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The hunt for another queen.

Yesterday, we found that a little investigation beforehand made it absolutely clear which opponent held a key queen, thus ensuring the contract’s success.

It is the same contract, today, with once again the opponents pushing us higher than we wanted to be. We are in 5Heart-small What is worse, it is unlikely that there will be much chance for any investigation. It is the trump queen this time. Where is she, East or West?

Bridge in NZ.pngnz map.jpg

East Deals
None Vul
Q J 8
K 10 6
K Q 10 6 4
Q 7
   
N
W   E
S
   
 
K 10 7 4
A J 5 4 2
A J 7 5
West North East South
    Pass 1 
2  Dbl 3  Pass
Pass 4  5  5 
All pass      

 

2Heart-small was Michael's style showing 5+ spades and at least 5 cards in a minor. 3Club-small was “pass or correct” to diamonds. Partner raised to game…but then so did East.

The lead is the Club-smallK. Where is “the heart lady”?

“Ruff, draw trumps and claim 12 tricks”. Sounds good but it is unlikely the opposition would accept that statement without some qualification about how you will draw trumps.

You have a certain loser to the Spade-smallA, but there is worse news a’foot. You know the spade break is either 5-1 or maybe even 6-0. Either way, if you lose the lead to the Heart-smallQ, with East still having a small trump out, you will lose three tricks.

That sounds like, therefore, you should play a heart to the king and a second heart to the ace. As long as West has a second heart, the contract is secure, even if the Heart-smallQ does not appear.

However, there is another important fact to consider and that is that West is known to have at most three red-suited cards. When you play a heart to the king (surely the way to start on the trump suit ..if West held Heart-smallQxx, it is certainly not your lucky day), you will have seen one of them. “Vacant Spaces”, logic, however you like to refer to the higher than normal 28% chance of a 4-1 heart break, suggests that taking a second -round trump finesse could well be the winning action.

There is, though, one other overriding factor. Let’s say that you correctly decide to run the Heart-small10 as West discards. You can repeat the finesse….and then what? You have one trump left in your hand, none in dummy, a high trump and East still has Heart-smallQ . If you do not draw that trump, you still have to lose to the Spade-smallA. So, West wins and plays a second high club which you must ruff. East can now ruff a diamond with the defence taking winning club tricks.

If you draw the last trump, then you cannot win back the lead when you play spades. You can effectively take five heart and five diamond tricks…but no more.

Therefore, if the trumps break 4-1, you cannot make the contract. So, you just have to hope that West has a second heart, or else your contract will fail:

East Deals
None Vul
Q J 8
K 10 6
K Q 10 6 4
Q 7
A 9 6 3 2
Q 9
3
A K 9 6 5
 
N
W   E
S
 
5
8 7 3
9 8 2
J 10 8 4 3 2
 
K 10 7 4
A J 5 4 2
A J 7 5
West North East South
    Pass 1 
2  Dbl 3  Pass
Pass 4  5  5 
All pass      

 

There was, perhaps, another reason to play for West having a doubleton, the Q9 doubleton, the old saying about “where there’s a 9, there’s a queen”! Yet, whichever was West’s first heart, South should play them for having a doubleton, or at least two hearts.

Had East held Heart-smallQ873, with the fall of Heart-small9, they could have ensured the contract’s defeat by covering the Heart-small10 with the queen… but as we have already seen, any 4-1 break defeats the contract.

The reason for your success

When you cannot make a contract with a bad break in a suit, you just have to assume there is not one….and, of course, in this case, South was rewarded with an overtrick. (draw trump, concede Spade-smallA). Vacant Spaces is a very good theory but there are times to ignore it.

vacant spaces.jpg

Ignore them…the vacant spaces!

Good for the Michael's Cue

The board is a good example of the use of the Michael's Cue-Bid. Without it, West probably just overcalls 1Spade-small with the club fit being lost and the contract being, for South, a more manageable 4Heart-small. If there were a 4-1 heart break in 4Heart-small, declarer can abandon trumps after two rounds and play on spades. If West gives their partner a ruff, declarer can ruff a club, draw trump and claim. If West plays a second high club, declarer ruffs and play winners. The defence can only take two trumps and Spade-smallA.

On the actual lay-out, East-West can sacrifice for only -300 in 6Club-small. Would North-South bid 6Heart-small? Would West lead Spade-smallA and a second spade? Would South play for doubleton Heart-smallQ? Interesting questions for another day.

What was relevant was that the statement “Ruff, draw trumps and claim 12 tricks” was exactly right. Well, you are not allowed to take a finesse when you make such a statement, are you? I do think,perhaps, East or West might just call out “Director, please.”

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

 

Can it be right to bid 5Heart-small…for the third day running?! Would you? You are playing Teams.

We will discover the answer tomorrow.

Richard Solomon

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