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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

Communication Crisis.

You are almost certainly in the wrong contract but one which probably should make but with less tricks than in at least one, maybe even both higher – scoring major game contracts…and to make matters worse, a key suit breaks badly. Crisis, indeed!

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

 

Lead Heart-small6.

2Heart-small was 4th suit forcing, or so it appeared to South. North made no attempt to find a heart fit but raised to the 9- trick game.

If only you, or even better, your partner, was playing this deal in 4Heart-small, maybe not cold but a decent looking contract. Instead, partner raised you to 3NT. You can count at least 9 quick tricks if hearts break 3-2. However, at some early point when you test the suit, you discover East started with J1032. Club-smallQ is not doubleton.

What to do?

A normal way to handle a hand like North’s, where you have two five-card suits, game values and no support for your partner’s suits, is to jump in what is the unbid suit. Therefore, in the above auction, after South’s 2Club-small call, a jump to 3Heart-small shows both majors being at least 5 cards. As you can see, North had 6 spades.

Had that happened, South would have raised to 4Heart-small and had a relaxing time as dummy. However, North used 4th suit forcing and on discovering their partner had a heart hold (2Heart-small did not promise one), simply raised to 3NT.

Singleton aces can create awkward problems of communication as was to become apparent. Five heart tricks, three in diamonds and two in clubs seemed like a good number though there was a little difficulty in unravelling them. With only one entry to the South hand, the opening lead of Heart-small6 had to be won in dummy so that both those minor aces could be cashed.

So, that was what happened but when a second heart was played to the ace, West discarded an unencouraging club. The option of ducking the first round of hearts was not there as declarer needed to cash the heart tricks later and yet needed to unblock those two “nuisance” aces first!

South had also to be concerned that there were likely to be three certain spade losers, on a bad day even a fourth so that there could not be too many losers elsewhere or else the contract would fail.

Once it was established there was a heart loser, one chance was to play for doubleton Club-smallQ, albeit a low chance. If the Club-smallQ did not drop, the defence seemed to have five winners. So, in hand with the Heart-smallA, South decided not to cash any winners but exited with their singleton spade. It proved to be an important play:

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

 

West was stuck, well nearly. They could not cash spades and exit a spade nor exit a club. They tried Diamond-smallJ. South ducked that, knowing that this suit was unlikely to run. At that point, had West taken their other top spades, they could then exit their fourth spade to dummy, with East defeating the contract with a heart trick.

However, West continued diamonds, giving South four diamonds, two clubs and three heart tricks. Whoever said try 3NT was best when unsure of which game to play!

Meanwhile 4Heart-small had its issues as well. The lead of either minor did not help a declarer. However, again, unblock the aces before exiting Spade-smallJ. West exits their trump won in dummy with Club-smallK and Diamond-smallKQ cashed, East ruffing the last of these to exit their remaining spade.. North has two more spades to deal with and ruffs one easily. They know the safe way back to hand is via a club ruff. The final spade is played with East making one more trump then or later but the declarer will have the remaining tricks, losing just a spade and two trump tricks. Had East exited a heart, North can still ruff one spade and will lose just two spades and the diamond ruff.

A slightly awkward contract but easier than 3NT. At the table, it did not quite work out that way when 3NT made and 4Heart-small did not. Nevertheless, 4Heart-small seemed a much easier to place to be with those awkward ace singletons around.

Counting to 11.

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

 

Probably, you would prefer to be defending 4Spade-small doubled but partner pushed you to the 5 level. You are going to lose a couple of aces but there is also the club problem.

West leads the Spade-smallA to be followed by a second spade with East following both times. Plan the play. (trumps do not break 4-0 and both defenders have at least one club).

Back again on Monday.

Richard Solomon

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