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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

TUNNEL VISION

It is a really good idea to look at your hand and dummy after the opening lead is made and see what can be done with all the losers in your hand. Then and only then should you play to the first trick. There is, though, a hand type when such a look is not sufficient.

When you are in grand slam, you have to do something with these losers, or else you will be writing in a minus score! So, after a bidding sequence which bordered on the bizarre (both opponents bid diamonds up to the 5 level!), you are faced with making all 13 tricks on the lead of Diamond-small5. What’s your plan?

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

 

2NT was Jacoby, game force with spade support. 5Diamond-smallx would have been quite lucrative for the defence but that was not the problem now. Our South said a prayer of thanks that the heart loser could be discarded on the fourth round of clubs and that two hearts could be ruffed in dummy while the third would be discarded on Diamond-smallA.

That’s a great plan when trumps break 2-2 but when they do not, you have a problem. In fact, trumps broke 3-1 but all had to be drawn before clubs were played or else a club ruff would have beaten the contract. Eventually, there was nowhere for the Heart-smallJ to go (only one heart could be ruffed) and the contract failed by one trick.

A better line

Could declarer have done better? The answer is “yes” and the solution was to look at dummy a little more closely. A dummy reversal…or setting up dummy rather than your own hand. If the North hand was declarer’s, then declarer would play the board very differently from above. So why not play it that way now?

South Deals
E-W Vul
K Q 7 6
A 7
A J 9 6
A 8 4
10 8 5
K 10 4 3
10 5 4 3 2
2
 
N
W   E
S
 
3
Q 9 2
K Q 8 7
10 9 7 6 3
 
A J 9 4 2
J 8 6 5
K Q J 5
7  by South

If you can ruff three diamonds in the South hand, North’s heart loser can be discarded, as above, on the fourth round of clubs. As long as trumps do not break 4-0 (which defeats the other method too), you should be fine. West even helped you by leading a diamond.

So, ruff the diamond and play a trump to the king. Ruff a second diamond and  play a heart to the ace and play Diamond-smallJ ruffing with Spade-smallJ. Now play Spade-smallA, club to the ace, draw West's last trump with Spade-smallQ and then three more rounds of clubs with your last two cards in dummy being Spade-small7 and Diamond-smallA…13 tricks, even when spades broke 3-1. Be thankful for the diamond lead because the 4-1 club break and 3-1 spade break will make the hand pretty impossible on a club or heart lead, barring an amazing low level trump finesse!

We can be too fixed on dealing with the losers in our own hand and do not look for ways of setting up the dummy hand. Ruffing three diamonds was quite possible, especially after both opponents had bid the suit….but that was the best line anyway after the diamond lead.

Richard Solomon

 

 

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