Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lead Tip




                                                East
                                                ♠ T86
                                                ♥ K87
                                                ♦ J953
                                                ♣ K32

                        South
                        ♠ 752
                        ♥ QT6
                        ♦ Q84
                        ♣ AJ74


OL 6 Clubs

West                North               East      South
                        P                      P          P
1S                    P                      2S        All Pass

You are sitting south. Dummy ducks the lead and you put in the Jack, which holds. Seeing the King on the board, you want another lead through the King, so you switch to the weakest suit on the right and lead the diamond 4. Partner takes Declarer’s Ten with the Ace and returns the Queen of Clubs. Dummy ducks, as do you. Partner returns the Ten of Clubs, which you take with the Ace and declarer follows. What do you return? Here’s the situation:

                                                East
                                                ♠ T86
                                                ♥ K87
                                                ♦ J95
                                               

                        South
                        ♠ 752
                        ♥ QT6
                        ♦ Q8
                        ♣ 7


You hold the 13th Club. Generally you don’t want to give declarer a ruff-sluff, but here there is a good possibility that partner has a spade honor and it’s either a singleton or doubleton. The only way to score it is to lead the 13th Club and hope that Partner has a spade honor. Anything else and Declarer will get in and pull trump. Here’s the four hand layout:



                        North
                        ♠ J3
                        ♥ AJ52
                        ♦ A762
                        ♣ QT6


West                                        East
♠ AKQ94                                ♠ T86
♥ 943                                       ♥ K87
♦ KT                                        ♦ J953
♣ 985                                      ♣ K32

                        South
                        ♠ 752
                        ♥ QT6
                        ♦ Q84
                        ♣ AJ74


Bidding: North in first seat could open this hand with 12 HCP, but it’s pretty weak despite two aces, so passing is OK, too. The rest of the bidding is standard.

Play: Partner was a good player and didn’t lead either of his aces. Never lead an ace against a suit contract if you don’t have the King or it’s a singleton. And it’s even worse to underlead an ace. The six of clubs was a perfect lead, low from an honor. You, with an honor on the board and a higher honor in your hand, do not take the trick with the ace. In this situation you should hold your ace to cover the king when it’s played. Since partner led low (the 2 and 3 are on the board and you have the 4, so there’s only one card lower than her lead), she should be promising an honor, so there’s a good chance she has the queen, not declarer. Further, even if declarer does have the queen, you set up two good tricks by playing the Ace, declarer’s queen and dummy’s king. Unless you have some reason to think that declarer might hold the queen singleton, you should play the jack. So you play the jack and it holds.  

Your lead of the 13th Club allows partner to score her Jack of Spades. Declarer is placed in the position of either hoping your partner can’t ruff higher than dummy or trumping with an honor, which would give up a trick if North held Jxx. As it was, this was the setting trick as North scored her trump. Defense took 3 clubs, the aces of hearts and diamonds and the jack of spades. This is one instance where giving declarer the opportunity to ruff-sluff is worth the possibility of getting a trump to score when otherwise there is no hope for it. With any other lead, opponents make 2 spades.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Defensive Tip




                North
                K74
                T83
                AK7
                K984


                                East
                                J832
                                K
                                QJ652
                                A53

               

West         North         East  South
                                1D    P
1H            P              1S     P
1N            All Pass
Opening Lead: 4C

You are sitting North. Declarer plays low from the board and takes your partner’s Jack with the Queen. He leads to the King of Hearts and then leads the two of diamonds to his Ten, which you take with your King. What do you lead from this position?

                North
                K74
                T8
                A7
                K98


                                East
                                J832
                               
                                QJ65
                                A5

The first question you must ask yourself is what is declarer’s intent? Clearly he wants to set up his diamonds. After getting rid of the Ace (in your hand), he’s got three good diamond tricks. But he’s got an entry problem. You have to get rid of the Ace of Clubs before he gets you to play your Ace of Diamonds. So, even though it looks bare and you don’t know where the Ten is, you must lead your King of Clubs, forcing him to take his Ace. If he is smart and ducks, you can then lead another Club forcing him to play the Ace which is now alone, and his last entry to the board is gone and he can give up on his three diamond tricks. It doesn’t matter that leading your king might set up his ten in his hand, if he has it (and he must have it because partner played the Jack on the first trick; if partner had the Jack-Ten, she would have played the Ten). You’re trading one trick for three because he won’t be able to get the diamonds. Here’s the full deal:

                North
                K74
                T83
                AK7
                K984


West                         East
A95                        J832
A6542                     K
T8                          QJ652
QT6                        A53

                South
                QT6
                QJ97      
                943        
                J72

Bidding: East opened a woeful 11 HCP hand, apparently giving himself 5 points for his singleton heart king. That’s the only reason I can figure that he could pull out an opening bid here. West properly responded 1H and North, with the best hand at the table had to pass. East responded 1S and even though West had 10 HCP and 5 hearts, he disdained New Minor Forcing and closed out at 1N.

Play: North salivated at defending this and led fourth from longest and strongest. If North is wise enough to lead her club king at the pivotal point when she got in with the king of diamonds, West would be lucky to make 1N. As it was, however, North switched to a heart and West was able to set up the diamonds while he still had the ace of clubs as an entry and made 2, 3 diamonds, 2 hearts, 2 clubs and a spade. However, West misplayed or the hand is relatively easy. He should not lead to the singleton king of hearts, which removes his only other entry to the board. If he starts diamonds immediately, he can set up the diamonds because he will have two entries. By immediately taking the heart king off the board before starting the diamonds, he gave the defense a chance, which it then botched.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Think before Discarding



            

                        North
                        ♠ AK
                        ♥ K943
                        ♦ AT64
                        ♣ KJ2


West                                        East
♠ Q95                                      ♠ T86432
♥ JT                                         ♥ 852
♦ Q92                                      ♦ 3
♣ T6543                                  ♣ Q87

                        South
                        ♠ J7
                        ♥ AQ76
                        ♦ KJ875
                        ♣ A9

West                North               East     South
                                               P         1D
P                      1H                   P          3H
P                      4N                   P          5S*
P                      5N                   P          6D
P                      7N                   All Pass
Opening Lead: 7C

Before getting into a discussion of the bidding and play, put yourself in East’s position. North takes the opening lead with the Jack and immediately attacks hearts. After leading three hearts, she leads the fourth. You have to sluff. What do you discard?

Bidding: While South could open 1N with this unbalanced hand, 1D was OK, although it makes a rebid difficult since she doesn’t have enough to reverse. I would open it 1N. South’s jump showed 15 to 18 HCP. Since north had 18 HCP, slam was a distinct possibility, so immediately went to Roman Key Card Blackwood. Her response of five spades showed two key cards plus the queen of trump. North’s five no Trump rebid promised all five key cards and asked for the number of kings. When she showed one King, they had all of the aces and Kings plus the queen of trump. North took a chance on the grand slam and chose no Trump, rather than hearts, because north’s hand was balanced and north knew that the rest of the players would be playing in hearts, so making no trump would give a cold top.



Play: First, East should lead the standard lead, 4th from longest and strongest, the spade 4. It makes no difference on this hand, but underleading a queen when you only hold three cards in the suit is a terrible lead.


Now for the answer to the question that begins the column. Look at dummy on your left and what do you see? You see a five card diamond suit. But declarer started by running the hearts (your partner discarding the Jack and then the Ten), even though a four-one split could set her. What do you deduce from that? You already know that she has the ace of diamonds from the bidding. The King and Jack are on the board. If she had the ace and the queen she would start with diamonds, where she has five certain tricks. Therefore, she must be lacking the Queen of diamonds. You know your partner has it. The one card you cannot discard on the fourth lead of hearts is your three of diamonds. Why? Because from the bidding North has no clue about what either hand holds. She is going to have to guess on the queen of diamonds. So you have to save a diamond to play when she leads diamonds. If you show out on her first lead, she knows where the queen is. But when you sluff the diamond, it pretty much telegraphs to him that you do not have the queen. If you have the queen you would not be sluffing diamonds because you would be protecting the queen.

When north saw the discard of the three of diamonds it told her that she could lead to the King on the board and finesse back through West, thereby setting up five diamond tricks, making seven no Trump cold. Of course, after you sluff your singleton diamond, when she leads to the king on the board, you show out so she knows your partner holds the queen. that's why you have to keep the diamond.

Another thing that made it so easy after the sluff of the three of diamonds was that when you are missing the queen in a situation like this the first lead can be deadly. If, for instance, you lead the ace first and East shows out, you are doomed to lose the queen since you can no longer finesse, having already played the ace. Similarly, if you lead low from the ace to the King Jack on the board and West shows out, you have lost the ability to finesse. So discarding the three of diamonds on the fourth heart lead told north that she could safely under lead the ace to the King on the board and come back through west for the finesse. The singleton might seem like a good card to discard because it is never going to take a trick, but discarding that singleton made the contract much easier for declarer. If East had saved the diamond trey to play it when north started the diamonds, she still would have no clue as to where the Queen was. She would then have to either guess on the finesse or play the Ace and King and hope for the drop in a 2-2 split.

So when you’re defending no trump and there is a long running suit on the board that might need a finesse, don’t discard your singleton in that suit because you will need to play it to keep from telling declarer the shape of the suit. Maybe she'll guess wrong. In fact, even if you don't have a singleton, you shouldn't discard that suit.