The following six declarer-play problems appeared in a well-known publication over the past several years. While the general principles were on the mark, I was troubled by some of the suggested plays. To be fair, the problems were intended for intermediate players, so it is understandable that elements of expert technique may have been suppressed, but thats where you fit in!
Test yourself to see if you can pick out the worst advice on each problem or in other words, the line that might have triggered my title in response. The form of scoring wasnt given, though it generally wouldnt matter playing bridge suffices but assume IMPs for the sake of argument.
Simple select the button next to the statement you think is the most flawed. Click Score Me at any time to see how youre doing. Each problem is analyzed immediately after, so no fair peeking ahead!
Which of these statements is the most flawed?
A. Simply play low on Wests lead at trick one.B. West will probably continue a heart, and you pitch a diamond from hand.C. Pull two rounds of trumps, saving an entry to dummy, then cash the top diamonds.D. When diamonds split 3-2, you can establishing two diamond winners, with an entry in trumps.E. If trumps prove to be 3-1, you are still home if the player with three trumps has at least two diamonds.
Certainly the trick-one duck is correct, but you dont necessarily need diamonds to break 3-2. In the above layout, after pitching a diamond on the A, proper technique is to cash one top diamond then return to hand with a spade. This allows you to lead the second diamond from hand, leaving West helpless to defeat you whether he ruffs or pitches. Either way you will score both top diamonds and have the entries to establish and enjoy the long diamond.
Curiously West could defeat you with a diabolical trump shift at trick two. This would force you to lead a second trump in order to lead the second diamond from hand (West pitches), then you lack the entries to set up the suit. Note, however, that you would succeed with the A onside, while the tactless play of banging down A-K would fail even then.
1. 21-22 HCP2. transfer
A. You have six top tricks, and dummys hearts could provide a few more.B. If you attack that suit, good defenders will duck the first heart and win the second, cutting you off from dummy.C. There is a small chance to make the contract.D. After winning the opening lead, cross to dummy with a heart (defenders duck) and then take the club finesse.E. If it succeeds, cash the A and play a third club, praying for a 3-3 split.
Playing on clubs is certainly the best hope. Youll almost surely need the finesse but not necessarily a 3-3 split. In the above layout, when the club finesse wins, it is essential to lead a low club next (not the ace). Obviously this has the same chance of finding clubs 3-3, but it also retains an endplay chance. Win the diamond return (or duck), cash the A, and when they dont split, cash your top spades and exit with a club (or a heart if you still have one). East must give dummy a heart trick or two if you won the second diamond.
Note that if you played ace and another club, East could defeat you by cashing his fourth club and the A before locking you in hand with a diamond.
A. Win the A (East plays the 7) and cash the A (if either opponent is void it is likely to be West).B. Both opponents follow, so pick up trumps in one more round, East following with the queen.C. Your next step should be to cash the A and ruff dummys remaining diamond in your hand.D. Now start clubs, playing low (West follows) to the ace, then the Q, on which West discards a heart.E. Lead a club to your king and exit with your last club to East.F. Unless West opened 3 on a six-card suit, East must lead a diamond to let you pitch the J and ruff in dummy.
If I had a dollar for every three-level preempt on a six-card suit, I could buy out Google, or at least be a Saudi prince. While West having six hearts doesnt offer much hope of success (with clubs 4-1) it offers something, and slim is better than none. Consider the above layout.
After drawing trumps in two rounds, proper technique is to win one club (queen or ace) then play ace and another diamond. East will surely rise with the king, but instead of ruffing you pitch your heart. If East indeed had no more hearts, he would be endplayed; any club lead would surrender the suit (by playing second hand low) and a diamond yields a ruff-sluff. In the actual case, however, East exits safely with a heart, which you ruff. Running trumps then squeezes West for the rest.
Note that if East did not play the K on the second round, you should revert to the primary plan of ruffing. Pitching a heart would still work on the above deal, but if West wins the diamond, you would fail in the more likely layout of East having four clubs and a stiff heart.
A. West might overcall at the one level without the A, and if East has that card, your K is vulnerable.B. Win the A and cash one high trump in hand (not necessary but cant hurt).C. Next play a spade to the king and lead the 9, discarding your K when East follows low.D. West wins but will be unable to threaten your K.E. If West exits with a trump, you can establish two club tricks safely by running the Q.
Leading trumps prematurely can indeed hurt in many subtle ways, as the above layout.
After the suggested line, West does best to lead the J to Souths king. Now declarer now cannot benefit from the loser-on-loser play in clubs and must try to ruff his fourth diamond in dummy. Alas, East wins the second diamond to return a trump and later ruffs his partners good diamond to clear dummys trumps. Down one! Of course, all would have been fine if declarer had not foolishly cashed the A.
A similar predicament occurs if West has Q-J-10-x-x x Q-x A-x-x-x-x. Upon winning the third spade, West shifts to the Q, ducked to the king. East wins the next diamond ( A best to conceal the layout) to return a trump. Declarer could succeed now by switching to clubs (West has no more diamonds), but a third diamond is surely the percentage play. Oops, too bad.
The bottom line: Dont waste your trumps!
A. You have 11 top tricks with no chance of ruffing in the short hand, so you must embark on a dummy reversal.B. After winning the opening lead with the 8 (thank goodness for that card) you ruff a spade.C. Return to dummy with the A to ruff a second spade with the A.D. Back to dummy with the A and ruff the last spade with the Q.E. Next overtake your J with the king and lead the 10 (discarding a diamond) to pull the last trump.
While on the run that by me again theme, this bidding dropped my jaw as well. Did North really bid 4 on a hand he probably shouldnt even open? And with just three trumps! But thats probably no worse than Souths 6 , when 7 stands out a mile. Ideally South should bid 5 (exclusion RKC) to verify the K A A before bidding the club grand. Anyway, forget the stupid bidding and focus on the play.
The dummy reversal is clearly the best chance, far better than hoping for a miracle in diamonds (K-Q doubleton or a blank honor West), but consider the wretched layout above. Played as suggested, declarer is down four, as only one club trick can be won when the hand collapses. Proper play is to cross to dummy first in trumps. This discovers the 4-1 break in time, so declarer can switch horses and take his 11 tricks. And believe me, for any pair who bids like this, down one is great bridge.
Crossing in trumps first would also save the day (averting a ruff) if West had two trumps and a club void, albeit far-fetched after the trump lead. For the record, if both follow to the second trump, declarer should cross next in clubs, because if it gets ruffed he is down only one; whereas opening up diamonds first would be down two.
A. West continues with the K (ace from A-K is normal), East plays the 4 and you ruff.B. You cash the A and Q, East showing out. The 4-1 break complicates matters, but you can survive.C. Next run the Q. East wins the K and returns a heart, which you ruff as West follows.D. Next cash the A and K, then play a diamond to the nine.E. Ruff another heart with your last trump.F. Lead a diamond to the ace, and when West follows you have 10 tricks.
When the diamond finesse loses, you need West to have at least three diamonds and two clubs, but you dont need him to have four hearts. If played as suggested on the above layout, declarer would be down, as West would pitch a diamond when the fourth heart is ruffed. Proper play of course is to bank your minor tricks as soon as possible.
Best technique (after ruffing the third heart) is to lead the 10 to the ace, return to hand in clubs, and lead a low diamond (might catch West napping with a doubleton) then return in clubs to lead the last diamond. Note that overruffing the fourth diamond has the same effect as ruffing the fourth heart. If Wests shape were 4=3=4=2, this would even score an overtrick.
Another technical flaw, though irrelevant in this case, was declarer drawing two trumps with A-Q. Routine expert play is to win Q-J to retain flexibility; i.e., if trumps are 3-2, the third round can be won in either hand.
I hope you enjoyed the quiz!
© 2017 Richard Pavlicek