Sky Test: Set Background

John Strichman is the author of
"HOW NOT TO LOSE AT SPADES"
by JohnGalt Strichman

Christmas Came Early

Every now and then, you get to play one of those games that is so rewarding that it stays in your “special games” folder in your head far into the future.

I recently had the privilege of playing one of these games 5 days before Christmas, and it sure was a very nice gift.

We were getting slaughtered 367 to 160.

I was dealt the following hand and had to bid first:

2 4 6 Q
0
4 10 Q
2 3 6 7 9 10
I didn’t think that a 2 bid would do us much good, so I figured that I would stir things up with a Nil bid. If my pard had a great hand, or I could get in at least one undertrump of East, there would be a good chance that the Nil would make.

After my Nil bid, West bid 3, as did my pard, and after some thought East threw in a big 6…. taking it to a 12 bid hand.

I had the lead on the first trick. Which card would you lay on the table?

If the opps got their 9 tricks, they would have 457 plus however many bags they might take. The only way for them to take more than 1 bag would be if they set my pard. If that were to happen (let’s say that my Nil makes and pard falls one trick short) the score would be 230 for us and 459 for our opponents. Whether they bag or not, it would be very unlikely that we would be able to catch up and win the game.

On the other hand, If by setting my own Nil we could set the opps, the score would be 90+ for us and 277 for the opps… not good, but an extended game meaning more time to make something happen.

I led the 10 of Diamonds, hoping that it might just win the trick.

West ducked my lead, and my pard could not cover the 10.

East was sitting there with this hand:

K A
2 8 9 A
3 K A
4 5 8 Q
Which card would you play if you were East?

Well, he succombed to the almost irresistable urge to set my Nil.

Given his stretched 6 bid to begin with, this was a mistake.

We did wind up setting the opps’ 9 bid. Unfortunately, my pard got set on her 3 bid as well, and the resulting score was 34 for us (yes, I took 4 tricks), and 277 for the opps.

There was much talk at the table after the hand questioning the merits of my SOS (Set Own Self) move.

I gave my standard response about extending games, buying time, etc., etc.

Well, by subsequently setting and bagging the opps, not only did we pull ahead, but we eventually won by 300 points!

In my book I state that perseverance is the most important personality trait for a Spader, and this game was just one more piece of evidence underscoring that truth.

Don’t ever give up. Scratch, kick, and claw if you have to.

If you do, you just might receive a special gift like we did.