THE GREEDY OVERTRICK (II) by Stephen Rzewski Matchpoints ♠ 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, leaving: ♠ 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.
August 14th, 2007
ONE GOOD COUP DESERVES ANOTHER by Stephen Rzewski IMPs 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 clubs. 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.