Thursday, 31 January 2013

Make them sweat!

When I started this blog, a friend wrote to me: "You need to include more of your disasters. It will make you appear more human". In truth, there never seems to be a shortage of disasters, but they are rarely particularly illuminating or instructive, and while they may elicit an sense of Schadenfreude in the reader, they are hardly great reading......but in the age of Fifty Shades of Grey, maybe that doesn't matter.

Without further ado, for your pleasure and enjoyment, here is an example from Tuesday's duplicate game, with my partner and I sitting E/W, and playing against Paul Barden and Jon Cooke :


1NT (1)
2 (2)
Dbl (3)
2NT (4)
Dbl (5)
Dbl (6)

(1) 12-14 balanced. Not ideal, but opening and 
rebidding clubs is grotesque
(2) Transfer to spades
(3) Well judged reopening double. Allowing
opponents to play peacefully in 2S is losing tactics
(4) Two playable suits, partner
(5) We have the majority of points, partner.
You may wish to compete or double the opponents
(6) Not a good bid. At this vulnerability, double only makes sense if the opponents are likely to be going two off. West's clubs and spades do not look well placed, so maybe 2S is going off and any plus score will get a good result - a double risks turning a poor score into a zero

The denouement was brief and brutal. We cashed our four top tricks in the order: A, A, A, K and followed this with a third round of diamonds, ruffed by declarer, and establishing dummy's 10 in the process. Declarer barely had to breathe hard as he ruffed one spade high in hand on the way to claiming his contract via three trumps, two ruffs, two spades, one club and one diamond.

This supine defence was not impressive. Against semi-balanced part-score hands where your side is known to hold a majority of the points and five trumps, it is often critical to cut down the opponents' opportunity to cross-ruff, and therefore right to lead a trump from the outset.

So suppose we had led ace and a second heart against this contract. Declarer considers his prospects. West presumably holds five spades, three hearts, three diamonds and two clubs and also has two of the four remaining top cards A, AK, K for his bidding. Declarer can see that a third round of trumps is coming when the opponents next gain the lead, so can count three trump tricks, one ruff, one club and one spade (maybe two, depending on the position of the A). That adds up to two or three off - not an attractive prospect.

Although, on the probable distribution, the need to use two entries in hand to lead up to KQ on table is a mirage, declarer wins the trump in hand and leads a spade to the ten and king, which holds. It now seems likely that the spade ace is onside and, if so, declarer could lead a small spade from table to draw the now blank ace.

Another possible place to look for extra tricks is the club suit. If West holds two out of KJ10, admittedly rather against the odds with East known to hold five cards in the suit and West only two, there is a second trick in the suit, and there may be more. In any case, taking a losing club finesse would not cost a trick per se since there would remain an entry to hand to cash the A.

Before committing himself, declarer may however choose to give up a tempo and let opponents reveal a bit more of their hand. The way to do this is to lead a diamond towards the queen. This will reveal the position of the top diamond honours before taking any final decision on the likely position of the A or K. The diamonds are sufficiently solid that declarer cannot be forced without establishing a diamond trick and, if the opponents do that, they will lose the opportunity to draw a third round of trumps.

So, a diamond is led and the opponents cash AK, West turning up with A, who then gets off lead with a third round of trumps which declarer wins in dummy, East discarding a small club.

It is apparent at this stage (if it was not already) that if West holds A and East K, this contract is going at least two off and a score of no matchpoints to N/S will result (of course the calculation is different if West had not doubled - now -100 for two off undoubled might not be so bad against 2 making).  Note that there is no sure play for one off, else declarer might take it!

Declarer can't afford at this stage to trump a diamond back to hand: East might have started with Jxxx and upon winning the A would then be able to cash a winning diamond.

So, with some trepidation, it is now time to take the club finesse. Declarer leads a club from dummy and is delighted to see West rise with the king (in case North has a holding such as AJ87(x) and is intending to finesse. Under those circumstances only the playing of the K gives declarer a guess on the second round of the suit). He gratefully snaps up the trick and cashes the Q, discarding a spade from dummy, and receives a second favourable surprise when the 10 appears from the West hand.

Suddenly there is light at the end of the tunnel, and declarer leads 8, intending to run it if East plays low. In fact East covers with J and declarer ruffs in dummy. All that remains to be done is to ruff a diamond back to hand and cash the two remaining clubs. East wins the last trick with the A. Nine tricks via four clubs, three hearts, a club ruff and a spade - very neat.

What's worse, I'm sure that Paul would have played it just like that - but at least, he would have had to raise a sweat for his +530 !

1 comment:

  1. It is also interesting to play through this hand on the basis of East leading a club at trick one. North beats West's king with the ace and leads, say, a spade to the king which wins. Then a heart back to his King and East's ace. Suppose that Esat gets off lead with a second club. Declarer has to decide what to throw from dummy - presumably a spade - and then wins in hand with the club queen. Needs careful (but not double dummy) declarer play from this point to bring home the bacon.