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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

            COUNTING TO NINE.

It’s is nice and straightforward when, in 3NT, you have six tricks in one suit, two in another and one in the suit they led. No degree in mathematics required then. Yet, when you seem to need tricks from some combination of all four suits, and at the same time have an opponent threatening to take enough tricks in their long suit to beat your contract, counting to nine seems an awful lot harder. Take a look:

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

 

2NT showed a balanced 18-19 with North raising quickly to game. Spade-small5 was led to East’s ace with Spade-small9 being returned, West playing Spade-small4. You play a club to the king with West playing Club-smallQ and play Diamond-smallQ losing to West’s king.

West exited with Spade-small10, East playing Spade-small2. You discard Heart-small3 from dummy. What now?

Do you think you should have played Heart-smallK at trick 2?

Spade-small9 return looked awfully like the second highest of a three-card suit which meant West had started with five spades. Therefore, lose the lead twice to West or even once at the wrong time and you will be recoding a minus score.

You have probably got three tricks in diamonds, after usually losing one, a couple in hearts after losing one, two, maybe three in clubs after losing one. The only certainties are that you have two spade tricks and that some combination of the above at some point will equal nine tricks. Confused? “White coffee, please, partner or maybe Jenny’s drinks trolley is passing by?”

drinks trolley.jpg

What to play to trick 3?

The heart suit will produce two tricks but no more. Also, if we touch hearts, and a third spade is played, we will have to finesse diamonds into the danger hand.

So, cross to dummy immediately with a club to the king to play Diamond-smallQ. Did you notice West played Club-smallQ? Interesting. Even more possibilities now. Naturally, the diamond finesse lost with West playing Spade-small10 with the air of someone ready to pounce for the killer blow. At least East contributed a spade, the Spade-small2, presumably their last.

Had your options increased or decreased?

Had West played the Club-smallQ because they had to or because they wanted to? Was their holding in clubs QJx, QJ doubleton or singleton Q? I am running out of question marks. No more questions.

Combining Chances

Who has the Heart-smallA? Was that Spade-small10 a signal, indicating an entry in hearts, the higher of the unplayed suits? Do I never keep my promises?!

The director is lurking. Time to look:

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

 

If you had watched your diamond pips closely, you could have played Diamond-small8 on the queen and then be able to play out three more rounds now finishing with Diamond-small4 in dummy though that assumes you were going to take the club finesse or perhaps an entry to your second heart trick. Anyway, the only discards you would get would be unhelpful hearts. (We assume East would be aware of South’s problem, as unless East was bluffing, even one club discard could be revealing.)

So, there were three realistic options. Cash the high club and if West shows out, hope that East has the Heart-smallA or take a club finesse through East or simply hope East has the Heart-smallA.

As you can see, the option of combining chances did work as you would have come to 9 tricks without even touching hearts….4 clubs, 3 diamonds and 2 spades. Had clubs been 3-3 with West holding QJx and East the Heart-smallA, then playing a second high club would have been wrong.  

Almost all who received a spade lead failed to take 9 tricks, mainly playing on hearts first and then relying on the diamond finesse though one cunning declarer scored a quick diamond trick when they led low from their hand at trick 3 with West ducking.  It did seem better to firstly take the finesse you had to take into the danger hand and await developments.

While all tried for 9 tricks, most who received the spade lead did count to 9 but the mathematicians insisted that 13 less the 5 tricks the opponents took only equalled eight! 

So, to tomorrow and once more, you are declarer,once more in trouble!

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

 

East’s 2Heart-small is a Weak Two, 6-card suit. You crawl to the spade game

West leads Heart-small10 to North’s Heart-smallK and continues with Heart-smallA (Heart-small8 from West), and then Heart-smallJ. Over to you.

Richard Solomon

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