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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

Which Club?

Give a bridge player an opportunity to go wrong and the chances are they will accept it with open arms. So, if there is anything we can do to save one’s partner from themselves, then we should strive to do that. It’s a sign of a good, a thoughtful bridge player, just as important as counting the cards, executing a squeeze and the million and one other marks of a good player.

So, you are in the hot seat of making that critical decision. Let’s see if you get it right:

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

 

After you open a 12-14 1NT, your right hand opponent bids 2Heart-small with South closing out the auction in 3NT. Your partner, West, makes the interesting lead of the Club-smallJ and immediately, you are very pleased that you play “upside down” signals so that you can play your Club-small2 to say you like the lead.

Partner is still on lead at trick 2 and plays Club-small10. Over to you…..?

You have a choice. If you think your partner has/could have a 5 card suit, you must play one of your top honours now, to avoid the suit blocking. If you think your partner has a 4 card or maybe a 3 card suit (JTx), then you should play low, Club-small4. It can be stated that the assumption is that South started with the Club-smallK and at least two small clubs. If West held that honour, there is no problem.

So, your answer is…. and needless to say, at the table, East made the wrong decision and played low allowing the contract to make:

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

 

There were different arguments put forward from both players. West argued that by playing the Club-small10, they were saying the suit was solid and that partner could unblock their honours.

East was unsure how many clubs West held and felt they should take three certain club tricks, rather than risking the possibility of setting up a second middle club in declarer’s hand, especially if the lead was from JTx.

Murphy's Law....or "The Wisdom of Solomon"

Who, therefore, is correct? The answer is “both” and “ neither”!

East’s argument was valid but was a tad self-defeating. We like the idea of beating contracts and with a rather threatening 6 card heart suit in dummy and one’s own partner having a very weak hand, therefore, it would be much more appealing to hope that West had 5 clubs. If you give up the second overtrick by playing the Club-smallQ, you can tell partner that you were just dreaming and hoping for a 5 card suit. You had a plan, even if it backfired!

Technically, West’s play of the Club-small10 was correct but it ignored two factors:

  1. that their lead could have come from a three or four card suit.
  2. that West could have saved their partner any anguish. All West had to do was to lead their bottom club, Club-small6 and East would have put in one of their honours (“third player plays high”). It did not matter which.

Making it as easy as you can for your partner. It’s a great idea. It is not something you can do on every board but when you can, it can be worth both bundles of match-points or imps.

Yes, the opponents should have been in a major suit game. That is not the defence’s issue here. Beat the contract they aimed to make if you can.

Richard Solomon

 

 

 

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