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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

The missing queen. Where is she?

You are not allowed to look at your opponents’ cards or even rearrange them to suit your purposes but you can play a board in such a manner that the opponents’ cards are sorted such that would suit you. In short, a safety play. The Diamond-smallQ must only win if she is one opponent’s hand. Can she be in both or maybe neither?!

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

 

2Spade-small promises 5 spades and at least 5 cards in a minor and less than an opening hand. West leads Spade-small3 to East’s 8 and your J (just a little false-card…don’t tell them where 10 is!). Plan the play.

You rather drifted into 3NT after your partner’s overcall and you have avoided the lead that seems most threatening, a club. However, the Spade-small3 has created its own problems. It is barely possible that you could make this contract without needing to win more than two diamond tricks. Even if you scored 4 heart tricks, the spade trick already in the bag along with your three top minor suit cards, you would still need a ninth trick from either diamonds or spades. When one opponent has 10 cards in two suits, the chance of them having three in another is possible but not so likely. More of that in a minute.

The big danger, though, is that after going to set up tricks in diamonds and losing to the Diamond-smallQ,as one usually seems to do, the defence can reel off four spade tricks to beat your contract before you can claim 9 tricks. Yet, that only can happen if you lose the lead to East. You still have a spade hold if West wins Diamond-smallQ and cashes Spade-smallA but not if East plays their small spade first. So, you must prevent that happening. Apart from missing the queen, you have been dealt some really good diamonds. Use them.

You can actually take the diamond finesse both ways. Play as though East has three or four diamonds headed by the queen. Cross to dummy, using the Heart-smallK and play Diamond-smallJ…yes, even when West discards a club on that first round of hearts! It looks like West has three diamonds and East only two. If East has Diamond-smallQ, they must not score it.

 

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

 

At the table, West scored their Diamond-smallQ and laid down the Spade-smallA hoping that you had started with Spade-smallKT doubleton. Disappointment for the defence as you went on to score two spades, three hearts, four diamonds and Club-smallA, an overtrick. West could have saved the overtrick by exiting any small minor card.

Disappointment for the declarer, too, when the diamond finesse failed. However, at that point the contract was safe for 9 tricks and the small false-card you had played at trick 1 helped to secure the overtrick.

Note that East could still have Diamond-smallQxx when West shows out of hearts since West could have started with five spades and six clubs.

The play would have been harder had West led a small club. It would be normal for South to duck the first two rounds of the suit, though you can win the second round as you know East no more. You do not want East to switch to spades. However, you must find that Diamond-smallQ or else will lose at least 5 tricks…more clubs, a diamond and at least one spade.

Discovery Play

You can still afford to lay down Heart-smallA and discover the break in that suit. The odds now favour a successful finesse through West (who must have three diamonds to East’s two) though you still hold your breath as you play Diamond-smallK and a second towards dummy, finessing. If you lose to doubleton queen, it just would be your unlucky day.

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So, identify the danger hand. Depending on the lead, you can finesse to a hand that cannot harm you or through the hand which is known to have more cards in that suit. A finesse one way and a finesse the other way…and everyone makes their contract! Maybe the queen was in neither opponent’s hand!   

What to bid?

South Deals
None Vul
   
K 3 2
A K 10 4
K 8 6 3
10 8
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
      1 
Dbl 2  4  4 
?      

 

As usual, both sides are bidding furiously and unfortunately, you have the heart suit and the opponents the spades. What to do? It’s your bid.

Richard Solomon

 

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