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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

Don’t you love it? You are, probably like most other pairs, in 3NT. You have 8 tricks on top and have different ways of playing to try and get the 9th trick. One false move and they will have 5 tricks before you get 9. And then there is the two-way finesse. “Why did you put down that Diamond-small10, partner? I suppose you thought it was a good card to hold. It just gives me another chance to wrong!" Maybe.

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

 

West leads the Spade-smallK. You ask about their leads, or even better have a look at their system card. It tells you that the lead of a king asks their partner to play any honour in the suit they hold and if they do not hold one, to play reverse count (low then high with an even number). If you were aiming to make 11 tricks, you would be winning the first or second round of spades…and could end up with a lot less. You have a more modest target, 9. Therefore, ducking a couple rounds of spades seems best.

On the first trick, East plays Spade-small4 and on the second round Spade-small9 after West continued with Spade-smallQ. You win the third round (West led Spade-smallJ) per force as East discarded Club-small9 (low card encouraging in the suit thrown). You have three choices, e.g. to play off five rounds of hearts and see if you can work out where the Diamond-smallQ is. You can play an immediate club from dummy hoping East has the ace or you can take immediate diamond finesse. What would you do?

Cash your winnners

Let’s say you played five rounds of hearts, presumably discarding two clubs and a diamond from your own hand. West, who started with two hearts, discarded three low clubs. East, who had four hearts and therefore only had to find one discard, threw Club-small4. No-one threw a diamond. Are you any better off? Not really. Basically, if you take a losing diamond finesse now and West has the Club-smallA, you are down. If East has it and you retained dummy’s Diamond-smallK, you will still make 9 tricks. Which way did you finesse?

One key factor if you play East for the Diamond-smallQ and you finesse through East…and you are wrong, then you have just presented West with an entry to cash their spades, wherever the Club-smallA is.

listen carefully.png

What do you know? Did you listen?

So, take a step back. Back to trick 4. Think about the bidding. You should always do that. Yes, even when the opposition were silent! It’s not what West bid. It’s what they did not bid! Imagine you held Spade-small KQJ72 and the Club-smallA and not vulnerable, would you not have considered bidding 2Spade-small after your right hand opponent’s 6-9 1NT call? Throw in a minor queen and it would seem a certainty. Does that not point you to where the Club-smallA is not? It is not with West. There is another little clue which might be relevant. When West played their spade at trick 3, they had a choice of three spades to play. In this situation, many partnerships indicate where their entry is to help their partner. The highest of the three remaining spades asks for the highest suit and so on. West exited Spade-smallJ, the highest card he held. That could not be asking for a heart (look at dummy’s hearts) and it did not seem to ask for a club either.

Yet, East’s first discard was a discouraging Club-small9. Why, if they held the ace? The answer could either be that that was their lowest club (e.g. AQ9) or that they were trying to fool you. They are allowed to do that, those nasty defenders!

So, still at trick 4

So, at trick 4, we play a club towards the king? No! No need. West might be a very conservative overcaller….or had fallen asleep during the bidding! If West has the Club-smallA, you will find out soon enough when you have taken your normal losing diamond finesse. Yes, but which way? There is only one way to take it, thanks to your partner giving you that Diamond-small10. You finesse West for the Diamond-smallQ as if your finesse loses, you will not be down immediately (prolong the agony!) as East has no spades to cash. If East wins Diamond-smallQ and produces a low club, then there is only one card for you to play, Club-smallK. That's the best way to regain the lead. No guess needed. You are either making or are going several down.

However, much to yours and partner’s amazement, that diamond finesse did not fail…and you scored an overtrick for your efforts.

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

watching carefully.png

Remember the bidding. Watch the opposition’s carding. (Despite a comment above, they are usually honest. That’s at the heart of sound defending.) Finesse sensibly… and thank partner for producing the Diamond-small10. There really was no guess in that diamond suit after all.

Richard Solomon

 

 

 

 

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