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Bridge: An Old Stratagem Works If the Situation Calls for




Published: February 5, 1982


Among the various forms of deception available at the bridge table is one that used to be called ''the old Army game.'' The declarer boldly leads a weak suit in the hope that the defenders will be dissuaded from leading it themselves.


In favorable circumstances this strategy can succeed against players of world class. In the 1981 World Team Championship in Port Chester, N.Y., it was brought off by Eduardo Scanavino of Argentina. He was sitting South on the deal shown, and was playing against Pakistan, to whom his team eventually succumbed in the semifinal of the Bermuda Bowl play.

The auction began on standard lines, and halted in two no-trump. North should perhaps have continued with three hearts, suggesting a weak 6-4 hand, and a preference for three spades would have ended the auction in a safer part-score. Prospect Looked Bad


  K 10 9 7 6 5
A 8 7 4
J 5
Q 8 4
K 10 9 2
7 3
J 10 4 2
J 2
5 3
A 10 8 4 2
A Q 9 3
  A 3
Q J 6
K Q 9 6
8 7 6 5


All Vulnerable Dealer North























Lead: 10



The heart ten was ducked around to the queen, and Scanavino did not fancy his chances. If he established spades, the defense would no doubt lead clubs and defeat him by at least one trick.


So he traded on the fact that he had bid his threadbare club suit and led one himself. East captured the king with the ace and - not unnaturally -did not appreciate that South was open to the winds in that suit. He shifted to the diamond four. The jack won in dummy, and South played a diamond himself.


East ducked, the queen won and Scanavino took his pitcher to the well once more by leading the club eight and discarding a spade from dummy. West won with the ten, and was unable to read the position. He concluded that South had begun with Q-x-x-x-x of clubs, and that his partner had the A-J of spades.


So West shifted to a spade, hoping that his partner would win and lead a heart. The spade ten was played from dummy, and it did not matter what East did. South could, and did, make five spade tricks, emerging with an overtrick in a ''hopeless'' contract.


In the replay, Pakistan reached four spades with the North-South cards but could not quite make it. Declarer managed to discard his club king on diamonds, but eventually lost two heart tricks, one spade and one diamond. Argentina gained 6 international match points on the transaction, thanks to Scanavino's brilliant deceptive effort.