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    Wishing and hoping …for less experienced players and others.

Would it not be nice if you could place the honour cards in your opponents' hands? No need to be pessimistic then or get bad breaks! Well, you cannot literally do that but you can wish. That is much better than having no plan. The latter must have been the case for our declarer below. At least, they stayed below game level in what should have been a safe contract. Was it?

Bridge in NZ.pngnz map.jpg

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

 

1NT showed 15-17. Your partner liked their shape and controls even though they had minimum hcp. However, you turned down their invitation, somewhat surprisingly as you were maximum for your 2Spade-small sign-off! Maybe that was because you were playing Pairs.

So, you needed 9 tricks, 10 if they were going but you certainly did not want less than 9. South seemed oblivious to this. They won the opening heart lead with their ace to do the right thing, play trumps. So, they played a spade to the 9…and that lost to the jack.

East had encouraged hearts at trick 1. So, West cashed their Heart-smallQ and seeing a rather threatening club suit in dummy, tried the Diamond-small3. South played low, not that it mattered with the Diamond-smallJ scored in the East hand. That was three tricks for the defence with East still holding, but not for long, Diamond-smallA and Spade-smallA meaning that the contract was one down. That was very quick and not a very pleasant experience for South. What went wrong?

Here were the four hands:

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

 

South’s main problem was that of not anticipating the danger of losing two diamond tricks. Losing two trump tricks might be inevitable and unavoidable but two diamond tricks had to be avoided before South could start playing winning clubs.

Trick 1 Troubles

The message loud and clear should have been “keep West off lead if possible.” The play started to go wrong, as so often is the case, at trick 1. One and only one heart trick had to be lost. There was surely no danger of West having a singleton heart. If there was, surely East would have bid some number of hearts?

So, duck your ace at trick 1 and lose to the “safe” East hand. After the ace had been taken at trick 1, East, when in with Spade-smallA, could have taken the slight risk of under-leading their Heart-smallK to put their partner in to lead a diamond. Imaginative defence but quite possible. East could see the club danger, too.

As it was, East has no good switch and so would continue hearts. You win and play trumps, but a spade to the king, since you really want East to hold the ace. Back to dummy with a club and a second trump. Yes, you have a guess. It is best to play Spade-small10 when East holds AJ4 or if West was cunning enough to duck with an original A8 doubleton but it is right to play low to the queen on the actual lie.

If West has been clever, they deserve their success. Remembering that we want to keep West off lead, the simple way was the successful way….low to the queen. Draw trump and then play four more rounds of clubs and give the opponents a diamond but only one diamond trick at the end…. Making an over rather than an under trick. Bet you wished then you had been in game!

danger hand 2.jpg

The danger hand.
Did you see it?

Recognising there was a danger hand on this deal should have guided South to the winning line. Ducking the heart at trick 1 was mandatory. If East held both Spade-smallA and Spade-smallJ, so be it. Maybe two tricks to the defence but they could not get more than one diamond trick since West would never gain the lead.

“Played itself” might be one way to describe the right line. Hope you found it and the reason for doing so.

What to do with your diamonds?

East Deals
N-S Vul
   
8 2
10 9 2
A Q J 9 6 5 3
7
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
    1 NT Dbl
?      

 

You are playing Pairs. 1NT is 12-14. South’s double is a standard 15+ penalty style double. What to do?

Richard Solomon

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