Simon Says

Fred G. (Las Vegas) asks why an endplay is so-called. How is it possible for someone to be ‘end’-played at trick 1 or, indeed, any trick before trick 12?

I agree, Fred, it’s very confusing. It’s a bit like my local barber, who caters to both genders but has a sign in his window saying Unisex. We definitely need a word to replace “endplay.” What about “stymied” or “flummoxed” or “hogtied”?

Heard at the table: “What could be clearer? I threw the 8 to tell you I liked hearts; then I played the ♣2 to tell you I didn’t like clubs; and then I discarded the 7 to remind you that I liked hearts.”

Christina M. (Denmark) asks, “How can I improve my opening leads?”

Nicolas Hammond has analyzed the success of the opening leads at two recent world championships. The most popular lead was the ♣A followed by the ♣K. Both resulted in below-average scores. The most successful lead was the ♣10.

What can we learn from this? Firstly, if you don’t know what to lead, choose the ♣10 ahead of the ♣A or ♣K. And secondly, if you hold the ♣10, you can bid more aggressively, knowing that it can’t be led against you.

On a more serious note, David Bird and Taf Anthias have written two excellent books on opening leads, using computer-generated hands to determine the relative probabilities of success. I was so impressed with one example that I emailed it out to 45 bridge-playing friends as a problem. This is it. What do you lead from:

♠J 8 6   9 5   K Q 7 2   ♣K J 7 2
at team scoring, after the auction 1NT–3NT?

The answers are shown below. The computer created 5000 deals that matched the bidding, and the second column is the computer’s estimate of the chance of beating the contract. The third column is the number of votes each of the options got from my distribution list.

♠6 21.3% 5
9 20.6% 5
♣2 15.7% 2
2 14.1% 22
K 13.2% 5

You will see that my friends like to play leads that are fourth best.

Chip M. (Davis CA) asks if there is a name for when the first trick in a suit is made up of the 2, 3, 4, and 5.

The Bridge World Dictionary says that such a trick is called a “wish trick.” The French call it a “champagne trick” – the players who contributed the 2, 3 and 4 cry “champagne!” and the owner of the 5 is expected to buy a round. (This creates a dilemma for a jouer holding A–5 in fourth seat when the 2, 3 and 4 have already been played.)

A letter to Bridge Magazine in 1979 tells of a declarer, with a trump holding of A–9–5–2 in hand, opposite K–8–6–4, leading the 2 and trying to duck the first round to keep control of the hand. His right-hand opponent showed out, and dummy’s 4 had won the trick! Winning the first trick with the 3 would require some really extreme distribution, and if you have ever won the first round of a suit with the 2, I would like to hear about it.

So, high fives all round, and what’s the next question? Not so fast. Apparently the Encyclopedia of Bridge says that a wish trick is when the four cards are the 2, 3, 4 and ace. Don’t you just love it when experts disagree? The only thing I thought I knew about such a trick is the saying, “Ace, two, three, four – kiss the dealer.”

By the way, leading the middle card from three-small has been with us for 80 years or so. We call it MUD (Middle-Up-Down), but, when it was first mooted in the 1930s by British international player Harry Ingram, it was known as MOT (Middle-Of-Three).

Phillip A. (Hobe Sound FL) asks, “Should DOPI be written with a zero and a one (to match the meaning), or a capital O and a capital I (to match the pronunciation)?”

It’s more important, of course, to know what a convention means than how to pronounce it or spell it – for example, lebensohl should not start with a capital L, but knowing that doesn’t
help you remember how it works.

Bridge players aged over 70 may well know the answer to your question. DOPI was invented by Dorothy Hayden Truscott, and dates from the late 1960s, the era of the typewriter rather than the keyboard. Many typewriters back then only had the numerals 2 to 9, with 0 and 1 created by using a capital O, and a capital I or lower-case L; so perhaps DOPI should be pronounced “Dopel.”

(Joke: Some people think that keyboards should have fewer keys; I for one.)

Matt S. (Victoria BC) writes: “I was directing at my local club and was about to start a movement of eight and a half tables. One couple asked if they could be the pair who sat out on the last round, so they could go home early. They said they were prepared to pay an extra $1 table money for the privilege. My question is this: Was I right to keep the money for myself, as a sort of tip for director services?”

I think this is perfectly acceptable, as directors are shockingly under-remunerated. Indeed, the next time you have a half-table, you should conduct a quick auction to determine who sits
out on the last round. I am sure you will do better than $1. You might also consider putting a white saucer on a small table beside the door to the toilets, seeded with a couple of quarters. This is common practice in France.

Heard at the table: “So we’ll play 1–2♣; 2 as forcing, and 1–2♣; 3 as absolutely forcing.”

Janice S–M. (Hollywood FL) writes: “I was checking in for my flight to the San Francisco NABC. The agent must have noticed my “I Transfers” shirt because he asked if I had status. I told him proudly that I was “Platinum” and he directed me to the Club Lounge. Why hasn’t the ACBL publicized its tie-in with airlines more widely?”

I have done some research for you, Janice, and my source inside the ACBL tells me that this is just the first stage of the proposed joint venture. After the formal announcement, scheduled
for April 1, you can expect to see quite a few changes over the following months, as the agreement rolls out. The ACBL will be switching to Takeoff Doubles and charging for Upgrades (opening 1NT with 14 points when your convention card says 15–17). The airlines have committed to more Fast Arrivals, and their boarding Pass cards will be bright green.