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.
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
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
FORCED ENTRY by Stephen Rzewski dlr: West vul: both North ♠J987 ♥K52 ♦K3 ♣K973 West East ♠4 ♠AQ653 ♥AQJ107 ♥984 ♦10652 ♦9874 ♣AQ5 ♣2 South ♠ K102 ♥ 63 ♦ AQJ ♣ J10864 bidding: W N E S 1♥ P 2♥ P P dbl P 3♣ (all pass) opening lead: ♠ 4 Today’s hand came up in a club game many years ago. I was seated East. The bidding is shown as it occurred. North’s reopening double is questionable without better diamond support, but the opponents fell on their feet when South found the 9-card club fit. My partner and I, each with a singleton, were obviously cowardly lions that day and should have taken the push to 3♥--- but in that case I would not have this bridge tale to relate, one of my all-time favorites. My partner, Harry Kaufmann of North Bennington, VT, led his singleton spade. I won the ace and returned the 5♠, trying to show by a middle card a lack of enthusiasm for either a heart or diamond play back. South made the right play in spades by putting in the 10, as West ruffed and contemplated what to do next. He knew that if I had the AQ of spades, I couldn’t have much else, and with all those kings onside for the opponents, it looked as though they were destined to fulfill their contract. But, in accordance with the old saw, “Necessity is the Mother of invention”, my partner found an ingenious way to set the hand. Even looking at all four hands, do you see how he managed to do so? At trick #3, West led the queen of hearts! As we were playing Bergen raises, the play of the queen was unlikely to cost, since I nearly always showed exactly three-card support for my single raise during the auction, leaving declarer with two. Declarer called for dummy’s king. It took me a moment to figure out what my partner was up to, and I signaled with the 9, attempting to show the highest of touching cards of a sequence and therefore implying the 8. After winning the heart in dummy, declarer came to his hand with a diamond in order to lead a club up to the king. But West rose with the ace, and, in a demonstration of faith in my previous play, he led his lowest heart, the 7, enabling me to overtake with the 8 so that I could provide him with a second spade ruff. Down one.
MORTON’S FORK North ♠KJ2 ♥543 ♦KQ53 ♣A43 South ♠A9876 ♥AKQ972 ♦J2 ♣ ----- bidding: S W N E 1♥ P 2♦ P 2♠ P 3♥ P 3♠ P 4♣ P 5♥ P 6♥ (all pass) opening lead: a low club Today’s play problem came up at a recent club game. Suppose you find yourself in a heart slam, with a possible auction shown. South’s 5♥ call was intended to show a very strong trump suit, and North, figuring that declarer could not lose more than one minor-suit trick, hoped that his spades were good enough to solidify his partner’s second suit. How would you plan the play (trumps are 3-1)? * * * * * * The full deal: ♠KJ2 ♥543 ♦KQ53 ♣A43 ♠53 ♠Q104 ♥8 ♥J106 ♦A1096 ♦874 ♣Q108762 ♣KJ95 ♠A9876 ♥AKQ972 ♦J2 ♣ ----- If you draw trumps and drive out the ace of diamonds, the contract would seem to depend on finessing against the queen of spades, as you will always get two discards from dummy’s ace of clubs and extra diamond honor for your two small spades. There is also a possible squeeze -–which does not exist on the actual layout-–if LHO had started with length in both diamonds and spades. However, there is a significant extra chance if you are careful: DON’T play dummy’s ace of clubs at trick #1. Instead, play a low club and ruff in your hand (as an aside, it would be good technique to ruff with the 7, just in case the trumps are 2-2, in which case that lowly deuce might provide you with a needed entry to the dummy at some later point). Now draw three rounds of trumps and lead a LOW diamond from hand—-not the jack. If LHO has the ace of diamonds, he will have a choice of ways to let you win: if he plays the ace, you will be able to score two diamond discards, thus enabling you to throw away all three of your low spades and avoid the spade finesse altogether. And if he ducks the ace, you will win the trick with one of dummy’s honors, then discard your diamond loser on the ace of clubs. Now you will only need to play the spade suit in a way to avoid the loss of two tricks there, which is a very high-percentage proposition. With this combination: KJ2 A9876 the standard safety play if you can afford the loss of one trick is to start with the king, then lead low from the opposite hand up to the J-x; however, that can not be done unless there are sufficient entries to both hands, a luxury you do not have on the actual hand. In this particular case, your best play is to lead low to the jack to start. You will probably go down when this loses to a singleton queen, but you will make the hand whenever the spades are 3-2, or all other 4-1 splits, such as when either opponent starts with Q10xx. If that hand should be RHO, LHO will show out on the second spade play to dummy’s king, and you will be able to lead from the dummy and take the marked finesse through RHO’s 10-x. The play of the low diamond from J-x toward dummy is called a “Morton’s Fork” coup. The name is derived from Cardinal Morton, Chancellor under King Henry VII of England, who raised money for the king’s coffers by taxing the merchants. If those merchants lived an ostentatiously lavish lifestyle, Morton felt that he could tax them with a heavy hand, since they obviously could afford to pay. And if others of the time lived an outwardly frugal lifestyle, he figured they must be saving and amassing wealth, and so concluded that they could equally afford to pay. So however you lived, you were doomed to be impaled on “Morton’s Fork.” The play of the same name in bridge is used to describe the lead through a defender’s honor ---- in this case, the ace of diamonds ---- whereby the defender loses whether he wins or ducks the trick, essentially a “damned if you do / damned if you don’t” choice. Notice that it is essential to resist the impulse to play dummy’s ace of clubs at the first trick. If you play the ace early, you will be forced to take an immediate discard of a diamond or a spade. Leaving the ace in dummy affords you the flexibility of deciding how best to use that discard later in the hand, depending on the ensuing play. There is one further point worth mentioning: if there had been additional entries to dummy, you could execute the Morton’s Fork against either opponent. In fact, since the placement of the ace of diamonds is a guess, you might be inclined to play RHO for that card, on the basis that many players in the opposite hand, when on opening lead against a slam, will tend to lead an ace if they have one. To illustrate the point, let’s place the queen of trumps in the dummy in exchange for one of the spots, and have the trumps divide 2-2, so that the deuce of hearts also allows an additional entry to dummy. If you as declarer decided to play RHO for the diamond ace, you would ruff the club with the 7, play the ace and queen of trumps (saving that deuce), ending in the dummy, and play a low diamond toward the closed hand. RHO, if holding the ace of diamonds, would face the same dilemma as the one described earlier. If he were to duck and the jack held the trick, you could lead a spade to the king, discard your low diamond on the ace of clubs, ruff a minor-suit card to get to your hand, and lead up to the jack of spades. If LHO showed out, the jack would force the queen, and you would still have a trump entry to dummy to take the remaining spade play through the 10. On the actual hand, you would have gone wrong, as the jack of diamonds would lose to the ace, and you would have to fall back on the spade finesse, resulting in down one. Sometimes it’s better not to have an option.
The following hands came my way at a recent Regional tournament in Daytona Beach. These hands are much more ordinary and routine than those usually shown on this site, and perhaps might not even be considered column-worthy by many. Still, some readers may find them interesting enough, so I offer them for whatever value they may have. Comments are welcome. In a pairs game, with neither side vul, I pick up as dealer: ♠ --- ♥ AKQJ4 ♦ KQ863 ♣ KQ7 I open 1♥, LHO overcalls 1♠, my partner raises to 2♥, and RHO jumps to 4♠. What call would you make? I reasoned that partner had to have an ace and perhaps even a working jack or two, since there are very few other high-card points out there that could be in her hand. Of course, if she happened to hold the spade ace or other honor wastage in spades, that would be bad luck, but the bidding suggests otherwise. So I chance 6♥. The opening lead, somewhat to my relief, was the ace of spades, but partner’s dummy was: ♠Q64 ♥1072 ♦975 ♣A865 ♠ --- ♥AKQJ4 ♦KQ863 ♣KQ7 Some may elect not to raise to 2♥ with her hand, having flat distribution and the queen of spades, which is likely to be a wasted value, but I don’t object, in spite of my disappointment. The odds are against my making this, but I have been in worse contracts. I have a chance if the red suits break evenly and the ace of diamonds is on my right. I ruff the opening lead with the jack of hearts, then continue with the ace and king. I am happy to see both opponents follow; so I lead my low heart to dummy’s 10, drawing the last trump and giving me access to dummy so as to play a diamond. RHO follows low and I put up my king, which holds. So I play my low club to dummy’s ace to lead a second diamond. RHO plays the ace, and LHO follows suit, so I can claim 12 tricks now. A lucky hand: I estimate this favorable layout to be about a 20% chance. The only point here is to take care to ruff the opening lead high, so that you can use the 10 of hearts as an additional entry to make two diamond leads. If you were careless and ruffed the opening lead low, you would have only one entry to dummy, in which case, you would use it to make one diamond lead, then lead a low card back, hoping for RHO to have started specifically with a doubleton A-x, making an already poor prospect considerably worse. The remaining hands come from Bracket I team events. In a Compact KO match, I pick up this hand, in 4th seat: ♠ AQJ4 ♥ AKJ6 ♦ AQJ8 ♣ 5 This hand type, the strong 3-suiter, is very difficult to bid in standard methods. Either you start with an opening bid of 1♦ or a strong and artificial 2♣. I suspect that most players would bid 2♣, not being able to stomach the thought of hearing 1♦ get passed out. The 2♣ call, however, has several disadvantages: (1) you have used more than a level of bidding without yet naming any of your suits—-and you have three of them which you would like to name, (2) rebidding suits naturally after 2♣ - 2♦ implies 5-card length, which you do not have, and (3) partner won’t introduce new suits after a sequence like 2♣ - 2♦ - 2♥ unless he holds 5-card length himself, making it very difficult to find a 4-4 fit. On the other hand, if you open 1♦ and partner can dredge up a response, or if the opponents overcall or pre-empt, you will probably be able to make sensible follow-ups. If the bidding does go 1♦ - all pass, and it turns out that you do have a game, hopefully you will have sympathetic teammates. Players who use Precision or other strong 1♣ systems will have an advantage here. Anyone out there with further suggestions, at least for those who want to stick with standard methods? However, I was somewhat relieved not to have this problem, since my RHO opened 1♣ in third position, giving me an easy takeout double. My LHO bid a pre-emptive 3♣, and my partner surprised me somewhat by calling 4♣, showing a willingness to play game, probably looking for me to choose a major. As an aside, we had played a KO match against this same pair earlier in the week, and on one deal they had talked me out of a slam by taking several bids on weak hands, and the memory of that experience was still fresh. So even if my partner may be pushing a little, I am going to bid a slam here, and since my suits are virtually equal, I throw the ball back at her with 5♣. The full auction was, with everyone bidding clubs at some point: P - P - 1♣ - dbl 3♣ - 4♣ - P - 5♣ P - 5♠ - P - 6♠ Partner’s hand was: ♠ K10762 ♥ 109543 ♦ 6 ♣ A4 The queen of hearts came down doubleton on her left, so 13 tricks were easy, and the board was a push. Do you think we should have bid the grand slam? Then later in the same event, but against a different team, I pick up in 3rd seat, with nobody vul: ♠ 74 ♥ A109763 ♦ AJ42 ♣ J My partner as dealer opens 4NT. I alert this call, and explain to my opponents that partner has a two-suited hand with both minors and great distribution, typically 6-6 (I’m not a strong advocate of this treatment, but my partner likes it, and I go along). My RHO passes. I decide to take the risk that my partner’s possible singleton is either a heart, or that maybe I’ll get a heart lead and be able to discard her losing spade, if she has one. So I call 6♦. This is passed out, my LHO leads the king of hearts, and the dummy comes down: ♠ --- ♥5 ♦KQ10763 ♣Q87642 ♠74 ♥A109763 ♦AJ42 ♣J Prospects look fairly good. I will need to set up the club suit, and since the likely split is 4-2, I may need to ruff three times in my hand, possibly using high trumps to prevent an overruff. I don’t think I can afford to test trumps at this point, because if I play one high trump and then a club, that hand may win and play a second trump, limiting me to just two club ruffs. So after winning the ace of hearts, RHO playing the 8, I play the jack of clubs at trick #2. LHO wins the king and plays an insidious small heart, putting me at a crossroads: should I ruff low, or can I afford to spare one of dummy’s high trumps? What would you have done in my place? The odds of a 5-1 heart split are very low, but seem enhanced with the opening lead and continuation, and I would hate to go down at this point by ruffing low and getting overruffed. Against that possibility, I could afford to ruff high if either the diamonds divided 2-1 or the clubs 3-3, which offers a very high combined chance. So I play dummy’s 10 of diamonds, and I’m a bit regretful to see RHO follow with the jack of hearts. I lead a club and ruff low, both opponents following, ruff a spade low in dummy, play a third club and ruff high, LHO showing out. Another spade ruff and a 4th club, ruffed with the ace. Now I lead the last (low) diamond from my hand, and… LHO shows out. Rats! RHO has to get a trump trick now with his 98x. Figuring that I just lost the match, I forget the pre-emptive effect that the 4NT call had on the opponents, the full deal being: ♠ --- ♥5 ♦KQ10763 ♣Q87642 ♠J1096532 ♠AKQ8 ♥KQ42 ♥J8 ♦ --- ♦985 ♣K9 ♣A1053 ♠74 ♥A109763 ♦AJ42 ♣J At the other table, my partner’s hand did not open, and the bidding started: pass - 1♣ - 2♥ - 2♠ 3♦ Our hands competed to 5♦, our teammates bid to 5♠ and the opponents decided to let them play it there, making 12 tricks for +480 and a substantial gain on the board. Maybe that 4NT call isn’t such a bad method after all. In a 3-way match of a Compact KO, I hold, with both vul: ♠ AQ65 ♥ AK87 ♦ K2 ♣ 1052 My partner opens 1♣, I respond 1♥, and my partner raises to 2♥. How would you continue? This hand feels too good not to make a slam try, with all its controls and concentrated high-card strength. My partner and I have recently decided to adopt 2NT as an asking bid here, after opener has raised a major, a treatment which seems to be gaining favor with many players. It is especially useful where partnerships have an agreed style for opener to frequently raise responder’s major with 3-card support. Opener responds: 3♣ with minimum values and 3-card support, 3♦ = 3-card support, maximum values, 3♥ = 4-card support, minimum 3♠ = 4-card support, maximum. The method is most useful when making game tries, but also can work when you feel you are in the slam zone. in cases such as this one. My partner responds 3♠ to my inquiry, the best hand possible, so after checking for key-cards to find that we are only missing the queen of trump, I bid 6♥. LHO leads the 9♣, and dummy shows: ♠72 ♥J1092 ♦A86 ♣AKQ3 ♠AQ65 ♥AK87 ♦K2 ♣1052 This looks reasonably good. If the king of spades is onside, I can ruff my small spades with dummy’s high trumps and can even stand being overruffed with the queen of trumps. And if the king of spades loses, I still have chances if the queen of hearts is onside, provided RHO has four spades. Well, you can guess that both cards were offside and I went down. I wouldn’t mind this bit of bad luck normally—-but the effect is severe. The slam was not bid at the other table, so we lose 13 IMPs on the board instead of gaining 12 (had the slam made), and we lose the 6-board match by -24 instead of winning by +1: a 25-IMP swing. I know that I am supposed to disdain matchpoints and embrace IMPs, but the effect of one card offside on this type of hand at this form of scoring seems highly punitive. In a matchpoint event, I might be able to make this up on the next hand by scoring an overtrick on a partscore, but this results in a huge deficit at IMPs, especially in a short match. But then fortune comes our way after all: this match was part of a three-way round, we win our second match—-by all of +1---and it turns out that the third team lost both of its matches. So we advance to the next round, in spite of our net negative -23 IMPs. This somehow doesn’t feel right either, but having endured my share of bad luck, I am happy to accept the good, when it comes. On another hand, still IMPs and both vul, I hold in 4th seat: ♠ 6 ♥ AQ9763 ♦ AJ952 ♣ 3 LHO and my partner pass, and RHO opens a 15-17 1NT. This is certainly a hand where you want to be playing a method of showing a two-suiter. My partner and I play Cappelletti, so I bid 2♥, showing that suit, plus a minor. LHO bids a non-forcing 2♠, which is passed back to me. I decide to continue bidding with 3♦, LHO passes, and my partner shows interest and surprises me a bit by bidding 4♥, which is passed out. The opening lead is a low diamond, and dummy comes down: ♠ K752 ♥ K8 ♦ Q107 ♣ K972 ♠ 6 ♥ AQ9763 ♦ AJ952 ♣ 3 This hand is remarkably similar to one that was presented in one of our earlier columns, and illustrates how to evaluate hands with 6-5 distribution. One should tend to bid these hands fairly aggressively, if the honor cards are located in the long suits, and especially if the honors provide good working combinations, along with good intermediates. My partner figured that I was likely to have either extra shape or extra values when I continued bidding by myself to the 3-level, vulnerable, and guessed that I was likely to be 6-5. As a supporting hand, she figured that her red honors—-notice even the importance of the lowly 10 of diamonds on this hand—-had to be worth their weight in gold, even though her black kings could probably be put in the trash. A good decision on her part. As an aside: for those of you who like to read up on bridge theory of hand evaluation, I highly recommend Mike Lawrence’s “I Fought the Law…”, which presents a rebuttal of the Law of Total Tricks and offers instead a method of predicting the trick-taking power of a hand by measuring two different factors, which he calls the “Short-Suit Total” and “Working Points”. The numerous examples may feel tedious at times, but I found the arguments to be strong and compelling. As to the play: the diamond lead was probably a singleton, so I put up the queen to entice RHO to cover, but he didn’t bite and correctly played low. I have only two black losers, so I can afford to give up the king of diamonds, as long as the hearts don’t split 4-1, in which case I would lose a heart. But LHO wouldn’t lead a stiff diamond unless he had some trumps, so I decide that can’t be the case. I therefore play the top hearts, and they do turn out to split 3-2, so I just give up the king of diamonds and settle for ten tricks, the full hand being: ♠K752 ♥K8 ♦Q107 ♣K972 ♠QJ843 ♠A109 ♥1052 ♥J4 ♦6 ♦K843 ♣10865 ♣AQJ4 ♠6 ♥AQ9763 ♦AJ952 ♣3 It is not a good idea to lead a singleton on opening lead into a suit bid by declarer, especially if the bidding suggests that partner might have finessable strength in that suit. Would declarer have possibly gone down if LHO had led a spade? Probably not. Declarer would ruff the second spade, and could start by playing the ace of trumps, then low to the king. If LHO showed out here, declarer would know he would be losing a trump trick, and would therefore take the diamond finesse. Once both opponents follow to two heart leads, declarer can play it safe by ruffing a spade, drawing the last trump, and just give up the king of diamonds. I believe this would even be right at matchpoints, because you would have to figure that you would be scoring well by just getting to game and would therefore want to protect that score, rather than risk going for a top. If on the diamond lead, you decided to get greedy, play only two trumps, ending in the dummy, so as to repeat the diamond finesse, you would go down. RHO would refuse to cover as before, LHO would ruff, and the defense would play on black suits, forcing you to eventually play diamonds out of your hand, to lose the setting trick there. The tournament, scheduled in early November, lasts a full week. The weather is very pleasant at that time of year, the ocean temperature is quite tolerable for swimming, and you can walk for miles on one of the most beautiful beaches I have experienced. You might want to consider going. See you there next year?
TEST YOUR PLAY (V) by Stephen Rzewski matchpoints vul: N-S dealer: N North ♠A1053 ♥A3 ♦A109 ♣Q865 South ♠KQJ742 ♥J10 ♦8 ♣AK92 bidding: N E S W 1♣ 2NT 3♠ 5♦ 5♠ P 6♠ (all pass opening lead: ♦2 Today's deal came from a recent STAC tournament. The opponents' hands have been modified to make a more suitable problem. Plan the play. * * * * * * * North ♠ A1053 ♥ A3 ♦ A109 ♣ Q865 West East ♠ 96 ♠ 8 ♥ Q65 ♥ K98742 ♦ Q632 ♦ KJ754 ♣ J1073 ♣ 4 South ♠ KQJ742 ♥ J10 ♦ 8 ♣ AK92 There is a heart loser you can do nothing about, and there is no further problem if the clubs divide 3-2, so you should assume they will split 4-1 or worse, which is quite likely, given East’s “Unusual 2NT” call, showing great length in the red suits. If West has four clubs which include the J-10, an endplay can be executed in the following manner: win the ace of diamonds, ruff a diamond high in the South hand, draw trumps with the king and ace of spades. Then ruff dummy’s last diamond (a third round of trumps can be played should they prove to divide 3-0). Now comes the key play: play one high club honor from the South hand, followed by the ace of hearts. The position at that point will be: North ♠ 105 ♥ 3 ♦ ---- ♣ Q86 West East ♠ ---- ♠ ---- ♥ Q6 ♥ K987 ♦ Q ♦ J7 ♣ J107 ♣ ---- South ♠ Q7 ♥ J ♦ ---- ♣ K92 Now simply exit with a heart. If East wins the trick, he will be forced to give you a ruff-and-sluff of your club loser. If West wins, unless he does the same, he will be forced to return a club. If he plays the jack or 10, let this come around to your king, and you will have a finessing position against his remaining honor-7. It is essential to play one high club before exiting with the heart, or else East can win the trick and exit with his singleton club. If your club holding were weaker still, such that you were missing the J-10-9, the contract could still be made along the same lines, provided that East’s singleton happened to be one of those cards.
A SURE THING by Stephen Rzewski IMPs vul: none North ♠ K973 ♥ A6 ♦ J764 ♣ K107 South ♠ AJ865 ♥ 3 ♦ K52 ♣ AQJ6 bidding: S W N E 1♠ 3♥ 4♠ (all pass) opening lead: ♥ Q Today’s hand came up in a Swiss teams event at a local club. Declarer won the heart lead in dummy, then played the king of spades, on which both opponents followed with low spot cards. When a low spade was played next, East followed with the 10. Should declarer now finesse the jack or instead play for the drop of the queen by going up with the ace? Why? (take no credit unless you give the correct reasoning) * * * * * * The full deal: North ♠ K973 ♥ A6 ♦ J764 ♣ K107 West East ♠ 4 ♠ Q102 ♥ QJ109874 ♥ K52 ♦ A83 ♦ Q109 ♣ 98 ♣ 5432 South ♠ AJ865 ♥ 3 ♦ K52 ♣ AQJ6 At the table, declarer successfully finessed the jack of trumps, rejecting the old adage of “eight ever, nine never”, which suggests that when missing five cards including the queen, one should finesse, but instead play for the drop when missing only four cards. Later in the play, declarer led a diamond to his king and lost three tricks with the unlucky layout in that suit, but at least fulfilled his contract. So why did declarer take the finesse? It is true that in a vacuum the odds favor playing for the drop, but the mathematical advantage for that choice is slight, and if there are other factors to take into account, one should consider the alternative play. Here there is the matter of West’s pre-empt, which shows great length in hearts, normally a 7-card suit, increasing the chances of his holding a singleton spade. The queen of spades is not a relevant card in the bidding, as West would probably be just as inclined to make the same pre-empt if he held Q-x of spades as well as a small singleton. But with 8 of West’s cards inferentially known (7 hearts + 1 spade played), that leaves only five cards in his hand that could be the queen of spades. Whereas only five of East’s cards are known (2 spades played + 3 presumed hearts), there are 8 cards in his hand which could be the queen. That leaves much more room in East’s hand to hold the queen, indicating that the finesse is a distinct favorite. Nevertheless, in the context of the complete deal, declarer should have played for the drop. The finesse might be a good calculated risk at matchpoints, where overtricks can bring heavy premiums, especially in normal contracts like this one, but at IMPs scoring, making the contract has the highest priority. If declarer had played the ace of spades at the critical juncture, and the queen had dropped, the contract would have been assured. But what if West had then shown out, as in the actual layout? Declarer would then have a sure line of play as follows: a club to dummy to then lead and ruff out dummy’s remaining heart**, followed by the play of the remaining club winners. Then a trump is led, putting East on lead, who will have to break the diamond suit (or play his last heart, which would give declarer a fatal ruff and sluff). As long as declarer plays a low diamond from his hand when East leads low, he can not be deprived of a diamond winner, no matter how the honors in the suit are distributed. So going up with the ace of spades is a heads-you-win, tails- you-win play. No need to resort to guesswork when a sure thing is available. **An afterthought: my good friend, Michael Klein pointed out that declarer could improve his technique by ruffing dummy’s small heart at trick #2, before touching trumps. This would provide for the case where a defender with the third trump and a club void, probably West, with something like: ♠ Q10x ♥QJ10xxxx ♦ Axx ♣ --- might be able to ruff in and exit safely with a heart before dummy’s heart could be removed, forcing declarer to break and guess the diamond suit himself. It is also worthy to note that there is a standard safety play with this card combination of starting the play of the spades with the ace rather than the king, which one might consider at this form of scoring. This play guards against the possibility of a 4-0 trump split in either hand, and ensures the loss of no more than one trump trick. However, since LHO is highly unlikely to hold four spades along with the presumed 7-card heart suit, the initial play of the king in this case will likely work out just as well.
REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY by Stephen Rzewski Often during the play of the hand, the defense will be in a quandary as to which suit it should be attacking. Sometimes when declarer plays on a particular suit, a defender may assume that it is contrary to his side’s interest to continue on that suit and may therefore shift to another. This is a natural and logical human reaction, which is frequently correct, but occasionally declarer can exploit this tendency to his own advantage. Playing in a Regional Open Swiss against one of the top pairs in New England, I pick up: ♠ 973 ♥ AK10852 ♦ J106 ♣ A Neither side is vulnerable, and I am in 4th seat. The dealer passes, as does my partner, and RHO opens 3♣. I have an easy overcall of 3♥, and my partner raises me to game. The bidding has been: P P 3♣ 3♥ P 4♥ (all pass) LHO leads a small club, and the dummy proves to be a huge disappointment: ♠ J64 ♥ QJ93 ♦ 832 ♣ KQ4 ♠ 972 ♥ AK10852 ♦ J106 ♣ A Who would have guessed all that duplication in clubs? Well, at least they didn’t annihilate me right off by cashing their six winners in diamonds and spades. I can throw two of my losers on the king and queen of clubs, but that still leaves me one down. It is tempting to simply concede that result and save some time and anguish, but even when facing what looks like a hopeless situation, one should always look deeply for any chance, no matter how slight, especially since there are teammates involved. Is there any way I can actually bring home this dreadful contract? Interestingly, I probably can infer more about the lie of the honor cards in the two weak suits than the opponents can about each other’s holding. For instance, if LHO had a holding such as AK in either, he would likely have led one in preference to a club. That would mark my RHO as a favorite to hold at least one high honor in each of those suits. Since he has club length, he will have shortness in one or more suits outside of clubs. Obviously, if I am to make this contract, I will need some mistakes from the defense, but a small ray of hope is beginning to show itself. After winning the club lead, I play the ace of hearts, everyone following, then lead a low heart to the queen. On this trick LHO follows, and RHO discards the jack of clubs, which is probably intended to show strength in spades. I now cash the two high clubs, discarding low spades, on which both opponents follow. So RHO had only six clubs to the J10 for his pre-empt. This is not all that surprising, since many players make tactical pre-empts in third seat which will depart significantly from the normal sound textbook pre-empts. At this point, I lead a diamond from dummy, deliberately playing the suit I fear most. RHO plays low—I now have to hope, among other things, that he started with a doubleton honor—and since I want to give the impression of strength, I play the jack from my hand. LHO wins the queen, and thinks for a bit. Eventually, he makes the play I am hoping for: he puts the ace of spades on the table, and continues with a spade to his partner’s queen. I ruff this in hand, lead a heart to dummy’s jack, then lead dummy’s last spade and ruff in my hand, leaving: ♠ ---- ♥ 9 ♦ 83 ♣ ---- ♠ ---- ♠ 5 ♥ ---- ♥ ---- ♦ A97 ♦ K ♣ ---- ♣ 10 ♠ ---- ♥ K ♦ 106 ♣ ---- Now I simply lead the low diamond out of my hand, and the defense is snookered. If LHO plays low and allows his partner to win the king, that hand will be end-played into giving me a ruff and sluff. And if LHO attempts a “crocodile coup” by playing the ace to swallow his partner’s king, my 10 will be established. Obviously, RHO made a serious error when he failed to play the king of diamonds on the first lead of the suit, not anticipating the end position. LHO might also have saved the day by heeding his partner’s earlier signal and underleading the ace of spades, so that his partner could win the trick and unblock his king of diamonds. Luckily for declarer, LHO had to follow to both hearts, since if he held the singleton, he would have undoubtedly signaled with a high diamond on his first discard, making it easy for his partner to unblock the king. The full deal: ♠ J64 ♥ QJ93 ♦ 832 ♣ KQ4 ♠ A108 ♠ KQ53 ♥ 64 ♥ 7 ♦ AQ975 ♦ K4 ♣ 875 ♣ J109632 ♠ 972 ♥ AK10852 ♦ J106 ♣ A At the other table, third hand opened only 1♣, my hand overcalled 1♥ and was given a single raise to 2♥ by his partner. This became the final contract, with the same club lead. When the dummy came down, declarer decided to simply claim nine tricks, a bit smugly, as our teammates reported, since he felt he had stolen the contract, as the defense could have set him off the top.
THE SQUIRM FACTOR by Stephen Rzewski Today’s deal came up at a Regional tournament many years ago. My partner and I, along with two good friends, had just lost an early round of a Knock-Out team event, and we decided to all go out together to seek nourishment, lick our wounds, and try to re-energize for the upcoming events. A topic of conversation over dinner addressed the problem of trying to read our opponents’ cards during the play of the hand. One of our teammates, to whom I shall refer as Peter, offered a tip when faced with a two-way guess for a missing queen: run a long suit, if possible, and watch for an early discard. Often the person making the first discard in that suit will be less likely to hold the critical missing card, as he would have only small cards there with nothing to protect, and can more easily throw one away. This principle is not conclusive where a player has extra length in the suit (such as Qxxxx), but often an inferential count on the hand will be available and provide further clues. After the meal was concluded, the four of us decided to enter the pairs event of that evening, as no team event was available. As fate would have it, the four of us bought entries in opposite directions, such that late in the session, we sat down against each other as opponents. On the 2nd board of the round, I picked up: ♠A74 ♥Q842 ♦5 ♣K10752 Peter, seated on my right, opened 1NT (15-17), and the auction continued 1NT P 2♣ P 2♦ P 3NT (all pass) I led my 4th-best club, and the following dummy came down: ♠ K863 ♥ AJ93 ♦ QJ2 ♣ 98 ♠ A74 ♥ Q842 ♦ 5 ♣ K10752 My club lead hit paydirt. Partner produced the jack, declarer ducking, then came the queen from partner, declarer winning the ace. Feeling somewhat smug, I settled in to wait for the eventual spade lead, on which I would pounce with the ace to cash my good clubs. At trick #3, declarer led a low diamond to dummy’s jack, which held the trick, followed by the queen. Partner’s first two diamond spots indicated that he held an even number, which meant that declarer had a five-card suit to run. Suddenly I realized that I was going to have to produce a number of discards—four, in fact. Before continuing, decide how you, reader, would have selected the next four cards in your hand to throw away, holding at this point: ♠A74 ♥Q842 ♦--- ♣ K107 Declarer was almost sure to have the king of hearts, and my queen was finessable in front of dummy’s A-J. I could throw two spades away easily, but on the 4th and 5th diamonds, I would have to choose between hearts or clubs. Peter was a good declarer, and I knew he would be watching all of our cards carefully, looking for clues. If I started discarding my good clubs, that would be revealing to him. Why would I throw away potential winners, unless I were protecting some other holding, and what else could that be other than the queen of hearts? Furthermore, if I discarded even one club, Peter could well figure that I would now not have enough club winners to set him, and he could simply lead a spade, establishing his 9th trick there without having to take the heart finesse. No, I realized that my only chance was to unguard the queen of hearts. If Peter did not hold the 10 of hearts, he was probably going to finesse me for the queen anyway. Whatever I was going to do, I had to make my decision quickly. If I started acting tentatively about my choice of discards, hesitating and squirming uncomfortably, that would be a giveaway. I also could hear Peter’s remark made at dinner in the back of my mind, which he probably didn’t even remember. I felt a bit guilty about turning his own advice against him, but all’s fair in love and war. So at my first opportunity, I threw the 8 of hearts, in tempo. Peter turned to my partner and asked about our carding agreements. “Our carding is upside-down, count and attitude.” was the reply. This meant that in theory the discard of the 8, a high spot-card, signaled discouragement for that suit. On the next two diamonds, I discarded first the 4, then the 7 of spades, an encouraging signal, to show that I had the ace. On the 5th diamond —in for a penny, in for a pound—I threw the 2 of hearts without pause, coming down to Q-4. Partner, bless his soul, discarded a spade on the 5th diamond, keeping both of his small hearts. Then came a heart to the ace, and a low heart back from dummy. My remaining cards were: ♠ A ♥Q ♣K107. Peter went into a long study, which must have lasted a full minute. Had I thrown the heart too early, making the bluff obvious? I was dying inside, but knew my partner and I had to appear completely dispassionate and stone-faced. Finally, Peter produced the 10, and I faced my hand and claimed the remainder, for down two. The full deal: ♠ K863 ♥ AJ93 ♦ QJ2 ♣ 98 ♠ A74 ♠ J95 ♥ Q842 ♥ 65 ♦ 5 ♦ 9874 ♣ K10752 ♣ QJ43 ♠ Q102 ♥ K107 ♦ AK1063 ♣ A6 In retrospect, pitching the 8 of hearts first might have looked suspicious, and maybe I should have started my discards with a low spade. But had I discarded a club and kept three hearts, declarer would almost surely have gotten it right, especially since it is more natural to finesse the hearts through me, picking up the entire suit whenever I would have started with four and ending up with ten tricks. Or, at the very least, he would have led a spade instead and ensured nine tricks. The point of this article is that when defending, one must try to anticipate how the play of the hand will unfold and have one’s counterplays worked out in advance. Although I had not done so here, a good time to project the play and defense is at the first trick, while declarer is making his plan, so that one’s mind is already made up when the critical moments occur. If one waits until the play has to be made, the squirm factor will often give away the show. (As a footnote: I’m sure every reader of this column understands that it is highly unethical to feign hesitancy and pretend that one has a problem during the play when in fact no problem exists).