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The 25% syndrome (or the «little devils»)

by Bernard Marcoux, Montreal

 

The first quality of a good bridge player is probably discipline, obedience to the partnership's bidding system and philosophy. 

 

 So my partner and I have reached an agreement on certain rules never to be broken.

 

For example, at the beginning of a session, my partner doesn't always have her whole mind at the table and, in order to

 compensate, we have designed a protection kit.  At first we thought of making a special request in order to skip the first round,

 but the ACBL's psychiatrist told us we suffered from a syndrome called traumatism of apprehension coupled with a compulsive

 tendency to procrastination, that there was no known cure and that we had to accept the fact there would always be a first

 round.  We then asked to begin with the last round, but that too was impossible.  Even with computers? we challenged.

 

- Even with computers!

 

- OK then.  Could we not say that beginning with the last round is like a psych and that, if the ACBL tolerates psychs, why not

 this one?

This reasoning finally used up all the shrink's phoney scientific behaviour.

 

- Because that's the way it is!! were his famous last words as he walked out with his mother.

 

Like my partner was saying after the session (with the analyst, not at the club):

 

- That little devil is telling us «we» have a syndrome !!

 

So we finally accepted the fact that, if we want to play bridge, we have to begin with the first round.  That's why we have all

those rules which permit us to survive until the second round, beginning of session having been defined as only the first round.

 

Here are our rules, not necessarily in order of priority:

 

1) we cannot make my partner play a difficult contract;

 

2) we can never double for penalty;

 

3) a situation that has never occurred must not happen, even if it is part of our bidding system;

 

Corollary: a situation that has not occurred in a long time falls into the category situation that has never occurred;

 

4) we must not play against players we don't like;

 

5) anything that you can think of must not happen;

 

6) anything that you can never think of must never happen either.

 

 

So you must ask yourself why this title, The 25% syndrome?  It's coming, it's coming.

 

You play 4:

 

Dummy

9xx

KQJ

Axxx

Kxx

 

Declarer

AKJ10x

xxx

Qx

Q10x

 

The lead is Jack of diamonds.  East takes with the King and plays back a diamond.

 

What are your chances?  Write that down, naturally, in order to avoid saying after reading the solution: It's obvious I would

 have played that way.  I know, that's what I always say.

 

While you're pondering, let's continue; everybody knows that a double finesse has a 75% chance of success.

 

If you have:

 

xxx

 

AJ109

 

and that you take two successive finesses (small twice towards AJ109), you should make three tricks 75% of the time.

 

My partner, though, always plays this combination this way: first, like a big girl, she plays small towards the Jack which loses to

 an Honour.  Back in dummy, she plays another small card towards her hand and, if East plays small, she hesitates, hesitates,

 hesitates and, unable to resist, always plays the Ace, catching air 75% of the time, and the other Honour 25% of the time. 

 

 Voilà!, you know now the reason behind my title.  We explained this many times to her, but she continues to play in this

 fashion.

 

You see, in real life, my wife is an auditor and nothing escapes her.  The little devils who try to sneak by her are always caught

and walk straight afterwards.

 

At the bridge table, my partner continues her hunt for the little devils who hide behind her with KQ or QJ tight.  And, if ever she

 takes the double finesse (against all her bones and soul) and the two honours were tight behind her, we hear all sorts of

things about our so-called probabilities.

 

After your Queen of diamond, you examine the situation; your still have 3 losers : one spade, one heart and one club (the other

 club goes on the Ace of diamond).  You play Ace of spade, 7, 3, 2.  Small heart towards dummy, West jumps on the Ace, plays

 Ace of clubs and a heart.  You play a spade from dummy, 8 from East, ???

 

Why did West play his Club Ace?  One should always be suspicious of a player who wins an Ace in a situation without any

 urgency.  By playing the Ace of clubs, doesn't he tell you he has the 4th trick for defence in his hand, the Queen of spades?

  He most certainly has the Queen of spades and, if he has Qxx, you will go down.  You play the King, catching the Queen

 doubleton.

 

Back to your home, you show this problem to your partner, well prepared to present her your scientific dissertation on the

 count of HCP, psychology, probabilities, 75%, 50%, 25%, etc.  In two seconds, she says: I play the King!

 

Proud of her (and mainly of yourself for teaching her so well), you ask why and she replies promptly:

 

-West, that little devil, has put me back in dummy to force me into a finesse in spades, do you think he can fool me?  They're

 all the same, all little devils!