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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

 

If it’s in the way, discard it!

Would you believe that we are talking about an ace…and that we are playing a no-trump contract? Aces are normally handy cards to have… and so was this particular ace for a while. However, it had past its “used by” date. It was a plain nuisance!

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East Deals
None Vul
A K Q J 9
K J 10 9 3
6 4
4
   
N
W   E
S
   
 
5 2
A 4
K 7 3 2
K 10 9 7 2
West North East South
    Pass 1 
Pass 2  Pass 2 
Pass 2 NT Pass 3 
Pass 3 NT All pass  

 

So, you received a very passive lead spade against 3NT. It gave you no extra tricks. Almost certainly, you have seven top tricks in the major suits with hearts likely to produce some more if you can survive losing to the Heart-smallQ. Your minor suit kings might be worth tricks but they have a habit of being beaten by aces when you lead towards them.

So, what’s the plan?

It is likely to be all be plain sailing if you played to the Heart-smallA and took a successful heart finesse. Even if the Heart-smallQ did not fall in three rounds, you could force it out while you still had a spade entry to dummy and would score a minimum five spade and four heart tricks. That number adds up to “game made”. We assume the defence could not cross to the ace in one suit and lead through your king in the other. That number of tricks might add up to “one down”!

What happens, though, when Heart-smallJ loses to Heart-smallQ? The defence can see you have lots of tricks in the major suits in dummy and East will surely attack the suit in which they do not hold the ace in order to try to get 5 tricks before you could get 9. That indeed would have happened in reality as this was the layout:

 

East Deals
None Vul
A K Q J 9
K J 10 9 3
6 4
4
8 4 3
8 7 6 2
A 9 8
A Q 6
 
N
W   E
S
 
10 7 6
Q 5
Q J 10 5
J 8 5 3
 
5 2
A 4
K 7 3 2
K 10 9 7 2
West North East South
    Pass 1 
Pass 2  Pass 2 
Pass 2 NT Pass 3 
Pass 3 NT All pass  

 

So, you can see the, or a, winning line. Heart to the ace and heart to the king and if the queen does not fall, then you keep on playing hearts, though had East held Heart-smallQxx or Heart-small Qxxx, you would then lose three diamonds (at least), Heart-smallQ and at least Club-smallA (depending on what you do on the second round of diamonds, maybe a second club).

 

So, what’s the fuss? The board is really about keeping East off lead if you can. On some days, the aces will be with East but you need not just hope that is the case. You can do better.

At trick 2, you can play the Heart-smallJ and let it run. If West were to win their queen and continue their annoying passive spade defence, you are still in control, assuming the heart break is no worse than 4-2. You keep playing spades and on the third round, you can discard…Heart-smallA! No blockage now. Simply run your 5 spade and 4 heart winners. You were given Heart-small109 for good cause.

 What if?

If East holds Heart-smallQx or Qxx, you will be in very good shape as you will play Heart-smallA next and cross back to dummy to run your major suit winners. Say East held Heart-smallQxxx? Well, you are no worse off than had you played a heart to the ace and a second to the king, and certainly better off than had you finessed West for the Heart-smallQ. You can run your five spade and three heart winners and see whether the defence can unravel their five tricks.

And say a cunning West with Heart-smallQxxx ducks the first heart? Win the ace, take your spade winners and Heart-smallK and play a losing heart and await developments. Maybe a cunning West deserves a good reward should they find that inspired defence.

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The board is about identifying the danger hand and trying to keep it off lead. With Heart-smallQ falling doubleton, it was not necessary this time but it might have been…and taking a first-round heart finesse through East was good technique. So, maybe just a warm feeling inside this time..and an overtrick, maybe two. Next time, such an action may be necessary.

Just Checking…..

 

East Deals
Both Vul
   
J 5 3 2
Q J 5
K Q 9 7 5 4
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
    Pass 1 
2  4  Dbl Pass
?      

 

It’s Pairs and it is your bid. What is partner’s double and what action if any should you now take?

Richard Solomon

 

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