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Points Schmoints - CHAPTER 16
Defense: Do a Lot With a Little

© Marty Bergen


Order Points Schmoints here   Other Bergen books
Index   TOC

Prior Chapter:
CHAPTER 15 - DECLARER'S TRICKS AND TRAPS                        133

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

Force Declarer to Trump — Absolutely!                                                 145

Hustler's Delight                                                                                       148

An Artist With a Small Canvas                                                                 150

Do You Believe in Magic?                                                                        152

Force Declarer to Trump — Absolutely

The opponents bid to a contract of 4. You lead the A, partner encourages with the 10 as declarer drops the jack. Here is the layout of the diamonds in view:










You happily continue with the king, which declarer trumps with the 2. Which of the following best expresses your feelings at the moment?

1.    You wish you had led something else.

2.    You are angry with partner for encouraging without shortness.

3.    You erred in allowing declarer to win a trick with his deuce of trumps. You would take it back if you could.

4.    You are pleased to have shortened declarer's trumps.

Most players respond with a combination of the first three answers. Why is that? They channel their hopes and energy into winning tricks immediately! If they cannot, out of sight, out of mind. Do not allow yourself to think this way.

Defensive play should be considered from a long-range perspective. Declarer's losers won’t magically disappear. Good defenders proceed with a plan while waiting to reap the fruits of their labor.

Page 145
© Marty Bergen

A key principle that should govern your defense against suit contracts:


Be eager to shorten the opponent's hand that is longest in trump.


Assuming that declarer usually has trump length, it is important to understand that his trumps will always be good tricks. Declarer should not be happy when forced to part with a precious trump when he has a trump holding such as:



Declarer was always going to win four spade tricks while losing one. Once declarer is down to four trumps, a 4–1 split (35.53%) could ruin him. The defenders should pump declarer's trumps, hoping that he will lose control of the hand. This is referred to as the forcing game. It is especially applicable when a defender has four trumps, or believes that his partner might have four.

On the other hand, declarer is normally delighted to ruff in the short hand. The tricks dummy can win by ruffing represent bonus trump tricks.

Declarer must be careful to keep enough trumps in his hand to retain control. This is crucial, except when all trump tricks are taken separately via a crossruff. Declarer should be eager to ruff in the short hand but reluctant to ruff with trump length. It should come as no surprise that declarer’s objectives are the opposite of the defenders’.


Page 146
© Marty Bergen

Hustler's Delight

“If winning is not important, then tell me why keep score?”

Klingon crew member in Star Trek, the Next Generation

I would like to show you the ultimate example of the forcing game. Imagine that you are dealt the following:


This is unquestionably the best hand that you will ever hold. You choose to open 7, which must  be laydown

You are surprised and delighted when you are doubled; how naïve of your opponent to believe that he will defeat you with his A. You lose no time in redoubling, wondering if anyone is capable of figuring out your score (vulnerable, it would be 2940 using duplicate scoring).

As expected, your opponent leads his A. Partner apologizes for being broke, but you assure him that you have matters under control.

Page 148
© Marty Bergen





7 Rdbl

A  Lead




West          North         East            South
—              —              —              7

Dbl             P                P                Rdbl
All Pass

Believe it or not, South can take only his six trump tricks. Every time West ruffs, he plays another diamond, forcing declarer to trump. Having lost control,  South is down seven, a score of minus 4000.

In fact, with repeated diamond leads, North-South cannot make any game contract. Unbelievable!

This infamous hand is obviously rigged. South is the pigeon to be plucked, preferably in a high-stakes rubber bridge game. It is known as the Mississippi Heart Hand, because it was widely used by 19th century cardsharps [1] on Mississippi River steamboats.

Rigged or not, this deal illustrates three important bridge concepts:

1.    Points, schmoints!

2.    The forcing game.

3.    Length is more important than strength. After observing the fate of West's seven small hearts versus South's six high ones, case closed.

1 From The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge, Fifth Edition (1994).  Charles M. Schwab is reported to have paid off at least $10,000 on this hand.

Page 149
© Marty Bergen

An Artist With a Small Canvas

“The ultimate in bridge is learning to play with poor cards.”

                                 Chip Martel, many-time world champion

A bridge hand containing no card higher than a nine is called a Yarborough, named after an English lord who would wager 1,000 pounds to one against the chance of being dealt such a hand. Lord Yarborough certainly knew what he was doing. The actual odds of such a hand are 1,827 to 1. Nowadays, Yarborough has been modified to describe a very bad hand, not necessarily adhering to the original requirements


Do You Believe in Magic?

Bridge can be a very aesthetic game. As in any other competitive endeavor, you must remember not to throw in the towel when the outlook is hopeless. This strategy is easy to understand but difficult to apply. With a little practice, forging ahead and making something out of nothing can become a vital part of your philosophy.

Whenever declarer appears to have no losers remaining in the side suits (suits other than trump), the defenders should try to create extra trump tricks.


CHAPTER 17 - THE DEFENSE NEVER RESTS                                 155

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