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Before trumps are drawn!

There are times to follow the golden rule of drawing the opponents’ trumps as soon as you and there are times when your priorities should be elsewhere. “As soon as you can” is indeed good advice but that does not always mean “straightaway”.

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North Deals
Both Vul

8 3

A J 10

Q 9 6 3 2

A 7 2

   

N

W

 

E

S

   
 

A 10 9 6 4 2

K Q

K J 4

10 9

 

West

North

East

South

 

1 

Pass

1 ♠

2 ♣

Pass

Pass

Dbl

Pass

2 NT

Pass

4 ♠

All pass

 

 

 

When West intervened with 2Club-small, North had nothing more to say. South’s double asked their partner to further describe their hand, maybe even pass if they had some good clubs. However, North bid 2NT, showing 12-14 hcp and a club hold.

South then made a good choice of bidding game in spades as 3NT would have had no chance on a club lead.

Against 4Spade-small, West led Diamond-small8 to East’s Diamond-smallA. East returned a diamond which West ruffed with Spade-small5 and then played Club-smallK. What should be South’s plan to make 10 tricks?

When this board was played at a club session, 6 pairs played in a spade contract but only one South made 10 tricks. Fortunately, for most of the others, they were in part-score or else they would have gone minus had they played 4Spade-small.

All bar one of the declarers were guilty of not doing a loser check in their hand before embarking on their plan. After losing Diamond-smallA and a ruff, at best they had one more trump loser since the defenders still had Spade-smallKQJ between them. South had no losers left in the red suits but they did have a losing club, Club-small10.

Since South had already lost 2 tricks and had a certain trump loser, they could not afford to lose a club trick. Was there any way to avoid losing that club? The answer most certainly was “yes”.

The plan should be to discard the Club-small10 on the third round of hearts before the defence regained the lead. So, when in with Club-smallA, South’s best play is to play a spade to the ace and then play Heart-smallK, then Heart-smallQ overtaking that card with Heart-smallA in dummy and then playing Heart-smallJ to discard the Club-small10. Let’s see if that line would work.

  

North Deals
Both Vul

8 3

A J 10

Q 9 6 3 2

A 7 2

K Q 5

8 6 5 2

8

K Q J 5 3

 

N

W

 

E

S

 

J 7

9 7 4 3

A 10 7 5

8 6 4

 

A 10 9 6 4 2

K Q

K J 4

10 9

 

West

North

East

South

 

1 

Pass

1 ♠

2 ♣

Pass

Pass

Dbl

Pass

2 NT

Pass

4 ♠

All pass

 

 

 

It sure would! Neither opponent could ruff the third round of hearts. (Playing Spade-smallA first reduces the number of trumps the defence hold and therefore the liklihood of their ruffing a heart.) Notice that if South had not overtaken Heart-smallQ with Heart-smallA, they could not have played the third round of that suit without losing the lead.

Thus, after playing the three rounds of hearts, declarer could play their diamonds. West could ruff with Spade-smallK but that was the only other trick the defence took: 4Spade-small made.

Notice the need to play three rounds of hearts even if West led Club-smallK at trick 1. Now, potentially, South has 4 losers, 2 trumps, Diamond-smallA and a club. They can lay down Spade-smallA first but must play their heart winners before losing the lead, as above.

Opening Lead Choice?

There is one other observation about the opening lead. After the above or similar bidding, West’s choice of leading their singleton diamond is strange. Looking at Spade-smallKQ5  in their hand with Spade-smallA almost guaranteed to be on their right, they do not need a ruff. What should be a greater priority is making tricks with their club honours. So, Club-smallK is a much better choice of opening lead.

urgent action required.jpg  before drawing trumps

This time, South should avoid a club loser as stated. Next time, the club lead could be critical, a much better choice than leading a singleton, which could have been a very dangerous lead for the defence.

So, 4Spade-small always made? As we have seen, not so. Take note.

 

Richard Solomon

 

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