Monday, 11 March 2013

Wooden, but still standing

We had a lucky escape on this board in the final session of the Premier Life Masters Pairs held in Daventry over the first weekend in March. Declarer failed to take advantage of my slip at trick two and my partner's accurate defence didn't give him a second chance.

See if you would have done better than me:

Sitting West, with both sides vulnerable, I held K6 AJ10 AQJ943 73, as dealer, and the bidding went:

4 (2)

(1)    Unassuming cuebid, showing a raise in spades with defensive values
(2)    Pushy, but assumes few wasted values in diamonds given the bidding

Partner led the 8, (second best from suits missing an honour) and dummy went down, revealing


Board 20
IMP Scoring





The first trick continued eight, two, ace, five  - what next?

The bidding (and lead) surely mark partner with three, or just possibly four, diamonds headed by the ten and some values outside. If declarer, in addition to the marked K, holds both missing aces, our defensive prospects might seem to rely on partner having enough in spades for us to take two tricks in that suit - rather against the odds given his failure to bid 1NT, yet willingness to compete subsequently with 3 vulnerable.

Partner is, moreover, unlikely to have four hearts – for else surely he would have strained to make a sputnik double of 1 - nor will he have a singleton, for he would have led it to trick one. If he has three hearts, there doesn't seem much hope: declarer has five - if not six - spade tricks, one heart, a diamond, a diamond ruff and at least one club trick, more likely two (for if partner's clubs were as good as AQJx, he might well have tried 2 over the 1 overcall).

On balance, the best hope for four defensive tricks seems to be for partner to hold exactly two hearts and lie in taking two tricks in hearts, in which case, there is no time to lose. An unnatural looking heart away from the AJ10 at trick two will force out one of dummy's honours and will allow partner to lead a second heart through when on play with a club, or perhaps a spade..

Although this defence is not certain to defeat the contract, it is also most unlikely to give away the setting trick. The danger with a passive defence is that, given enough time, declarer may be able to set up a club discard for his losing third heart.

At the table, I woodenly returned the Q, hoping that partner would turn up with enough in spades (maybe 10xx) and sufficient bits in clubs for an eventual trick in that suit. Fortunately declarer was not up to the challenge. He ruffed the diamond in dummy and successfully drew our opposing spades in three rounds. He then led J from hand - but partner rose smartly with A and played a heart, stranding him in dummy, for the full deal was:

Had declarer won the second diamond in hand and played the J immediately, intending to finesse against Q, there would have been no defence. This would have required a little sang-froid ,of course, for that finesse is far from an even bet,  but given the method of scoring (Butler IMPs), it offered him by far the best chance of his side achieving a good result on the board.

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