Hand of the Week #25

This deal, board 5 from the Friday 29 August game, presented a defender with two opportunities to help his side defeat the contract. You hold

S 6
H K J 9 7 5 2
D J 9 7 4

your partner deals, vul vs. not, and you hear this auction:


Not surprisingly your partner starts with the HA. Dummy comes down with ST753 H3 DA852 CQ762, and all you have to do now is find a way to beat the contract.

Your first decision happens at trick one. Your partner is almost surely going to switch to either diamonds or clubs after he wins the heart. Which would you rather see him lead? If you and your partner are familiar with the Suit Preference Signal, you can help put him on the right track by playing the H2 on the first trick. Holding DK instead of the CK, a suit-preference signaller would play the highest heart he could afford on this trick.

Good news: your partner leads a small club at trick two, and declarer calls for the C2 from dummy. (Even if you didn't signal for it, there's a good chance partner would choose a club anyway.) Now is your moment to shine. Which club do you play?

Partner would not underlead the CA if he had it, but he would happily lead a club away from the CQ if he thought you liked clubs. If partner has no face card at all in clubs, it doesn't matter which card you play. It is essential that you play the ten. This forces out declarer's ace, and establishes both your CK and partner's CQ as winners. That, along with declarer's eventual unavoidable diamond loser, is how you set 4S. The full hand:

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

It's dangerous to believe in nursery rhymes, but the combined effect of "cover an honour with an honour" and "third hand high" is "third hand high, but if there is a face card in dummy, third hand can play second-highest, saving his big honour to beat dummy's face card.

At the club, only three tables out of eight held declarer to nine tricks.

[Addendum, March 2018: A correspondent wrote to me to point out that, as the cards lie, declarer can succeed even against best defense, if he guesses the club position. This is true. Fortunately a lot of declarers, including myself, are bad guessers.]

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This page last updated 03.03.17
©2008 Gordon Bower