Hand of the Week, Vol. 2 No. 9

This week's deal is from the Tuesday 05 May club game. It gives a careful declarer two chances to shine on the same hand:

Dealer South
None vul
S K 6 5
H A J 5
D J 7 6 2
C K Q 6
S 2
H 7 4
D A Q 8 5 3
C A T 5 4 2
[table marker] S J T 8 3
H T 9 8 6
D 9 4
C J 9 7
S A Q 9 7 4
H K Q 3 2
C 8 3

The auction could go several different ways, but here is the simplest:


West's 2NT overcall showed 5-5 in the minor suits. Overcalling 2D, perhaps to bid clubs at your second turn, would also be fine. North might try 3NT or 4S, or might try to collect a big penalty defending 3C or 3D doubled, but game in the known fit is the most obvious bid. West led the H7, obviously either a singleton or doubleton.

South has two unavoidable losers -- one club and one diamond -- but has to worry about losing a second diamond trick since the DAQ is likely sitting behind his king, and a spade break could potentially create a loser in spades.

The way to avoid two diamond losers is to avoid letting East into the lead. Coincidentally, this also naturally points the way to the winning play in trumps. If spades are 3-2, cashing the SAKQ in any order works. If they break 4-1 with the long spades on your right, you can still pick them up. It is important to cash the SK first. If you want to guard against letting East into the lead, finesse the nine next. This will occasionally result in the loss of a spade trick to West when he has SJx or STx, but that's better than losing a spade to East and two diamonds to West. This would be the right play on any deal where you needed to keep East out, but it's especially appealing on this deal after the 2NT overcall indicates West is going to be short in both majors.

Declarer's second task is to find an extra winner in the minors. After pulling trump, leading towards the CKQ twice is the obvious play. If West hops up with his CA immediately, the rest is easy. If West lets the first club go, it looks like declarer has a problem. Here is the position after the CQ wins:

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

South returns to his hand with the HK, and leads his last club. If West goes up with his ace now, South has no entry to the dummy to reach the good CK -- but West has been endplayed. With only clubs and diamonds left, West has to either give declarer a discard on the CK or set up the DK Making five! Congratulations to Shirley Liss for finding both plays at the table Tuesday night.

Notice how the 2NT overcall is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it will enable East-West to find a good sacrifice; this time, it told South who had the missing aces and how all four suits were going to break. It would still be possible to find the winning line without help from West, but much harder.

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This page last updated 06.05.09
©2009 Gordon Bower