Two styles: two winning strategies

Next week’s column will share the results of our Shelby County Bridge Club’s entries into the North American Open Pairs competition, their experiences and how they did.

This column is being written on Jan. 7, a week before it is printed so we didn’t have those results available. The tournament is in Vicksburg MS at the Horizon Hotel. Thankfully, the bridge is being played at the nearby civic center instead of in the smoke-filled casino meeting room.

This week I want to complement the winners of our weekly games. You’ve seen them before in previous columns as winners of our weekly games. They offer two styles of winning bridge; the first being old-style Goren (Charles Goren, 50s, Bridge with Goren) played mostly in party bridge games, but now fine-tuned to the best form of bridge, duplicate bridge. In a modern sense Judy and David (and Kathy), along with Mac and John, play bridge with a minimalistic style of bidding, whereas players like Roy and Guy use a wide variety of modern conventions.

Both are very successful, not for their bidding styles but for their play of the cards.

All of these players can remember the 10s and nines and the honor cards of the four suits as they are played. These are called pushers. In a No Trump contract, they are called winners when the opponent’s high cards are cleared. Common traits?

They all play 3NT very well. They don’t just play it well, they crave it. They want to find 3NT during the bidding. They recognize the dangerous opponent at trick one. Which opponent don’t you want in the lead, and which suit don’t you want him to lead?

Simplicity in bidding. A general rule: if during the process of bidding it appears that you can’t describe your hand the way you want, let partner play at the lowest level. It’s much better the team play with a 5-2 trump fit than a 4-3. In addition, these good players don’t tend to overbid in non-competitive hands, but will fight you teeth and nail to go down 50 or 100 in competitive situations.

Winners this week:

Monday: Judy Funk and Kathy Flemming, followed by Jerrie Friar and Liz Milko.

Monday evening: Roy and Guy Martin followed by Lorette and Clark Ogle, Jill Salmon and Bonnie Segers.

Thursday evening: John Lusco and Mac LaCasse, followed by Janet Johnson and Barbara Dawson, Lorette and Clark Ogle.

Friday morning: (because of the Sugar Bowl): Judy and David Funk, John Lusco and Mac LaCasse, Hazel Haas and Marion Henry, Joann Bashinsky and Eddie McDanal.

Friday afternoon: (because of Sugar Bowl): John Lusco and Mac LaCasse, Jo Weatherly and Charlotte Lusco, Judy Chase and Bernie Liberman, Jerrie Friar and Gene Graham.

Saturday morning: John Lusco and Mac LaCasse, John Griffith and Jill Salmon, Janet Johnson and Barbara Dawson, Liz and Tom Milko, Jo Weatherly and Charlotte Lusco, Jeanne Wamack and Barbara Wall.

Tip of the Week: On some hands you may only get into the lead once. It’s vital that you pay attention to the ebb and flow between the opponents (declarer and dummy) and your partner (who has the missing high cards). You have to help your partner if you get into the lead. That could mean sacrificing your only points just to make sure declarer ends up on the board (or back in his hand) depending on where the missing cards are located. Never deliberately finesse your partner’s high cards unless you are confident of developing a trick of your own. On the reverse side, if partner’s lead requires you to sacrifice “sparky” as I refer to it (death to Sparky, your king or queen), then partner must have a good reason for your sacrifice. No whining.

Hand of the week: This technique was covered in my last “Getting to Slam” class last month at Riverchase Presbyterian. South is in control of the hand, holding an opening hand and limit raise support in trumps, but too strong for 1S-3S. If you play Jacoby 2NTs, this is a good application of the convention. I recommend a splinter bid, as discussed in class. This unusual double jump shows 4+ trump support, an opening hand, slam interest, and shortness in the bid suit. North has nothing to bid but 4 spades. It’s South who probes with 5 clubs showing control. North chimes in with his diamond control at 4D, which encourages South to show his heart control. From North’s perspective, he can count 10+ trump and all four aces, so the jump to small slam in spades is not out of the question, regardless of points. Again, Points Schmoints. A club lead offers a failing finesse but with a backup finesse if necessary to make the contract. Fortunately, declarer doesn’t lose two 50% chances and gets his 980 while his competitors mire in the 4S muck.