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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

The embarrassing three imp gain.

It’s Sunday, maybe a day of rest. Not rest from bridge, though. There’s 3NT to be made! It seems quite straightforward and indeed it is. Not too hard but if you are a newish player, not so easy to find the best line, either.

Bridge in NZ.pngnz map.jpg

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

 

A nice-looking dummy? Well, you have seen far worse! West leadsSpade-small 3. Over to you?  Diamond-smallQ is not singleton.

A look at the bidding

That’s where we left you yesterday. A word, first, on South’s jump to 3NT. After the 1Diamond-small opening, South certainly has the values (13 hcp) and decent cover in the other three suits to jump to the no-trump game. However, just because East has indicated that they hold four cards in each major with their double, there is no reason to be in such a hurry to get there.

We all know that in an ideal bridge world, that statement about East’s hand would be true. Yet, there are too many shapes to cover with that double that it is not always true. No-one would criticise East if they held 13 hcp, four spades, three hearts, two diamonds and four clubs. Therefore, by jumping straight to 3NT, you would miss the opportunity to find a 4-4 heart fit. Were your partner to have that and a singleton spade, it is doubtful that you have found the best game to play.

Balanced against that argument is the tell-them-nothing approach about your hand. If you do eventually reach 3NT, the less they know the better. This time, if you bid 1Heart-small, North would bid 2Diamond-small(probably), and then you call 3NT. So, no damage…but beware the risk.

The play

Oh, partner did only have one spade. Not a bad one to have as well! That Spade-small3 lead did not seem to bother our cavalier South. They won the lead, laid down the Diamond-smallA to be followed by the Diamond-smallK. The queen fell and the defenders were soon subjected to five more rounds of the suit.

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

 

East parted with three small clubs, a heart and a spade. West had plenty of small cards to throw away! South could part with two small spades and three small hearts. After that came a small club. East won but the rest of the tricks belonged to South.

There was the usual banter when a small slam was made but not bid. North queried whether they should have been more aggressive with their great diamond suit while South felt it was a missed opportunity..just to make partner feel good. Enough! This was “good news day” when nice things happen….like:

  • West led a spade not a heart
  • North’s spade singleton being the ace
  • The Diamond-smallQ fell doubleton

What a great score if you were playing Pairs: three overtricks. Not a bad score at Teams, too. South had gained three imps for their side because, after the same lead at the other table, South had only made 9 tricks. “They must have played it poorly” thought South. It was just as well they were only thoughts and not words. Had South commented, their teammates might have commented, not so much about the rash bid but about the rashness of the play!

The wake-up call

With nine cards in a suit where the queen is missing, the normal percentage play is to play the ace, then the king and hope the queen falls. Much of the time you will be happy, as above, but 36% of the time when one opponent has Qxx plus a further 12% of the time when an opponent holds all four of the diamonds, you will be very unhappy. That’s nearly one in every two times you encounter this situation. Then, you will not make 12 tricks. You will not even make 9. You will end up normally with just seven tricks, two tricks in each of three suits and the Heart-smallA. How embarrassing would that be. Compare that with +600 at the other table! 13 imps out!

The 100% (well, pretty close) safety play

safety first green.png

Even playing match-point Pairs, playing the ace and the king is wrong as that spade lead took away the only entry to dummy. You need to make your contract first and garner the overtricks later. You need to ensure nine tricks…and the way to do that is to play a low diamond, lower than the ace or the king (really, you can try the Diamond-smallJ) and lose a trick, maybe unnecessarily, as here, but to almost guarantee your contract’s success.

The only time this will not work is when East has all four diamonds and also ducks the first round of the suit. Declarer can take three diamond tricks though that will not be enough to make our contract this time..unlucky. Note that there is no suit which South can play to get to their hand (even a club) to take a first round finesse in diamonds. If East held Diamond-smallQxx and the Club-smallA, they would win the club and play a second spade and if that is ducked, switch to a heart to beat the contract.

The correct play at Trick 2

So, a lower diamond than the king at trick 2 it has to be.

That’s why after a spade lead, scoring 9 tricks is better than scoring 12. In the actual deal above, South will either win the spade return and cash six diamonds and the Heart-smallA (again, playing clubs is too risky) or duck the Spade-small10. East may continue a third spade or switch to Heart-smallK. Nine tricks…and a certain plus score!

On the actual hand, some may get to play 5Diamond-small which is quite a safe contract except that Heart-smallK lead prevents North from discarding the heart loser on the Spade-smallK. They then have to play diamonds from the top to make 11 tricks. That will not be so easy where East has made a take-out double, implying shortish, maybe a very short holding in opener’s suit.

Right contract: Right play!

So, 3NT is a great place to be. Ironically, North could have called 3NT, gambling style with what they hope is a long-running minor after South’s 1Heart-small call. (a cheeky 1Spade-small from West might dissuade North from  that action.) Then North might receive a potentially unpleasant Heart-smallK lead. So, our South did well, this time, in the bidding and received a relatively friendly spade lead. They should have been more cautious in the play. Next time, they may not be so lucky.

“No, partner… no slam this time!”

10 Tricks are harder than 9

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

 

You have given yourself a bit of a problem. You could have offered 3NT as a place to play… and partner may well have said “yes”. Too bad. You need 10 tricks on the lead of Spade-small8 to the ace and Spade-small3 return with South contributing Spade-small9. You lay down Heart-smallAK and both opponents follow… and now?

Richard Solomon

 

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