Here’s a bridge tip you won’t find in a book — one which the wonderful Gunnar Hallberg gave me. You’re declarer and a suit is led; dummy comes down with something like 8643, and it obviously doesn’t matter which card you play. Instead of routinely playing low, you should ask for a ridiculous, random card — say, the six. ‘The six?’ your partner (dummy) will ask, looking confused. ‘The six,’ you should repeat, emphatically. This has the effect of 1) making the opponents think you’re a scarily good player, and 2) distracting them from their defence while they try to work out why you might need to ‘unblock’ that particular card. If at the end they ask why on earth you played the six, Gunnar suggests just telling them you were petering.
Needless to say, Gunnar himself — star player on the world stage — has no need to resort to such shenanigans: his opponents are already quaking when they sit down to play against him. In any case, he has perfected the true art of false-carding. When this hand came up at rubber bridge he didn’t hesitate before playing an unnecessarily high card when it really mattered. He was East:
West, who had opened a strong NT, led the ♦Q. Declarer needed some luck: he had to hope he could establish dummy’s clubs before another diamond was played. His best hope was that West held ♣Ax. Playing the ♣K from dummy wouldn’t work as West could win immediately and switch, so he crossed to the ♠A and played the ♣Q. When West followed low, he overtook the ♣Q with his ♣K — and Gunnar (East) smoothly played the ♣9. That card suddenly gave declarer another option: if West had started with ♣A32 and East with ♣109, he could play the ♣J to pin the ♣10. Which is what he did — exactly as the crafty Gunnar had planned.
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