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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

Hero or Villain?

Why when defending no-trumps does partner always seem to lead a suit in which you have a small singleton or doubleton? Actually, that is just not true. You may only remember the bad leads. Sometimes, they actually make a good lead! When they do, do not let them down!

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Remember…..

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

 

1Club-small could be as short as 3 while the 1NT rebid put South in the 12-14 hcp range.

West leads Heart-small8 with declarer playing low from dummy? Which card do you play to trick 1 and if you win the trick, to trick 2?

hero.pngHero....

When you defeat a 3NT game by 2 tricks while some defeat the contract by just one trick and other defenders having to write down – 400, you would think your actions as East were just great.

Let’s just pause for thought and look at all four hands:

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

 

At the table, East won the opening Heart-small8 lead with the king, cashed the Heart-smallA and exited a low heart, the suit breaking evenly. South had 5 diamond tricks, one in hearts and two certain club tricks. The ninth trick could either come from spades where they would have to guess which honour to play from the North hand or from clubs, which would involve a club finesse. If the club finesse lost, South would want to be able to cash winning clubs if the defence did not switch to spades. Therefore, if the declarer goes for spades or the club finesse, these suits have to be played  before South runs the diamond suit.

Being a typical bridge player, whose guesses always seem to backfire, South elected to go for the club finesse. So, at trick 3, a diamond was played to the queen (South might have improved their line slightly by throwing Heart-smallQ under the ace and winning the third heart in dummy..hiding the position of Diamond-smallK from East at least) and then came a losing club finesse…but no fourth round of hearts was cashed. You can see above why.

In fact, West switched to Spade-small7. Rather lazily, South called for dummy’s jack with East’s queen winning the trick. The Heart-small9 and low spade followed in quick succession…. Down 2! Great for the defence.

Indeed it was. The contract can legitimately be defeated by two tricks on an initial low spade lead from West with declarer putting in the jack and East playing a low heart at trick 2 (or high heart..then low heart). Certainly, then South could play on spades and be one down, not a good result when a successful club finesse would have seen 9 tricks.

villain.pngDon't be the villain

However, after a heart lead, the defence has to be careful to defeat the contract by even one trick. South should have made his contract on the actual defence. Unless West had masochistic tendencies, they did not hold the outstanding heart. So, when the low spade was played, South should have risen with Spade-smallK, their best chance of making the contract i.e. of keeping East off lead.

So, our East was both hero and villain! “Hero” in that they orchestrated a defence to beat the contract by 2 tricks but “villain” in that the defence of cashing 3 rounds of hearts cut communication with their partner and thus gave the declarer a legitimate chance of success when they actually had none on the line taken by declarer, a legitimate line.

Had West led from a doubleton heart (presumably not Q8 or 108), then the defence could only take 2 heart tricks. Had West led from a four -card suit headed by the 8, then the defence would always take 3 hearts tricks, no more no less.

Yet, the lead could so easily be what it was, top of a three- card suit. With no clear outside entry, East should have not won both of the first two tricks. It would be fine to win trick 1 but play low at trick 2. You would certainly be glad you had if that initial lead been from QT8 or even Q84 (that middle card is not a silly lead…. a kind of unblocking card if their partner has reasonable hearts). Here, leading a low heart at trick 2, ensured the defence would take three hearts, Spade-smallA and Club-smallQ to defeat the contract.

It is nice to defeat a contract by two tricks but make sure you defeat the contract at all before worrying about how many under-tricks you can take.

Certainly, South could always have made their contract by leading a low spade to the king after scoring Heart-smallQ. Declarers do not always get such guesses right. Would you have done?

How many hearts did you cash as East? Were you “hero” and “villain” or just “hero”?

And a double dose for tomorrow…two auctions in the stratosphere:

East Deals
None Vul
   
8
J 10 9 2
A K J 9 2
10 6 3
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
you      
    1  1 
Dbl 4  5  Pass
Pass 5  Pass Pass
?      

 and:

 

South Deals
Both Vul
   
K Q 5 3 2
A Q J 10 9 8
A 6
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
you      
      1 
2  5  Pass Pass
?      

 

The first auction is natural. In the second, your 2Diamond-small showed both majors, Michaels style. It is up to you what point-count you assign to this bid, whether

“ always constructive, 9+hcp” or “weak or strong”. The hand seems to fit both descriptions. 1Diamond-small is 4+ diamonds.

Would your answer to the above two questions be any different if you were playing Pairs or Teams' style bridge?

See you all tomorrow.

Richard Solomon

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