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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

at Pairs.

Some days it just happens and there are too many days it does not! Overbidding, under-bidding, wrong leads, failing finesses…you name them! Did they all happen in the same session? That’s bad!

One or two ways that you can improve your Pairs results is to maximise overtricks as a declarer and minimise them as a defender. Easy said! Well, either the declarer or the defence will achieve that aim in today’s deal. Whose side is your money on? We will for now sit East, as a defender.

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West Deals
E-W Vul

K

Q J 4

A 9 6 4 2

A Q 8 6

   

N

W

 

E

S

 

8

K 9 8 7 5 2

K Q

K J 9 7

 

West

North

East

South

 

Dummy

You

 

Pass

1 

1 

1 ♠

Pass

2 ♣

Pass

2 

Pass

3 NT

Pass

4 ♠

All pass

 

 

 

 

Other than South’s 2Heart-small bid, all the bidding was natural. Your partner led Heart-small6 on which declarer played low from dummy…. and you?

“Third player plays high” or so says the rule. Do you know when to break that rule? Right now!

As a defender, you will have a few seconds to study dummy and the opening lead…and when you can see 10 cards in a suit, you should have some idea of from what your partner led and what you should do now.

Maybe you lead MUD (“middle up down”) leads or perhaps 3rds and 5ths. There is no way the lead can be a 3rd or a 4th highest as we never under-lead an ace! MUD? That’s possible, from 10 6 3. What does that leave declarer…singleton ace? The other options for the lead are a singleton or top of a doubleton. In those cases, declarer holds Heart-small10. Getting the message? There can never be a gain in putting up your king. If you wish to show off, play Heart-small2 or you must play a higher card, insert Heart-small7.

So, having achieved that, we can look forward to some good defence…maybe! Let’s look at all four hands.

West Deals
E-W Vul

K

Q J 4

A 9 6 4 2

A Q 8 6

10 9 7

6 3

J 10 8 5 3

4 3 2

 

N

W

 

E

S

 

8

K 9 8 7 5 2

K Q

K J 9 7

 

A Q J 6 5 4 3 2

A 10

7

10 5

 

West

North

East

South

 

Dummy

You

 

Pass

1 

1 

1 ♠

Pass

2 ♣

Pass

2 

Pass

3 NT

Pass

4 ♠

All pass

 

 

 

 

We can see now why South bid 2Heart-small in trying to show a good raise to 4Spade-small. They were never playing 3NT even if North had a heart hold. You can see that there are at least 12 tricks in no-trumps on any lead but South could not be sure their partner held Spade-smallK.

There are also 12 top tricks in spades. Any pair who managed to bid to slam would score well but as South, you can still score quite well if you make all 13 tricks, something you can achieve without the help of the defence in no-trumps or spades with North as declarer or on any lead except a club with South as declarer. Overtricks!

A West would do very well to find a club lead when their partner had overcalled in hearts. So, after Heart-small6 lead, East played low and South’s Heart-small10 scored. A spade to the king would be followed by Diamond-smallA and a ruff and a cascade of spades, 6 more to be precise.

Let’s look at the position with one round of spades to be played:

 

Q J

A Q

J 10 8

4

 

N

W

 

E

S

 

K 9

K J

 

3

A

10 5

 

On Spade-small3, declarer throws Club-smallQ from dummy. East is not enjoying this! If they throw Heart-small9, South will cash Heart-smallA and dummy will be high. If they discard Club-smallJ, South will play a club to the ace and a heart back to their hand..and the Club-smallT is the 13th trick.

I know what you are thinking. East may as well have played Heart-smallK at trick 1, for all the good playing low achieved. True but nearly half of the 27 North-South pairs only made 12 tricks.

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So, playing in game and making all 13 tricks scored North-South well above average. You did not need to bid to slam to get a good result. Pairs is so much about over and under-tricks rather than aggressive bidding (not that bidding to this small slam is aggressive, if you have the bidding tools to do so).  

And why should South play this way rather than take a simple finesse? Perhaps because of East’s overcall and the known presence of the Heart-smallK in the East hand.

Do that and immediately your Pairs result will improve.

And apologies to the East defenders who this time were helpless, unless their partners had found the magical club lead.

Richard Solomon

 

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