Thursday, 4 July 2013

"Respect" or "A thing of beauty is a joy forever"

Reputations can be a dangerous thing....

Declarer, fresh from his success at the Pachabo,  played this hand well against my partner, Roger Salmon and myself, up to a point. Unfortunately a more mundane line would have worked rather better.

Holding: K9 A1094 K109 A972, North heard the bidding unfoold;

Dealer E
N- S Vulnerable


(1) Unassuming cue-bid
(2) Practical shot, can almost count nine tricks before dummy is tabled
(3) Disciplined. Shows respect for opponents - there seem to be a lot of points in this pack!

East, a sometime bridge blogger, led K (king for count) and this is what declarer could see.

When declarer ducked the first trick, East followed by Q, his partner following upwards to show an odd number of clubs, while North held off again, East paused for thought and then exited with a small diamond.

Opponents' hand pattern was pretty clear to declarer. West surely had five hearts and four spades for his double followed by his bid of 2H, leaving East with a likely 4-2-3-4 shape. Declarer has eight top tricks via six diamonds and two aces but needs to decide where to go for his ninth trick? A weak player might simply play a spade towards the king (having first cashed his diamonds), a slightly better player might win the diamond switch with dummy's queen and play for the defending heart honours to be split by leading J from table.  However declarer looked more deeply into the hand and saw that he could still make the contract if West had started with KQ and East A. Either of the two earlier lines would fail if that were the case - which seemed a distinct possibility from the bidding.

Winning the diamond in hand he cashed six rounds of diamonds, West following for one round only and then discarding one club, two hearts and two spades, while East discarded two spades and a heart. Declarer could be pretty sure that this was the end situation.

??                                 ??
???                               ?
None                            None
None                            J8

Declarer knew that East had started with KQJ and J - so where were his remaining points to justify the opening bid? Did he have the queens in both majors or A?

If the former, he needed simply to lead a spade form the table towards his king; if the latter, he had executed a neat strip squeeze. With chances evenly balanced, he went for the "prettier" option. After  crossing to his A, he cashed A and threw East in by playing 9 to lead away from his A for his ninth trick.

Except that I didn't have A.

After winning J, I simply played a spade to my partner's ace. His heart king won the setting trick.

The full deal:

A little unlucky perhaps - but declarer was effectively playing for me to have misdefended. Going back to trick three when I led a passive diamond - had I held neither heart honour, a heart switch from me would have been "automatic" - it could not cost the contract and it might be the only way to get partner in to lead a spade through declarer's presumed K.

As it was, it seemed pretty clear to me that declarer had six diamond tricks and the club ace, together with stops in both hearts and spades. If he had held A and K, he would not have left me on lead to trick three, risking me playing a spade and thus generating three spade tricks to go with our two clubs and HA. True, partner might have held K10, in which case a heart lead would generate tricks for the defence before declarer had established a spade trick by leading from table to his presumed K. But how likely was it that declarer had bid 3NT with a  heart stop of A98x? If declarer had A108x instead, leading a heart might easily result in North South making overtricks.

Moral of the story: while it is frustrating to go down in a contract when you had a chance to make it (due entirely to an opponent's misdefence), this is an occupational hazard. When working out why opponents have played the was they have, show them some respect - sometimes they even deserve it.

PS Just a small throwaway comment. When I was discarding spades on the run of the diamonds, I played the eight followed  by the two, signalling my length. In diffferent cirumstances with a spade holding headed by J108 or J109, I might have played the knave initially, to show the ten and deny the queen. Can you see how dangerous that would been on this hand? Knowing that I did not hold Q, declarer would have been sure to place me with a top heart honour to justify my opening bid. And if I held a top heart honour, my partner must hold the A to justify his bidding. When signalling, it is vital to recognise that you are not only signalling to partner but also to declarer.

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