James Vogl excelled at poker and backgammon and thought, like many of us, that when he took up bridge about a dozen years ago, it wouldn’t be long before he excelled at that too. Always interested in the theoretical side of the game, he took as a mentor an American professional, Ron Von der Porten, known as VDP. Ron played rubber bridge in the low-stake game and regularly took the punters to the cleaners, pointing out all their mistakes along the way. They loved it!
A few years after James started, VDP moved to Las Vegas but they continued practice sessions online. One day James called him and asked him to play the Cavendish Pairs held in Vegas, the world’s highest-paying and most prestigious Pairs tournament. James said he would arrange everything — all VDP had to do was turn up.
‘No thanks,’ he replied. ‘I have never come last in a tournament in my life and I don’t intend to start now!’
James loves analysing the play and says that he tries to solve a problem hand daily. Cover up the East/West hands on today’s deal and see if you can find the 100 per cent line.
West led the 7 and the first big decision has to be made. Declarer must play small from dummy and win in hand. Next he cashes the K and (if both opponents follow) leads the 3 to dummy’s eight. If East wins this, Declarer is home (6 spades, 4 hearts and 2 Aces) ergo East must duck. If the 8 holds South can cash Q and force an entry to dummy by successively leading his small spades to dummy to chalk up 5 spades, 5 hearts and 2 Aces.VDP would be proud.
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