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New To The Table. The Play of the Hand.

Like does mean “Like”.

We worked through last time what we would lead to a simply bid 3NT contract and left you in the middle of trick 2 after you had chosen the SQ. This is what you saw after the opening lead was made:

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

 

Our system is that if partner likes our opening lead that they play the lowest card they can when following suit. At trick 1, our partner, East, played Spade-small2…good news. However, declarer won the trick with Spade-smallK and led Heart-small10 to trick 2. What should you do?  Is declarer about to take a losing heart finesse, if you duck…perhaps losing to your partner’s jack? Do you take your ace or do you duck?

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

 The solution

It was a very good idea to take the Heart-smallA and continue with the Spade-smallJ. As you can see, South had to win the Spade-smallK at trick 1. South could count 5 diamond tricks, 2 club tricks and Spade-smallK. South needed to sneak one heart trick to make his contract. If the spades broke 4-4, then South was safe though a 5-3 break would mean 5 losers (Heart-smallA and 4 spade tricks).

South could have tried running their 5 diamond tricks first, discarding 2 clubs from hand. That would not have worked as long as during the discarding West told their partner that they had a high card in hearts, enabling East to discard safely a heart and a club. (the lead of Spade-smallQ should suggest to East that West holds Spade-smallJ. Hang on to those spades...all of them!)

Instead, South tried to catch West unawares. That Heart-small10 disguised South’s intentions. No way was South going to run that trick to East’s Heart-smallJ. South only needed one heart trick. If West ducks, they would play Heart-smallQ. South tried to give West a reason to play low.

The clues

The big clue for West was their partner’s encouraging Spade-small2 at trick 1. It looked likely that the defence had tricks to take in that suit.

Another clue was the fact that declarer ignored a reasonable looking 5 card diamond suit in dummy. Why? North-South had a maximum 27 high card points between them. It would be unusual for a declarer to ignore such a suit to come to 9 tricks. Therefore, either South had absolutely every honour card outside diamonds (in which case taking your Heart-smallA really makes no difference) or which is more likely, declarer already had 5 tricks there and was looking for an extra trick elsewhere.

If declarer ignores a longish suit in dummy when they have a balanced hand, it is reasonable to assume they have the missing honours in that suit.

If South did not have Diamond-smallA, they are likely to play on diamonds to draw out the ace.

Thus, win the Heart-smallA and take 4 spade tricks or concede 9 tricks in 3NT.

Are you glad you worked out to lead a spade?

Were you awake at trick 2 to take your Heart-smallA and continue Spade-smallJ (as you have only 3 spades, it is vital you play your high honours first)?

If the answers to both questions is “yes”, then you can write in a well-earned +50 on your scoresheet.

Maybe your partner even said after the hand: “great lead, partner.” Nice to hear. It makes you feel pretty good for the next board!

Richard Solomon

 

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