Hand of the Week #28

Hand of the Week is back after a bit of a hiatus while I didn't have time to either play bridge or write about it. Here's a simple defensive puzzler from our Election Night duplicate game, 04 November 2008. Vulnerable against not, you deal yourself

S 8
H T 9 3
D A K 5
C A K J 9 5 2

You open the auction with the obvious 1C, and it continues like this:


There's no clear answer as to whether it's right to lead a top diamond or a top club. I led a top club, on the theory that once I knew a little about the distribution, I'd know if I could give partner a club ruff (or maybe even two, getting back in with a diamond.) The dummy was:

S J 9 5 4 2
H Q J 2
D J 8 7
C T 3

and the first trick went C3 from dummy, C8 from partner, C7 from declarer. Amazingly, a thinking defender can probably guess the distribution of the unseen hands, based only on what he has seen and heard up to now! Let's look at it one suit at a time:

Clubs: partner played a high club (only the queen is higher, and the six and four are both lower), but wasn't willing to raise me. If he had Qxx or Qxxx he might have raised me. It looks like partner has two clubs and declarer has three. Just maybe, partner has one and declarer four.

Spades: declarer has at least five, so partner has at most two.

Hearts: notice how nobody at the table bid hearts? My partner responded 1D to my 1C opening. Our partnership style is that he almost always responds in the major if he has a 4-card major, especially with a weak hand. Almost surely, partner doesn't have 4 hearts. That means North has at least 4 hearts. And if north were 5-5 or more in the majors, he might have used a two-suited overcall, rather than overcalling 1S.

Diamonds: partner's 1D only promised four. But simple counting shows partner has at most two spades, at most three hearts, and at most two clubs, and therefore... at least six diamonds. That leaves North with at least five spades, at least four hearts, at least three clubs, and at most one diamond.

On that basis, it should be clear that you should either play three rounds of clubs immediately, or cash only *one* high diamond and then continue the clubs. Trying to cash two diamonds, thinking "partner probably has four or five, so declarer has two or three" but ignoring the other three suits, can't possibly work.

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

And, in fact, North was 5-4-1-3 and West was 2-3-6-2, exactly as we guessed. If East leads two rounds of diamonds, North comes in and pulls trump.

As the cards sit it was all an academic exercise anyway -- since if you lead three rounds of clubs, an alert declarer will go up with the S9 or SJ from dummy, and not sloppily ruff small. Declarer can count too, and knows that your 3C bid promised at least six clubs and East is therefore out.

My compliments to South for settling for a restrained 3S and not jumping to game with 5-card support, given the lackluster 5-3-3-2 shape with queens and jacks wasted in the red suits.

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This page last updated 05.11.08
©2008 Gordon Bower