stevesgames (stevesgames) wrote,
stevesgames
stevesgames

Bridge Column



                 Double-Dummy Problem

	               North

                      ♠ 3
                      ♥ AK7
                      ♦ KJ1065
                      ♣ KJ86

         West                        East

        ♠ A92                       ♠ Q5
        ♥ J10654                    ♥ 9832
        ♦ A72                       ♦ 983
        ♣ 102                       ♣ A974

                       South

                      ♠ KJ108764
                      ♥ Q
                      ♦ Q4
                      ♣ Q53


	South is to play the contract of 4♠ with the
opening lead of the ♣10.  In a “double-dummy” problem,
the reader is allowed to look at all four hands and 
find a solution which requires optimal play by both 
sides, declarer and defenders.  In this case, you are
to decide whether you would prefer to declare or defend,
which essentially means:  do you think that the best
line of play by declarer will necessarily result in
fulfilling the contract, or do the opponents have 
defensive plays that must inevitably result in defeat
of the same?  

	When you believe you have arrived at a solution,
it is advisable to look more deeply.  Check and see if 
the opposing side has a counter-play that may have to 
send you back to the drawing board.  If you get stuck,
start reading below, where you will find the answer 
revealed in a Socratic-like fashion in increasing stages.

       *******************************************

	On the surface, it looks as though the contract
should make fairly easily.  Suppose East wins the ace 
of clubs and returns another.  Declarer wins in dummy, 
leads a spade and finesses the 10.  West wins the ace 
(if he ducks instead, declarer plays the king of spades
next to smother the queen), but can do declarer no harm,
who eventually will lose only the three outstanding aces.
So what can the defenders do to make declarer’s life 
more difficult?

	For the defense to have any chance, East must
duck the ace of clubs at trick #1.  (As an aside, this
is a good play to remember generally, when you suspect 
that partner may have led from a doubleton, and you 
have no side entry).  Ducking the ace maintains a link
with West, who, upon gaining the lead with either of
his aces, will play a 2nd club.   East will then win 
the ace and give his partner a club ruff for the setting 
trick.  Can declarer do anything to avoid the ruff?

	Declarer can avoid the ruff if he can get rid 
of his clubs.  If dummy had another fast entry, one 
could play off the queen of hearts, then discard two 
clubs on the ace-king in dummy.  As it is, if he cashes
the queen of hearts and then tries to reach dummy with
a diamond, West will seize the ace and play a second 
club as before, so that won’t work  Will it help declarer 
to overtake the queen of hearts in dummy and discard 
one club on the remaining heart honor?

	This will reduce declarer to one club, the same
length as West, but the weak trump spots will prove to be
an Achilles’ heel.  After playing two hearts, declarer
can lead a spade and finesse the 10.  West will win the
ace, and before leading a 2nd club to his partner, will
likely show good technique by cashing the ace of diamonds
before the mice can get at it.  Now in with the ace of 
clubs, East will play a 3rd club, which will then sink 
declarer:  if he ruffs low, West will overruff with the
9 for the setting trick; if declarer ruffs instead with
the jack, he will survive for the moment, but West will 
simply discard, and the 9 of spades will be promoted in
the process and eventually score.  So discarding just 
one club simply won’t work.  Is declarer therefore doomed,
or does he have a way of getting around the trump promotion?

	Try instead the effect of overtaking the queen 
of hearts with the king, discarding a club on the ace, 
then playing dummy’s low heart and....   discarding the 
last club from the closed hand!  This “loser-on-loser” 
play trades a club loser for a heart loser.  If East wins 
and plays a 2nd club now, declarer can afford to ruff low,
because West still has a club in his hand, and the trump 
promotion will be avoided.  Declarer will still have a 
slow entry to dummy via the diamonds to make the trump 
lead to the 10, and West will not be able to get to his
partner for another club play.  So it appears to be correct
to choose playing the hand over defending after all.     
.....or is it?   (better look again)

	Suppose the defender who wins the third heart 
(on which declarer discarded a club) continues by playing
a 4th round of hearts.  Declarer must ruff in his hand, 
as he has to preserve the spade in dummy for a trump 
lead through East.  Now when he leads a diamond to reach
dummy, West will grab his ace and play...   his last heart! 
East will cooperate by ruffing with the queen of spades 
(this play of a high trump to create a trump promotion 
in the opposite hand is called an “uppercut”; see our 
previous column entitled “Missed Opportunity”).  Once 
again, the 9 of spades will ultimately provide the setting
trick.  

	If you elected to defend—but only because you
foresaw all of the above—take a long, sweeping bow.

 	My thanks to Bud Biswas for forwarding this 
intriguing deal to my good friend Jeff Lehman, who 
passed it along to me.  Bud informs me that he found
the problem in a book written by Dr. Andrew Diosy,
a Hungarian doctor who is living (or used to live) in
Canada.  

	Many double-dummy problems are less practical
than this one, because they often are of a more puzzle-
like nature, with peculiar card layouts and solutions
involving plays that would be unrealistic to find at 
the table.  This deal, though, is more instructive in
that it contains possible plays that occur with some 
frequency, and which are often missed by the average 
player.  Note particularly:  (1) the duck of the ace 
of clubs at the first trick; (2) the loser-on-loser 
play to avoid the ruff and sever communication between
the defenders, (3) the possible trump promotion by 
leading a suit through declarer’s hand in which both
declarer and LHO are void, and (4) the uppercut.  The
trump position especially is one to study and remember:

		        x

              A9x                 Qx

                     KJ10xxxx

Just one last point:  suppose that, even before any 
trumps were played at all, East had the opportunity 
to lead a side suit in which both South and West were
 void.  If South were to ruff with the 10 or jack, 
West must resist the impulse to overruff with the ace 
and discard instead, in order to promote his 9.
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