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Points Schmoints - CHAPTER 15
Declarer's Tricks and Traps

© Marty Bergen


Order Points Schmoints here   Other Bergen books
Index   TOC

Prior Chapter:
CHAPTER 14 - TRUMPS ARE WILD                                                  121

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

Help Your Opponents Take the Bait                                                        133

Some Expensive Advice                                                                            136

Life is Pleasing When You Start Squeezing                                             137

Is Bridge a Mathematical Game?                                                            141

Help Your Opponents Take the Bait

If you do not force your opponents to make mistakes, you cannot win.”

                                                                           Marty Bergen

Face facts. Most bridge players are honor-coverers. When declarer leads an honor through your average defender, he will invariably cover it whenever he has a higher honor. This is usually not best. A defender's mindset should be:


Cover an honor with an honor only when you have a realistic chance of promoting a card in your hand or partner's.


Even if your opponent knows not to cover, he will usually hesitate to  mull it over. Declarer is certainly entitled to draw inferences from the opponents' actions. In bridge, unlike poker, a player is not permitted to bluff by deliberately hesitating.

For the most part, only very good players can duck smoothly when an honor is led through them. Against these players, you cannot make assumptions. With everyone else, it is reasonable to infer that:

1.    If your opponent has a higher card, he will usually either cover or hesitate before playing.

2.    If your opponent calmly plays low, he does not have a higher honor.

Are you intrigued by this game within the game?  Food for thought.  For now, I would like to concentrate on inducing covers in long suits.


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© Marty Bergen

Some Expensive

“Bridge mirrors every facet of life.”

                                                      Victor Mollo, British writer

I am frequently asked about bridge hands and am more than willing to answer. It is gratifying to help others understand the nuances of this wonderful game. On the other hand, it is annoying when the player:

1.    Interrupts a conversation in progress.

2.    Is not interested in learning but simply wants to hear that an expert has agreed with him.

3.    Asks what I would bid with partner's hand; then, if I happen to agree with his absent partner, attempts to convince me why I am wrong.

Along those lines: A player approaches a bridge professional to ask a question. The pro answers, and the player thanks him and moves along.

Three days later, the player receives a bill in the mail for $100 from the pro. He is outraged and immediately calls up his attorney. “What nerve! Can you believe him? All I did was ask one question!”

His attorney responds, “I understand, but look at the situation from his point of view. The man was at work, and you asked him to render his professional services. I’m afraid you must pay the fee.”

“Oh all right. I don't agree with you, but I see where you are coming from. That will be the last time I ask a bridge pro for his opinion. Thank you for your advice.”

Quite reluctantly, he sends a check to the bridge professional. Three days later our hero receives a bill for $150 from his lawyer!

Page 136
© Marty Bergen

Life is Pleasing When You Start Squeezing

“A well-played bridge hand has as much power to thrill and to satisfy as a Beethoven symphony.”|


Hugh Kelsey, prolific Scottish bridge writer

For many players, the most fascinating and exciting of the so-called advanced plays is the squeeze. It has acquired an unwarranted mystique and is perceived as being too difficult for the average player. There are some very complex squeezes, but the truth is that the basic squeeze can be executed by anyone. The best way to approach this topic is with questions and answers. Let's do it:

1.    When should a squeeze be attempted?

When there is no other way to get rid of a loser. The outlook is bleak, so there is nothing to lose by hoping for a squeeze.

The opportunity for a squeeze knows no limits. Notrump and suit  contracts are both fair game. In addition, squeezes can be applied whether the extra trick fulfills the contract or produces an overtrick.

2.    What must declarer do?

A.   Take all his winners in the irrelevant suits and hope for a miracle. The irrelevant suits are those in which declarer has no chance of creating an extra winner. An example of an irrelevant suit is one in which the opponents are void, such as trumps.

B.    Suppose you have a suit such as A9 opposite dummy's K5. If either hand held a third card, perhaps A9 opposite K75, there would be some hope of winning a third trick in this suit — now it would become relevant. The third card is called a threat card (or menace) because its mere presence threatens the opponents. One of them must hold onto at least three cards in that suit to prevent your seven from becoming a winner.

Page 137
© Marty Bergen

3.    I have a menace — so what?

A.   Keep the lines of communication open between declarer's hand and dummy. It does not help you if the opponent's discard establishes a winner that you cannot reach.

B.   Keep an eye on the opponents' discards. Fortunately, on most basic squeezes, you only need to keep track of what is being discarded in the relevant suit(s).

4.    What are you hoping for?

A discarding mistake would not bother you at all. Discarding is often difficult, tedious and annoying. The more discards you squeeze out of your opponents, the greater the chance for an error. The result of this discarding error is a pseudo squeeze.

When you cash your last winner in the irrelevant suit(s), you hope that an opponent will be forced to discard a winner from a relevant suit. These are legitimate squeezes.

5.    How often do squeezes occur?

More often than you think. I cannot tell you how often I have been aware of an upcoming squeeze while watching as dummy — if only declarer would cash his last winner. In addition, the potential for a pseudo squeeze is present on every deal.

t is even possible for the defending side to execute a squeeze. There are also occasions when one defender squeezes his partner. By the way, squeezing your partner is definitely frowned upon.

6.    Why are squeezes so difficult?

They do not have to be. Remember:

§  Discarding is very difficult for everyone. Get into the habit of making the opponents sweat.

§  Bridge is not like pinochle; you don’t receive a bonus for winning the last trick.

§  Never give up. No matter how obvious your loser is, any chance is better than none

Page 138
© Marty Bergen

Is Bridge a Mathematical Game?

“Fascinating in so many other ways, there is one aspect of bridge that bores me intensely — the pursuit of hair-splitting percentages and abstract probabilities.”


Victor Mollo

Many players believe that bridge is a mathematical game — not true. While arithmetic is involved in many bridge decisions, the numbers are rarely larger than 26. What bridge is all about is logic and reasoning.

If a player passes his partner's opening bid of one in a suit, he should have fewer than six points. If that player shows up with an ace during the play, you will expect any missing queens to be held by his partner. Higher math rarely enters the picture.

There is one elementary mathematical principle, however, that you must know — basic percentages. When you lead low toward the AQ, the king will be located favorably half the time. A simple finesse, then, has a 50% chance of success.

Basic percentages play a significant role in understanding the likely distribution of the opponents' cards. Do not fret — this will prove to be an easy topic to learn. Here are the important principles:

1.    When you are missing an odd number of cards, expect them to divide as evenly as possible. If you are declarer with a combined eight-card fit, the opponents have five cards. You cannot expect them to divide 2½–2½; therefore expect 3–2. The same holds true when your side has 10 cards. Their three are probably divided 2–1.

2.    However, when you are missing an even number of cards, do not expect them to divide perfectly. If your side has a total of seven cards, their six will only divide evenly (3–3) 35.53% of the time. It is unlikely that one player will hold five cards. You should expect the suit to split 4–2.

Page 140
© Marty Bergen

Bridge mathematics is an overrated concern. Just remember:


An odd number of cards usually divides evenly. An even number usually does not.


Please keep in mind that these are not guarantees, only probabilities.

I was recently told the following story by a tournament director. One of my students called him to the table in a snit.

“What's the problem,” the director asked.

“There is something wrong with these cards,” the player complained. The director checked the cards, and as expected, they were okay.

“What is the problem?” asked the director patiently.

“I was playing 3NT, and the key suit divided 3–3. I didn't play for that and I got a bad result. My teacher told me that six cards never divide perfectly. It's not fair.”

Oh well. My father always wanted me to be a lawyer.

Page 144
© Marty Bergen

DO A LOT WITH A LITTLE                                                                  145

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