Recovering from the Brink of Disaster

My favourite type of competition is teams. In this format the randomness often associated with the ‘run of the cards’ which we experience in pairs competition is removed. Your team is pitted against the opponents in an equal battle where skill, rather than luck, is the decisive factor. Playing teams can also bring its own set of inner challenges. These include wanting to bring good results back to your teammates and the challenge of matching or beating the pair seated in the equivalent seats at the opposing table.

In a recent team’s event, an Australian representative player was my counterpart at the other table. Knowing that your opponent’s skill level will be strong enough to find the right way to make a contract brings its own kind of pressure, and this adds to the tension one might feel in a team’s environment. When tension or anxiety is increased, it is easy to make a simple mistake. Think about how many times you have seen a champion tennis player miss an easy shot in a final or a golfer slice their tee shot on the first hole.

It was under these circumstances that this deal arose part way through the round. When dummy came down, it looked like this was going to be a routine game in hearts until you realise you failed to properly consider what might go wrong and made a careless play at trick one! Now the ‘easy’ contract presents a challenge from which you must find a way to recover.

In these circumstances, slowing down and thinking clearly about the inferences from the bidding is important in order for you to find a way back from the predicament you have created for yourself.

Dealer: East
Vulnerable: None





♠ Q9542



♣ AJ82

♠ J3



♣ K1063





♠ A76



♣ Q7





♠ K108



♣ 954





All Pass













1 – Support Double
2 – Minimum hand
3 – Stopper ask and game force

After winning west’s spade lead (it would have been better to duck the lead and win the continuation), I continued with a spade won by West’s ten who exited with the ©J won in dummy with the Ace. Placing West with the §A for their overcall, I realised I could manufacture an extra entry to hand via a potential club ruff later in the play if I attacked that suit now.

So, I continued with a low club from dummy to my queen won by West’s ace who thought for some time before exiting a low club to try and put me to a guess on the finesse. However the finesse wasn’t required and I won with dummy’s king, cashed the trump king and found out the bad news about the trump break when West pitched a spade. Despite the certain trump loser, the contract was still assured since I could ruff a club back to hand, ruff the losing spade in dummy, return to hand with a diamond, cash the trump queen and cross to the ¨A. A club from dummy now allows either a trump winner or the opportunity to pitch the losing diamond from hand.

Recovering to make your contract after a careless play at trick one and prevent the potential loss of 10-imps for your side goes a long way towards enhancing one’s confidence. It also removes some of the pressure you might have been feeling and helps you to approach the rest of the round with increased assurance. 

© First published Australian Bridge; December 2019