THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
A SLAM DOUBLE ASKS FOR AN UNUSUAL LEAD
Thomas J. Watson, a former head of IBM, said, “Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure — or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember, that’s where you will find success.”
You will have trouble finding bridge partners if you make a lot of mistakes. But if you learn from them and turn your rate of failure nearly to zero, you will become very popular.
In today’s deal, though, “double” is the key word. East opens four hearts, showing a good eight-card suit and limited high-card power. Then, when his opponents cruise into six spades, he doubles. What message does that transmit to West? What should West lead?
Doubling a slam because you think that it’s going down is mathematically inadvisable. When the opponents are nonvulnerable, you turn plus 50 into plus 100. But if the slam makes, you have changed minus 980 into minus 1210.
So, many years ago, Theodore Lightner had the idea of using the double as lead-directing. It says that East has a void somewhere and hopes his partner can find it with his opening lead.
In this deal, West clearly expects his partner to have a diamond void. Therefore, he should lead his diamond ace.
Then, though, when everyone follows suit, West should rethink. East’s void must be in clubs. West should shift to that suit at trick two, here defeating the contract.