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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

The Wonderful and “Worrisome” HJ

The HJ proved both a wonderful and a “worrisome” card for the East players on the following deal. Let’s first give East the problem of what to do when trying to make their 4 of a major contract.. East’s 4H opening bid had won the auction:

(Pairs)
East Deals
None Vul
   
Q 3
9 3
K 9 7 6 3 2
A 4 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
6 5 2
A K Q 10 8 7 4 2
4
J

 

Against 4Heart-small, South made the annoying lead of a low club, taking away the certain entry to the dummy before East could test diamonds. When declarer saw dummy, they could have discarded a spade on the Diamond-smallK if South held the Diamond-smallA and South had led a different suit. So, declarer had to think of other plans. What would be your play to trick 2?

One option is to try and ruff a spade in dummy. To do so, you have to lose the lead twice. In theory, the defence can thwart your plan by drawing a round of trumps each time they win the lead, preventing you from ruffing a spade. If they do that, then you will lose three spades and a diamond. Yet, they only have three trumps and each time the defender who wins the lead may not have a trump to play. Also, defenders have been known to go wrong. You know that..from personal experience!

Is there any other chance? Well, yes. Always watch your middle cards. A little attention here will go a long way to writing down +420.

So, at trick two, you lead a low spade off dummy, losing to South’s Spade-small7. South exits a heart…but which heart? Have you devised “Plan B” yet?

East Deals
None Vul
K 8 4
6 5
Q J 10 8
K 9 6 3
Q 3
9 3
K 9 7 6 3 2
A 4 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
6 5 2
A K Q 10 8 7 4 2
4
J
 
A J 10 9 7
J
A 5
Q 10 8 7 5

 

Yes, the HHeart-small was singleton. Rather than play a second spade, a plan likely to fail, now lead your diamond. You are in luck. South wins but is helpless. The best he can do is under-lead his Spade-smallA to North’s king. North can play a second trump but you can run that safely to dummy’s Heart-small9 and the third spade is discarded on Diamond-smallK. Watch those middle pips and where possible, combine your chances.

Change the declarer

However, some South players bid 4Spade-small over the 4Heart-small opening. West led the Heart-small9 with the trick being won by East’s Heart-smallQ. East noted the fall of the jack. That gave East a problem. Could East cash a second high heart or should they switch to a singleton minor…and if they should switch, which minor would be correct? What East does know is that South could be false-carding with Heart-smallJ3. In that case, East needs to cash a second heart because if they choose the wrong minor, East may never regain the lead and either the beating of the contract or just the overtrick (we are playing Pairs) will be gone.  

You can see what could happen if East did try to cash a second heart. South will ruff and expecting West to have more spades than East (from the 4Heart-small opening), would play Spade-smallA and a second spade, maybe intending to finesse through West. Not today…and on the fall of Club-smallJ, South would score 420.

That should happen, too, if East switched to their diamond..or did South finesse? Ouch… two ruffs for East! Sometimes, this time, it would have paid to believe that Heart-smallJ as a true card but as to which minor they choose, there is very little evidence. Let’s hope East guessed well..and if not, blame it on the dealer. One singleton is quite enough for any hand!

Richard Solomon

 

 

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