Hand of the Week, Vol. 3 No. 6

Thinking declarers took one more trick than nursery-rhyme followers on this deal from the Friday 26 February game:

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

The obvious final contract is 4S by North. Playing Standard American, one normal auction is 1S-2C-3S-4S. How would you plan the play when east leads the DT?

You have no diamond losers; one unavoidable heart loser; one slow club loser after your ace is forced out; and you are missing the SK and ST. In spades, you have a choice of plays; the two most likely choices nvolve leading the SQ and, if this trick goes Q-K-A, trying to guess whether drop the ten or finesse against it.

Now that you've looked at each suit individually, you have to make a plan and decide what order to tackle your issues in each suit. The most common plan in a suit contract is usually to pull the trump as soon as possible, to avoid having your side-suit winners ruffed. But not on this hand. You have something more important to do first. As long as the eight missing hearts break 4-4 or 5-3, you can discard a club loser on a heart winner. You need to play hearts now, before you pull trump, to accomplish that; if you play trumps first, the defence might switch to a club when they come in with the SK, setting up their club winner before you set up your heart winner.

(As the cards lie, the strange 5-1 break in clubs, combined with East having both the SK and HA, means that you can still sneak a lucky overtrick, even if you fail to switch to a heart at trick 2, or even if the opening lead is a club.)

At the table, two Norths got 11 tricks while two others got only 10.

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This page last updated 16.03.10
©2009 Gordon Bower