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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

TEASING DEFENCE

Some aggressive bidding put the declarer in a difficult situation on the following 3NT deal. The declarer had already been told by his partner that it had to be a breeze as there were so many high card points in dummy. Such a statement can be “the kiss of death” as a dummy player does not always know the true situation.

How would you go about getting 9 tricks with these cards? Note that East’s opening bid promised both major suits, at least 4 cards in each suit, and less than opening value.

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

 

The opening lead was the Heart-small5 with East contributing the king at trick 1. South’s 2NT should have promised 15-18 high card points but with good holdings in both majors, South felt it right to be a little aggressive rather than sit and wait. A take-out double of 2Heart-small did not appeal at all with only a couple of clubs.

North had an excellent dummy but counting to 9 was not that straightforward. There were two certainties in each major suit while diamonds could provide 4 if the suit broke evenly. If either defender held 4, it would seem to be West (from East’s opening) though picking up J97x or similar in that hand was near impossible. The ninth trick could come from clubs or from a spade finesse. The latter seemed appealing as East held at least 4 of the 6 missing spades. One might have to lose 2 club tricks in getting one..and if there were three losing heart tricks, a 5-3 break, partner would not be happy!

So to the play. South won the first trick and decided to try the Club-smallJ. If diamonds behaved and the Club-smallQ was with West, he would have 9 tricks. East won the Club-smallQ! Back came a second heart to West’s queen with West playing Heart-small3 to exit the third round of the suit to declarer’s jack. Declarer tested diamonds with East having 3 and West 2. So to the moment of truth. Do you take the spade finesse for your 9th trick or play for hearts to break 4-4 in which case you simply lose a trick to the Club-smallA?

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

 

Were you right? Taking that spade finesse would result in down 1 (2 hearts, 2 clubs and a spade) while giving up a club worked. Our declarer got it right because he trusted West’s heart play… Heart-small5, Heart-smallQ then Heart-small3. It looked like West held a 4 card suit (remember they led 3rds and 5ths).

Declarer did not let his partner down. Yet, I wonder if declarer would have played the same way if after leading the Heart-small5 at trick one, then winning the queen, they had exited Heart-small8, pretending they did not hold the Heart-small3. East did not need to know how many hearts West held. The declarer may well then have taken the spade finesse, exclaiming to his partner he should have tabled a better dummy, as he recorded -100. Yes, you are right.For that little ruse to work, East too had to tell a little white lie as the Heart-small2 return looked suspiciously like a 4th highest. I suspect Heart-small6 may well have fooled even the most observant declarer.

Richard Solomon

 

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