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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

Christmas has come early: don’t you know it!

Well, our declarer did not realise that an early Christmas gift had come their way when they played the following board recently. 23 high card points between the two hands and the sight of dummy making declarer wish they were in a different game contract (3NT). Wishing would not make it happen. You just have to buckle down and make the best of what you have.

Any ideas? Spade-small6 lead greeted you as South in your 4Heart-small contract.

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

Actually, South could only berate themselves for not bidding 3NT after North’s 3Heart-smallbid..not that a diamond lead through the AQ would have done wonders for North’s chances of success. If North had erred in the bidding, it was in bidding 1NT rather than waiting to defend 1Spade-smallx or in their aggressive jump to 3Heart-small…but we are digressing.

At trick 1? West looks an honest fellow. Have they really overcalled without the Spade-smallA at adverse vulnerability? Let’s trust them and play the Spade-small9. Obstacle 1 over as East wins with Spade-smallA and returns Diamond-small5. There’s not much to be done but insert the queen. Alas, the overcaller did have some high cards as the Diamond-smallK won trick 2.

West exited the Spade-small4 (hoping South had the remaining spade) allowing you South to insert Spade-smallT as East followed with Spade-small5. Two discards..one now…one later as East will not have a third spade (West’s overcall confirmed that.). Which card do you throw on the Spade-small9?

Our declarer decided they could get rid of both their small clubs, one now, one later. They threw the first and then played a diamond to the ace and ruffed a diamond. All good? No over-ruff but no way could the game now be made.

Counting Losers

South did not count his losers. After losing a spade and a diamond, trumps had to be played for just one loser and aside from East holding specifically honour 10 doubleton, that was then going to prove impossible (with only two trumps left in dummy).

South should have discarded their diamond loser on the second round of spades, increasing their chances of a favourable trump position and then find take a successful club finesse (you can do it: there's only 2 ways you can finesse!) to give themselves the best chance of making their game contract. Had they then played Heart-small2 off dummy at trick 4, they would have got some very welcome news:

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

 

Up pops a trump honour won with the ace and a finesse of Heart-small8 allows trumps to be played for one loser. Placing West for the Club-smallQ would now be very reasonable (that West hand is no advertisement for a vulnerable overcall) and the contract would have been made. If needed, the Spade-smallK is still in dummy for one club discard.

Had West returned a diamond at trick 3, the defence would have prevailed as by one means or the other, the Heart-small10 would be promoted for a second trump trick and the fourth trick for the defence. When that did not happen, South should have taken advantage of the less than perfect defence and the fortunate lie of the club and heart suits to make their contract.

Here’s hoping you enjoy your Christmas gifts, at and away from the bridge table.

Richard Solomon



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