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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

Keeping Control.

It is very frustrating for a declarer to run out of the one thing that they hope to have plenty of…trumps! Some contracts are blown away because a declarer has none left, or less than an opponent. Were we to look at this problem from a defender’s point of view, we would say keep forcing the declarer to ruff until they are uncomfortably low in trumps. However, today we are on the declarer’s side!

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West Deals
N-S Vul
4 3
J 2
Q J 8 7
A Q J 10 8
   
N
W   E
S
   
 
A K Q 10 5
10
A 9 6 4
5 4 3
West North East South
Pass Pass 2  2 
Dbl Pass 3  Pass
Pass 3  All pass  

 

A competitive auction sees you reach 3Spade-small . East’s 2Diamond-small was either weak in a major or 20-22 balanced. After your overcall, West’s double was competitive asking their partner what they held. It looked like the opponents were about to declare in 3 Heart-smallwhen your partner finally emerged from their silence, perhaps feeling that thy owed you a bid!

“Great trump support, partner” you thought when you saw dummy. West led the Heart-small3 to East’s king. East followed with the Heart-small A which you ruff. Which card do you play to trick 3?

There is every chance on such an auction that one of the defenders is going to have four trumps and with East having six hearts to West’s four, there is a strong likelihood that that would be West. If you start drawing trumps and that is indeed the case, this contract will be in deep trouble.

      Losing Control!

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You would need huge good fortune in the minor suits, especially clubs, to come to 9 tricks as, one losing finesse will see you could end up with less trumps than one opponent.

So, if you have to lose the lead, lose it before the “tapping” becomes dangerous, before those ruffs can hurt. If declarer were to start on trumps first and found a favorable 3-3 break, they would be fine, indeed even if the club finesse lost. There would still be 5 trump tricks, 4 clubs and the Diamond-smallA.

However, there are also some 4-2 trump breaks when South can make their contract, though care is needed. Before touching trumps, South is best to take the club finesse. If it loses, then a third heart could be ruffed in dummy, preserving South’s trump length. When the finesse wins, South may still be glad that they had not touched trumps first:

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

 It would be possible that East still held the Club-smallK when the Club-smallQ scored. Such a duck has been made many times to the annoyance of a declarer. However, after showing up with the two top hearts, East would not be favourite to hold either minor king. West must have some high cards for their double.

One option when the club finesse worked would be to take the diamond finesse, again before drawing trumps. That loses with West switching to a low club. South must finesse again, losing a ruff. However, East cannot harm the declarer because there are still trumps in dummy. South would then emerge with 10 tricks.

Alternatively, South might hope now for some good news and turn their attention to trumps. Two rounds bring some strange but welcome news, the fall of the Spade-smallJ. South can now draw trumps and effectively play the hand in no-trumps with the very dangerous heart suit lurking should the lead be lost.

As long as South took that early club finesse, they would be fine as South needs to take a third club finesse to establish the suit, the third entry to hand being a diamond to the ace. 5 spades, 5 clubs and Diamond-smallA. South would have wished to have been a level higher!

Whichever line was taken, the important point was a club finesse before trumps were touched.

Both lines above have their risks, either a club hold-up by East, or where West’s Diamond-smallK was a singleton. However, both are much better than even taking one round of trumps early. Retaining trump control was vital with the overtricks being a bonus, a reward for careful play.

A good bid by North, too, as East-West could make 9 comfortable tricks in 3Heart-small. Who needs good trumps? “Partner” said North!

Time for a Good Lead?

North Deals
Both Vul
   
6 4 2
Q J 9 6 2
9 5
K 6 5
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
  1  Pass 1 
1  Dbl Pass 2 
Pass 2  Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT All pass  

 It always is that time when you find yourself in the "leading" position.

North started proceedings with a Precision 1Club-small (16+ any shape) with South's 1Diamond-small being the standard 0-7 any shape negative. You stick half a toe into the water with 1Heart-small as on some day sometime it may prove to be a useful lead- directing bid.

You might wonder the wisdom of this when North doubles and South thinks for some time. Being declarer in a doubled contract even at the 1 level is not on your "wish list" with the 13 cards you hold. However, all's well as South then North exchange miinor suit bids before East grabs the no-trumps in front of their strong partner.

So, your lead? See you after the Budget.

Richard Solomon

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