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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

A LITTLE CARE…

I saw, participated in over 500 boards at last week’s National Bridge Congress. I am sure there were a number of good plays and defences during the week. This one caught my eye as, unfortunately, I was on the receiving end of a piece of careful declarer play.

Only three declarers in the Open Swiss Pairs made 3NT on this board after receiving the challenging lead of a low heart to North’s HJ at trick 1. What would be your line of play (clubs break 3-3)?

Board 23
South Deals
Both Vul
   
A K 7 4
3 2
6 5
A K Q 4 3
 
N
W   E
S
 
8 3 2
K 10 8 5
K Q J 8
9 7
West North East South
Dummy   Declarer  
      Pass
1  2  Dbl Pass
3  Pass 3 NT All pass

 

East had an easy 3NT call after their partner’s strength showing jump in spades, having good holds in both red suits. With clubs breaking 3-3, declarer had five club tricks, two top spades and one in hearts. It seemed an easy matter to play diamonds from dummy after cashing the clubs to come to 9 tricks. However, if that was your line (win Heart-smallK and run the clubs), then 9 tricks would become 8 rather quickly:

Board 23
South Deals
Both Vul
J
J 7
A 10 9 7 4 3 2
J 6 5
A K 7 4
3 2
6 5
A K Q 4 3
 
N
W   E
S
 
8 3 2
K 10 8 5
K Q J 8
9 7
 
Q 10 9 6 5
A Q 9 6 4
10 8 2
West North East South
Dummy   Declarer  
      Pass
1  2  Dbl Pass
3  Pass 3 NT All pass

 

The board was all over at trick 1. If you won the Heart-smallJ with your king, you would then lose four heart tricks and the Diamond-smallA before you could come to 9. It does not feel right to duck the first round of hearts but it was crucial to do so in order to make the contract.

The danger was South having led from a five- card suit. North’s diamond bid almost certainly placed the Diamond-smallA with North. You had to give up winning one heart trick in order to cut the defence’s communications. If hearts broke 4-3, then the suit posed declarer no danger.

East, Graeme Norman, ducked the Heart-smallJ and played low again when North returned the suit. As South, I knew the Heart-smallK would not be falling if I laid down my ace. I exited with a passive club. Graeme played five rounds of the suit, Spade-smallA and then a diamond to the king, followed by the Diamond-smallQ. All North had left was diamonds with the Diamond-smallJ becoming Graeme’s 9th trick.

Cashing one spade was crucial in that after declarer played his second high diamond, I could have bared the Heart-smallA keeping a spade hold to beat the contract (North would exit the Spade-smallJ when in on the second round of diamonds).

It feels strange to forgo the chance of a heart trick in order to come to 9 tricks but a second diamond trick made up for this loss and gave declarer 9 well earned tricks.

Richard Solomon

 

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