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Supporting Role to the Star.

Yours is not the star role today. You cannot perform a brilliancy on every board. (Did I hear you say that one every 1,000 would be nice! If so, do not be so negative.) However, you did have a supporting role to play. Can you play it well?

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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?

Well, perhaps you have already done your bit as you did not lead a spade. It did not sound like a winning lead after North’s bid. Yet, it did not seem you were onto a winner either with your choice of a heart. True, partner produced the ace and perhaps when you did not want the suit returned, back it came.

There was no point in ducking but what to do next? Partner figured to have perhaps 3 or 4 more high card points. One possibility was to play partner for the missing club honours, which might provide you with 5 tricks before declarer could get 9 (your Diamond-smallK being crucial). However...

...There were still two possible lay-outs for the heart suit. It did seem that Heart-small7 was second highest of three, hoping you had led from a four-card suit. Yet, it was also just possible that partner started with AQ97 and had returned their original fourth highest, the correct return.

Although declarer’s hesitation before they played Heart-smallJ lessened this possibility, there was no clear switch to make. “As you made your bed” (lead), so “lie in it”. Continue hearts. As support actor, your role was over, more or less, maybe.

Your partner had plenty of time to prepare for their “star turn” as these were the four hands:

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
 
K 9
A 7 4
Q 9 6 4
10 7 5 2
 
6 5
Q J 9 6
A 10 7 5 3
K Q

 

With some potential communication problems, South had done well to play Heart-smallJ, creating a possible extra entry to dummy if needed. However, with the third heart played, declarer needed to be in hand to take the spade finesse. At this point, South had 9 tricks (3 spades, 3 clubs, 2 hearts and the Diamond-smallA) but unravelling them would be a little tricky, even more so with East on the ball.

South could cash the fourth heart with both dummy and East throwing a club. Then came the spade finesse…and it worked! What would you do as declarer? Unblock the clubs and repeat the finesse? That’s the easiest way to 9 tricks…or 8. With declarer cut off from dummy, East can switch to diamonds. An inspired South could rise with the ace in an attempt to force West into having to play to dummy, and if that had happened, South can eventually come to 9 tricks even if West threw the Diamond-smallK under the ace. Try it. That would be a great recovery by the declarer though South could equally duck, hoping diamonds broke 3-3.

Could South smell a rat…perhaps with West’s spade discard on the fourth round of hearts? Certainly, East would wish their small spade was lower than the 9, though it was still hard for South to pick the true spade situation.

Ducking at the critical moment with Kxx is fairly routine. Ducking with Kx is excellent even if those four high spade cards were staring at East. Without the duck, declarer could unravel their nine tricks quite easily, unless East returned their little spade  immediately. If that happened, declarer can take their spade tricks and Club-smallKQ before exiting a low diamond from hand. Only a very smooth duck by West gives the defence a chance of the second diamond trick they would need to defeat the contract.

Who is the ....

star.gif

Maybe, the star of the show then would be you, as West. It seems on this deal pretty standard to duck with Kx! One defender has to, in tempo!

 

 
9
A K 10 9 8 3
K 4
Q 7 6 3
West North East South
Pass 1  Pass 2 
Pass ?    

 You are playing a natural system where partner's 2Diamond-small is just a one round force. It does not matter whether you are playing 4 or 5 card majors. What bid would you make now?

We are still in "Level 3" for a couple more days. What "level" bid would you make here? Tomorrow brings the answer.

Richard Solomon

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