A Gift for Papa
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Who is your favorite Menagerie character, outside the Hog and the Rabbit? I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for Papa the Greek – arguably as good a player as the Hog, technically brilliant, intuitive, yet he loses time and time again, because the Hog is always just one step ahead. His obsession is winning, and he will use any (legal) means to do so – the Hog once described him as being capable of falsecarding with a singleton. He always knows what everyone will do – except that the Hog usually does something else.
Papa needs more ammunition if he’s going to beat his porcine opponent, and maybe he’ll find it in Mike Lawrence’s new edition of his book on Falsecards. Lawrence is a writer whom I recommend unhesitatingly to intermediate players. It doesn’t matter which of his books you read, you’ll learn from it – every point he makes is explained so clearly, and so many examples are discussed in great detail to illustrate each idea.
I love the way Mike starts the Falsecards book, as follows:
Before getting into specific hands and circumstances, I would like to offer a bit of advice relating to falsecards.
A FALSECARD IS INTENDED TO FOOL DECLARER, NOT TO FOOL YOUR PARTNER.
In general, defense is the hardest part of bridge. It is difficult enough when you know what is going on. It’s nearly impossible when you have to guess. If you insist on sending out a bewildering array of signals, you will nail an occasional declarer or two. But you will also nail your partner.
Bridge is a partnership game. One or two or three successes will not compensate for a confused, embarrassed or upset partner.
In other words, now you’ve bought his book, he’s almost warning you about the dangers within – and saying, ‘Continue at your own risk’!
I could pick almost any section of this book to illustrate it, so fascinating are the nuances of cardplay that it contains, for both declarer and the defenders. I’ve picked this one because the opening paragraph contains my favorite passage in the entire book – the bit about subtlety being the key to success in falsecarding.
DISRUPTING THE DEFENDERS’ SIGNALS
Without exception, the most potent falsecards in bridge occur at Trick 1 when declarer plays from his hand. Some of these falsecards were discussed earlier, i.e. winning with an unusual card so as to misrepresent your strength. The most effective falsecards, however, are not the big, brazen ones. They are the subtle ones where you play a two instead of a four. Or a six instead of a three.
Take this situation from West’s point of view:
|Q J 9 7||5|
At notrump, you lead the queen and partner plays the five, declarer the six. Should you lead the suit again?
|Q J 9 7||8 5|
|A K 10 6 2|
If this is the setup, you’d best switch.
|Q J 9 7||K 5 2|
|A 10 8 6|
But, if this is the actual layout, it is correct to continue.
What West should do is not clear. What is clear is that declarer has created an illusion that is going to mislead the defenders rather frequently. What’s scary is that it was so easy to do. Declarer played a six instead of a two. Nothing fancy, nothing gaudy, but still effective.
Good defenders rely heavily on their communications and that usually means good signaling methods with their spot cards. As we’ve just seen, these signaling methods are not perfect.
The examples in this section are among the most important in the book. Their importance stems from many factors.
1. They work.
2. They are easy to execute.
3. They are common.
4. The things that make them work can be used in many other situations.