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            Help at hand.

Discarding to a long suit can be, well may be, one of the most difficult and frustrating parts of the game. Sometimes your partner, even indirectly the declarer, can help you by their own discards….but what about the situation when you are the only one discarding to four rounds of a suit? There is no-one really to help you then, is there?

Holding major suits is often great but being able to follow suit to a few rounds of clubs would have been much more comfortable for East on the deal below.

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

 

2NT is 20-22 balanced. Your partner finds the very interesting lead of Heart-small2. See, partners do make good leads, sometimes! Your Heart-small9 is taken by the ace and your joy of quick success is short-lived as declarer plays off Club-smallAK and then a third and then a fourth club from dummy. Everyone except you follows to all four rounds of the suit. Which 4 cards do you throw?

The first two discards do not seem particularly hard, a couple of small spades. Then, you need to think a little harder. There are two factors to consider. Firstly, are you playing Teams or Pairs? Either way, beating the contract if you can is a great idea. However, as we know, restricting overtricks at Pairs is also pretty important.

The other point is who holds the 13th club. If it is declarer, then to beat the contract, it would seem imperative that you retain all four of your hearts so that when your partner does win the lead (hopefully before South has chalked up 9 tricks), you have four more tricks to take the contract one down. (We presume our partner has led away from Heart-smallK.

However, if it is your partner with the extra club, then you only need retain three hearts as West will contribute two tricks to the defence. Thus, there is a good case for your partner to give count in clubs so that you know. Retaining four hearts would be great so that you might beat the contract by two tricks. That is being just a little greedy. Get your discarding wrong and you will not be beating the contract at all!

So, your next two discards are? At more than one table, the discards would have been a couple of small “useless” diamonds. They were no use to you but the sight of them was like gold-dust to the declarer, whose next two cards were the Diamond-smallAK…and then a couple more rounds of the suit. By the time West won the lead, South had 9 tricks.

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

 

“There were always 9 tricks there” the East players might have said wryly. There were indeed when East threw their two “useless” diamonds.

East knew that their partner had high cards outside clubs and the presumed Heart-smallK (the lead of a low heart promising an honour). Even if South had 22, East and North had 10 high card points between them. Add on the Heart-smallK and that left West five high card points in spades and diamonds. Had South 20, then West held 7.

If West held the Diamond-smallA or Diamond-smallK, then it probably did not matter what East discarded. As you can see, with the above holding, it mattered a lot. The ideal situation, therefore, would be for West to give count in the club suit, allowing East to discard one of their hearts along with a third spade. It is true that such discarding would help South if they held Spade-smallAKJx though a finesse there would always have been successful. Your aim should be to encourage South to take a finesse that was going to fail. Cling on to those three small diamonds like you had the queen and then you might be rewarded.

Notice South did not cash a high diamond before or during cashing the club tricks. They did not want to let on in which suit they had an interest though they would have been upset if West's Diamond-smallQ had been a singleton. Also, South did well to cash all four clubs even though it would give the defence an extra club trick. South knew once the lead was lost at an early stage, the contract would fail. Playing Pairs, one down is better than two down: at Teams, it is less significant.

diamonds hidden.jpg

Keep those diamonds hidden!

So, West could help their partner with the painful discarding even though they had to follow suit. The opportunity may also be there for West to give a suit preference signal to indicate a spade card by the way they throw their clubs. That may be hard to interpret and need a specific agreement.

Once West had indicated a 5-card club suit, East had only one awkward discard to find. On the deal, even one diamond discard may have been one too many. Two discarded diamonds spelt -600.

Clubs a’plenty

 

 
Q
J
A K 8 5
A 10 9 7 5 4 2
West North East South
      Pass
Pass 1  2  Dbl
Pass ?    

 

1Club-small promised at least 3 clubs, though you can see you have more than twice that number. 2Heart-small was an Intermediate jump. Where to from here? You are playing Teams.

Richard Solomon

 

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