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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

BEWARE THE “DANGER” HAND  

Often there is one of the opponents you would like to keep off lead. This can be especially true in no-trumps where one opponent has led their long suit…and you have two holds in the suit if one opponent gains the lead but only one if the other is on lead. If you only have one hold, then they have already given you that trick at trick one!

Take a look at the diamond suit when South arrived in 3NT below:

 
South Deals
None Vul
A 10 9 3
K Q J 10 2
7 6
Q J
   
N
W   E
S
   
 
K J 6
A 6
K Q 4
K 10 8 3 2
West North East South
      1 NT
Pass 2  Pass 2 
Pass 2  Pass 3 NT
All pass      

 

South opened a strong (15-17) 1NT after which North’s 2Diamond-small showed at least 5 hearts. South bid 2Heart-small as instructed allowing North to show their second suit. With no particular interest in the majors and seemingly good holds in the minors, South went for the no-trump game.

This did not seem such a wise choice when West led the Diamond-smallJ and East played a rather nebulous Diamond-small5 at trick one. It looks like West has led from Diamond-smallAJT. Were South to look, he could see that at least 10 tricks were easy in hearts, probably spades too. Yet, in no trumps, there was a big danger, that of East gaining the lead and firing a second diamond through declarer’s hand (assuming South won the opening trick) and if the suit broke with West having 5 maybe 6 diamonds, then the contract would fail (at least 4 diamond losers and the trick with which East won the lead).

South has a choice of plays at trick one. Play low and lose the first trick to West. This line would only succeed if East held the Club-smallA and no more than two diamonds. Alternatively, win the first trick which would work when West held the Club-smallA, no matter how the diamond suit breaks. When West wins the Club-smallA, and cashes the Diamond-smallA, then South still has a high diamond card left in their hand.

Who mentioned clubs? What’s our plan? Win the first trick (better odds) and lose a trick to the Club-smallA? If West holds it, then you will probably make 5 heart, 4 club, 2 spade and a diamond trick, 12 unless they take their Diamond-smallA too. If you are playing Pairs, that is a better score than all those in hearts who can only score 450 maximum. Even 460 beats that.

And if East holds the Club-smallA? Playing Pairs, you may chance that the Club-smallA is with West to try and get a good score..but many pairs will be in 3NT like you are. It is a reasonable place with the North- South cards.

If we want to take the best chance of making our contract, we should not touch clubs at all! A distraction! You should be grateful you have been given such good spades! Use them. So what’s our plan?

Win trick 1, and either play a spade to the ace and then one to the jack or play Heart-smallA and a second heart and then play Spade-small10, playing low from hand. Why? To reduce the chance of keeping East off lead. Sometimes, even your finesses work! And if West has the Spade-smallQ? You will lose an extra trick (over just playing a club) if South wins and plays a club to East’s ace..but that did not happen today:

South Deals
None Vul
A 10 9 3
K Q J 10 2
7 6
Q J
8 7 5 2
9 5 4
A J 10 9 2
6
 
N
W   E
S
 
Q 4
8 7 3
8 5 3
A 9 7 5 4
 
K J 6
A 6
K Q 4
K 10 8 3 2
West North East South
      1 NT
Pass 2  Pass 2 
Pass 2  Pass 3 NT
All pass      

 

If the Spade-small10 held, you would next play a spade to the king (not the jack) as you need to get back to dummy without touching clubs to cash those hearts. You hope East has 2 or 3 spades headed by the queen.

So, on the above lay-out, you can take 4 spade, 5 heart and 1 diamond trick. Playing on clubs would mean one down. Oh, did you notice that on a club lead against 4 of a major, only 10 tricks are possible as West would lead their singleton and get a ruff? Playing in no trumps was not so bad after all. 430 beats 420! Just identify that danger hand and see if you can keep it off lead.

Richard Solomon

 

 

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