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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

False Confidence

Some good defence left a declarer recently with a large slice of egg on their face. The defence was better than their bidding but it was the declarer who was found wanting at the crunch moment:

 

Board 11
South Deals
None Vul
   
A 10
J 3 2
A 9 5 2
A 9 8 3
 
N
W   E
S
 
K Q 7 3 2
K Q 9
6
K Q 6 4
West North East South
      Pass
1 NT Pass 2  Dbl
2  Pass 3 NT All pass

While a bid of 3Club-small on the second round might have led the partnership to the safety of a 4Spade-small contract (making even if hearts broke 6-1), East was happy enough to offer 3NT as a contract after South’s double of the 2Heart-small transfer bid. With only two spades, West sat out 3NT, even if they were rather dubious of the heart lay-out.

However, to West’s and probably South’s surprise, North led the Diamond-smallK, not a heart. “Had North not seen South’s double” thought West? After a heart lead (assuming South ducked one round), West would have had a comfortable time playing on the black suits.

That dangerous feeling of over-confidence spread quickly to West as South played Diamond-small10 under the king. West won with their ace and decided to test clubs before spades. That was fine as long as the suit broke 3-2 in the defence’s hands…which it did. South threw two and North one heart as four rounds of clubs passed peacefully.

On then to spades with North playing Spade-small9 then Spade-smallJ. On the third round of spades, West threw a heart and North a small diamond.. and suddenly, West realised their contract was not just precarious but could be defeated:

Board 11
South Deals
None Vul
J 9
8 7
K Q J 8 4 3
J 5 2
A 10
J 3 2
A 9 5 2
A 9 8 3
 
N
W   E
S
 
K Q 7 3 2
K Q 9
6
K Q 6 4
 
8 6 5 4
A 10 6 5 4
10 7
10 7
West North East South
      Pass
1 NT Pass 2  Dbl
2  Pass 3 NT All pass

Too Late to change plan

West tried to sneak a heart trick for their ninth trick by leading Heart-small9 off dummy but South was awake to that rising with Heart-smallA to play the high Spade-small8 and then Diamond-small7 with North’s Diamond-smallQJ8 taking the last three tricks for down 1. It would not have mattered if West had not cashed their third spade winner: North would then have had four diamond winners instead of three in diamonds and the spade trick.

West had been too casual and had not thought about the big clue South had given in the bidding.

South’s double of 2Heart-small was very risky. Some days, it might guide their partner towards the best lead though South’s hearts were not robust. West would be favourite to make 2Heart-smallxx if that had ended as the final contract. Here, it told West where the Heart-smallA was.

Good Defence

South did do well to “unblock” the Diamond-small10 under the king at trick 1. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for the defence to take 3 diamond tricks had West played on hearts at any point. Yet, the real damage was done for the declaring side by West winning the first trick with the Diamond-smallA. Diamond-small10 may have been a singleton though maybe not. It was not as though West was giving up the chance to make all 13 tricks by ducking trick 1.

The most tricks West could take without losing the lead was 10 assuming both black suits broke evenly. Ducking at least the first trick and maybe the Diamond-smallQ continuation as well was not going to endanger the contract. The only justification in winning the second diamond was if playing Pairs that with both black suits breaking, West needed to outscore those declarers in 4Spade-small who could make 12 tricks.

As the cards lay above,11 tricks could be made in 4Spade-small while ducking one round of diamonds would have enabled West to make 11 tricks in 3NT (460), an excellent score, beating everyone except for any brave declarer who tried and succeeded for 12 tricks in clubs.

Average plus is a good score....

Our West did not think about the bidding or the implication of the play of Diamond-small10 at trick 1. They should have scored +430 or +460 for a top or average result rather than the complete bottom they scored. Always be aware of a danger which awaits the carefree....and have no more of that egg...

egg on your face.jpg

Richard Solomon

 

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