Thursday, 28 February 2013

Don't spit

Partnering my nemesis of the previous evening, I was pleased with the divergence between our result and that achieved by our teammates at the other table on the following deal.

Picking up an unremarkable, Q865 AJ K103 10532, as West, my partner and I played no role in the auction:



With a choice of unattractive leads, I opted for the 5 and dummy was faced. I could now see:








Declarer played low from the table and partner played J, won by declarer with the queen. The 9 was led towards the table at trick two, and I had to decide what to play.

Were I to play small, declarer would almost certainly run the nine to partner's presumed queen. My K10 would then be exposed to a simple finesse on the next round, allowing her to make four diamond tricks with great ease.

I could of course cover the nine with the ten, relying on partner to hold 8, but there is a better solution: rise with the king. At worst, this gives declarer an awkward guess on the next round - if she  started life with nine-eight, she would have to decide whether I had split my diamond honours from KQx, or whether the finesse against the ten was working all the way along. However playing the king also has the great merit of disrupting communications between the hands.

Declarer should probably have ducked but she won with A and thinking perhaps that I had KQ bare of diamonds, led a second diamond towards her eight and my ten.

Continuing with a second club, I was pleased to see partner take dummy's queen with the ace, and return a low heart. This was good defence: there was no need to cash our clubs yet and provide declarer with information regarding distribution of our hands.

I won declarer's 10 with the J and had a further choice to make. Declarer had started life with ♣Q and most likely one heart honour. I could just cash my heart ace and our two club tricks, for it seemed that declarer had started life with only three. Partner would win the fourth club and then what? She could cash the diamond queen, of course, but it wasn't clear whether we we would have any more tricks, for declarer surely had A. However I wondered whether, if declarer was missing the J, I might lay a little trap for her, so I exited with Q.

Perhaps declarer should have seen through this ruse and played for split spade honours - but since we had not revealed much about the heart position nor our honours nor our distribution, she was still scrabbling for tricks, and going up with K from table could result in the suit being blocked, if my partner held Jxx, for example. Meanwhile there was the Scylla tempting her to make four spade tricks if I had started with QJx in the suit - after all, who leads an unsupported queen?

It all developed as the gods had foretold. Declarer won with the spade ace in hand and took the finesse of the ten on the way back, partner gratefully winning with the knave and playing an awkward 9 through.

Declarer got this one right and played low, and I won perforce with my A. We now cashed our remaining club, heart and diamond winners, but it left North - South with just four tricks.

Declarer gave me one of the filthiest looks I have received for some time and spat " How did you know that your partner had the J?". 

The full deal:

Plus 150 at our table added handily to the +120 which our team-mates achieved at the other table, where the contract and opening lead were the same, but West did not rise with the K when the 9 was led towards the table.

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