Hand of the Week, Vol. 2 No. 20

This deal from the Saturday evening pairs game at the Farthest North Sectional, 01 Aug 09, gave West a chance to bid well, South a chance to lead well, East a chance to declare well, and North a chance to defend well. It was a classic matchpoint hand: if everyone did everything right, the result was average; if either side made a mistake, his side got a near-bottom.

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


With most hands including 10 HCP and a fit for your partner's opening bid, you should raise enthusiastically and only stop short of game if partner says he's ashamed of his opening bid. But this West hand has flaws. Most seriously, the 4-3-3-3 shape; 4-3-3-3 hands very often play a trick worse than their point count would indicate, since they provide neither ruffing values nor an establishable second suit. Secondarily, the queen in a side suit is of unproven worth. If West had SA and HQ rather than SQ and HA he should like his hand quite a bit better, knowing all three of his face cards are going to be working.

Against 2H, South surely will not lead a diamond away from his sequence. A small spade is most likely to set up an extra trick for the defence if North has a face card in spades; a small club will just finesse North out of his face card in that suit.

On the spade lead, declarer plays low from dummy. On the surface it may look like a pure guess whether to play the queen or let the trick come around to the ten - but the only time going up with the SQ gains a trick is if South has the SAK -- and he wouldn't lead the S3 if he had both of them.

Par on the board is 140 for East-West, achieved if South leads a spade and North switches smartly to a diamond. If South chooses a bad opening lead, 170 is a top for East-West; a 100-point set if West overbids or 110 if declarer calls for the wrong spade will be a top for North-South.

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This page last updated 03.08.09
©2009 Gordon Bower