I’ve been practising bidding online with my friend Guy Hart in preparation for the Spring Fours in Stratford (we’ll know our fate by the time you read this). We’ve not played together much before, and frankly the field is so strong — a roll-call of the greats — that our team has about a zero chance of getting to the final. Still, we can only do our best — and I must do better than I did during our practice game last week. Towards the end of the evening, I played a hand sloppily and went down. I asked Guy how I might have made the contract. ‘You’d have made it if you were a Republican, and not a Monarchist,’ he replied. ‘What?’ I spluttered. He explained that two of my honour cards, a queen and a jack, were of no use to me — but I’d gone about the hand as though they had an important role to play. And he was absolutely right; my deference to their royalty had temporarily blinded me to the obvious line of play:
(*Transfer). West led the ♣10. I rose with the♣A, crossed to the ♥A and played the ♥Q. My plan, if West covered, was to ruff, cross back with the ♠A and discard my losing club on the ♥J. But West played low, I discarded the♣Q, East won and returned a diamond; I played the ♦10 to West’s ♦J. He returned a club. I ruffed, and played ♠A and another spade. East won and played a second diamond: one down. If only I’d pretended that my queen and jack were two small hearts, I’d have known what to do: win the club lead, play a heart to the ace, ruff a heart — so what if I was ruffing royalty! — play a trump to the ace, ruff another heart and exit with a club. When East switches to a diamond, West wins but is end-played.