INCORRECT ANALYSIS by Stephen Rzewski On several occasions every year, bridge events are held in local clubs in which the same hands are played across the entire ACBL, or in some cases, world- wide. The events are popular because club players are given the opportunity to achieve a high score that may rank nationally or globally. As a further attraction, a record of the hands played, along with an expert analysis of each deal, is provided to every player on conclusion of play. Today’s hand came from one such event, an “International Fund Pairs”, held in 1987. Imagine yourself as the declarer, and try to think and play the hand along with the narrative: My partner and I are vulnerable and the opponents not, and in 2nd seat I pick up this promising collection: ♠ AK9732 ♥ ----- ♦ A84 ♣ AKQ3 My right-hand opponent, who is the dealer, begins with a weak 2♥. Many years ago, a 3♥ cue-bid might have been used to show a hand of this type, but my partner and I have a different conventional understanding for that call, so I decide to start with a takeout double. Over this, my left-hand opponent jumps to 5♥. This is a good tactic from his side at favorable vulnerability, called an “advance sacrifice”. He figures we can probably make a game somewhere, and elects to make the sacrifice bid against our contract before we actually reach it, rather than wait until we can determine at what strain and level we best belong, thus forcing us to guess whether to bid or double. My partner passes, as does my RHO. Well, I’m not going to let myself be shut out with a good playing hand like this one, so I bid 5♠. This is followed by a pass on my left. My partner thinks for a bit, then bids 6♠, which is passed out. The complete auction has been: E S W N 2♥ dbl 5♥ P P 5♠ P 6♠ (all pass) West leads the ace of hearts, and the dummy comes down: ♠ QJ84 ♥ J82 ♦ J106 ♣ 972 ♠ AK9732 ♥ ----- ♦ A84 ♣ AKQ3 It probably would have been more judicious for partner to pass, since he knows I am counting on him for a little something. Still, he does have very good trumps, and he could be right. In any case, here I am in a slam. How should I plan the play so as to come up with 12 tricks? I have 6 spades and 4 top tricks in the minors. In addition, I can always ruff the 4th club in dummy after drawing trumps, giving me 11 tricks. If the clubs are 3-3, the 4th club will be a winner, and I can discard one of dummy’s diamonds on that card, then give up a diamond and ruff a diamond for my 12th trick. With all this aggressive pre-empting, though, I would be very surprised if the clubs split evenly. Is there any other reasonable chance that I can play for in addition to the even club break? If only that 8 of diamonds were the 9, I could take a double-finesse in diamonds. With West leading the ace of hearts, East’s heart suit can only be headed by the KQ at most, which easily leaves room for a diamond honor in his hand in spite of his pre-emptive two-bid. Is there any way I may be able to play the diamond suit for one loser with this combination, other than hoping for a defensive mistake? Besides a very lucky holding of KQ tight or singleton honor, there is also the chance of K-x or Q-x doubleton in either hand (most likely East, as few players would open a weak two-bid with 6-5 distribution). If you thought that LHO had that holding, for instance, you could prevail by leading a low diamond from the closed hand. If LHO played his honor, your J10 in dummy would give you a finessing position against the remaining honor in RHO’s hand. Conversely, if you thought RHO held a doubleton honor, you would start the diamonds by leading the jack from the dummy. If RHO played his honor, you would win and lead through LHO’s honor to establish the 10. And if either player ducked his honor on the first lead, your play would force the honor in the opposite hand, then you could pick off the remaining stiff honor with your ace. There is also the chance of an endplay, if either hand holds both diamond honors. That hand would most likely be West, since a weak two-bid with KQ in both red suits would be very rich. To allow for that possibility, I will want to strip the hand as much as possible so as to force the opponents to lead diamonds in the end, as well as to try to get a count on their distribution. I shall draw trumps by leading to dummy’s honors, so as to ruff hearts on the way back. So I start by ruffing the opening lead, then I lead a low spade to dummy’s jack. On this trick West discards a heart. The 3-0 trump split is annoying, because I now won’t be able to draw three rounds of trumps and ruff all three of dummy’s hearts and still leave a trump in each hand, limiting my end-play possibilities. Still, I see no better way to continue, since playing the hand in this way will still help me build up a picture of the enemy holdings. West may also have some discarding problems and under pressure may make a defensive error in that regard. As my club holding is concealed, an opponent might easily make a careless discard of a club from something like 10xxx, which will make my 4th club good. After leading a spade to dummy’s jack, I lead the 8 of hearts and ruff in my hand, both opponents following. I continue with a low spade to the queen: on this trick West discards the deuce of diamonds. I lead dummy’s last heart, the jack, which East covers with the queen; I ruff in my hand, West following suit. This leaves: ♠ 84 ♥ ----- ♦ J106 ♣ 972 ♠ A ♥ ----- ♦ A84 ♣ AKQ3 West presumably began with four hearts, so he is out of major-suit cards now, having followed to three heart leads and discarding a heart and a diamond on the two trump leads. East has one trump left, and now is the time to draw it with my ace. On this trick, West discards the 4 of clubs. That may be the mistake I am looking for. So I next try the ace of clubs on which both opponents follow with spot cards, then I play the king, but no such luck: West follows low, but East discards a heart. That’s more bad news for another reason, as I now know East’s distribution. He is presumed to have begun with 6 hearts, 3 spades, and a singleton club. That means he holds three diamonds, and West, who discarded a diamond earlier, now also holds three. So there is no chance of playing either opponent for a doubleton honor. Am I therefore licked? Not necessarily. If West holds KQx of diamonds, I can strip the clubs from his hand and endplay him. But I also see another chance now: maybe that 8 of diamonds will prove to be of some use after all. I lead my third high club: West follows with the 10, and East discards a heart. Then I lead my small club, West covers with the jack, I ruff with dummy’s last trump, and East plays another heart. All hands are now down to nothing but diamonds. The lead is in dummy, and I am looking at: J106 A84 If West has KQx, I have him now, as I should simply lead the jack and pass it. He will win and have to lead away from his remaining honor, on which I should play dummy’s 10. However, my gut feeling is that West does not hold both honors. East had three opportunities to discard on the club plays and threw a heart each time. It is true that an expert East, holding 9xx in diamonds would understand my problem and would have discarded all his hearts, since they are useless cards anyway, which he is known to hold, thus forcing me to guess the diamond holdings. But East is not an expert, and most average players at some point in the hand will typically discard a low diamond from such a weak holding. This suggests to me that the diamond honors are divided between the two hands. I therefore believe that my best chance is to hope that West holds the 9 of diamonds, making my 8 the key card all along. So I lead the jack, which is ducked by East and me to West’s king. West leads a low card back, and I follow my instincts by playing low from dummy. East can either play low and let me score the 8, or he can cough up the queen, the full deal being: North ♠ QJ84 ♥ J82 ♦ J106 ♣ 972 West East ♠ ----- ♠ 1065 ♥ A764 ♥ KQ10953 ♦ K972 ♦ Q53 ♣ J10654 ♣ 8 South ♠ AK9732 ♥ ----- ♦ A84 ♣ AKQ3 Had West returned the 9 of diamonds, I would simply have covered with the 10, pickling East’s queen and establishing my 8. The opponents carded as well as they could. If West had discarded a second diamond, for instance, South could well have figured him to have come down to Kx, and would have made the winning play of a low diamond from his hand before playing all the clubs. Interestingly, the hand analysis you are given after the game states that on the normal ace of hearts lead, 6♠ can not be legitimately made, as E-W must come to two diamond tricks!