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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

This week’s board is topical as it occurred in last weekend’s North Island Teams. If you fail to find the correct line, do not feel too bad as the success rate of those in slam was not that high:

match 6

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

 

As North, you are declarer in 6Spade-small. The above auction is very simple with South asking their partner whether they had good spades (5Spade-small bid), very necessary with their own putrid holding, for slam. Indeed, North did and 16 declarers out of 44 played in 6Spade-small. Let’s say the lead is Heart-smallJ though this contract can be made on any lead.

Of the 16 in slam, only 3 made their contract. Can you?

(while you try, we can consider 2 other ways the slam could have been bid. Firstly, if you play Exclusion Key Card Blackwood, South could have jumped with their second bid to 5Club-small, a very unusual action asking for key cards “excluding” the bid suit, clubs. North had one…and subsequently the Spade-smallQ enabling slam to be reached.

Simple Blackwood, even Key Card is not so useful as North’s “one” could be the Club-smallA. Missing the trump AK is not normally a recipe for success! This time, however, South would have been lucky.)

Bad Break but not Terminal

So, back to the play. If trumps break 3-2, then there is almost certainly no problem. If they break 5-0, there is too big a problem! However, a little care is required with the 4-1 break, assuming West holds the 4 trumps (were East to hold say Spade-small ATxx, there is no play).

Win the Heart-smallA in dummy and play a spade to the king. East’s 9 is a warning!

Ruff a club and try a second spade to the queen. East shows out!

match 6

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

 

If West were to take their ace at this point, that would be the defence’s only trick.

So, now ruff a second club with South’s last trump. You have now to hope West has at least 3 diamonds (“please”). West obliges but ruffs the fourth diamond with Spade-small10. You overruff leaving just Spade-small2 in your hand, cross-back to dummy and play the fifth high diamond. Whether or not West ruffs with their ace, you can discard the last club and make your contract. A very good feeling.

Under half of the 23 declarers in the spade game made 12 tricks though the stakes were not so high. Good bidding and play technique were well rewarded on this deal.

Richard Solomon

Thanks to John Skipper for providing this hand. He and his wife, Jane, were one of the three pairs who bid and made 6Spade-small.

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