A Book for Cynthia
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My friend Cynthia is lucky enough to live in Sarasota full-time, not just half the year like us. She and her husband Colin are fine tennis players, and I’ve enjoyed playing with them both. Cynthia is also a good bridge player, but she gave up the game about a year ago because, even as a duplicate player, she couldn’t stand getting bad cards all the time. Like most of us, she wants her side to win the auction, and not be at the mercy of the opponents’ erratic bidding – at least on her fair share of the boards.
I’ve got the perfect gift for her, one that might even tempt her back to the bridge table: Eddie Kantar’s Defensive Tips for Bad Cardholders. Eddie is one of my favorite people as well as one of my favorite bridge authors. He is that rare kind of writer, a world champion who can understand and communicate with players who have far less talent for the game than he does himself – which is most of us. And he dispenses his advice with a wonderfully gentle self-deprecating humor.
This book is what I call a ‘bathroom book’ – it consists of hundreds of short sections that can each stand on its own, so you can pick it up and open it anywhere, and read for five minutes, and get something out of it. The topics run the gamut that you would expect, from opening leads to avoiding being endplayed, covering second- and third-hand play and of course counting (points, tricks and distribution) along the way. Eddie designates some tips ‘advanced’, and also notes the ones which require partnership discussion and agreement if you are going to adopt them (like signaling methods, for example).
Here’s one tip that warns you not to try to be too clever (labeled ‘advanced’):
Do not take your eye off the ball by focusing all of your attention on one suit to the exclusion of the entire hand; a trap that is easy to fall into.
Opening lead: ♦ 2 (third and lowest)
Declarer plays low from dummy, you win the king and declarer plays the queen. Now what?
Notice your club holding. Do you remember your surrounding plays? If so, you probably switched to the ♣ 10 hoping declarer had AJx and partner Kxx. Guess what? Declarer does have AJx and partner does have Kxx and you have just let declarer make the hand! You forgot to look at the whole hand.
Partner has apparently led from a five-card suit and declarer has unblocked with Qx, preparatory to finessing the dx10 after drawing trumps. Your play is to kill the dummy at once by returning a diamond. With no side entry in dummy, declarer is forced to try to cash a top diamond at Trick 3. No luck, you ruff and your club and heart winners come later.
Declarer’s hand: ♠A K Q 10 9 5 3 ♥2 ♦Q 8 ♣A J 5
Partner’s hand: ♠J ♥9 7 5 4 ♦J 9 6 4 2 ♣K 6 2
If you return the cx10 at Trick 2, declarer wins the ace, draws trumps and leads a diamond to the ten; seven spades, two diamonds and a club comes to ten tricks.
Happy holidays, Cynthia, and take special note of Tip #575 – ‘If you get a run of lousy hands, don’t start feeling sorry for yourself. You may be able to help partner out with accurate signaling, perhaps even an unblock here and there.’