Audrey Egger has had five first-place finishes in Vineyard duplicate play this summer: twice when partnered with Miles Jaffe and once apiece with Barbara Besse, Barbara McLagan and me. Here’s a notable hand she played with Ann Brown. Audrey was South, with East dealing and both sides vulnerable on board 13 the afternoon of July 28:

♠ J 6 4

♥ K 10 3

♦ Q J 4 3

♣ Q 8 5

WEST                                   EAST
♠ K 9 8                                  ♠ 3

♥ A J 4 2                               ♥ 8 7 5

♦ A 10 6                                ♦ 8 5

♣ 10 9 3                                 ♣ A K J 7 6 4 2

♠ A Q 10 7 5 2

♥ Q 9 6

♦ K 9 7 2

♣ —

The bidding proceeded as follows:

East      South      West      North
3 ♣       4 ♠          All Pass

Opening lead: ♣3

How did Audrey know to bid 4♠ instead of 3 ♠ ? The latter action would have produced a raise from West to 4 ♣ that would have made, absent competition from North-South.

A physical therapist and antiques dealer, she has a third talent: bridge intelligence. Skilled in drawing inferences from the bidding and imagining other players’ hands, she figured she had little defense against a club contract and wanted to keep East-West from bidding one. She knew further that after an opponent’s pre-empt she should expect at least seven high-card points from North, who in fact had nine. Making 10 tricks looked like a reasonable gamble.

Following the club lead, Audrey counted her likely losers: one spade, one diamond and one or two hearts. The best strategy is to ruff the opening lead, draw trump, play diamonds and hope East-West will lead hearts.

If they don’t, play the other suits to establish a count. Soon enough, you’ll discover that East has seven clubs, three hearts, two diamonds and one spade. The 4-3 split in hearts isn’t very helpful, but based on the auction you should count on West holding the jack. Therefore, finesse the 10.

Audrey made four for +620, a shared top.

In a game I had with her, she provided an object lesson for those who always cover an honor with an honor. She was sitting East and defending against 3NT, when North played the heart jack:

♥ J 8

WEST                 EAST
♥ 9 5                    ♥ K 7 3 2

♥ A Q 10 6 4

Knowing the auction established North with at most two hearts, Audrey didn’t cover. South could finesse again and cash a total of three hearts, but her king was sure to take a trick eventually.