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Phillip Alder: With only one chance, go for it at once

Phillip Alder • Updated Sep 9, 2018 at 2:00 PM

Robert R. Coveyou, a former research mathematician at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, wrote a paper entitled: The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance.

These days, computers produce the deals used in most duplicate pairs events. They employ random number generators, which one hopes are either truly random or very nearly so.

During a deal, chance occasionally rears its head; for example, when taking a finesse that isn’t marked from the earlier bidding or play. But in this deal, West needs to spot his side’s one chance to defeat the contract and go for it.

South is in three no-trump. West leads the spade queen: three, two, ace. What happens after that?

When South responds one no-trump, North is nervous about spades because he knows his side has at most five cards in the suit. But with seven sure winners, it would be unduly pessimistic to bid less than three no-trump.

At trick two, South plays a diamond.

West will win that or the next diamond trick and has to find the key play. First, he must trust his partner’s discouraging spade two at trick one. If East had the spade king, he either would have played a higher spot-card or, more likely, would have dropped his king to unblock the suit. So, if South has the spade king, he has nine tricks (two spades, three hearts and four diamonds) ready to run. 

This leaves the defenders only one chance – West must shift to the club queen, hoping to find East with at least ace-jack-10-fifth or ace-jack-nine-sixth of clubs.

Phillip Alder is a longtime New York Times bridge columnist and has taught competitive and recreational bridge to people and teams at all levels for more than 30 years.

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