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Tales of Akarana

Strange Singletons.

Those "pure" folk who rarely risk the slam zone with less than a combined 30 count may have prospered this week at Akarana, though not entirely. There were a number of lower point count combinations where a slam looked most enticing but not all the defence’s honours were where declarer wanted them.

They were with the following but would you bid to 6Spade-small with the following collection:

Spade-small A9632    Heart-small AJT    Diamond-small AQJ7   Club-small 4  knowing that your partner had 4 card spade support missing the trump queen, an opening hand, had the missing two key-cards (Spade-smallK and Club-smallA) but had signed off in game when you showed a singleton club, Jacoby style?

It seems likely that they have wasted honours in clubs or perhaps not too many other honours. Slam needed one of two good things to happen….and when the Spade-smallQ was singleton, you could take whichever red suit finesse you fancied as the small slam was secure:

Board 5
North Deals
N-S Vul
A 9 6 3 2
A J 10
A Q J 7
4
Q
K 9 4 3
9 5 2
Q 8 7 6 3
 
N
W   E
S
 
10 8 7
8 7 5 2
K 8 6 3
10 9
 
K J 5 4
Q 6
10 4
A K J 5 2

 

Only half the field bid that one though we had no company in the following one, wisely for the majority pairs.

Your hand was more modest:

Spade-smallK832    Heart-small AJ84    Diamond-small 73    Club-small A65

and at the moment of your key decision, you knew partner who opened the bidding 1Diamond-small had a singleton club, Heart-smallKQxx and one of the two missing aces.

Perfect clubs and hearts and plenty of missing hcp in the other two suits. Leaving aside bad trump breaks, the slam is hard to make if diamonds break 4-2 (but that Diamond-smallK was not, this time, where declarer needed it):

Board 22
East Deals
E-W Vul
A 9
10 3 2
J 6 5
Q J 8 7 2
K 8 3 2
A J 8 4
7 3
A 6 5
 
N
W   E
S
 
Q J 7
K Q 9 6
A Q 10 4 2
4
 
10 6 5 4
7 5
K 9 8
K 10 9 3

 

A third slam missing an ace came home when the key Club-smallQ was where a declarer needed it though these cards presented an interesting challenge:

Board 28
West Deals
N-S Vul
   
K Q J 10 3
A 9 8 5
K Q 9 7
 
N
W   E
S
 
9 4 2
Q 10 4 3
A Q
A J 10 8
West North East South
1  Pass 2  Pass
?      

 

At the 11 tables, three pairs played in clubs, five in hearts and three in spades (in each case 2 in slam). The club slam would be good had East had more than two diamonds (i.e. less than 4 hearts) though two heart discards were not sufficient. The declarers had still to play hearts for no loser, or they should have been in that position.  Neither pair in 6Heart-small made their slam, the diamond lead from North in one case beating the slam legitimately.

Board 28
West Deals
N-S Vul
A 8 5
J
10 9 8 6 4 2
6 5 3
K Q J 10 3
A 9 8 5
K Q 9 7
 
N
W   E
S
 
9 4 2
Q 10 4 3
A Q
A J 10 8
 
7 6
K 7 6 2
K J 7 5 3
4 2

 

Interestingly, three slams made (6Spade-small twice and 6Club-small once) when North either led or switched to the Heart-smallJ. With the Spade-smallA a certain trick for the defence, that seems an unnecessarily risky card to play and, on the deal, solved all declarer’s problems. The choice of slams seems to arise from West’s second bid. Those who could make a diamond splinter finished in clubs. Those who rebid in hearts finished with that suit as trumps while 6Spade-small seems a strange choice when a 4-4 club or heart fit was available using the spade suit as potential discards.

Finally, a good singleton lead seemed to go unnoticed at at least three tables on this deal. No slam but strangely the heart game made when one would have thought it should not:

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

 

The bidding at most tables was something similar to the above. Only at one table did East-West bid to 5Club-small, not correct on the board and certainly not when declarer went three down doubled. However, for most, East led Diamond-small10 against 4Heart-small. North seemed absolutely fixed as there was no false-card to be made to hide the true diamond position.    

Strangely, then at three tables, 4Heart-small made after this lead. West does not really have any better plan than to try and give their partner ruffs. That Diamond-small9 in dummy and North's lack of low diamonds are  real give-aways.

Singleton leads can backfire especially when led against a slam when you have an outside trick though generally are a positive way to try and beat contracts.

A singleton Spade-smallQ, a singleton Heart-smallJ and a singleton Diamond-small10. Only one benefited the defence….and then not always.

Richard Solomon

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