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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

A “Sweet” Lead but Just Dessert.

When you get what looks like a lucky lead, don’t waste your good fortune. Then is the time to be extra extra careful or else you will waste your good luck and will not be so lucky next time. Take a look.

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

 

There are a few things we could say about the bidding. Well, one really. South’s rebid of 2NT showing 12-14 was perhaps not a great choice. If it was right to play in no-trumps, North could make that decision after South had supported clubs. Indeed, if South had bid 3Club-small at their second turn, North would have tried 3Spade-small showing a spade hold but denying one in hearts.

In that case, South should not bid 3NT with four little hearts but call 4Club-small and within a very short time, North would be declarer in the excellent 100% 5Club-small game.

However, that did not happen. What did happen is that West chose to lead Spade-smallJ against 3NT. What is your play to trick 1 and assuming you win the first trick from then on?

South should have been very happy that the opening lead was not a heart. It was very doubtful that South could win a heart trick and if the suit broke 5-3, they would be down before they could gain the lead. Indeed, hearts did break 5-3 causing most declarers to record -50.

Yet, our declarer also recorded -50. They covered the Spade-smallJ with the Spade-smallQ (which is a good idea when you have another suit wide open and a sure play for your contract, even surer if the queen had scored). East contributed the Spade-smallK and South completed a royal trick by winning Spade-smallA. So far so good. Yet, without much thought, South laid down Club-smallA and uttered a fairly unpleasant word when West discarded a heart!

sweet.png  turned to custard 2.png

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

 

All declarer could do now was to take three top clubs, four diamond tricks and the Spade-smallA before giving in. What a shame. We all get lucky sometimes (or have you forgotten your last piece of good luck as it happened so long ago!) and we should treasure our good luck when it happens.

Had that club suit been your trump suit, you would/ should consider the possibility of a 4-0 break and what you can do to avoid a club loser. The answer must be by playing low to the hand which has two high honours. That still gives you the opportunity to finesse either way if the unlikely occurs. It is no different in no trumps though you do not always have the luxury of side-suit entries to both hands which are necessary to enjoy running the suit.

So, here, the order of play should be a club to the queen (a slight pause but relief instead of an expletive!), then club to the 9, Club-smallA, diamond to the queen, cashing the clubs and then return to hand to take the remaining diamond tricks: 11 tricks in all. It would have been just as easy had East shown out on the first round of clubs.

Playing too quickly: playing without thought are reasons why we do not do as well as we could. Some safety plays are not 100%. This one was. Failure to take it really cost our declarer. Next time, they will get a heart lead and have no chance.

Richard Solomon

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