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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

A Difference between Pairs and Teams?

It may seem a strange question to ask but sometimes when confronted with a problem, you have to ask the question “are we playing Pairs or Teams?” In bidding, it may be a choice of bidding 3NT or 5 of a minor. In play, it might affect whether you risk playing for an overtrick knowing that you are in an inferior scoring contract. In defence, it could mean whether you aim to defeat the contract (always nice!) or simply restrict overtricks.

The Problem

So, here is this week’s problem, a defensive one:

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

 

1NT is 15-17 and 2Club-small simple Stayman. Your partner leads Club-small4 (4TH highest leads) and declarer plays low from dummy. Which card do you play to trick one?

It cannot be too hard, can it? You have only a choice of two clubs. 50% success rate!

Oh, you asked the question:” Teams or Pairs”? Let’s say “both”!

So, what to do? There are four situations:

  1. Declarer has both the ace and the queen. In that case, it is irrelevant.
  2. Declarer has the queen but not the ace.
  3. Declarer has the ace but not the queen.
  4. Declarer has neither the ace nor the queen. It almost does not matter as if the 10 wins the first trick, your partner can successfully overtake the king with the ace on the second round of the suit. (unless declarer has four clubs headed by the 8.)

That leaves us with the situations where declarer has one of the two missing honours.

 If declarer has the ace, by playing the Club-small10, you will effectively block the suit but you will prevent South from scoring two club tricks. If you play the king, then the jack in dummy should score a trick. So, if you think declarer has 9 tricks and you cannot beat the contract, then restricting the overtrick will be a great idea..and playing the 10 would be correct, at Pairs.

However, playing Teams, the extra overtrick conceded may be annoying (you only scored 19.83 instead of the full 20… let’s be positive!) but it is not that crucial. Thus, if you want to beat the contract, you need to play the king at trick 1. Look at the four hands:

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

 

At the table, playing Pairs, more than one East played the Club-small10. The hand was quite straightforward for declarer who had to lose a trick to the Diamond-smallA and had to hope the defence could not run 4 club tricks to beat the contract. As you could see, after the Club-small10 was played, they could not…but had East played the Club-smallK at trick 1, East-West would have been recording +50.

So, at Teams, third player must play high at trick 1, the king. What about Pairs?

Do you follow this advice?

“So, if you think declarer has 9 tricks and you cannot beat the contract, then restricting the overtrick will be a great idea.”  That was the statement made above. Is it true here? I do not think so. Dummy has a 9 count opposite 15-17. There was no long suit in dummy that was immediately threatening. You have a 4 count. Your partner has more….and it seems quite reasonable to try and beat this contract. So, up with the king!

No difference this time. Had dummy had exactly the same hand with the addition of the Diamond-smallA instead of a small diamond, then there would be a much stronger case for going negative at Pairs..and inserting the 10.

Blame the dealer if you went wrong. Had you the king and a small club, there would have been no decision. Your clubs were too good!

Richard Solomon

 

 

 

 

 

 

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