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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

RUNNING OUT OF TRUMPS

  A play problem for you. You are South and become declarer in 4Heart-small. You may criticise the bidding, with justification: more of that shortly. However, it is 4Heart-small you have to make and not 4Spade-small or even 3NT. West leads Club-small4 to East’s Club-smallK. East continues with Club-small3. Over to you. Plan the play.

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

 

So, what’s wrong with the bidding? Nothing until North’s final pass. South had shown at least 5 cards in both major suits with the chance that the first bid suit, spades, could be longer. That was the reason why North should have bid 4Spade-small.

When North passed 4Heart-small, a form of poetic justice took place. 4Spade-small proved easy to make, even though there was a bad trump break.

So, what was your line? If you drew even one round of trumps, you would be writing down a negative score. Here are the four hands:

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

 

In 4Spade-small, declarers ruffed the second club and played on trumps until West took their ace. Club-smallQ now reduced South to less trumps than West but declarer could run hearts and top diamonds until West ruffed. West could do no more damage as they had no clubs left.

What Happened: Losing Trump Control

In 4Heart-small, our declarer ran into similar trouble of having less trumps than an opponent. They ruffed a club at trick 2, drew two rounds of trumps and then played a spade to the king and a second to the queen and ace.

West resisted the urge to give their partner a ruff (the contract makes if they do) but played Club-smallQ. Even had declarer discarded a spade on this, West would put declarer back in dummy with no way back to hand to draw East’s remaining trumps without ruffing.

When South ruffed the Club-smallQ, they had one trump left to East’s two. Declarer played a high spade. East ruffed and played a fourth round of clubs forcing out declarer’s last trump. East took the last two tricks with their remaining trump and the fifth club… down 2.

Had trumps broken 3-3, South’s line would have worked fine. Yet, a 4-2 break is pretty common and South could not cope with that break. South failed because of insufficient planning.

Counting to 10…  count to 10.jpg

At the sight of dummy, declarer had only three possible losers, a club, Spade-smallA and a possible spade ruff. They also failed to notice that if trumps were not touched, they had 10 tricks.

Thus, at trick three, play a spade to the queen and a second spade to the king and ace. On any defence other than Club-smallQ, declarer can draw trumps and enjoy their spade and diamond winners. However, had you stopped to count tricks?

One spade trick, two high diamonds, two ruffs in dummy (yes, ruffing winning spades) and five trump tricks from their own hand. Game made with East being forced to under-ruff as the cross-ruff occurs. This line requires declarer to cash two top diamonds before they start the cross-ruff but cashing side-suit winners first is standard play.

So, wrong contract but a contract which could be made despite one of a declarer’s pet hates, of losing trump control. A good exercise in counting winners when it looked like the defence were going to conquer.

Richard Solomon

 

 

 

 

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