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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

DIAGNOSIS OF A DISASTER

The opposition reached a very poor 3NT contract, with insufficient high card points and no real long suit to run….at least not without a loser or two first. They got a little lucky with the break and position of honour cards in two suits but they should still never have made 9 tricks.

We will put you on the spot first of all. You lead Diamond-smallT and this is what you see in your hand and dummy:

South Deals
N-S Vul
9 6 5 4 2
A J 10 4
6 5
Q 8
Q 10 7
K 9 8
A 10 9 7 4
J 4
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
you dummy    
      1 
Pass 1  Pass 1 NT
Pass 2  Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT All pass  

 

1NT showed 15-17 and from North’s raise to game, it seemed that North thought their partner was maximum. At trick 1, your partner played Diamond-small8 and declarer, Diamond-smallQ. The contract looked like it could/should be beaten…

At trick 2, declarer played Spade-smallA (Spade-small3 from East) followed by Spade-smallJ. Which spade should you play and why?

The post mortem went along the lines of…

West ”You should have known when I played Spade-smallQ that I held Spade-small10. Therefore, you should have won with the king and continued diamonds.”

East  “Where did you think the Spade-smallK was? If declarer held it, surely they would play it after the ace? How could I be sure that declarer did not have three spades, AJT?

Who’s right? Let’s see the full hand.

South Deals
N-S Vul
9 6 5 4 2
A J 10 4
6 5
Q 8
Q 10 7
K 9 8
A 10 9 7 4
J 4
 
N
W   E
S
 
K 8 3
7 5 3
J 8
A 10 7 5 2
 
A J
Q 6 2
K Q 3 2
K 9 6 3
West North East South
you dummy    
      1 
Pass 1  Pass 1 NT
Pass 2  Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT All pass  

 

West did put up the queen…and East played low…. but that was the end of the defence. West continued diamonds (Diamond-small9)… nothing else was better.  South ducked the Diamond-smallJ but East could not continue the suit. The low club switch put declarer on the table with the queen. The third round of spades cleared the suit and soon after four rounds of hearts gave declarer 9 tricks as the defence took just two spades and two minor suit tricks.

What went wrong?   Plenty!

The first error occurred at trick 1. The opening lead was great but when you have an honour and a small card in the suit partner led, you should almost always play (“unblock”) that honour even if you are not sure why. On this deal, the contract could still be defeated without the unblock but it would have been much easier for South if North had done so.

The battle of the spade honours. Who was correct? East was more correct than West. We do not all bid or play the same way but when South bid 2NT (not a good choice of bids…2Spade-small is a better choice.), it was highly likely they only held a doubleton spade. West knew that. So do not put up the Spade-smallQ. Ensure your partner wins the trick with the Spade-smallK. Do not give partner the chance to go wrong (and then blame them afterwards!) That’s bad defence and awful partnership dynamics. West knew the spade situation. East could have been unsure.

After the Spade-smallK wins the trick, East plays their other diamond (this is why the unblock helps) and West can afford to overtake as South must play low and then West give South a second diamond trick, as long as they still retained the high Spade-smallQ. West could not be sure whether East held the Club-smallA or Club-smallK. If South had both, then East held the Heart-smallQ for sure. Add up the points. From West’s point of view, two spade and three diamond tricks would defeat the contract, wherever the Club-smallA was.

look after partner.png

Look after your partner.

So, as so often happens, it was a “your fault, my mistake” situation where both defenders shouldered some degree of the blame. That’s one reason why overbidding pays off more than it should. 2Spade-small making for 110 or 140 would not have been nearly as exciting but should have been a much more rewarding result for South.

Richard Solomon

 

 

 

 

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