Hand of the Week #14

I have just returned from 4 days of bridge at the Midnight Sun Regional in Anchorage: 173 opportunities for new material for Hand of the Week, and I was not disappointed. I'll be featuring several hands from the regional over the rest of the summer.

Today's hand is from Match 7 of the Thursday evening Swiss teams. An exercise in the defenders paying attention to the auction. You deal yourself the following hand at favorable vulnerability:

S 3
H K Q 9 8 4 3
D J 9 6 5
C 3 2

In a pairs game I might start with a hyperagressive 3H, but settled for the textbook 2H at IMPs. This didn't slow the opponents down at all: Double on my left, 2NT on my right, 3NT on my left. How do you plan to beat it?

You could try to set up hearts. The problem is that South, who almost surely holds the HA, also almost surely has more hearts than your partner does, and your DJxxx doesn't stand much chance of being an entry to cash the hearts once they are set up. So, leading a heart is going to break even if your partner has the HJ, and give away a trick if South has HAJx or better -- with no prospect for gaining four heart winners for your side in return.

A better plan is to hope your partner has three tricks, and can lead hearts through South's ace toward your K-Q twice. When I held this hand I started with my singleton spade. Normally singleton leads against notrump are bad. However, North has shown 4 spades but not 5 with his double, and South has denied 4 spades by bidding 2NT. This marks partner with at least 5 and maybe 6 spades.

As it turned out, partner's spades weren't setting up, but the spade lead was safe. In fact it didn't matter what I led, as long as it wasn't a heart. On a heart lead, declarer can score 3 spades, 2 hearts, a diamond, and 3 clubs for his contract. As long as West never leads a heart, there is no chance for more than 8 tricks:

Dealer West
NS vul
S A K Q 7
H T 7
D Q T 3
C K T 5 4
S 3
H K Q 9 8 4 3
D J 9 6 5
C 3 2
[table marker] S J 9 8 5 4
H 5 2
D A K 8
C Q J 8
S T 6 2
H A J 6
D 7 4 2
C A 9 7 6

The first time partner wins a trick, he will lead the H5, which declarer must duck to your queen, and you must once again lead anything but a heart. North, incidentally, doesn't quite have his raise to 3NT; N-S can make 2NT or 3C, but not more.

Back to HOTW index
Back to Articles index
Back to TaigaBridge home

This page last updated 24.06.08
©2008 Gordon Bower