January 13th, 2007

Bridge Column



                     THE GREEDY OVERTRICK

                      by Stephen Rzewski


          matchpoints
          neither vul
          dlr:  North

                           North

                           ♠A74
                           ♥A962
                           ♦Q62
                           ♣A65


                           South

                           ♠5
                           ♥K10873
                           ♦AJ9
                           ♣KQ82


              bidding:   N     E     S     W
                  
                        1♣    2♠    3♥     P
                        4♥   (all pass)

                      opening lead:  ♠2


	One of the most important areas of matchpoint play that can
help generate winning games is the matter of overtricks.  This is 
especially true when it becomes apparent that a normal contract has 
been reached which figures to make easily.  Declarer may easily become
complacent and inattentive and miss an opportunity to make a precious
overtrick, which could turn an average result into a top.  Likewise, 
a defender can similarly lose concentration and allow declarer an 
extra trick to which he is not entitled, converting an average into 
a bottom.  One such play on a 26-board session can easily affect one’s
score by about two percentage points, a considerable gain at matchpoints.

	In today’s deal, which occurred at a recent club game, the 
bidding and contract appear routine, and are likely to be the same at 
all tables.  What would be your general line of play?

	If the trumps are 2-2, twelve tricks will be easy.   If the 
clubs should divide 3-3, one of dummy’s diamonds can be discarded on 
the 13th club, and the diamond finesse can be taken for all thirteen 
tricks.  If the clubs do not split evenly, there are still some possible
ways to finesse the diamonds so as to avoid a loser in that suit.  With 
East pre-empting in spades, however, he figures to have shortness 
somewhere, so some suits will undoubtedly split unevenly.  To begin, 
how should one play the hearts?

	It is better to start the play of trumps with the king rather
than with dummy’s ace.  If the hearts are not 2-2, the length is more 
likely to be with West.  If East should play an honor on the first lead,
the percentage line on the second trump play would be to play West for
honor-third and  finesse dummy’s 9, in accordance with the Law of 
Restricted Choice.  

	Because there may be an endplay possibility on the hand, one 
should use the opportunity of being in dummy at the first trick to ruff 
a spade before touching trumps.  Then at trick #3, play the king of hearts.
Both opponents follow low, and when you lead a second trump to dummy’s ace,
West plays the jack and East shows out, discarding a spade. So you will 
have one sure trump loser.  Now lead dummy’s last spade and ruff in hand,
West following.  With the following cards remaining, how would you now 
proceed?

                              ♠ ---
                              ♥96
                              ♦Q62
                              ♣A65


                              ♠ ---
                              ♥8
                              ♦AJ9
                              ♣KQ82

	It behooves one to count the hand as you play, as the best 
continuation may depend on the opponents’ distribution.  East should 
have six spades for his weak jump overcall and has followed to one heart;
so he has six cards in the minors.  Suppose you were to test the clubs 
and find them to be 4-2, with length in the East hand.  That would give
him two diamonds.  In that case, your best play to avoid a diamond loser
and score twelve tricks would be to hope that he started with exactly 
K-x doubleton.  You should accordingly lead a low diamond from dummy, 
finesse the jack, and if it holds, play the ace next to drop the king.

	If instead it should turn out that West holds four clubs, that 
would leave East with two, and that hand would therefore have four diamonds.
In that case, your only play for the second overtrick would be to hope that
he started with K10xx.  Holding the AJ9, you should plan on taking two 
diamond finesses through East, first leading the queen, and if that card 
is covered, winning the ace and getting back to dummy to finesse the 9. 
The ace of clubs and a ruff of the 4th club will provide the necessary 
entries. The odds of this play succeeding are small, but are essentially 
on the house, since there is no danger of losing any additional trick if 
the double-finesse fails.  (It is somewhat better to start with the queen 
rather than low to the 9, since a careless East might make a mistake and 
fail to cover the queen with Kxxx).  

	To be in the best position to make your choice of plays, first 
play the king and queen of clubs, then low to the ace on the third round 
so as to end up in dummy (if West should ruff in, he will be obliged to 
play a diamond, since he will have no other suit left, which presents you 
with no danger).  As it turns out, the clubs do split 3-3.  So how should 
you play the diamonds now?

	The answer is:  don’t touch the diamonds at all!  Instead, lead 
a trump to West, resulting in an endplay.  He will be obliged to lead a 
diamond into your tenace holding.  You will now be able to discard a diamond
from dummy on your good 13th club and ruff your last diamond in dummy.  
Making twelve tricks for a well-earned top.  The full deal:

                                ♠A74
                                ♥A962
                                ♦Q62
                                ♣A65
                                   
                      ♠1062               ♠KQJ983
                      ♥QJ4                ♥5
                      ♦K1073              ♦854
                      ♣973                ♣J104

                                ♠5
                                ♥K10873
                                ♦AJ9
                                ♣KQ82

Bridge Column



                  Department of Defense (IV)

                     by Stephen Rzewski


                           North (dummy)

                             ♠A1064
                             ♥A972
                             ♦K109
                             ♣Q2

            West (you)                                            

              ♠J92                                                  
              ♥J103                                            
              ♦874                                         
              ♣AK63         

          bidding:   N     E     S     W
                    1♦     P    1♥     P
                    2♥     (all pass)

	Recently, a defensive problem involving a particular card
combination came my way, which you will see from time to time, so 
it is worth confining to memory.

	You start the defense with the ace and king of clubs, partner
playing low-high and declarer contributing the jack on the second round.
You switch to a diamond.  Partner shows up with the ace and queen, so 
he wins two more tricks and exits with a third diamond, declaring 
winning the jack.  A heart is played to dummy’s ace, partner following 
with the queen.  A second heart goes to declarer’s king, who then throws
you in with a third heart, partner discarding clubs on the last two tricks.
What do you now play, looking at:

	                          ♠A1064
                                  ♥9
                                  ♦ ---
                                  ♣ ---

                  ♠J92
                  ♥ ---
                  ♦ ---
                  ♣ 63

	Declarer appears to have three spades and two trumps left in his
hand.  You will have to break the spade suit, as a club play now will 
give declarer a ruff-and-sluff.  If partner has the king of spades, you 
will always get one more trick, so the relevant case is when partner has 
the queen and declarer the king.  

	You might get away with leading the deuce, if partner has the 
8-spot and puts in that card if declarer calls for a low card from dummy. 
However, if it turns out that declarer has the 8, he will either win the
trick cheaply with that card, or if partner puts up the queen, declarer 
will then have a finessing position over your jack with dummy’s A-10.   

	Suppose you lead the 9, trying to get partner to withhold the 
queen unless dummy’s 10 is played.  If you do that, and declarer turns 
out to have good spots (8-7), the play will go: 10, queen, king, and he
will now be able to run those spot cards through you and pick up your jack.

	The play that covers all the bases is to start with the JACK. 
This renders declarer helpless.  If he plays dummy’s ace, followed by 
the 10, you will always score the 9, provided that partner covers the 
10 with the queen.  The full deal:

                                                                 
                              ♠A1064
                              ♥A972
                              ♦K109
                              ♣Q2

                                   
                 ♠J92                        ♠Q53
                 ♥J103                       ♥Q
                 ♦874                        ♦AQ65
                 ♣AK63                       ♣109875


                              ♠K87
                              ♥K8654
                              ♦J32
                              ♣J4