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Play and Defend Better: for improving players 5

 A MATTER OF COUNTING.

Trumps, tricks, the number of hearts in one hand, the number of spades outstanding…the number of boards left in the session of bridge before you can get a drink! You are always counting something when you sit down at the bridge table. What a pity our South player was oblivious to doing a bit of mental arithmetic (it was worth learning how to do that all those years ago at school!) on the following board.

Nothing flash…. All you need is 9 tricks but our declarer fell short….

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

 

Plan the play on the Heart-small 4 lead from West, East contributing Heart-small10 to trick 1.

South’s 1NT was in the balancing 4th seat and therefore could have been a little weaker than a 1NT overcall otherwise would be, more in the 12-15 high card point range. When North enquired (2Spade-small was a range-finder), South jumped to game as they were maximum for their bid.

West led the Heart-small4 and South was relieved that their partner’s heart holding helped cement their own somewhat tenuous hold. Maybe that made South relax. They won trick 1 in hand with the queen. South knew that most if not all of the defence’s high card points were with West. So, set up diamonds for three tricks by losing one and then take a successful spade finesse.

Thus, they played a diamond to the Diamond-smallK with all following low and then a second diamond to the Diamond-small9 their Diamond-small10 and West’s jack. West exited with Heart-smallJ. Declarer played dummy’s king, winning the trick…and played two more rounds of diamonds (West discarding a club and East a club and a spade) followed by Spade-smallQ… but the roof suddenly fell in when the trick was taken by East’s king. “How unlucky was that?” South thought to themselves as the defence took three heart tricks to defeat the contract by one trick. The answer to South’s rhetorical question was “not very” as these were the four hands:

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

 

Whatever South was counting at trick 1, it was not tricks! To a degree, they were unlucky that it was East who held the Spade-smallK. Yet, West had a legitimate if very light 1 level opening bid. Thus, their opening did not have to contain the Spade-smallK.

If the Spade-smallK was with East, then they would have to lose the lead twice in order to set up deep diamond and spade tricks. Yet, they only had two holds in hearts not three. As long as South can secure two heart tricks, they can come to 9 tricks, no matter where the Spade-smallK was by leaving diamonds well alone and by playing on spades. Three spade tricks (even after losing one) plus two in each other suit comes to 9. Therefore, South made a big error at trick 2 in not playing spades.

diamond.png diamond.png diamond.png

                  Leave well alone!

They should have realised what a lucky break they got with the opening lead because if West starts with Club-smallQ, the defence can come to 5 tricks (2 in clubs and 1 in each other suit) before declarer can take 9. They threw away their lucky break by being too casual and not counting tricks at trick 1.

If the contract had been made, the declarer could “recount” the success story  on the above board with the post- match glass of wine!

Richard Solomon

 

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