Join Bridge Winners
Unforgiven
(Page of 6)

I was young and about to make it big. Everything seemed to be coming my way: the cards, the women, the success.  I felt that cheaters couldn't touch me, and bullets would bounce off like raindrops from the brim of my hat.

 

Ironically, it was the cards that brought me down.

My partner and I had made it to the finals of the Charleston Championship, the largest tournament in the nation. We were the hottest pair in town, and surely on our way to win the event. That is, until a single hand changed everything.

 

Bridge is, of course, a game of mistakes, and though I made fewer than most,  I sure made my share. A subtle clue that I didn't pick up on, a slightly inferior line. Although you should always strive for perfection, you should never expect it.

 

I'm still not sure what made this mistake so different. Was it the occasion, the tremendous expectation? Whatever it was, something inside of me broke. The success started to slide away, and the harder I tried, the more I doubted myself and the worse I played. For three months I fought a frustrated fight, until I gave up, moved west, and left the game of duplicate bridge behind.

Our auction was good, and the contract was excellent.

 

Partner
A763
10
KQJ83
982
Me
8
A864
A10942
KQ6
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
4
P
4
P
4
X
P
P
XX
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

 

Lefty led a spade, as expected. I won the ace, tested the trumps, and the hand was over.

Partner
A763
10
KQJ83
982
Me
8
A864
A10942
KQ6
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
4
P
4
P
4
X
P
P
XX
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

 

There I was, playing the most intricate card game in the world as if I was sitting behind a slot machine. Just pull the lever, see if the trumps fall.

Of course if the trumps did split, the hand was a claimer. No way the club ace could be offside after this auction. But the fact that we think a little before playing a card is exactly what separates us from the gamblers.

 

What could go wrong if the trumps did not split? If East had 3 trumps they could not prevent me from playing clubs up twice and ruffing three hearts in the dummy. The danger was that West held three trumps. In that case East had at least 5 clubs, and was almost certainly 4-4-0-5. That meant I couldn't play a second round of clubs before pulling the trumps, and I couldn't pull the trumps after ruffing three rounds of hearts and still end up in dummy. 

If ruffing three hearts wouldn't do, then the extra tricks would have to come from the spades. And since the tempo was delicate, I needed to start ruffing spades immediately. At trick 3 I could then cross to dummy in diamonds, and notice the bad trump split. I would ruff two more spades in my hand, and go back to dummy for the third time by ruffing a heart:

 

West
J542
Q753
765
105
Partner
A763
10
KQJ83
982
East
KQ109
KJ92
AJ743
Me
8
A864
A10942
KQ6
W
N
E
S
 
1
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3N
P
4
P
4
P
4
X
P
P
XX
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
A
9
8
1
1
0
3
K
A
2
3
2
0
2
5
K
3
1
3
0
6
10
10
5
3
4
0
4
6
Q
4
1
5
0
7
Q
9
J
3
6
0
A
3
10
2
3
7
0
4
5
3
9
1
8
0
J
9

 

On the jack of diamonds, the pressure would come to East. If he pitched a club, I could play a club to the king and duck a club. If he pitched his next-to-last heart instead, I could play a club to the king, ruff a heart, and play another club to the queen. It was a nice ending, but an ending that could hardly be avoided.

It is a small step from confidence to overconfidence. I crossed it years ago, and fell so hard I thought I would never recover.

 

But here I am, back on the scene, with my confidence roaring. These days, when the simplemindedness around me becomes too much, I look deep into the game, with its endless variations, and I know it will always find ways to beat me.

 

When humanity fails, the cards will keep me humble.