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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

            Where There’s Life, there Can Still Be 9 Tricks.

When only 7 out of 29 players made a “cold” 3NT contract in the recent North Island Teams, it may be worth a look to see what went wrong. Let’s look at the North-South hands (rotated for convenience):

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

 

South opened a strong 1NT after which a Stayman auction took South quickly to 3NT. The lead was the Diamond-smallA, followed in rapid succession by the Diamond-smallK and then Diamond-smallQ, all from West. That seemed like good news for the defence but there was also to be some goodish news for the declarer as well. Each defender had four diamonds with East winning the fourth round with Diamond-small10.

Which card do you discard from dummy and which two do you discard from your own hand?

You have 8 top tricks (on the assumption that you have 4 club tricks…you just have to be positive about that suit as unless a major queen falls in two rounds, you are rather scratching to find 8, let alone 9 top tricks.) and need some luck for the 9th.

Give yourself every chance of one major suit Qx or singleton Q appearing in one of the defenders’ hands. So, as South, you must keep all your clubs and all three hearts. You have to throw two spades.

And from dummy? You need to keep that spade holding in case the Spade-smallQ is the one that comes down early. In fact, you are going to try clubs soon when you win the lead. So, you can afford to throw Club-small6.

Both major suit queens were protected (in each case Qxx) but the contract was still cold.

Let’s look

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

 

If West held Spade-smallQxx and East Heart-smallQxx, then South has no chance. Yet, look what happens to poor West when after declarer cashed Spade-smallAK. These cards remain:

 
J
A K 6 3
Q 8
Q
Q 9 5
J 4 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
5
10 4 2
10 9 3
 
J 8 7
A K 7 5

 

Declarer plays four rounds of clubs.

What does West throw on the fourth round? Either the Spade-smallQ or the Heart-small5. Declarer will have discarded a heart from dummy on the third round of clubs and assuming West throws a heart, declarer will throw that now useless Spade-smallJ from dummy. The last three tricks would be won by the Heart-smallAKJ. Cold… 3NT made….but only by 7 declarers.

A defensive hero?

East has one chance to save the day for the defence. On winning the fourth round of diamonds, they should switch to a low heart and hope South will put up the Heart-smallJ, covered and won in dummy. Now, hearts can be looked after by the “powerful” East hand and West takes care of the spades. No points had East but they still had an important role to play.

Let’s say that 22 East players found the heart switch and 22 declarers put up the jack from their own hand. Do you believe that? I am not sure I do.

The moral is never to give up.  Hope on this hand for an even diamond split and a piece of good luck. All it requires is sensible discarding on the run of the diamonds and you will be well rewarded.

Richard Solomon

 

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