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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

Bad Breaks: Good Plays

When suits break normally and you have sufficient high cards, most players are able to make their contracts. There’s no finesses, no doubleton queens to drop. It all sounds pretty straightforward.

Look at the following hands:

Board 14
East Deals
None Vul
K 8 3
Q 10 3 2
Q J
A 7 4 2
   
N
W   E
S
   
 
A 7
A K J 8 4
9 2
K 9 8 3
West North East South
    1  2 
Pass 3  Pass 4 
All pass      

 

West led their partner’s suit. It looks like a simple case of winning the opening lead, drawing trumps, cashing two high clubs and when this suit breaks 3-2, conceding a club and two diamonds, making 10 tricks. That’s a pretty easy looking average board.

"Two plus two" spells "one down"!

Yet, when the board was played, there was one little snag. Trumps were drawn, a nice 2-2 break but when declarer tried clubs, East contributed the queen under the ace on the first round and showed out discarding a diamond on the second round. Suddenly, South was staring at two club losers along with two losers in diamonds. “Two plus two” spells “one down”!

The silver lining

There was, however, one piece of good news for South. It was West who had the two club tricks and not East. What was good about that? Hopefully, South had remembered the bidding. East had opened 1Spade-small and thus had the majority of the outstanding high card points. South knew that West held the Club-smallJ. That left 11 hcps outstanding. Surely East had them all?

The plan

So, South had a plan. Play a second round of spades to the king and ruff the third round…and then exit any diamond. East could take two top diamonds and then had to give South a ruff and discard, whether they played a spade or a diamond. Away went one of the club losers and 10 tricks were there to be made. Suddenly, the boring flat board had become less flat because not all declarers played their cards in the correct order. It was essential to play spades (eliminating them from both hands) before exiting a diamond.

What? Not leading partner's suit?

Say, though, West got inventive with their opening lead and tried a diamond. East cashed two high diamonds and exited the Club-smallQ. That looked ominous for South for when they won, drew trumps and played a second high club, they could no longer throw East in to give them a ruff and discard.

There were, though, two ways the contract could still be made. Let’s look at all four hands and see:

Board 14
East Deals
None Vul
K 8 3
Q 10 3 2
Q J
A 7 4 2
6 4 2
7 6
10 8 7 3
J 10 6 5
 
N
W   E
S
 
Q J 10 9 5
9 5
A K 6 5 4
Q
 
A 7
A K J 8 4
9 2
K 9 8 3
West North East South
    1  2 
Pass 3  Pass 4 
All pass      

 

One way, the more certain way, required declarer winning the Club-smallQ with dummy’s ace. It looked to declarer that East held Club-smallQJ or Club-smallQJ10. Yet, it would not matter what East's club holding was as long as South played three rounds of spades, ruffing the third round before playing the second round of clubs.

Declarer would need to get back to the North hand, with a trump to lead the second club. If East played the outstanding low club, the 6,  simply play Club-small8 from the South hand. However, when East showed out, again insert a low club…and West with Club-smallJ6 left would either have to give South two club tricks or a ruff and discard, again making 10 tricks.

The other successful way is a little riskier but would be necessary had declarer won the first club in the South hand and then cashed Club-smallA after drawing trumps. Do you see the spade pips? On the third round of spades, East will play the Spade-small8 and rather than ruff, declarer must throw a club loser. East is stuck once more, presenting South with a ruff and discard and 10 tricks, the hard way.

Half the pairs who played this contract failed to make 10 tricks. There were three different ways to make 10 tricks. We should not look on bad breaks as something annoying, more as an opportunity to play a board correctly and gain an above average score.

Richard Solomon

 

 

 

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