Learn to Play Bridge Like a Boss

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About Me

H. Anthony Medley is an Attorney, an MPAA-accredited film critic, and author of Learn to Play Bridge Like A Boss,Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed, and UCLA Basketball: The Real Story. He is a Silver Life Master and an ACBL-accredited Director and the author of a bridge column for a Los Angeles newspaper.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Your First Play From Dummy Can Make or Break Your Contract

Here is the bidding, NS passing throughout, East dealer:

East  West
1S     2C*
2D    2H
3D** 4N

*Game Forcing
** Showing 5 cards
*** 0-3 Key cards

West                                        East
♠ J2                                         ♠ AKT853
♥ AQT4                                    ♥ 76
♦ KJ                                         ♦ Q9754
♣ KQJ64                                  ♣ Void

Opening lead Club 10

West is declarer. What do you discard from dummy?

While you are thinking about that, let’s discuss the bidding, which was deplorable. The first four bids were fine, 1S-2C-2D-2H. East’s rebid of 3D to show at least 5-5 in the two suits was worse than awful, for several reasons. One is that in a game forcing auction like this, after showing his tentative shape of at least 5-5, his first obligation is to show that he has a six card spade suit. And it is a very good suit, headed by the AK. His diamond suit is terrible. There’s no reason to show a weak 5 card diamond suit before showing a strong 6 card spade suit. When he confirms he has 6 spades, West can confirm spades as trump since he’s holding two and the bidding proceeds from there. West’s bid of 3S shows slam interest. Since they are in a game-forcing auction, 3S is much stronger than jumping to game in 4S.

It went from bad to worse from there. East forgot that they were playing 3014 key card and responded in 1430, showing 1 or 4 key cards (since Trump had not yet been agreed upon, east was responding as if diamonds were trump). West thought he was showing 0 or 3 and assumed it was 3 and went straight to 6N, lacking two aces.

North was on lead. North was one of the best players in Los Angeles, if not the world and made the best lead that could give West a chance to make it, the club 10. Why was it so good? Two reasons: First, it wasn't the diamond ace. Second, it pulls the club ace without having to force it out by playing the King, which, it turns out, would have doomed the slam because clubs would produce only two tricks instead of three.

Now back to my original question, what do you discard from dummy? If you said one of your two little hearts, you just lost any chance to make the slam. You have to discard a diamond because you have to retain a heart on the board to make the heart finesse. If you discard a heart initially, the only remaining heart will be gone if south leads her heart and there’s no way to get her king.

East took her ace and returned the jack of hearts! Manna from heaven! You are holding the AQT4. If North has the king of hearts, you are down two. If he doesn’t, you can make it if spades break correctly, so you have no choice. You must take the heart finesse.

When it holds, showing that South has the king, you first try to run your clubs. You find out that North has six clubs and you only get three club tricks. But that’s OK because you discard three diamonds on those three club tricks and then lead the jack of spades. North covers, so you run the spades, getting rid of your two diamonds and two remaining clubs in your hand on the long running spades and then lead the remaining heart on the board to finesse south’s king and you end up getting six spades, three clubs and three hearts, making a slam that has only a 5% chance of making, at best. If south returns a diamond, you’re dead because north will get the ace he failed to cash at the beginning. In bridge as in any other game it’s better to be lucky than good.

As to the bidding, here’s the way it should have gone:

East  West
1S     2C
2D    2H
2S     3S
4S     4N
5H*   5S
6S     P

*Two key cards without the queen

Even though West signs off because he knows they are lacking two key cards, East goes to 6S because of the club void, even though it’s in partner’s first bid suit. As long as the spades behave, which they do, 6S is a much easier play than 6N, losing only the diamond ace so long as the heart and spade finesses work.

Here are all four hands:

                        ♠ Q7
                        ♥ 985
                        ♦ A2
                        ♣ T98532

West                                        East
♠ J2                                         ♠ AKT853
♥ AQT4                                    ♥ 76
♦ KJ                                         ♦ Q9754
♣ KQJ64                                  ♣ Void

                        ♠ 964
                        ♥ KJ32
                        ♦ T863
                        ♣ A7

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