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Points Schmoints - CHAPTER 12 -
Don't Be Stumped When Playing Notrump

© Marty Bergen


Order Points Schmoints here   Other Bergen books
Index   TOC

Prior Chapter:
CAN YOU SUBTRACT?                                                                          93

Note: Only summaries are included below -
see book for details

Not a Good Declarer, But What a Great Dummy                                    99

Are You Guilty of Premature Grabbing?                                                 102

If You Don't Have Entries, You Ain't Got Nothing                                 104

A Record That Will Never Be Broken                                                    106

Not a Good Declarer, But What a Great Dummy

One hand I will never forget took place in a tournament in 1978. I was giving a playing lesson to a pleasant gentleman from Philadelphia, whom I had just met.

After George turned ten tricks into eight in 3NT, I knew that declarer play was not his strong suit. I got into the swing of things, determined to make George the dummy whenever possible. Then came board 19.



2  Lead

  South (Marty)

West          North         East            South
—              —              P                1

P                1              P              1NT!
P                3
              P              3NT!
P                P!               P

 Page 99
© Marty Bergen

The bidding — especially mine — was interesting. Why did I open the bidding with that garbage When playing with a conservative partner, I find it essential to get in ASAP. I should have bid 1 over 1, going up the line in case partner held four spades. However, I was in a big hurry to grab the notrump.

George should have bid 4 over 1NT. He knew that we had the values for game, and I was marked with two or three hearts for my notrump rebid. Perhaps he just wanted to allow me to declare 3NT.

Great minds think alike — I bid 3NT. George would declare a heart contract; I would declare notrump. Case closed.

I cursed myself after seeing dummy; 3NT had no chance with the club lead. I won East's Q with my king, but now what?  I had to lose at least one heart trick, and the opponents would then run clubs. The 2 lead suggested that clubs were dividing 4-6, so it appeared that 3NT would be down two; at best I would lose one heart and five club tricks.

 Page 100
© Marty Bergen

Was there any hope for the 3NT contract? I did see a longshot, based on the average player's tendency to “cover an honor with an honor.” I led the J, dreaming that West would cover and East had been dealt a singleton heart honor.

As luck would have it, all this came to pass. When both heart honors hit the table on the same trick, the opponents looked like they had just been notified of an IRS audit. I was now assured of twelve tricks: the K, six hearts, four diamonds, and the A. Making 3NT with three overtricks was a great result, but I was not through. I was now ready to apply Bergen's Law #43: When there are 12 tricks, there may be 13.

After winning the A, I overtook the K to return to my hand. I led the 4 and topped West's seven with dummy's eight. I now ran hearts from the top as the opponents grudgingly discarded. Having a great time, I cashed the Q, and led the ten to my jack. Here was the position as I led my 9 at trick 11.













       To add insult to injury, West was squeezed. He correctly discarded the A in the hope that his partner had been dealt the 10. No dice. I cashed my 10 and made seven.

The atmosphere at the table was¼ interesting. West appeared ready to strangle himself, with East quite willing to furnish the rope. As for George, his naiveté and innocence provided the perfect contrast. “Sorry, Marty, I had a feeling that we had a slam!”

Page 101
© Marty Bergen

Are You Guilty of Premature Grabbing?

“It is not the handling of difficult hands that makes the winning player. There aren't enough of them. It is the ability to avoid messing up the easy ones.”

S. J. Simon, British bridge writer

Many players' natural instinct is to rush to win any tricks they can. This is not the way to go. How often have you witnessed an inexperienced declarer in 3NT win the first seven tricks and¼lose the remainder?  He never had a plan of attack; he just grabbed everything in sight.

Only grab when you are in a position to fulfill your contract or defeat the opponent's. Rather than playing trick by trick, learn to consider the big picture. Be patient.

An expert's first move will often result in losing a trick; in fact, he may lose several. However, once his plan is under way he cruises along smoothly, and the next thing you know, he has nine tricks in the bank. Lose your losers early is excellent advice.


If You Don't Have Entries, You Ain't Got Nothing

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

Vince Lombardi, legendary football coach

Declarer must exercise great care with his entries. This is especially true in notrump contracts where the source of tricks can sometimes be found in the weak hand.


Declarer must insure that at least one entry remains in the weak hand until its long suit is ready to run.



A Record That Will Never Be Broken

“Some men see things that are and say why, I see things that never were and say why not.”


Robert Kennedy

All sports and games have their records, some of which may never be broken. Because of one hand, I hold a unique record — one that I’m 100% positive will never be broken.

       While playing in a national tournament several years ago, I was North on the following deal:

  North (Marty)


2  Lead


West          North         East            South
P                P                P                1NT*
P                2
              P                2
P                3NT*         All Pass

* Imaginative.

I passed in second seat, and my partner opened 1NT (15–17). I responded 2, Stayman, asking about the majors. Partner denied a four-card major by bidding 2.

With my aceless hand, it did not seem right to try for 10 tricks. I was concerned that we might have a lot of fast losers; so I chose to suppress my five-card spade suit and jumped to 3NT.

Page 106
© Marty Bergen

West's opening lead of the 2 was strange. I would have led the 3 without a second thought, delighted to be holding a five-card suit and two entries. What did West have in mind?  I can only think that he was overreacting to the following: When selecting an unbid suit to lead against notrump, prefer a major.

Anyway, on to the play. East chose to withhold his king at trick one; instead; he signaled encouragement with the seven. After winning the first trick in dummy, declarer led the J, which held. East also ducked the 10, but took his ace on the third round when the king was led.

East returned his partner's heart lead, and the defense took their ace and king. East now shifted to the 10, which was won in dummy with the queen. Declarer led a club to the queen and West’s ace.

Here was the position with West to lead at trick nine. Declarer needs the rest of the tricks to make the contract.













Page 107
© Marty Bergen

Obviously, the contract was not in jeopardy; both the North and South hands contained nothing but winners. However, there was a great deal at stake for me. I concentrated fiercely and West obliged by leading a club rather than a diamond.

Why did it matter?  Reporting this hand in The New York Times on July 29, 1992, Alan Truscott wrote: “The diagramed deal from the first hand of the Spingold Knockout Teams set an unobtrusive world record. It was so unobtrusive that the declarer did not realize it, and it can be predicted that few readers will spot the unusual feature of the deal.”

Do you see what happened?  The North hand, although unable to open the bidding, won all nine tricks! After opening 1NT, declarer failed to take a single trick in his hand in a contract that succeeded.

I do not know what fate has in store for me, but of one thing I am sure. On a lovely summer day in Toronto, Marty Bergen was the only passed-hand dummy in the history of bridge to single-handedly fulfill a game contract.

Nothing Obscure About These Guys

1.    What actor has been seen playing bridge in an old, frayed raincoat?

2.    What two famous non-American leaders played bridge early in the 20th century?  (Hint: Their initials are W.C. and M.G.)

3.    What foreign actor prefers bridge to acting, horses and women?

4.    This president was described by Oswald Jacoby as “in general, a superior bridge player.”


1.    Columbo (Peter Falk)                

2.    Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi

3.    Omar Sharif                               

4.    Dwight D. Eisenhower

Page 108
© Marty Bergen

DO IT WITH FINESSE                                                                           109

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