Bucket list

Over the last month, there were a couple of items that I could strike off my bullet list of things to do at least once in my life. More about that later, first a bridge problem or two.

Playing with an unfamiliar partner, you pick up this collection as east. 2showed a weak two-suiter in spades and a minor, the rest is everybody’s best guess. You lead theJ, 6, A and 4. Partner returns the5, Q and you ruff. Now what?

And, while watching vuegraph, this one came up. The auction is entirely conventional, with north showing exactly 4-0-4-5and a minimum opening bid without an ace. South has just relayed, then decided that 6is the best contract. Your lead please?

One of the things that was on the wife and my bucket list, was to have dinner at one of the most famous restaurants in the south of France. Regis et Jacques Marcon, in Saint Bonnet le Froid, 3 Michelin stars since 2005. You have probably never heard of Saint Bonnet le Froid. It a tiny village, about an hour south of Lyon, in the middle of nowhere, but then again, Michelin says that 3* is worth a separate trip.

Why this place? Well, the wife visited there in 1990, when Regis was a young chef, not yet famous at all, trying out dishes in his brother’s restaurant, and Jacques, his son, was still in diapers. She always wanted to go back sometime. Our 12.5 year anniversary looked like a good excuse, so we did.

And, yes, this was worth the trip. 10 course dinner, with matching wines, each one more spectacular than the other, with all kinds of unique flavor combinations. On the left, their interpretation of beef with mushrooms and local vegetables from the garden, as an example.

Regis’ speciality are mushrooms in all varieties and as well as lentils, and you’ll find them in about every dish, including dessert. Next to the restaurant, there is a hotel, so you don’t have to drive after 10 glasses of wine.

More about the food on the various travel sites. Highly recommended, only downside is that you have to make reservations about 6 to 10 months in advance.

Back to bridge.J lead to theA,5 back. The contract is easily defeated if partner gets on lead and gives you a second spade ruff. How to get him on lead? Partner's spades areA10532. With theA, he’d definitely returned the10, so let’s assume that he doesn’t hold that card. Any other options?

With 4 clubs, the odds are that they include theJ, so if you ever wanted to underlead theAKQ10xx, now is the time.

Note that playing a high club looking for an encouraging card won’t help as the suit is probably 6-4-2-1 around the table and declarer can ruff the second round.

I led a club and, as I cannot remember returning the6 from this kind of holding ever before, that is another one off my bucket list.

After the second spade ruff, declarer got the hearts wrong and eventually went down 2 for a bottom score. The field scored 10 tricks in diamonds NS (4 times,A lead and a second round) or 9 in clubs EW.

Not on the bucket list, but something that one can figure out was the second hand. This one is from the quarterfinals of the open teams at the Istanbul Open Europeans, the Dutch playing NS playing against a team from Belgium.

Time to select a lead. What do we know about this one.

We already know dummy’s hand. Declarer’s hand is more of a problem as he has not revealed anything. However, it is safe to assume that he has the pointed aces. We don’t know about clubs but with the long clubs in dummy, it becomes likely that theKJ will be there. That doesn’t look too good for your side, if declarer needs a club trick or keep his losers in that suit to 1, your holding suggests that any lead towards dummy will work.

But wait…

Together with dummy, you have 10 cards in clubs, leaving 3 for declarer and partner. If declarer has 2, partner has a singleton and can ruff the second one. If partner has 2, then leading theA saves declarer a guess, but you already know that he cannot guess wrong. The only time this works out wrong, is when declarer has club void andtheK is needed as a trick. That is highly unlikely though.

So,A,ruff, and the contract is defeated for an 11 imp gain, found by the Belgium player who held the actual hand, when the other table played 5from the north hand, making 5.

The VBL (aka the Flemish Bridge Federation) reported this as the best lead from the tournament. I think that is an overstatement. It is nicely done, but still something one can figure out once you think about it for a second.

Finally, last week, I bought a second hand set of bridgemates. Available if you need them for an event somewhere in the neighbourhood, contact me for details.

Henk Uijterwaal 2019