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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

“Sorry” but who said it?

It was nearly the last competitive bridge board of 2016. Yet, like too many others earlier in the year, it resulted in an oh too familiar result…misdefence. Contract made when not only the so knowledgeable “Dealmaster Pro” said it could/should be beaten but one glance at the four hands made it obvious that correct discarding would have resulted in down 1. 

So, let’s look follow the play through the eyes of West, the player who was heard at the end of the board to use that oh so common 5 letter “S” word. This is what West saw:

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

 

2Diamond-small was “two way Multi” with the 3Spade-small response confirming that spades was the suit and that even in the context of holding a “Weak Two” hand, your partner was at the poorer end of the scale, about 6-8 hcp.

 You knew that South had a very good hand and had bid 5Diamond-small “to make”.  South’s double showed a hand of at least 16 hcp but not a strong no-trump. At this vulnerability, the 5Diamond-small bid was no advance sacrifice over the 4Spade-small contract which you were never going to bid anyway. South had expectations of making and would probably have been a little disappointed with the look of dummy…pointless, entryless and nearly “trumpless”!

So, as West you led the Spade-smallA with your partner playing an encouraging card: no need for East to give any count here. You knew how many spades they held. So, sensibly, you carried on with your second spade which declarer ruffed. Next came a series of winning trumps from the South hand….six more to be exact. Your partner followed to the first three, his highest being the 10. You have to find four discards, your partner three. So, which five cards do you retain?

Oh, did you ask what your partner discarded? OK. A couple of small spades and then a small heart. So, your choice is? If South has the top 4 clubs, the contract will make (7 diamonds, 4 clubs). If South has two hearts, it must be defeated.

The first three discards were quite easy, your bottom three hearts but what to throw on the last trump? A club or the Heart-smallQ? At the table, West risked a little club…and the contract made.

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

 

“Sorry, partner, I let go a club” as the Club-small4 proved to be South’s 11th trick. West was courteous, too courteous. Do you see West’s problem? West could count points and knew that South had the Club-smallA. (East's maximum was 8 ..Spade-smallKQ and..?) If East held the Club-smallK, even singleton, there was either no hope for declarer (where East held Kx (x) or, if Club-smallK was singleton, no hope for the defence as South would have 7 diamonds, 5 clubs and 11 tricks. Again, where East held Club-smallQxx, South would have a club loser. If East held Club-small Jxx, South did not have a club loser.  What though where East held Club-smallQx? West could not afford to throw a club.

West went wrong but East forgot they had a partner. East’s two spade discards were lazy. Maybe discard one spade, but two heart discards showing no interest in that suit would have been very helpful for West, who, if they had been the first cards East threw, could have thrown the Heart-smallQ, keeping all four clubs for the end-game.

“Sorry, partner, I could have helped you with your problem”. If East had, 2016 would have ended with a plus score.  Here’s to better defending, maybe more co-operative defending in 2017.

Richard Solomon

 

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