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The Woodberry Stopper

by David Burn, London, England


"An expert," it has been wisely said, "is a man who knows exactly what he should have done the moment he has just done something else." Chris Duckworth, Brian Callaghan, Rob Cliffe and I were privileged to be invited as "guest experts" to the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Woodberry Bridge Club. Should we have done something else? Assuredly not, for the Club put on a splendid day's entertainment. The Master of Ceremonies at the evening's quiz assured us that it would have nothing to do with bridge, but the afternoon's tournament didn't have a whole lot to do with it either, as the following examples testify. Your hand as North at game all, IMP scoring, is:

S K1097
H 108
D A86
C 10932

and the bidding has been:


What is your opening lead?

I dismissed ten cards from consideration, and focused on the merits of the ten of clubs, the ten of spades, and the king of spades (only an expert would think of the last, but that was what I was there for). Eventually, I led the major-suit ten - after all, my opponents did not seem interested in possible major-suit fits. How did I do?

S K1097
H 108
D A86
C 10932
S QJ86
H KJ97
D K10
C Q86
[ ] S A543
H A542
D QJ973
C None
S 2
H Q63
D 542
C AKJ754

I didn't do very well. Declarer, Anne Catchpole, ran the opening lead to her jack and knocked out the ace of diamonds. Now, Qxx opposite void was an authentic club stopper, and we could no longer beat the contract. Not that it mattered much in the grand scheme of things, for -600 when our due was -650 (against 4H) or -620 (against 4S) would gain an IMP or so - we were scoring not against the field, but against the results in the Venice Cup final of 1981. But even the greatest expert is not immune to minor flashes of irritation, and since I am not the greatest expert, I am not immune even to major psychological trauma.

Chris and Brian encountered:

S 9543
H Q3
C 843
S K872
H AK987
D 9642
C None
[ ] S QJ6
H J106542
D 7
C Q105
S A10
H None
D J1085
C AKJ9762

WestNorth EastSouth
 1NT (10-12)Pass3NT

Callaghan, East, led the six of hearts (third best from an even number). Chris, West, recognised a classic situation - winning with the ace, she shot back a low heart in an attempt to cause declarer with Q10x to go wrong. Declarer guessed to put in the queen, and took the rest of the tricks.

After 25 years at the Woodberry, Qxx facing void is a stopper and so is Qx facing void. If I am invited back in 2031 to the 50th anniversary of this splendid club, I will have no hesitation in bidding 3NT with singleton queen facing void. I won't be around in 2056 to discover whether void facing void is any use, but I hope that the Woodberry Bridge Club will.

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