Bridge: Jan. 28, 2024

A popular element of internet discussion groups (such as Bridge Winners) and publications is ATB: “Assess The Blame.” Someone presents a deal or an auction in which they had a disaster, and you are asked who was at fault or more at fault. (Quite often, the player who posts hopes to be absolved of blame.)

In today’s deal, North opened one diamond, South bid one heart and West came in with one spade. After two passes, South jumped to 3NT, and all passed.

West led the king of spades, and South ducked and won the second spade. He next tried to sneak by with a club, but West was ready for that, of course. He rose with the ace and cashed three spades for down one.

North-South were minus 100 points. How would you apportion the blame for that unfortunate result?

Five clubs would have been a winning contract, if North-South had found their club fit. I suppose North might have opened one club (as I would have), but many players would have opened one diamond. South’s jump to 3NT was indelicate — he could have bided his time with a two-spade cue bid — but if North’s spade holding happened to be Q-x or J-x-x, South needed to be declarer at notrump.

The direct cause of North-South’s minus 100 was South’s play at 3NT. After South wins the second spade, he should cash his four diamond tricks. West can discard the ten of clubs but is stuck on the fourth diamond. If he throws a heart, South wins a fourth heart trick; if a spade, South can force out the ace of clubs since West only has two spade winners to cash.

North dealer

N-S vulnerable


S 7 4 2

H Q 3

D K Q J 6

C K Q J 4


S K Q J 10 5

H 9 8 5 4

D 7 3

C A 10


S 9 8 3

H J 10 6

D 10 9 5 2

C 8 5 3


S A 6

H A K 7 2

D A 8 4

C 9 7 6 2

North East South West
1 D Pass 1 H 1 S
Pass Pass 3 NT All Pass
Opening lead — S K

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