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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

A “Partnership” Slam

Much of the time when we have bid to slams (good slams, that is!), the play can be quite straightforward. One must be very careful in the play but barring very bad trump breaks, the line to success should be quite clear. However, 4-4 trump fits need to be played carefully, especially when you have an almost certain trump loser….and maybe a side-suit finesse to take.

Do you still want to be in this slam given the above? Why not? Especially if you can make it. These were the North /South cards with you as South declarer in 6Club-small getting the lead of the Heart-smallQ.

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

 

1NT was 12-14 and 2Spade-small a range-finder. 3Club-small was maximum with a club suit after which North made a value jump holding the majority of the aces. Grand slam was very unlikely opposite a weak no-trump opening.

Your first thoughts after thanking partner were to breathe a sigh of relief that they had not led a diamond. Certainly, you did not want to take a losing finesse (they always seem to!) at trick 1.

So, take your time. Count your tricks, your winners. There are 4 in spades, 2 in hearts and the Diamond-smallA. That means you need 5 from the trump suit…but you have a trump loser. If you play trumps in the standard way, you would lead a top honour and finesse on the second round, to protect against a 4-1 break. That’s fine but if the defender who wins the trick has the remaining trump and plays it, you will score a maximum of 4 trump tricks….and will therefore require that diamond finesse to make your contract.

We do not want to take that finesse, if we can avoid it. So, let’s see if we can make our tricks in a different way. Cash the two top clubs, and assuming one defender is not left with the  Club-small QJ, we should be OK, especially if the suit breaks 3-2, which despite what you may feel every time a defender discards on the first or second round, is 68% likely to happen. Here were the 4 hands:

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

 

After cashing the top clubs, cash your other high heart (you would not want that card ruffed later on)  and play out your spade suit discarding two diamonds from the South hand. It does East no good to ruff the fourth spade and there is no defence to beat you. Cash Diamond-smallA and now keep ruffing, two diamonds in the South hand, two hearts in the North hand…and at some point East will over-ruff to score the Club-smallQ.

Had the clubs broken 4-1 with one of the high clubs singleton, you would have to reassess and may need to take that diamond finesse. Had clubs broken 5-0, smile and do your best! You would not want to fail when clubs break 3-2 …. a bit of planning at trick one, and careful play afterwards.

“Well bid” you can then say to your partner as you record +920, with many in the field in 3NT or even worse, the no play 6NT. Maybe you heard “well played” come from the other side of the table?

Richard Solomon

 

 

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