you rebid it in on the second round, you are indicating at least a six-card suit. You do your utmost not to rebid in a five-card suit.

Who was on top with perfect play?

When we are first shown a bridge deal, it is perfect and puts the cards in our hands. Then, usually some mistakes are made — after all, we are only human.

Bridge: Try one chance, with one ready

Jim Rohn, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker who died in 2009, said, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”

Bridge: The right suit the right way

Henry Ford said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”


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