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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

WHAT IF?

We can dream of nice things happening in our life, a big Lotto win, a visit from a long-lost friend, perhaps even a well-played bridge hand. I am sure at least one of those has happened: not sure about all three! Yet, those two little words in the title above should be on everyone’s lips when you see your dummy, especially if you are in a game or slam contract, especially one that looks very makeable. That is the time when you need to be very alert to any possible dangers. Sometimes there is nothing you can do about a danger. Often, you can.

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

 

A good auction with the jump to 4Club-small showing a near opener, four card spade support and a singleton or void club. 4Diamond-small and 4Heart-small were first or second round cue-bids with 5Diamond-small showing one or four key cards.

West leads Heart-smallJ and both opponents follow to the first round of hearts (no Heart-smallQ appears).

“A nice - looking dummy for a passed hand, partner” you think to yourself as you do the traditional thanks to partner. They have all they promised with a couple of bonuses in the form of the Spade-smallJ and the fifth heart. You want to make this contract. Whether you are in slam, or indeed in game wishing you were in slam, you should be aiming to make 12 tricks.

So, without too many thoughts, declarer won the Heart-smallA, drew trumps in three rounds finishing in dummy and led a club towards the KQT. When West won their ace over the king and exited a diamond, the declarer won with Diamond-smallK in dummy, cashed Heart-smallK and ruffed a heart in their hand….but West had started with four hearts:

North Deals
N-S Vul
K J 8 5
K 8 5 4 2
K 6 2
8
3
J 10 9 7
9 8 5
A 9 7 5 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
10 7 6
Q 3
Q J 10 3
J 6 4 3
 
A Q 9 4 2
A 6
A 7 4
K Q 10

 

South played Club-smallQ discarding a diamond from dummy and ruffed a diamond but that was their last entry to dummy and there was nowhere to dispose of the losing Club-small10 in declarer’s hand….down one.

Can you see declarer’s error? They wasted a vital entry to dummy when West exited a diamond, winning in dummy and then playing Heart-smallK. On that exit from West, declarer had to win the diamond in their own hand.

6Spade-small is cold, unbeatable, if spades break 2-2, or hearts break 3-3 or if East holds the Club-smallA. That is a pretty high percentage, something like 88% of the time. “What if” you are playing in the 12% when none of those three situations occur?

There are two ways you can make 12 tricks. You can either set up the heart suit for at least one discard, maybe both if the suit breaks 3-3, or you can choose to ruff both your losing diamond and club in dummy.

Certainly, it seems reasonable to draw three rounds of trumps and finish in dummy to take advantage of the times when East does have the Club-smallA. When they do not, you have to be careful to preserve all your entries to dummy. Had West exited a heart to dummy’s king, they would have solved your problem. The diamond exit did give the declarer the chance to go wrong, an opportunity they took!

To retain the opportunity of ruffing both losers in dummy, declarer might only draw two rounds of trumps before playing the club. This looked safe enough as the lead of Heart-smallJ indicated West held Heart-smallQ. A heart ruff when in with Club-smallA seemed unlikely, unless the jack itself was a singleton. However, drawing trumps in three rounds seemed sound enough as long as South kept all necessary entries to dummy.

By winning the diamond exit in their hand, declarer was about, not to set up the heart suit for discards, but to finish by making the dummy hand the hand with no losers. Win Diamond-smallA and play a heart to the ace and ruff a heart. Back to the Diamond-smallK and ruff another heart. Now, diamond ruff and the fifth heart in dummy is declarer’s 12th trick.

Seems straightforward? 9 out of 23 declarers only made 11 tricks. Most of those were only in game. That was not the point, especially playing Pairs. When trumps broke 3-1, and the Club-smallA was not where you wanted it, there was a chance that an apparently simple contract required just a little care.

“What if?”

be careful.jpg

 

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

 

1NT rebid shows 12-14.

Not for the first time in your life, you may not have not found the best lead. You led the Heart-small5 which went to your partner’s ace. Back came Heart-small7 to declarer’s thoughtful Heart-smallJ and your Heart-smallK. Which card do you play at trick 3?

Get it right and you could make your partner a hero. See you tomorrow and find out why.

Richard Solomon

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