Ray Lee

Are you this good?

I’ve just about finished editing the book version of Larry Cohen’s My favorite 52, which will be available from a bridge supplier near you in the summer.  I don’t want to give away the whole show, but can’t resist talking about a couple of the deals in this blog.  I can say that it has rarely been my pleasure to work on such high quality material — anyone who missed the original software package is in for a treat with the book.

So here’s the first one that caught my eye:

Dealer:   W

Vul:    N-S

A J 3 2
Q J 5
A K Q 5 3 2
West East
A 8 7 4 3
J 7 5 4 2
10 7
West North East South
1 dbl 1 1
2 4 5 5
6 pass pass 6

No, that’s not the end of the auction — quite.  Let’s go back to the start for a moment, though.  You get to be David Berkowitz, holding the East cards opposite Larry in a National Open Pairs in 2001.

Larry’s opening bid and rebid promised at least six diamonds and 11-15 points — they were, as usual, playing their version of Precision.  You should also be aware that they played support doubles, so West has at most two hearts.  After North’s splinter, David competed to the LAW level (how could he not, playing with Larry?). South bid more spades, and Larry wasn’t done yet either.  Notice that at this stage there had been nine calls in the auction, and no-one had yet passed!   You might think you would buy it here, but no — South goes on to slam.  Rather than figure out how to add a line to my auction box in the blog, I’ll give this as a bidding problem for East 🙂

David doubled.  After all, partner opened, and he has the heart ace.  The opening lead is K.  How are you going to defend for the optimum score?

Okay, this is much easier as a problem than it would have been at the table.  Remember, no support double, so partner has at most two hearts.  Berkowitz overtook with the ace of hearts and returned a heart, which Larry ruffed!  Down one — and this was the only defense to beat the slam.

‘How did you figure it out?’ asked Larry afterwards.

‘Because I knew from Kx you would have led low,’ replied his partner?

‘Would I?’, wondered the author.  He’s not entirely sure, he says honestly; he hopes he would have, but we’ll never know.

Would you have made David’s defensive play of overtaking?  Even more importantly, would you lead low from Kx in partner’s suit against a slam?  I’ve been trying to track down a similar deal with the same theme that I’m fairly sure came up in a recent World Championship.  If memory serves, John Carruthers on opening lead did indeed lead low from Kx, and there was some discussion in the Daily Bulletin about why it was correct — and why overtaking the king was correct should he lead it. I believe it was in the Senior Bowl, so perhaps someone out there can track it down.

Here’s the full layout of Larry Cohen’s deal:

Dealer:   W

Vul:     N-S

A J 3 2
Q J 5
A K Q 5 3 2
West East
9 7 6 10
K A 8 7 4 3
A K Q 10 9 8 3 J 7 5 4 2
8 4 10 7
K Q 8 5 4
10 9 6 2
J 9 6

I’ll write about my own favorite out of Larry’s Favorite 52 in the next few days.  Meanwhile, thanks for the emails from those who thought I was at death’s door recently owing to Linda’s blog — just minor surgery and I’ll be back on the tennis court next week.  🙂

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