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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

JUST IN CASE

Today we look at two 6Spade-small slams which occurred in the last week, one in tournament play and the other in club play. One cannot be made and the other cannot be defeated. One is certainly for the less experienced players while the other shows the less experienced to what they can aspire.

So, our first is quite a simple situation and shows just how careful you need to be in defence….nothing flash but just a modicum of care. You are defending 6Spade-small in the West seat and after the auction given below, decide to lead the Heart-smallA at trick one.

South Deals
N-S Vul
K 8 7 3
J 9 6 5
A 9 4
A 5
10 4
A 4 3
K J 6 2
Club-small  QT94
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
You Dummy    
      1 
Pass 2 NT Pass 3 
Pass 4  Pass 4 NT
Pass 5  Pass 6 
All pass      

 

2NT promised at least 4 spades and was forcing to game and 3Diamond-small showed that South has no more than one diamond. 4Club-small showed the Club-smallA after which South used Roman Key Card Blackwood and got a 5Club-small response basically showing 3 of the 5 key cards, the two aces and the trump king.

On the Heart-smallA lead, your partner played a discouraging Heart-small2 and declarer the Heart-small5. What do you play at trick 2? Maybe, we could say, which cards in that West hand do you not play?

We will come back to that issue shortly but firstly, decide how you would play the following 6Spade-small deal on the lead of the Heart-small7?

 

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

 

4Heart-small showed a singleton or void heart with spade support and showed interested in slam. 5Heart-small showed the two aces and there you are in 6Spade-small on the lead of the Heart-small7 from West.

Partner made a cheeky comment as he put dummy down that he hoped he was not too strong for his 4Heart-small bid. You told him not to worry about grand this time (did he see your teeth were a little “gritted”?!) but you have the task of making 12 tricks. At least, you know who you can blame if you do not…or do you, as this contract is cold! Your plan is?

Let’s get back to defending on the first hand. Which card did you play at trick 2? A second heart? That’s fine. A trump? That’s fine too. What about a club? I would suggest that would be most unwise but on this occasion, that switch is fine as well. That leaves a diamond. Dummy has the ace and declarer has a singleton. So, surely that switch is fine as well? Indeed, it was as long as….

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

 

….you played the Diamond-smallK! Our West decided that it must be safe to exit a diamond and just played a low one.South, who was extremely displeased with the sight of dummy at trick one, had been offered a glimmer of hope.

South could discard one club loser on the fourth round of hearts but where could the second one go? Declarer had to play low from dummy and shut his eyes as East played a card. When he opened them, the Diamond-smallQ had scored a trick and the impossible slam had made.

“What if the diamond singleton was the queen? If West wanted to switch to diamonds, a perfectly reasonable choice, then the card to be played had to be the Diamond-smallK….just in case.  A harsh lesson learnt by West.

Our second slam, where you are declarer is harder. Looking back, you have a seemingly inescapable club loser leaving the success or failure of the slam down to avoiding a trump loser. However, West’s overcall and their subsequent failure to hold both Heart-smallK and Heart-smallQ (no Heart-smallK lead) would suggest that the Spade-smallK was indeed with West. If that was true, then, taking a finesse was not a good idea. Our declarer came up with a line which would succeed even when there was a certain trump loser. After winning the Heart-smallA at trick 1, he laid down the Spade-smallA at trick 2. As long as trumps broke 2-1, with West holding two trumps, and West two or three diamonds, the contract was secure. There was just one other “if”.

 

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

 

Had the Spade-smallK fallen under the ace, declarer could claim 12 tricks. Even when that did not happen, he was in quite good shape. He played three rounds of diamonds, ruffing the third round in dummy. It did West no good to ruff the third diamond. Now declarer threw West in with a trump. West had either to give South a ruff and discard by playing a heart (ruff in dummy and discard a club in hand), or lead away from the Club-smallK. Just as West was more likely to hold the Spade-smallK, the same was true of the    Club-smallK.

There was still a trump in dummy to take care of the other diamond loser. Game, set, contract made. “Sorry, no overtrick this time, partner” quipped South!

No finesse… trump loser and still the slam made. Cash the Spade-smallA, just in case the king was singleton. Even when the king did not fall, slam could be made.

If that line was a little hard for you to envisage, then hopefully you did not fall into the trap of a small diamond exit in the first example. End-plays may be for the future. For now, avoiding careless plays and defences should be a realistic achievable aim.

Richard Solomon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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