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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

Give us a Break.

A good break, a favourable break. There seems nothing much wrong with the contract and indeed, the computer analysis has a “7” under the spade column indicating you can wrap up all 13 tricks.

Yet, this is not some hypothetical hand. This is real life and there was no happy ending. Could there have been?

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

 

5Heart-smallshowed 2 key cards but no Heart-smallQ. 6Club-small showed the Club-smallK. That was enough for South to go for grand. A little strangely since North had bid the suit, West led Heart-smallQ. What is your play to trick 1 and what is your line? If you test trumps, you will find that East started with Spade-small10985.

North’s 2Heart-small was in the above sequence forcing to game. Thus, they held more than the Spade-smallK, Heart-smallA and Club-smallK which they had owned up to in the bidding. Those extras, Spade-smallJ and Diamond-smallQ, were both extremely useful for South. Indeed, normally, South’s only two losing cards could be handled by ruffing a third round of clubs and by discarding the potential diamond loser on the Heart-smallA. Even the 4-1 trump break did not really threaten that even if potentially, it did mean (using vacant space principles) that East might have less than three clubs.

South was obviously concerned about that possibility because they won the Heart-smallA at trick 1 and tested trumps to find the awkward news. At this point, trying for the club ruff would seem to be the best and probably only winning line. We did not tell you, though, what South had discarded at trick 1 on the Heart-smallA. They had thrown all those eggs in one basket by discarding the Diamond-small7.

This story has no happy ending. Declarer drew trumps and then played Club-smallA and a club to the king…and received some terminal news, as these were the original four hands:


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

 

There is a good lesson for both South and West on this deal. South should not have won the Heart-smallA at trick one but ruffed. They thought they wanted to discard a diamond and ruff a club and mostly that would be true. However, the above lay-out was the exception. There was no rush to decide on the discard.

Ruff the opening lead, play a couple of rounds of trumps (Spade-smallKJ) and take stock. Basically, ruffing a club requires that suit to break 4-3, about a 62% chance of success. Knowing East must have some length in hearts and did hold four spades might make that route less appealing though the other approach of discarding the club loser and hoping diamonds broke 3-3 was a mere 36%, or just slightly more than that as we will soon see!

So, even if our declarer had not played the Heart-smallA at trick 1, they would fail by trying to ruff a club in dummy. I think I would have played that way. Yet, when South drew all four rounds of trumps and had they not played Heart-smallA at trick 1, West would need to be a little careful with their three discards. If they threw a couple of hearts and a club, South might start to get a picture of the opponents’ hands, especially when they played Club-smallA and a club to the king.

With at least four hearts, one spade and a confirmed six clubs, there was not be a 3-3 diamond break. A club had to be discarded on the Heart-smallA and still Heart-smallJ did not appear. South would be in a position of playing a seemingly until then impossible diamond towards AK9 and when East plays low, as they must, insert Diamond-small9. Grand made! (There was a 2 in 6 chance that West’s singleton was the 10 or J. Therefore, this was a slightly better line than laying down Diamond-smallQ to drop either of those cards singleton.)

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So, those first three discards from West just have to be two clubs and one heart which makes the true situation less clear even when the 6-1 club break is revealed.

No happy ending, therefore, for South but a lesson that if you do not have to make a decision about what to discard in such a situation at trick 1, delaying that decision might just have produced a happier ending.

Jan’s Day..  “Bold” Bidding!

So, you made 7Spade-small on the above deal? Take a big bow! Next hand and it’s much easier. You can afford to lose a trick. You are only in 6Spade-small!

Oh, fast-track back 41 years from the above deal.


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

 

We will not ask the Panel the merits of the jump to slam after 3Spade-small showed 10-12 hcp. Maybe we will send South a book on Roman Key Card for their birthday!

Enough! West leads Club-small7 which draws the queen from East. No suit breaks really badly, certainly not trumps. What’s your line?

Richard Solomon

 

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