Professor Silver

Stolen Hearts

It is a truth universally acknowledged, in the bridge world, that the heart suit belongs to Professor Silver. Of course I cannot prevent opponents from bidding the heart suit. But what I can do is discourage the practice. Therefore, I try especially hard to defeat any heart contract that is bid against me. Recently, at a local sectional open pairs, a couple arrived at my table and had the temerity to bid back-to-back 4 heart games They wont do that again. The first was the most interesting, and the most fun. I held:


S     H   D  C   
A     10  J   8   
Q     9   4   7   
8      7       5   
2      6      


The bidding began with LHO opening 1. Peter (my partner) passed and RHO bid 1. Peter and I play natural overcalls so I could have bid 2 to play, but I reluctantly passed to await developments. Opener raised his partner to 4 and everyone passed. Now I had to lead. 
Naturally I led the ace of spades! The dummy was not as good as you would expect on the bidding,


S    H    D    C   
K    A    8    A   
9    K    6    K   
6    Q         9   
4    2

Declarer played the 4, Peter the 2 and declarer 6. I paused to reflect. Peter’s deuce was count so he had 3. Declarer then had only two spades. Normally I would follow with the queen of spades to smother declarers jack if she held it. But dummy’s nine would be quickly set up since Peter held only 3 (If he held 5 declarer would have ruffed my ace and I wouldn’t have this problem). So I continued with the 8. Not unexpectedly, declarer won with the king playing the jack from her hand after Peter followed with a small spot. She cashed the A and then played a diamond, winning the king as Peter and I followed low. She reentered the dummy with a heart as Peter discarded the Q.  Once again she led a diamond and Peter won the ace as declarer played low and I dropped the Jack. Peter led the 10 and declarer studied it for a few minutes. Finally, she ruffed with the jack of hearts and looked surprised when I followed suit.

She then played the high ten of diamonds which I ruffed with the nine of hearts. Declarer decided to throw a loser on a loser and discarded dummy’s small club. Big mistake. I continued with the ten of hearts which forced her to win with dummy’s Q while she contributed her now singleton trump 9. Her diamonds were established but she couldn’t get to her hand to cash them. She cashed dummy’s winners and finally conceded one down when I won the Q at trick thirteen.

Of course she had simply given up. All she had to do was overruff my heart nine and and when I failed to overruff, she could lead her high diamond and it wouldn’t matter what I did. If I ruffed high she, she would discard her club loser. If I discarded she crosses to the K, draws one heart with dummy’s king and plays until I take my heart winner. She would have lost I spade, 1 diamond and 1 heart!


The second auction was similar. I held:


S    H    D    C   
A    10   X    9   
K    9     X   
Q    X   
X    X   


I opened with a weak 2 bid (I know, but I consider weak 2 bids as lead directing and since I preferred a spade lead over a heart lead, I psyched and denied holding four hearts). This was passed to RHO who doubled and her partner bid 3 raised to four by RHO.   Peter led the 10 which I overtook. I contemplated the dummy for a few seconds.


S    H    D    C   
X    A    K    A   
X    Q    Q    K   
      J     J    J   
      2         10   

Not very promising for the defense but I persevered. I cashed the Q and Peter completed the echo showing a doubleton spade. Knowing that declarer had another spade I continued with the A as declarer followed suit, reasoning that Peter may have a singleton heart, perhaps the seven or eight which would uppercut dummy and give us another trick (we were playing matchpoints after all.) To my astonishment and delight, he produced the king which declarer foolishly overruffed with the ace. Now I had two trump tricks coming and four hearts was one down, again. I commiserated with declarer over the unlikely 4-1 trump split and refrained from pointing out if he had discarded a club instead of playing the A, four hearts would have made, losing only 2 spades and a heart. Of course declarer had held the ace of diamonds and the queen of clubs.

Perhaps I have been mistaken in my attitude towards heart bidders? Much better they hack away at hopeless heart contracts. I seem to get more pluses defending four heart contracts than I do playing them. 

David Silver

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