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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

COUNTING WINNERS – A WELCOME TO THE NEW PLAYERS

With players coming out of Beginners’ Lessons at about this time of year, this week’s example hand is one for those new to the club session. Perhaps you could give the following example play hand to such players at your club?

There is a little bidding lesson and then a play one to go with it.

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

 

With 23 high card points (hcp), East opens the bidding with 2Club-small and after their partner’s negative 2Diamond-small response, East bids 2NT to show a balanced 23-24 hcp. It is important that West realises how strong their partner is as even though they only 4 hcp, they must raise their partner to game…and with no major suit, the most likely making game is 3NT.

South leads a small heart to their partner’s ace with North returning a heart (the 6) won by East’s king.

East must not panic but do a little trick counting. How many winners can East count? They have one trick in hearts and two in spades and on most days five in diamonds. That comes to 8. East needs one more and the only place where a ninth trick can be scored is in clubs. Therefore, declarer has to lose a trick in clubs (to the ace) in order to score one.

“What happens” asked East if they took four heart tricks along with the Club-smallA before I scored one in clubs? The answer is that the contract would fail. 27 hcp is no guarantee one can make 9 tricks in 3NT. Sometimes, the cards are distributed badly for the declarer and the defence can take their 5 or more tricks before the declarer can score 9.

In the hand above, the defence can only take 3 heart tricks and the Club-smallA as long as the declarer does not cash too many aces and kings before losing the lead. East could cash their diamond winners first but not both Spade-smallA and Spade-smallK as that would give extra tricks in spades for the defence.

The best play for declarer after winning the Heart-smallK at trick 2 is to play a low diamond to dummy’s jack (or a small spade to the king) and lead a club from dummy. If North held the Club-smallA, they might just duck allowing East to score their club trick with the ace still unplayed. That did not happen today though by using the important technique of counting winners, East could make 9 tricks despite receiving the dangerous heart lead.

One further tip is in cashing the five diamond winners. Lead low to the honour in the short suit first (i.e. low to the jack) and then you can play the four remaining winners later in the East hand.

Here’s hoping you all made your 9 tricks and will continue to enjoy making many more in playing at your club. Do not worry if some contracts fail. It happens to experts too, even in 3NT with a combined 27 hcp!

Richard Solomon

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