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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

Which Major First?

Some slams are a straightforward make while others provide options with the declarer hoping to take the route with the most chance of success, in bridge terms, the best percentage line. The following slam certainly fell into the second category. Did the declarer take the best route or should they have done better? Would you re writing down +980 or -50?

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

 

2Diamond-small was artificial game-force, 4th suit forcing. 5Heart-small showed two key-cards but no Heart-smallQ.

You have certainly found yourself in worse slams than this one. So, best see if you can come to 12 tricks. West led Diamond-small5. Trick 1 goes Diamond-smallJ, Diamond-smallQ and Diamond-smallA. Plan the play from there. Trust me. Nothing bad will happen straightaway.

Nothing bad did happen, at least not for a while. The contract would have been a little easier to play had Diamond-smallJ held trick 1 but it did not. Therefore, declarer played a second diamond to dummy and then a spade to the king and ruffed one of their small diamonds. All good so far.

Then came decision time. With their other losing diamond able to be discarded on the third round of spades, the choice was to play two more rounds of spades immediately or else play two high trumps first. If declarer played trumps, they could not take any trump safety play (small to the Heart-small10, in case East held Heart-smallQJxx) because they ran the big risk of losing a trump and a diamond when there was a normal 3-2 trump break.

However, playing spades first risked a 5-2 spade break where the third round of spades was ruffed by a player with 2 trumps (i.e. declarer discards their diamond loser but still has to lose a trump as well.)

Our declarer played trumps first and was not happy when this was the lay-out:

North Deals
E-W Vul
A Q 10 5
4 2
A J
Q 9 8 5 4
J 9 8 6
8
6 5 4
K J 10 7 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
7 4 3
Q J 9 5
Q 10 9 2
6 3
 
K 2
A K 10 7 6 3
K 8 7 3
A

 

Playing trumps first, hoping for a 3-2 break, does seem the better choice. Although spades broke 4-3, South should also have failed in their contract had they played spades first. After three rounds of spades, dummy’s trump is led and East can play Heart-smallQ to ensure two trump tricks for the defence since there is no further entry to dummy to engineer a trump reduction or second trump to repeat a heart finesse.

A line involving winning Diamond-smallA and at trick 2 playing a small trump intending to insert Heart-small10 if East plays low would be thwarted by East playing an honour. If East played low, the contract can make.

Success  comes by cashing Heart-smallA at trick 2 and then Club-smallA and a diamond to the ace. Ruff a club and play three rounds of spades discarding a diamond. Ruff another club with East discarding a diamond (it does them no good to ruff) and then ruff South’s other losing diamond with dummy’s remaining trump.

Declarer has scored a high trump, Diamond-smallAK, Club-smallA, Spade-smallAKQ, a diamond ruff and two club ruffs. That’s 10 tricks and these cards remain:

 
5
Q 9
J
K J
 
N
W   E
S
 
Q J 9
 
K 10 7

 

Any card from dummy now allows declarer two more tricks…by under-ruffing if East ruffs high.

obscure path to success.jpg

obscure path to success!

Did you find that line? Hardly obvious or indeed percentage. If you did, your region needs you urgently this week-end in Wellington at the Inter-Provincials. The bad trump break probably this time ensured your slam would fail unless you were inspired enough to play a trump early….hearts before spades.

With the Inter-Provincial Championships taking place this week-end in Wellington, this feature will take a rest until next Wednesday. We will, though, be reporting on happenings at the Inter-Provincials on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday mornings.

Richard Solomon

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