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The Blockage: No Way Through.

It happened, except we are not talking about getting through a seemingly closed door but in the play of a bridge hand….and the stakes were high as we were in a small slam! Would we find a way through? Would there be a happy ending? Firstly, plan the play.

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South Deals
None Vul

K Q 6 4

A K 5 3

A Q J 8 4

   

N

W

 

E

S

   
 

A 8 3

Q 10 8 7 4

Q J 4

10 2

 

West

North

East

South

 

 

 

Pass

1 

Dbl

2 

2 

Pass

4 

Pass

4 ♠

Pass

6 

All pass

 

North was a little lazy in the auction. They had a mighty good hand when South volunteered th

e North was a little lazy in the auction. They had a mighty good hand when South volunteered their 2Heart-small bid. 4Diamond-small said that (control in diamonds, slam try) and when South co-operated by cue-bidding their Spade-smallA (4Spade-small), South should have tried Key Card. (Had South held Club-smallK instead of Diamond-small QJ, grand-slam would almost certainly be guaranteed.)

Today, though, South had no Club-smallK and West led Diamond-smallK. Over to you.

Heading down a dark alley

This is what happened. South ruffed the opening lead in dummy, crossed back to hand with a spade to the ace…and played Diamond-smallQ which West covered and again was ruffed low. Then came AK and West discarded a diamond on the second round. Out came the brick wall…or shall we say “the black wall” as all dummy had left was Spade-smallKQ6 and the five club cards…while East still held Heart-smallJ.

So, not wishing to touch clubs, South played Spade-smallK and then Spade-smallQ…and when Spade-smallQ was played, East produced a red card, the Heart-smallJ. The rules prohibited South from over-ruffing.

East exited a diamond to South’s high Diamond-smallJ. So, there was no alternative now. The club finesse had to be taken!

Staying out of trouble

Unquestionably ruffing at trick 1 was correct. Life was not necessarily straightforward at that point but South could have trodden a better path. They could afford a losing club finesse and probably discard both losing diamonds on clubs or spades. If East had all 4 hearts, a second diamond ruff would not be a good idea.

So, at trick 2, play Heart-smallA K.Had hearts broken 2-2, the contract was cold. Yet, it should have been pretty cold when East held 3 hearts.

Play a spade to the ace to be followed by Club-smallT.

If the club finesse lost,  clubs should provide 2 discards or else maybe there was a 3-3 spade break…or Diamond-smallQJ would provide a natural trick if a diamond was played.

So, what happened?

South Deals
None Vul

K Q 6 4

A K 5 3

A Q J 8 4

J 10 9 7

2

A K 10 9 8 2

K 3

 

N

W

 

E

S

 

5 2

J 9 6

7 6 5 3

9 7 6 5

 

A 8 3

Q 10 8 7 4

Q J 4

10 2

 

West

North

East

South

 

 

 

Pass

1 

Dbl

2 

2 

Pass

4 

Pass

4 ♠

Pass

6 

All pass

 

South

 

South played Club-smallT and shut their eyes. When they opened them, the Club-smallT was still winning the trick and the slam had been made. We all want good news in 2022, don’t we? South used one of their “get out of jail cards”.

North was relieved that they did not appear to have missed a grand slam. While the opponents only held 12 hcp and West opened the bidding, an opening bid on a 9-count could have happened, given East’s raise to 2Diamond-small.

Notice that when the “blockage” occurred, a safer route to 12 tricks was to lay down Club-smallA and concede a trick to the Club-smallK wherever it was. This line only fails if East started with no clubs. Heart-smallJ could never score a second trick for the defence.

At times, it is not easy to envisage at trick 1 what will happen 6 or 7 tricks later.

plan 2.jpg

It’s all about planning early on. You have probably heard that 2,000 times before. It’s true, though.

It’s a nice bridge players’ wish about hoping “all your finesses work”. Can we add on “especially in slam when you need them?”

Richard Solomon

  

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