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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

King for Count in Queenstown

This is the tale of an actual hand (well, all the stories are) but this is a kind of special one from last weekend’s Queenstown tournament.

Are you ready for a defensive problem?

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

 

Actually, we have two problems for you, one a defensive problem and the other a trivia one.

Defensive Question

You lead the Heart-smallA to this unusually bid slam and everyone follows, your partner with Heart-small5 and declarer with Heart-small10. What do you play to trick 2?

Trivia Question

How many entries does declarer have to dummy? Name them.

The results of the 19 tables at the event make for interesting reading. Six tables saw the slam make 12 tricks, including once doubled. One table (are you sitting comfortably?) actually made all 13 tricks after the Heart-smallA lead. Interesting. Did declarer revoke or was there a defensive revoke which cost two tricks...or was South forgetting who won trick1?

At 5 tables, the contract was 5Spade-small making 11 tricks and at 6 more, 4Spade-small made 11 tricks. The remaining table played in 4Spade-small making 12 tricks.

It’s time to look at all 4 hands:

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

 

 West’s action of gambling that slam would make was reasonable but wrong. If partner produced no aces (they did open the bidding making this less likely), then Blackwood would take you too high. If partner had two aces, you can always bid 6Spade-small in complete comfort…but say partner had one or three, then you are in the wrong contract.

So, really, Blackwood should have been used with West subsiding in 5Spade-small. Ironically, had Roman Key Card Blackwood been used (and North stayed silent), East’s response would be 5Spade-small (2 key cards, Heart-smallA and Club-smallK in support of the last bid suit by their side, clubs) and East players would have been surprised that that bid was passed. With such a hand as West's Roman Key Card was a liability as West is not interested in the Club-smallK...only aces.

Back to the problem

No pair beat 6Spade-small. Presumably, a second high heart was played with declarer drawing trump, maybe playing a round or 8 of spades before taking the diamond finesse to make their slam. Defensive disaster. “How did I know, partner” pleaded the North players. The answer, of course, lies in giving count.

Of the 19 North players, only two led the Heart-smallK, including at one table where slam was made. This suggests that giving count is not a priority down Queenstown way.

Ace attitude: King Count

The above is a good saying to remember and a good system to play. It could have worked here, especially in the bidding sequence given above. It means that if you want to know if partner likes the suit you lead, lead the ace and if you want to know how many they hold, lead the king.

Against this slam, even against game, you want the count. So, lead the king. There are two methods of giving count (“natural” where your lowest card shows an odd number and a higher card played first will be an even number or “reverse” which is the other way round.)

Assuming the above bidding, and that you are playing natural count, your partner follows to trick one with Heart-small5. North can actually see the Heart-small2, Heart-small3 and Heart-small4 and knows that partner, who jumped to 4Heart-small must have five hearts. If you know that partner has 5 hearts, then think about what you play next.

Even if North-South had not bid hearts, it seems almost impossible that a player would jump to 6Spade-small with three small hearts in their hand (if South is showing North an odd number, 3). West must have loads of spades and probably a heart shortage. Trust that Heart-small10. You can do that much more comfortably if your partner has given count.

So, why switch to a club?

You know that the diamond finesse is working and that if declarer needs to take it, they will. Say declarer had 8 solid spades and 4 clubs? That seems one good reason to play a club. Partner would play a black card that is not a club.  

Another reason is the hand declarer held. Certainly, 10 card suits are hard to imagine but if you can count West for very very long spades, then the actual layout is a possibility. Ultimately, though, it all came down to giving count.

Against 4Spade-small or 5Spade-small

North’s problem is a little different though knowing the count could still be helpful.

If offered the diamond finesse, those declarers in 5Spade-small should always refuse it. “Never endanger your contract by taking a finesse.” For those declarers in 4Spade-small, the problem is different and were the finesse to lose, the contract is still secure.

Trivia Solution

As you can see, the answer was “two” entries, a diamond and the Spade-small4. How many times have you seen a suit headed by the 4 which provides an entry to that hand on the second round of the suit?

The Tournament Winners

Congratulations to Joy and Des Baird who won the event. They were one of the pairs who stopped accurately on the above board in 5Spade-small and made a safe 11 tricks. That only earned them 10 match-points out of 36. Good bidding does not always get you top boards. If you do bid well consistently, you will get good results as Joy and Des can testify.

Thanks to the director, Ross Sherwood for submitting this deal. It was certainly one all at Queenstown would have been talking about after the event, you can count on that. Counting? Maybe some of those North-South pairs will do so in future?

Richard Solomon

 

 

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