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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

EVEN WHEN IT SEEMS EASY, IT’S HARD.

Or” It Isn’t over until the fat lady sings.”

“What’s that” you may ask? “Why, defence, of course!” Another way of looking at this is that a contract is not beaten until it is beaten! Our West defender on this week’s deal relaxed just a little too early. Just take a look on what he held and saw in dummy and decide on what you would discard on the run of dummy’s spades.

South Deals
E-W Vul
A Q J 9 8
J
10 3
Q 8 6 5 3
7
9 8 4 3
K J 8 6 5 4
A 9
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
  Dummy    
      1 
Pass 1  Pass 2 
Pass 3  Pass 3 NT
All pass      

 

North’s 3Club-small bid looked a little pushy especially when South bid 3NT. You led a low diamond and partner’s queen won the first trick (Declarer contributed the Diamond-small9.) Partner continued with the Diamond-small7 with the only missing diamond from West’s view-point being the 2, which looked like being in partner’s hand. All it required was one of the defenders to win the lead and to then enjoy copious diamond tricks. However, the party was delayed a little by declarer who not only had three spades but one of which was the king. (Why South did not bid 3Spade-smallor even 4Spade-small instead of 3NT is a question for another day.)

You have to find four discards, three of which are while your partner follows with low spades. If it helps, declarer will throw first a low heart and then a low club. Your partner’s sole discard will be a low club (low encouraging). So, how’s the party looking? What did you throw?

Our West was determined to enjoy his diamonds as he threw three little hearts interspersed with a small club. West would have enjoyed tricks 14-16 because on each of those, he would have played a winning diamond. Alas, by trick 12, the declarer had already made 11 tricks, plenty to enjoy a roaring top score.

South Deals
E-W Vul
A Q J 9 8
J
10 3
Q 8 6 5 3
7
9 8 4 3
K J 8 6 5 4
A 9
 
N
W   E
S
 
6 5 3 2
Q 10
Q 7 2
K J 4 2
 
K 10 4
A K 7 6 5 2
A 9
10 7
West North East South
      1 
Pass 1  Pass 2 
Pass 3  Pass 3 NT
All pass      

 

East had watched helplessly as West disposed of the seemingly useless hearts. Had East held Heart-smallA (even KQ doubleton), then West would have survived. Not today, though. What then was West to do?

The answer was that some of the diamonds had to be discarded. Since declarer had already shown up with 7 high card points..and they were a minimum anyway…there was every chance that the defence could regain the lead soon after the spades were exhausted. Yet, hearts should have been a concern. If declarer had 6 as was likely with the 2Heart-small rebid, then East had only two. If South’s hearts were AKQT to 6, there was no hope for the defence. If East held one of those high hearts, then West must retain all four hearts to stop the suit. That means discarding at least three diamonds along with the little club or trusting partner for that Diamond-small2, all four diamonds. Ouch! That hurts! This is not the party West envisaged at trick 2!

Indeed, West just about has to play their partner for the Club-smallK or else will be trapped on lead. West has 6 cards left after the spades have all gone, four hearts and either a diamond and a club or two clubs. If you retain just one club, then it should not be the ace.

As you can see, declarer’s hearts were not that good and as long as West retained both clubs, they could throw one heart and three diamonds. Indeed, West could pick South’s hearts were not very strong as they threw one, hardly the play with AKQ10 to 6.

This was not an easy hand for the defence, especially West who had to throw sure winners to protect a weak holding in another suit. The bidding was a strong clue that this was the case. Our West did not foresee the danger and paid the price heavily. And if East had held the Heart-smallA and the jettisoning of the diamonds proved unnecessary and wrong? Let’s hope East would understand his partner’s dilemma. It is not always easy for one defender to understand the other’s problem. It’s also not always easy to defend even when you appear to have the setting tricks.

“Is it?” West would agree to that.  

Richard Solomon

 

 

 

 

 

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