Percy (Shorty) Sheardown, a member of the ACBL Hall of fame, was a great Canadian bridge player, renowned as a brilliant card player. In 1948, he became Canada’s first Life Master. Throughout the 50s and 60s he won many national titles in partnership with Bruce Elliott and teammates Eric Murray and Sami Kehela. Sheardown passed away in 1993.
It was a well-known fact that doubling Shorty was tantamount to drawing him a diagram of the distribution. If Shorty had been South on this deal, he would have made East regret his final double.
♠ 8 5 2
♥ 7 6 4 2
♦ A 4 2
♣ A J 3
♠ K Q J 10 9 7 4 ♠ 3
♥ —- ♥ A Q J 3
♦ 10 9 8 6 ♦ Q 7 5 3
♣ 5 2 ♣ Q 10 9 8
♠ A 6
♥ K 10 9 8 5
♦ K J
♣ K 7 6 4
South opened the bidding with one heart and West jumped to three spades. North raised to four hearts and East fell in love with his trump holding and doubled. All passed.
Before risking a penalty double, you should consider the wisdom of such a decision. Will you definitely defeat the contract? Will your double substantially increase your profit? Will your double help partner defend correctly?
Unless you can answer “yes” to all three of these questions, you should refrain from making a double such as East’s, since your double alerts Shorty-like declarers to the bad trump split they are about to encounter.
West led the king of spades. Declarer played low from dummy and took the trick with his ace. It was evident that spades were 7-1. It was also evident that East held at least A-Q-J of hearts for his double and quite likely A-Q-J-3.
In order to discard his spade loser, South would need to find East with the queen of diamonds in order to discard his spade loser on the ace of diamonds.
If the club finessed worked that would be helpful but not essential. At trick two, warned by the double to leave trumps alone, South led a low club to dummy’s jack. East returned the ten of clubs, declarer winning with dummy’s ace. Declarer led a low diamond back to his jack.
When it held, he cashed the king of diamonds and played king and another club. Declarer ruffed the club in dummy, threw his spade loser on the ace of diamonds, and led a trump from dummy in the following position:
♠ 8 5
♥ 7 6 4
♠ Q J 10 ♠—-
♥ —- ♥ A Q J 3
♦ 10 9 ♦ Q
♣ —- ♣ —-
♥ K 10 9 8 5
East had three choices, all of them losers.
If he rose with the ace of hearts, declarer would win East’s return with one of his intermediate cards and exit with an intermediate card, endplaying East to lead away from his other honor.
If East played the queen or jack, South would simply win the king and then power out East’s hearts, losing only two tricks to the ace and the queen or jack.
The most interesting situation would occur if East played the three of hearts. South must be careful not to play the five. He must play one of his intermediate cards and then exit with an intermediate card.
East cannot exit with a heart to advantage but he might try a sneaky queen of diamonds. Now you will see why South had to preserve the five of hearts. He must trump the queen of diamonds with the five of hearts and overtrump in dummy with the six or seven.
This manoeuvre leaves him in dummy at trick 12 to lead through East’s hearts and up to his king.
Of all the endings that this deal could produce, I know that Shorty would have liked that one the most.