Friday, 24 May 2013

Listen to Julian

“Maybe you should play on diamonds earlier?” said Julian, looking non-plussed as he wrote -50 in his score card.

“I think it works better if I just draw trumps” replied Victor, putting the cards, back into the board.

What would you have done?

1 (1)

 (1)    Playing a 15-17 opening 1NT

South led the 5, which went to the Q and was won by declarer in hand with the A. East continued with K and Q, revealing South to have started with four spades, and then crossed to table with a third spade, North shedding a heart and a diamond.  Next came a heart to the queen and ace. South now led a club - won on the table with A.

Declarer now followed with the 10 and North (perhaps, not optimally) won with the K.

This was now the position, the defence needing to take two more tricks to beat the contract.

None                     J7
K7                        10
None                     J87
J752                      None

The winning defence is now to play another heart, but North didn’t foresee the possible ending and played a top club to force declarer. After ruffing, declarer drew the last trump, discarding a club from table, while North threw a heart.

At this point, the contract was still makeable via an endplay. North was known to hold two diamonds. If he also held two hearts, there was no hope, but if he had come down to one heart and a club honour (as indeed he had), declarer could extract the last heart by leading the ten of hearts to the K and putting North on lead with a club to lead away from his 96 into the J8 sitting over him.

At the table declarer was concerned at the risk of going two off by following this line, so cashed his J prematurely, allowing North to escape the endplay. 

A sequence of errors by both North and East.

How should declarer have played the hand? 

On the opening lead declarer has five spades tricks, and one trick in each of the side suits. He can draw trumps and play on diamonds but, given the known bad diamond split, he is going to have to give up the lead twice in that suit and one further time in hearts. With the only guaranteed entries to his hand being in trumps, there is a real risk of communication difficulties – which could be fatal if the spades fail to split evenly. 

Since South is marked with the diamond shortage and therefore is likely to hold the spade length, declarer can give the defence an impossible choice by not touching trumps and simply returning a diamond at trick two.

Let us say that South discards a heart, if North now beats the ten with his king, he has no good return.  On a further diamond play, declarer can take the marked finesse and to prevent the 7 winning the trick, South has to ruff with one of his high spades and be over ruffed by the A – declarer can then simply draw trumps, losing one further diamond and a heart. On any other return, declarer can again draw trumps upon regaining the lead in hearts or clubs, and then give up one more diamond trick.

Nor does it help North to duck the diamond ten. Declarer comes to hand with a trump and leads a third diamond, South having no option but to allow dummy to ruff small, or to shorten his trumps and be over-ruffed with the A. Either way declarer has his ten tricks.

So let us assume that South ruffs the second round of diamonds, and then plays a spade. Declarer can win this in hand and play a third round of diamonds.  South has to ruff to stop dummy eloping with a low trump and is duly over ruffed with the A. 

Declarer now gets back to hand by cashing the A and ruffing a club, and again puts it to South with another diamond. South can ruff this trick, but the 6 remains on table to take care of declarer’s thirteenth diamond. 

As the cards lay, a round of trumps at trick two was not fatal, due to the club position giving endplay options. However if you replace one of South’s low clubs with the Q, even one early round of trumps is enough to despatch the contract to the graveyard.

Curiously, on an opening trump lead, the contract is still makeable, but declarer should follow a completely different line. Now he must draw trumps immediately, which forces North to release three vital exit cards in hearts (best, since he cannot afford to let go any diamonds). The 10 from hand then catches South in a kind of Morton’s fork – going up with the A gives declarer two tricks, but ducking removes North’s exit card in the suit, and South will never make his A. By now ensuring that South remains off lead and switching attention to diamonds, declarer can always engineer a third trick in that suit for his tenth trick. On the actual lie of the cards, there are a number of other ways for declarer to get home too.

The full deal:

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