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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

            Trust your Partner: not their Bidding!

The first half of the above statement is definitely true. It is great for partnership morale and it is usually good for your score as well! Even if the opponents’ bidding suggests otherwise, you just have to believe the person you have chosen to sit opposite you. At least, it is good for the post-mortem, even if you were to record a poor score. Yet, you usually will not!

Welcome to West, your “hot seat” for today.

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

 

It is you on lead…well, that is not the problem. You lead the Heart-smallK and might be a little encouraged by the weak hand you see in dummy.

After the customary thanks, South decides to duck the opening lead. Your partner contributes Heart-small2. Your system is “low encourage”. What now?

West reasoned that South must have some length in hearts for their 3NT bid and therefore exited with Heart-small4, ensuring at least one more heart trick, certainly two more if East gained the lead. Surely South had Heart-smallJxx for their jump to 3NT?

A second later, West realised that what they had guessed was not the actual lay-out because on the second round of hearts, South contributed Heart-smallJ! Look at the defensive disaster which followed.

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

 

South was still alive but needed something good to happen. Three top spades showed that there was no joy for South in that suit with West throwing a diamond on the third round. That was followed by the Club-smallJ covered by East who discarded their now useless spade winner (there was no entry to dummy) on the third round of that suit.

South was done…or so they thought. They gave West their club trick…but West could only cash two high hearts (that’s 3 in total along with a club winner) before handing South back the lead with a diamond…and a very relieved South now had three spade tricks, two red aces and four club winners (one club had to be thrown on the Heart-small10) for 9 rather fortunate tricks.

What went wrong for the defence? The answer is that East had played an encouraging heart at trick 1. Did West see that? Why? Encourage?  That would hardly be the case if South had 3 or 4 hearts to the jack. West did not believe that their partner could possibly have a 5-card heart suit. Granted that the bidding made it unlikely but if your partner had four hearts, it would not cost to exit with Heart-small10. Even if West could not bring themselves to exit with Heart-smallQ at trick 2, they could risk Heart-small10. Then, the defence would just have to score 4 heart tricks and a club. South’s jump to 3NT was not a good bid but West allowed them to get away with it. West not only lost the match-points but almost as importantly lost the post-mortem too.

Trust partner..your partner. It is usually a great idea.

What went wrong with the bidding? While we criticize the bidding, it is worth thinking about what South should have bid over 2Diamond-small. A “fourth suit forcing"artificial 2Heart-small would have been a good idea as without a heart hold, 3NT is no great contract.

However, as you can see, even with North’s heart hold,3NT should be defeated even if North is the declarer as long as East leads a heart. West would still need to be careful in preserving that Heart-small4 if the declarer ducks the Heart-small10 at trick 1 but with Heart-smallJ in dummy, the correct defence should be easy for West.

Ironically, there are 3 North-South games which do make, 4Spade-small, 5Diamond-small and 5Club-small . After 2Heart-small by South, North can rebid 3Diamond-small showing a 5 card suit. Now, 3Spade-small or a diamond  bid from South would get the partnership to a making game:

                                            North                 South

                                           1Spade-small                     2Club-small

                                           2Diamond-small                     2Heart-small

                                           3Diamond-small                     3Spade-small

                                           4Spade-small                    Pass              

What South did right. While we do not think that South’s 3NT bid was correct, they did do something smart in the play of the hand. Had South taken the Heart-smallA at trick 1, West just could not go wrong as long as they cashed a high heart when they regained the lead. Ducking the opening lead gave West the opportunity to block the suit, an opportunity West accepted “with open arms”. Ducking was almost no cost and this time was a big but unlikely winner for South.

What West did right. It is time to be nice to West. They did do something good in the defence. Alas, it was too late to defeat the contract. Did you notice West discarded a diamond and not a club on the third round of spades? West realised that since South had bid clubs, that their hold in that suit might be important. It was... but only if West had preserved the vital Heart-small4 at trick 2.

Altogether,a very interesting board.

Richard Solomon

 

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