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Tales of Akarana

There is little worse in a bridge score-up than a double game swing against your side. There was more than one hand last night where “the 5 level did belong to the opponents” contrarily to the common saying.

At our table on the following board, we all reached the optimum contract of 5Spade-smallx but only one side achieved the optimum score…and it was not ours!

The “5 level minefield”

     
Board 17
North Deals
None Vul
 
N
W   E
S
 
A J
4
Q 10 9 5 4
K Q 10 3 2
 
Q 5
A 9 5 3
K J 8 2
A 6 5
West North East South
    dummy you
  1  2 NT 3 
4  5  5  Dbl
All pass      

 

Your 3Club-small showed a strong hand, at least a game invite, with heart support. West announced a lot of spades after their partner’s minor showing 2NT. After partner’s second heart bid, you decide to take the axe to the freely bid 5Spade-small and see your partner start off with a useful looking Diamond-smallA. You encourage with Diamond-small2 and partner continues Diamond-small7 to the Diamond-small10 and your Diamond-smallJ as West follows with Diamond-small6.

Which card do you play at trick 3?

The play at our table did not go like that at all but it might have done. We will examine the actual defence shortly.

What about trying to promote a trump trick for yourself by leading your Diamond-small8? Maybe cash Club-smallA first? Assuming your Heart-smallA will stand up, you might even beat this contract by two or three tricks. Before all is revealed, how many trumps do you think your partner has? West must have at least 8 considering they do not hold three of the four top honours. At best, your partner has one trump….at worst none.

Thus, before you start trying for two down (maybe 3 if we include the Club-smallA), make sure you beat the contract. Cash that Heart-smallA. Then start trying for a trump promotion. Not the other way round!

Board 17
North Deals
None Vul
K J 10 8 7 2
A 7
J 9 8 7 4
K 10 9 8 7 6 4 3 2
Q 6
6 3
 
N
W   E
S
 
A J
4
Q 10 9 5 4
K Q 10 3 2
 
Q 5
A 9 5 3
K J 8 2
A 6 5
West North East South
       
  1  2 NT 3 
4  5  5  Dbl
All pass      

 

West might go for gold if you play the low diamond before cashing the Heart-smallA. Discard one heart on the low diamond, ruff out the Diamond-smallK, draw trumps and claim. Not a good result for the defence.

Avoiding Disaster

Yet, that was not the disaster that happened at our table. I was vaguely aware that leading doubleton Diamond-smallA at trick one could cause problems for my partner in terms of my having no trumps. So, I opted for the lead of the Heart-smallJ. Partner won but was not sure what to do at trick 2. The “safe” trump exit proved not so safe when the Club-smallK was advanced with dastardly effect. Very soon, one of West’s diamonds had disappeared on the established Club-smallQ and the contract had made.

How then to take one’s three defensive tricks? There was no reason to expect that leading Diamond-smallA was going to be the winner for the defence though in itself, the heart lead was not going to create enough winners. So, start off with that Diamond-smallA but ignore partner’s encouraging signal. Switch to the Heart-smallJ at trick 2. Now, if partner thinks you only have one diamond, they will cash the Diamond-smallK before giving you your hoped-for trump trick. Kind of saving partner from themselves and recording +100. If only….

5Spade-small made 3 times and was defeated twice, once on a heart lead and the other time on the Club-small7 from North. Obviously, declarer did not insert Club-small10 from dummy. At several tables 5Heart-small was bid and made, each time on the Spade-smallA lead. Were the Club-smallK led at trick 1, North must not play the ace or else there will be three losers. As long as declarer ducks, the third round of clubs produces a trick for declarer.

However, the 5 level this time belonged to your side not the opposition if you were East-West. -100 was a good outcome as compared with -450 and +450 or 650 an even better one!

Richard Solomon

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