August 14th, 2007

Bridge Column

               THE GREEDY OVERTRICK (II)

                      by Stephen Rzewski

                         ♠ K
                         ♥ KQ108
                         ♦ A72
                         ♣ AK1064

                         ♠ 87532
                         ♥ AJ942
                         ♦ 6
                         ♣ 83

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

                opening lead: ♦K  

     This deal came up at a local club game, slightly
amended.  With such poor spades and a weak hand overall, 
South decided to show his better suit, thinking that he
may get only one opportunity to bid, and he might not want
to play spades anyway unless partner could bid them.  Just
as in our previous example on this subject, the contract is
normal and will undoubtedly be the one played at most
tables.  In order to achieve a good matchpoint result, it
may be necessary to bring in overtricks that might be missed
by the rest of the field.  How would you plan the play?

     When a hand is two-suited, it is usually good strategy
for declarer to try to establish his second suit, ruffing leads
of that suit in the dummy, if necessary.  Ruffing in the hand
with shorter trump length (typically dummy) usually gains tricks
as well, since the greater trump length in declarer's hand is
maintained in the process.  In this case, however, declarer's
spades are so poor and difficult to establish that it is better
to work on the superior club suit and make dummy the master
hand.  Since the most likely club division is 4-2, one may have 
to ruff clubs twice in order to make the 5th club good.

     There is a further advantage in making dummy the master
hand:  since declarer's hand has a singleton diamond, both of
dummy's small diamonds can also be ruffed out.  The technique
of ruffing in the long hand to the point where dummy's trump
length eventually exceeds that of declarer's is known as
"reversing the dummy".  For this type of play to be successful,
one needs:  (1) trumps in the short hand which are strong
enough to eventually draw the opponents' trumps (assuming that
trumps will need to be drawn), (2) a number of ruffs to be 
available in the long hand, which will result in a total net
gain of tricks, and (3) sufficient entries to the short hand
needed to execute those maneuvers.

     In this example, you may want to take as many as four
minor-suit ruffs in your hand, and you will therefore need to
delay the drawing of trumps and make maximum use of dummy's
entries.  Accordingly, win the opening lead with the ace of
diamonds and ruff a diamond immediately.  Next play a club
to the king, ruff dummy's last diamond, and then play a second
club to dummy's ace.  Both opponents follow to this trick,

                        ♠ K
                        ♥ KQ108
                        ♦ ----
                        ♣ 1064

                        ♠ 87532
                        ♥ AJ4
                        ♦ ----
                        ♣ ----

     Now lead a third round of clubs from dummy.  On
the actual hand, East will follow with the jack, and
you should take care to ruff high to prevent a possible
overruff, which proves to be necessary, as West shows
out, discarding a diamond.  Now lead your low trump to 
dummy, and when both opponents follow, you are assured
of twelve tricks.  Lead a 4th round of clubs next; East
will play the queen as you ruff with your last trump 
in hand, the ace.  Dummy's 5th club is now good.  At
this point, simply exit with a spade, conceding that
trick, then ruff the continuation and draw the remaining
trumps with the KQ in dummy.  The full deal:

                        ♠ K
                        ♥ KQ108
                        ♦ A72
                        ♣ AK1064

           ♠ AQJ4                    ♠ 1096
           ♥ 7                       ♥ 653
           ♦ KQJ1093                 ♦ 854
           ♣ 97                      ♣ QJ52

                        ♠ 87532
                        ♥ AJ942
                        ♦ 6
                        ♣ 83

     As one might expect, the majority of scores on this
deal were +620 and +650; only two pairs found the dummy
reversal and tied for top with +680.

Bridge Column


                    by Stephen Rzewski

          vul:  N-S
                         ♠ A7
                         ♥ 653
                         ♦ 842
                         ♣ KQJ104

            ♠ K1095                  ♠ 863
            ♥ KQ1094                 ♥ 82
            ♦ 93                     ♦ QJ1076
            ♣ 83                     ♣ A92

                         ♠ QJ42
                         ♥ AJ7
                         ♦ AK5
                         ♣ 765

            bidding:   S      W      N      E

                      1NT    2♦*    2♠      P
                      2NT     P     3NT  (all pass)

                    opening lead:  ♥Q

     In today's deal, both defense and declarer engaged in a
series of thrusts and parries before one side could ultimately
prevail.  The bidding and opening lead may warrant some
explanation:  West's somewhat aggressive 2♦ overcall conven-
tionally promised both majors.  North's 2♠ call was a cue-bid
showing game interest with a stop in that suit. The lead of the
queen from the combination of KQ109 asks partner to play the jack
if he has it; failing that, to give count.  Accordingly, East
signaled with the 8.

     South saw the need to hold up the ace of hearts at trick #1.
In order to make his contract, he has to establish club tricks.
Assuming that West holds all the missing major-suit honors, there
is no danger on the hand if he also holds the ace of clubs.  But if
declarer wins the first trick and it turns out that East holds the
ace, that defender will lead a heart through declarer's J-x, and the
defense will run four more heart tricks.

     The hold-up with AJx when both missing honors can be placed
on the left is called a "Bath Coup", named from the long-ago days
of whist and having some connection with the place of that name
in England. It is actually a simple maneuver which comes up
frequently in both notrump and suited play.  Its effect is to
prevent the defense from continuing the suit without giving up a
2nd winner for declarer.  Since it typically forces the defense
to play on other suits, declarer may not want to make this play
if he fears a shift to something else.

     West contemplated what to do next.  It seemed to him that
if declarer held the ace of clubs, he was likely to fulfill his
contract, so he hypothetically placed that card in his partner's
hand.  It might be possible for the defense to duck early club
leads and isolate the long cards in the dummy, but the ace of
spades would still be there for a late entry.  West therefore
decided that it might be advisable to play on spades.  It would
do no good to lead a low spade if declarer held the queen, so
West played the king (!) of spades at trick #2.

     This sacrifice of an unsupported honor, the intent of
which is to kill an entry to dummy, is known as a "Merrimac
Coup".  In this particular case, it resulted in giving declarer
three spade tricks instead of two, but the investment may come
back by possibly depriving declarer of at least two of the long

     South won with the ace (it would do no good to duck, since
West would just lead a 2nd spade) and then played the king and 
queen of clubs.  As one would expect with good defenders, West
played high-low in clubs, indicating a doubleton, and East
recognized the need to hold up his ace of clubs for two rounds,
leaving the following cards:

                         ♠ 7
                         ♥ 65
                         ♦ 842
                         ♣ J104

            ♠ 1095                   ♠ 86
            ♥ K1094                  ♥ 2
            ♦ 93                     ♦ QJ1076
            ♣ ----                   ♣ A

                         ♠ QJ4
                         ♥ AJ
                         ♦ AK5
                         ♣ 7

     South has scored the ace of spades and two clubs,
and he has five more top winners.  It now looks as though
he is headed for down one.  But declarer had one more
trick up his sleeve:  he knew that West would not have made
his two-suited overcall without at least nine cards in the
major suits, and since he had followed to both club leads, 
he could not have more than two diamonds.  So South executed
a play known as the "Dentist Coup" by playing the ace and
king of diamonds, thereby extracting West's potential exit
cards in that suit.  He then cashed the queen and jack of
spades and exited with his last spade.  West was in with
the 10, and with nothing left in his hand but hearts, he
was endplayed and forced to lead into South's ace-jack
tenace, enabling declarer to score the game-going trick
with the jack of hearts after all.