Wednesday, 31 July 2013

A Tale of Two's and Three's

My first session back at the table after several weeks away, produced a bit of a mixed bag of results. 

This hand caused a fair degree of hilarity around the room:

This was the “problem” from my side of the table. 

With both sides vulnerable and holding:  A10965 85 10 A10872, I passed as dealer and was slightly taken aback to hear partner open with 6, third in hand. What (if anything) should I bid?

Well, if you assume that partner is bidding sanely, the only reasonable explanation must be that he has two two black suit voids. He presumably holds thirteen red cards but has a gap (or perhaps gaps) which cause him to hesitate to contract for thirteen tricks – he might also be worried that a more scientific approach could result in allowing the opponents to find a black suit sacrifice. Perhaps he is missing K or, more likely, Q and some number of small diamonds. Missing either of these key cards, it seems clear to pass.

But in fact, before you have a chance to get the green card out of your bidding box, your left hand opponent doubles!

At teams, I might have considered a redouble – the opportunity for gain (an additional 240 points, for the contract making – assuming no overtrick – against a potential additional loss of 200, would certainly be in my favour, possibly offset by the risk of the opponents running). Playing  pairs, however,  I essayed a smooth pass.

Now look at the full deal:

East’s double had little to recommend it – except that - as confirmed by Deep Finesse - the contract can be defeated. How?

Clearly a black suit lead allows declarer to ditch his two low hearts and simply concede one diamond trick. A diamond lead away from the queen leads the defence to suffer a similar fate - but consider:

a.       Q lead

Close – but not good enough! Declarer wins in hand and cashes two more top diamonds and one top heart, then throws East in by leading his diamond deuce. East perforce wins the trick and now has to give the lead to dummy, allowing the pitch of the losing hearts. (If the 2 and 3 were switched between the North and East hands, East could avoid the endplay by unblocking his trumps from the top, but North could then draw all the trumps and get off lead with a small heart).

b.      J lead

This is the killer! In fact declarer has to be careful not to go two down! If he wins in hand and cashes his top two trumps, for example, East unblocks with 9 and 7. He wins the third round of diamonds with Q and plays back the 3. If declarer “carelessly” wins this, he is stranded in hand again and must lose two hearts at the end. So he must underplay his deuce!

Alternatively declarer can simply duck the opening lead of J and East has no good lead to the second trick; he can always be endplayed to give dummy the lead for a pitch of the second losing heart.

Thank you to Jon Cooke for pointing this out to me. (I see from the travellers however that he and David Kendrick defended 5 and their opponents made twelve tricks, so sadly he did not have a chance to produce this brilliance at the table)

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