Winston Duke, a Trinidadian actor, said, “The panther is sleek. The panther is sneaky. The panther is covert. Meanwhile, the gorilla will show up and bang on his chest.”

Some bridge players are like gorillas, and others resemble panthers; it helps to know who is who. In today’s deal, for example, South is in six spades. West leads the diamond jack. Declarer wins with his ace, plays a heart to dummy’s king and runs the spade jack. When that wins the trick, how should South continue?

North preferred to raise spades with only three rather than rebid one no-trump with two low diamonds. This prompted South immediately to launch (Roman Key Card) Blackwood.

If the spade finesse is working, declarer has 12 top tricks: five spades, two hearts, three diamonds and two clubs. But if he runs the spade 10 at trick three, he will learn that West is a panther, having made a sneaky duck. West will take the trick and return his last spade to defeat the contract. South would need the club finesse to work, and, as you can see, it isn’t.

However, South should realize that as long as spades are 3-2, he can afford one loser there (and still has chances if East began with four trumps). So, at trick three, he plays a spade to his ace. He continues by cashing his two remaining diamond winners, discarding a club from the board. He leads a club to the ace, throws a club on the heart ace, plays a club to the king and ruffs his last club on the board. Declarer loses only one trump trick and feels like banging his chest in good gorilla fashion!

— Phillip Alder,

NEA Bridge

Stay Informed