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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

Bad Breaks: Good Play

There are a few basic suit combinations you should know how to play. A recent deal featured two quite common situations. One slip on this deal and you would be writing a minus score on your score-sheet. That does not sit very well when your teammates return from their table with -430 exclaiming there was nothing they could do. They were correct. Let’s just make sure you are up to speed:

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

 

The bidding was spirited with South believing West in that a 4 level sacrifice might be an inferior result for North-South. West led the Heart-small10 to East’s queen and declarer’s king. The bidding was a warning to South that suits might not be breaking well..or else why had the opponents bid to the four level on such slim values?

Time to play to trick 2

Where would you start as South? You need a minimum 10 tricks and you would not appreciate the defence gaining the lead before you had made 10 tricks.

Our South did not do well as they started with the Club-smallA. When West discarded a spade, the contract could no longer be made as declarer could only make 9 tricks even if they played diamonds correctly. Let’s look at the full hand:

 

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

 

What could go wrong?

South needed five club tricks. If West had all five of the defence’s clubs, there was no chance of gaining that number without West having a doze! So, South should have turned their attention to the slim possibility of East having all five. All would still be well as long as clubs could be led twice from the North hand. To do that, at trick 2, you must play a club to the king and not start with the ace. Next a club on which East inserts the Club-small9. Back to dummy with a diamond to the king (the correct play in that suit since,assuming a bad break, you can only score 4 tricks if it is West who holds 4, maybe 5 diamonds.)

Repeat the club finesse and play out your clubs. West can discard all their spades and one heart. Now cash the Diamond-smallA and you can safely take your 10 tricks via a marked diamond finesse.

Note that the bidding should have suggested bad breaks in the minor suits. Yet, even without that warning, the above is the way to play these two suit holdings, protecting against a 5-0 club and a 4-1 or 5-0 diamond break as best as you can.

Defending 4Heart-smallx

So, what would have happened had the final contract been 4Heart-smallx? North does best to lead a trump which will restrict West to 2 ruffs in the East hand. That means 4 losers…a mere -100. Without a trump lead, +590 looks like the result. So, South was right to bid 4NT. Let’s hope they recorded a plus score.

Richard Solomon

p.s. I know a low spade lead and bad heart guess spells disaster for South. The defence are not always that brilliant and just occasionally we can guess right, can’t we?

 

 

 

 

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