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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

Nice One, Michael.

Two questions for you this week but do not feel too bad if you get the answers wrong. You would have plenty of top players for company. Firstly, you are on lead to 3NT and choose to lead the spade Jack. This is what you, North, see in dummy:

Board 16
West Deals
E-W Vul
J 10 6 4
J 9 8 5
K Q 9 7
3
   
N
W   E
S
 
A 9
K Q 10
6 5 4
J 10 8 6 5
West North East South
  You Dummy  
1 NT Pass 3  Pass
3  Pass 3 NT All pass

 

1NT was 15-17 and 3Club-small asked partner if they held a 5-card major. 3Diamond-small said “no” though West could have held one or both four card majors.

Trick 1 saw your Spade-smallJ win the trick. The question is what do you play at trick 2?

The answer to that must be a second spade. It looks like you are onto something good.

The second question puts you in the South seat. You see a similar auction and dummy:

     
Board 16
West Deals
E-W Vul
 
N
W   E
S
 
A 9
K Q 10
6 5 4
J 10 8 6 5
 
7 3 2
A 6 2
J 10 3 2
Q 9 7
West North East South
    Dummy You
1 NT Pass 3  Pass
3  Pass 3 NT All pass

 

1NT was 15-17 and 3Club-small asked partner if they held a 5-card major. 3Diamond-small said “no” though West could have held one or both four card majors. Your partner’s Spade-smallJ held the first trick with a second spade knocking out the ace at trick 2. Declarer then played Club-smallAK and third club to your queen, with your partner having just one club. They discarded a heart and a diamond. What do you play when in with the Club-smallQ?

It looks like partner might have Spade-smallKJT and one or two others. It seems natural to play a third spade.

It can be no secret that the two questions refer to the same deal. The declarer was our own Michael Whibley and all was not what it seemed:

Board 16
West Deals
E-W Vul
J 10 6 4
J 9 8 5
K Q 9 7
3
K Q 8 5
7 4 3
A 8
A K 4 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
A 9
K Q 10
6 5 4
J 10 8 6 5
 
7 3 2
A 6 2
J 10 3 2
Q 9 7
West North East South
1 NT Pass 3  Pass
3  Pass 3 NT All pass

 

South did return a third spade. Michael won and could now lose a trick to the Heart-smallA and had four club tricks, Diamond-smallA, a heart and three spade tricks for his contract.

Great Deception

In case you failed to switch as North (why would you?) or as South (try explaining to your partner who was waiting to take three top spade tricks when you did switch), do not worry. Michael’s play and deception earned him the award for the International Bridge Press Association’s Declarer Play of 2019, a truly great honour. (Remember, this followed last year’s success  by another of our top internationals, GeO Tislevoll, for the Best Defended Hand of 2018.)

Let’s look at trick 1 from Michael’s point of view. He had three spade tricks, one in diamonds… and if clubs broke favourably, he had 9 top tricks. What though if he had to lose a club trick? With 4 clubs, 3 spades and 1 diamond, he had to lose a trick to the Heart-smallA… and if in the meantime, the defence found the diamond switch, he would lose 3 diamonds Club-smallQ and Heart-smallA before he could set up 9 tricks.

If he won the first trick, it might sound like he had spades under control, meaning that a diamond switch might seem the best chance for the defence. He did not know the lie of the diamond suit but could only hold up his ace for one round.

Time, therefore, for a little deception at trick 1. No cost if the Club-smallQ came down in two rounds but possibly a big gain when it did not. Great imagination and deception which made it very hard for the defence to succeed.

So, do not worry if you too continued spades from either seat. Not your error but top declarer play.

Richard Solomon

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