Main     Ask Richard 9R07 by Richard Pavlicek    

Suit Declarer Play

This page contains selected queries to “Ask Richard” about declarer play in suit contracts, although discussion sometimes includes other topics. Presentation is reverse-chronological (most recent first). Queries and followups appear in this color, and Richard’s replies are in black. Names, greetings and personal messages have been removed to respect privacy and focus on bridge.

Taking the oddsJuly 20, 2012 (9S50)

West

2 D
AP
North

3 D
East

Pass
South
1 S
4 S
IMPs
Both Vul
S K 6 4
H K J 9 3
D 7 3
C K 10 5 3
Trick
1 W
2 W
3 W
Lead
D A
D K
D 5
2nd
3
7
?
3rd
6
2
4th
4
9
W L
0 1
0 2
 
 
 
 
Table



4 S South
S A J 10 7 5 3 2
H A 8
D Q 9 4
C 6

This hand is from the recent Spingold. I am curious what you think is the best line after a third diamond is led.

Well, I certainly ruff high. Assuming diamonds are 6-2, the S Q in East is 11/18 so a straight spade finesse is about 61 percent. The other choice is to win the S A then take the heart finesse, which is 7/18 + 11/18 x 1/3 of the 2-1 spade breaks, or about 55 percent. The latter is a little better as it might work against 0-3 spades, but it still falls short of the spade finesse.

Also, West could always have made you rely on the spade finesse by cashing the C A (e.g., S Q H x-x-x D A-K-J-10-x-x C A-x-x) so opting for another line is dubious. Plus, you never go down two, as the heart-finesse option could mean.

Of course, if East follows to the third diamond (the rat) I would rethink this.

East does indeed show out on the third diamond. I did not calculate the exact percentages but felt the spade finesse was best (after ruffing high). I was surprised to hear the other table (Rodwell I think) took the second route. As it turned out, both lines work; we needed the luck factor in these circumstances to go our way to have any chance, but that didn’t come to pass. Meckwell were great; they had the right bids for every hand (right-siding contracts several times) and didn’t give anything away.

So what else is new?

Communication builderMay 21, 2012 (9S36)

West

1 S
Pass
North

Dbl
4 H
East

2 S
AP
South
1 C
3 H
IMPs
N-S Vul
S 9 3
H Q 10 4 2
D A J 9 8 3 2
C 2
Trick
1 W
Lead
D 5
2nd
8
3rd
10
4th
Q
W L
1 0
 
 
 
 
Table



4 H South
S K J 4
H A J 9 7
D Q 4
C Q 7 5 3

What is the best play, knowing that West has a singleton heart?

I would lead the C Q at trick two. This builds communication, doesn’t jeopardize chances, and might cause the defense to err. West will surely win if he has the ace (fearing C K-Q South) and might shift to spades thinking one of North’s is going away. If West leads another diamond, finessed, ruffed by East and a spade back, I’ll need a small miracle — besides the S Q East, probably H K-x-(x) since H K-x-x-x seems untenable. If clairvoyant to know West has a singleton heart, well, I’ll drop his blank king of course.

Bidding note: South’s 3 H was terrible, not for having a minimum but because of the bad spade holding (with S A-x-x it would be fine). North will act again if there is any future; here he would compete with 3 D, and South would correct to 3 H.

Reversal of fortuneMay 8, 2012 (9S30)

IMPs
None Vul
S K 6 2
H K Q 9
D A 8 5 4 2
C A 9
 
 
 
 
Table


6 H South
Lead: D J
S A J 8 4 3
H A 10 8 5 2
D
C Q 7 3

What is the best plan in this slam? (1) Take the spade finesse, and if it loses hope to squeeze West if he holds 5+ diamonds and the C K; or (2) Play the C A and a club then (a) if East has the C K, discard a spade on the C Q, draw two trumps and try to ruff the third spade with the H 9, or (b) if West has the C K, fall back on the spade finesse.

I would choose a different line. A dummy reversal requires only normal breaks (with some extra chances): Ruff the lead; H K; diamond ruff; duck a spade; then the S K and C A provide entries to ruff a third diamond and draw the last trump.

Since both of your lines probably require 3-2 major breaks (except Line 1 can pick up H J-x-x-x onside) the dummy reversal stands out, though I’ll pass on a detailed analysis.

You are right. I made some calculations, and the dummy reversal is best.

Unsafety playApril 1, 2012 (9S27)

West

Pass
Pass
North

2 H
4 S
East
1 H
Dbl
AP
South
1 S
Pass
IMPs
Both Vul
S K 10 7 4
H Q 6
D J 8
C A K 9 8 4
Trick
1 W
2 S
Lead
H J
S 2
2nd
6
6
3rd
10
?
4th
K
W L
1 0
 
 
 
 
Table



4 S South
S A 9 5 3 2
H K 5 4
D A 4 3
C J 5

I know there aren’t 10 sure tricks if West has four spades, but my probably mistaken instinct is to finesse the S 10. Thoughts?

I don’t like a spade to the 10. What if it loses to a blank honor? Seems you then need clubs 3-3 (or guess well), and I don’t think there is any recovery if East has C Q-10-x-x.

I would just cash the S A at trick two. Only problem seems to be if East shows out (West showing out would be a shell-shocker) then three rounds of clubs will get home with clubs 3-3. If East has four clubs (with a spade void) it seems you are destined to fail, except maybe at double-dummy by playing on clubs first.

Whatever, I’d like a set game against East, who seems to have doubled to remind his partner that he opened, and moronically played the H 10 to tell declarer the heart layout.

TopMain

Too clever by halfJanuary 17, 2012 (9S18)

IMPs
None Vul
S J 2
H K J 9 6
D Q 9
C A J 10 6 4
Trick
1 W
2 N
3 W
4 S
5 E
6 S
7 N
8 E
Lead
D J
S 2
D 10
H 5
H 2
S 4
C J
H 10
2nd
Q
6
9
8
S 3
5
K
S 7
3rd
2
10
4
K
7
J
3
S 8
4th
6
Q
A
A
6
H 3
5
J
W L
1 0
1 1
2 1
2 2
3 2
4 2
4 3
4 4
 
 
 
 
Table


4 S South
down 1 -50
S A K 10 7 4 3
H 5
D A K 6
C Q 8 3

I think I misplayed at Trick 2, “cleverly” guarding against a stiff S Q in East. Then I couldn’t unravel the entry positions and got overruffed at Trick 8. In trumps there are four possible small singletons vs. one stiff queen, which favors leading the S J, after which all I can lose is a spade, a heart and a club. Do you agree? How could I have spotted this mirage?

Yes, you seem to have engineered a path to be set. It would be nice to know the bidding, as your payoff gives East a hand he would have bid with on most auctions. Low to the S 10 is reasonable at matchpoints.

Another consideration at IMPs is that East could have all five spades, in which case leading the jack forces a cover; then if the C K is off and you can garner a heart trick, the S 7 comes into play and you may hold East to one trump trick (say, S Q-9-8-6-5 H Q-x-x D x-x-x C K-x).

But as you noted, it’s pretty hard to go down by leading the S J first. Actually, I’d say that you did see the mirage, instead of the real desert sand beneath.

No finessesOctober 21, 2011 (9S05)

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
AP
North

2 D
2 S
3 H
East

Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 H
2 H
3 D
4 H
IMPs
E-W Vul
S 9 5
H J 6
D A Q 9 8 3
C A Q J 3
 
 
 
 
Table


4 H South
Lead: C 7
S K J
H K Q 10 9 7 3
D K 7 6
C 4 2

Surprisingly, Joel Wooldridge, playing in the Bermuda Bowl, put up dummy’s C A at trick one. This would be a sure down one if West held S A-Q C K and East held the H A. Joel was right. At the other table the C Q lost to the king, and a singleton diamond was returned. East won the second heart and led a spade, on which South upped the king as his best chance; down two. Any thoughts?

Strange bidding. North must have been gaming in the auction (unless 2 S was artificial) since 3 C is the obvious second bid. West is simply leading the unbid suit, and the C 7 is consistent with many king-holdings, so I would finesse. Without lengthy study, this must have more plus positions than catering to a stiff club or the actual diamond shift — but anyone’s entitled to get lucky once in a while.

Fast arrivalSeptember 14, 2011 (9RC8)

West

Pass
North

6 D
East

Dbl
South
4 D
AP
IMPs
E-W Vul
S
H A Q J 4
D 9 5 3
C A K 8 6 5 2
 
 
 
 
Table


6 D× South
Lead: S K
S J 7 6
H 8
D A K J 10 8 7 6
C 10 3

How would you play this slam? Would you play any differently if East didn’t double? Also, do you agree with the bidding? (Opponents were much closer to beginner than expert.)

I suspect East doubled with a club void and West missed his calling, but almost anything is possible against random opponents. Safest line seems to be to ruff three spades, using heart ruffs back to hand; but the fourth round of hearts is dangerous. Rather than risk an overruff and a club ruff on return, it seems better to ruff high, but there’s no lock. Without the double it’s probably right to play the same but to cash one club early to guard against D Q-x-x with a stiff club.

The bidding is OK. South’s hand is not ideal for any bid at the vulnerability, so 4 D cannot be criticized. (I’m torn among 1 D, 2 D, 4 D and 5 D, but will take the Fifth.) North might have used RKCB (if available) on the off chance that South has no top diamond, but this is remote; and he might have D Q-J-10 eighth, needing only a 1-1 break which is a slight favorite.

Sure-trick playAugust 25, 2011 (9RC3)

IMPs
S K Q 8 7
H J 9 6
D A Q
C 8 7 4 2
Trick
1 W
Lead
H 7
2nd
6
3rd
Q
4th
A
W L
1 0
S 4
H 8 7 5 4
D J 8 7 4
C Q 10 9 5
TableS 5 3 2
H Q 3 2
D K 10 9 6 3 2
C 3



6 S South
S A J 10 9 6
H A K 10
D 5
C A K J 6

A top German player created this practice deal, showing a surefire play after the first trick: Draw trumps, eliminate the red suits, cash the C A and lead the C 6. Indeed, this line is guaranteed provided spades break 2-2 or 3-1. Is there a way to win absolutely sure against 4-0 spades? Is there any East-West layout against which the contract cannot be made with open cards?

An improvement (spades not 4-0) is to draw trumps, cash the C A, eliminate diamonds and hearts ending in dummy, then finesse the C J — unless East shows out as here, then duck. This retains the overtrick chance at no cost.

Six spades can be made against any distribution (after the heart lead). If spades are 4-0, lead all the trumps to reach a five-card ending with South having H A D 5 C K-J-6. If West has C Q-10-x remaining, cash the red ace in his voided suit (either suit if he is 1-1). If West lets go a club, establish the suit; else cash the other red ace and duck a club to endplay him. Of course this is with open cards (double-dummy). There is no way to guarantee the contract against 4-0 spades in practice.

TopMain

To thrive in fiveAugust 20, 2011 (9RC1)

IMPs
S A K 7
H 3 2
D Q 3 2
C A Q J 10 9
Trick
1 W
2 S
3 N
4 W
5 S
6 N
Lead
D 9
C 7
H 3
D 10
C 3
H 2
2nd
2
2
7
3
4
S 3?
3rd
J
9
Q
4
10
4
4th
S 2
5
A
S 6
6
5
W L
1 0
2 0
2 1
3 1
4 1
4 2
S 8
H A J 10 9 5
D 10 9 6 5
C K 4 2
TableS 9 5 4 3
H 7
D A K J 8 7 4
C 6 5


5 S South
made 5
S Q J 10 6 2
H K Q 8 6 4
D
C 8 7 3

When I played this hand, East ruffed my heart lead from dummy at Trick 6, which gave me the rest. If East doesn’t ruff, I don’t see how to win six of the last seven tricks because of trump control, yet a double-dummy analysis says I can make 11 tricks regardless of the defense. How do I do it from there? Or have I already gone wrong? And would you expect to make 5 S at the table?

I don’t believe you can succeed from there, but suppose you ruff the last diamond at Trick 6 and lead the H Q. East ruffs and must return a diamond (else you draw trumps) so pitch a club and ruff in dummy; then the C A. If East ruffs you draw trumps; else pitch and crossruff.

All this seems far-fetched at the table, unless there were bidding to suggest it, which seems unlikely. I guess it only fuels the reasons to avoid playing five in a major; you might as well bid six, which would be cold here with normal breaks (and the club finesse).

Welcome reprieveJuly 18, 2011 (9RB5)

West

Pass
Pass
North

2 C
4 S
East

Pass
AP
South
1 S
2 H
IMPs
None Vul
S Q 10 7 6
H 6 2
D Q 6
C A K J 10 7
Trick
1 W
2 N
3 N
Lead
C 5
C K
?
2nd
A
3
3rd
2
D 3
4th
8
9
W L
1 0
2 0
S
H K 7 5 3
D A J 10 5 4 2
C Q 9 5
TableS A 8 5 2
H 9 4
D K 9 7
C 6 4 3 2



4 S South
S K J 9 4 3
H A Q J 10 8
D 8 3
C 8

Escaping a diamond lead, I played as shown. At Trick 3, how would you rank the options: (1) Lead a trump, (2) take the heart finesse, or (3) lead the C J? And how many experts would find the last, which is the only way to succeed as the cards lie? Also, what do you think of West’s lead? I don’t like to lead aces, but with a likely heart trick and trumps splitting badly, the D A seems mandatory.

I’d guess almost all experts would lead the C J (pitching a diamond) since it stands out a mile to me. It builds two tricks without risk and breaks the enemy communication as well. If West had led high-low in clubs, the play is still probably best but not a standout.

There’s certainly no safety in leading hearts. Ignoring the subtle loss here, I’d be concerned about a stiff heart (or void). West’s lead of dummy’s suit is an omen of bad distribution, so when clubs aren’t 6-1 as is often the case, my thoughts turn to a stacked major.

Leading a spade is better than a heart but premature. Even a 3-1 break could cause trouble if hearts were 5-1. You also lose the free sluff on the C J.

Yes, the D A lead is obvious to me too. But then, the bridge world needs players like West to justify our bids.

Ruffing finesseJuly 7, 2011 (9RB1)

Matchpoints
Both Vul
S K J 10 4 3
H J 10 9 2
D 8
C K 3 2
S A 8 7 6
H Q 3
D K Q 3 2
C J 5 4
TableS Q 5 2
H 7 5 4
D 10 9 6 5 4
C Q 6


4 H South
Lead: D K
S 9
H A K 8 6
D A J 7
C A 10 9 8 7

How would you play this hand? Do you play spades? Set up clubs? Or something else?

Leading a spade at trick two is surely best, and assuming West ducks, I would run it. Basic plan is to set up spades with a ruffing finesse (pitching a club); and even though it loses, I will not lose a club because three go away on the spades, and dummy’s third club is ruffed in hand. The only consideration is whether to finesse in trumps, which may depend on what the defense does. I would make four or five.

Lunar landerMay 10, 2011 (9R93)

West

Pass
Pass
AP
North

1 NT
3 S
East

Pass
Pass
South
1 S
2 D
4 S
IMPs
S 8 6 3
H A K 10 7
D 7 6 5 4
C A 3
 
 
 
 
Table


4 S South
Lead: C Q
S A K J 4 2
H Q 9
D K 10 9 3
C 10 7

I’m curious what you think is the best line. I managed to make 4 S but wonder if it was earned or lucky.

At the table I’d win the C A and cash S A-K. Assuming both follow and no queen drops, I’d cash three hearts to pitch the club. Assuming the H J doesn’t drop, I’d take my one-chance diamond play. Options are (1) low to the king, or (2) low to the 10 then lead the king later, which are about equal a priori, so I’d look for some clue to weight one over the other. Let’s see, if the moon is in Jupiter…

TopMain

Down one is good bridgeFebruary 28, 2011 (9R66)

West

Pass
Pass
AP
North
1 NT
4 S
5 H
East
3 C
Pass
Pass
South
3 S
4 NT
6 S
IMPs
N-S Vul
S A 10 9
H J 9 7 2
D K Q 5
C A 5 3
Trick
1 W
2 N
3 S
Lead
C Q
S 9
S 3
2nd
A
2
8
3rd
7
K
10?
4th
2
6
J
W L
1 0
2 0
2 1
S 8 6
H A 10 8 4
D 9 8 6 4 2
C Q 6
TableS J 4 2
H 6 5
D 3
C K J 10 9 8 7 4


6 S South
down 1 -100
S K Q 7 5 3
H K Q 3
D A J 10 7
C 2

The finesse at Trick 3 was based on the bidding. What is the correct percentage play?

It’s close. Based on the likely 2-7 club division (vacant spaces 11:6) East is still more likely to hold S J-x or J-x-x than a singleton, but only by about 1 percent. (Any greater disparity would swing the odds the other way.) Therefore, it appears you played wrong…

But you played right, at least in theory. East is also “known” to hold at least one card in each red suit, as any competent player with a void would have doubled 6 S (Lightner) to direct the ruff. Further, East rates to have two or more hearts, because an expert West would almost surely have led the H A with five hearts. All this clearly shifts the odds in favor of the spade finesse. Good play, bad luck.

Down one is good bridge — until somebody decides to keep score.

Comedy centralJanuary 24, 2011 (9R51)

West

2 H
3 H
North
1 D
2 S
3 S
East
1 H
Pass
Dbl
South
1 S
Pass
AP
Matchpoints
Both Vul
S K 7 4 3
H
D A Q 10 4 2
C K Q 7 2
Trick
1 W
Lead
H A
2nd
S 3
3rd
2
4th
3
W L
1 0
S Q
H A J 6
D K 8 7 6
C J 10 6 5 3
TableS A J 10 2
H Q 10 8 4 2
D J 5 3
C 9



3 S× South
S 9 8 6 5
H K 9 7 5 3
D 9
C A 8 4

What is the best line of play in view of the N-S hands only?

Wow, the bidding is egregious. Only 2 S by North? Even 3 S would be conservative. The vulnerable 1 H overcall is frightening to the opposite extreme, but still on the planet compared to the double.

East is surely marked for the S A and 4-5 in the majors from the double and West’s lead. I would try to cash two clubs (C K and low) then crossruff, which seems to work. East can’t gain by ruffing the second club (he’ll get four trump tricks is all) so suppose he pitches a diamond. Then H K; heart ruff; D A; diamond ruff; heart S Q S K; and a diamond promotes the S 9.

Simple is bestJanuary 21, 2011 (9R50)

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
North
1 H
2 C
4 NT
6 S
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
AP
South
1 S
4 S
5 H
Matchpoints
E-W Vul
S Q 3
H A K J 9 8
D 7
C A Q 10 9 4
S 8
H 10 5 3 2
D 10 5 4 3 2
C 6 5 3
TableS 7 6 4
H Q 7 6
D A K Q 8
C K 8 7


6 S South
Lead: C 6
S A K J 10 9 5 2
H 4
D J 9 6
C J 2

The play presents many options: (1) Finesse the club at trick one; (2) win the C A, H A-K to pitch a club, then a ruffing club finesse; (3) win the C A, cross to the S A, and finesse the H J; (4) win the C A and run trumps; plus a few others. Leading a diamond (after ridding a club) won’t work with the obvious trump return. Assuming reasonably strong opponents, what is the best play in view of the N-S hands only?

Tough lead, apparently well-judged from the auction, which suggested short diamonds in dummy. Sign up this West guy! I see no reason for the lead to reduce the chance of the club finesse; in fact it may increase it, as better players tend to attack. Options 2-4 not only require a finesse but also favorable breaks, so it’s back to basics. This writer would lose the first two tricks — call it “rectifying the count” to send the kibitzers fleeing to another table.

Trashed from the goJanuary 19, 2011 (9R49)

West
Pass
Dbl
AP
North
1 D
Rdbl1
East
Pass
2 C
South
1 S
4 S
Matchpoints
N-S Vul
S K 10 5
H K 8 4
D J 8 5 4
C K Q 2
Trick
1 W
Lead
C 6
2nd
2
3rd
9
4th
A
W L
1 0
S Q 2
H J 9 7 5
D A Q
C J 8 7 6 4
TableS 9 7 6
H A Q
D 10 6 3 2
C 10 9 5 3
1. 3-card spade support



4 S South
S A J 8 4 3
H 10 6 3 2
D K 9 7
C A

What is your recommended play in 4 S? Also, should South cue-bid 3 C over 2 C to probe for 3 NT?

I would lead a heart to the king at trick two and be down three before I could breathe. Surely the best chance is to find the H A onside after West’s double.

South bid fine; 4 S is routine after locating the fit.

North is your fall guy; the hand is not an opening bid as I teach or play, and I’m an aggressive bidder. One thing I’ve learned over the years (sometimes the hard way) is go low on 4-3-3-3 shapes, let alone aceless ones. Further, having opened it, North must be crazy to make any noise (support redouble) that might be encouraging. I hope you weren’t North, but just in case: Nice pass of 4 S!

TopMain

Backward hookJanuary 6, 2011 (9R42)

West
1 H
Pass
North
Pass
Pass
East
1 NT
Pass
South
2 S
E-W Vul S A 5
H 10 8 6 4 3
D 9 8 4
C K 9 4
Trick
1 W
2 S
Lead
C J
S J!
2nd
4
4
3rd
2
5
4th
A
7
W L
1 0
2 0
S Q 6 4
H A J 9 7 2
D A J 3
C J 10
TableS 10 7
H K 5
D K 10 6 2
C Q 8 7 6 2


2 S South
made 2 +110
S K J 9 8 3 2
H Q
D Q 7 5
C A 5 3

This is a constructed deal from an old bridge magazine. The author claims there is a logical explanation for running the S J at Trick 2, but the answer is not given. Can you help?

Trusting the lead to be honest and logical, East is marked with the C Q and a top card in each red suit (no A-K lead); so West needs the S Q for his opening bid. Also, if East held the S Q he would have at least 10 HCP, which may be too strong for a 1 NT response (guessing as I don’t know what bidding system applied).

A more interesting point is what to do after the S J wins. If declarer leads a second spade, he is down with the looming trump promotion; he must lead a heart to build communication. I would have led the H Q at Trick 2, which should confirm some assumptions and might draw some help. The spade sword can wait.

Precision encounterDecember 9, 2010 (9R32)

West
2 C1
Pass
AP
North
Dbl
Dbl
East
3 C
4 C
South
Pass
4 H
Matchpoints
None Vul
S A J 9 3
H A Q 7 5 4
D A 10 6
C 2
Trick
1 W
2 W
Lead
C A
D 8
2nd
2
?
3rd
3
4th
5
W L
0 1
 
 
 
 
Table
1. 6+ clubs (rarely 5), 11-15



4 H South
S 8 6 4
H K J 10 9
D Q 9 7 5
C 7 5

Opponents lead ace from A-K, and East’s C 3 (suit preference) directed the diamond shift. How would you play?

A singleton diamond seems too likely to risk ducking, so I’d win the ace and play straight up: Draw three trumps (assuming 3-1) and play for S K-10 or Q-10 onside, using the D Q as a reentry. If West turns up with D K-J-8, I’ll look pretty bad; but it wouldn’t be the first time.

Bidding note: I would have bid 3 H as South over 3 C, and it seems pretty clear. The suit is great, and the hand is certainly in-range (6-9) for a voluntary response to a takeout double.

Is there any sense in playing West for S K-Q, once you find out that East has D K-J-x-x?

Certainly there’s a case for it, but in my view it doesn’t override the a priori 2:1 odds (which now might be closer to 3:2). Also, West does not know the diamond layout (East might have D K-Q) or the spade count (you might have a doubleton) so he may split with S K-Q-x-(x). Of course, if he does split you may have to guess whether he’s being normal are shrewd, but that’s another chapter.

Early breakupDecember 5, 2010 (9R28)

West

2 S
AP
North
1 D
3 H
East
1 S
Pass
South
2 H
4 H
Matchpoints
None Vul
S A
H 10 4 3
D A J 8 6 3
C J 10 7 6
Trick
1 W
Lead
S 3
2nd
A
3rd
6
4th
2
W L
1 0
 
 
 
 
Table



4 H South
S Q 8 2
H A K J 7 2
D K 9 4 2
C 2

How would you play 4 H? At our local club, I made it but am not sure of the best line.

At trick two I would lead a low club from dummy. This breaks the opponents’ communication while building mine, and they might do something helpful before I commit. If East wins and returns a trump, I’d win and ruff a spade; club ruff; spade ruff; D K; H K. If trumps break, I make at least four; if 4-1, I have to guess diamonds. (A club return at trick three transposes to the same.)

This would have been a good problem for my old play contests, where I needed six reasonable options for the multiple choice format.

Strike threeNovember 22, 2010 (9R22)

West

2 S
AP
North

3 H
East
1 S
3 S
South
2 H
4 H
Matchpoints
None Vul
S A J 8 5 4
H J 10 5
D A 9 4
C 5 4
S Q 7 2
H 7
D K 10 8 7 3
C Q 9 8 2
TableS K 10 9 6 3
H A Q 4
D 6
C K J 7 6


4 H South
Lead: S 2
S
H K 9 8 6 3 2
D Q J 5 2
C A 10 3

How would you play 4 H (1) with the S 2 lead? (2) with the C 2 lead? (3) with the H 7 to the ace and a heart back?

1. It seems best to ruff the spade in hand and lead a low club, preserving the option to pitch or ruff the club until I see what the defense does. Alas, I’d probably go down, as a heart to the king seems indicated on the bidding; though if East hops ace on the jack, it brews a suspicion of H A-Q-x versus A-x.

2. Essentially the same — down again.

3. Well, at least I’d get hearts right; a stiff trump may be strange but not as strange as Q-x. At trick three I’d lead a club, and I’m home if East ducks (finesse C 10); but if East hops to prevent the ruff, I’ll have to play diamonds for three winners, which is hardly clear. I guess it’s only fitting to misguess and keep my record intact.

I’m getting depressed, so how about (4) with the D K lead?

TopMain

A thing of beautyNovember 22, 2010 (9R21)

West

2 S
Pass
AP
North

Dbl
3 S
East

Pass
Pass
South
1 H
3 D
4 H
IMPs
Both Vul
S 5 4 3 2
H 5 4
D Q J 5 4
C A K Q
Trick
1 W
2 W
3 S
4 N
5 S
6 S
7 S
8 N
9 S
Lead
S A
S Q
C 3?
H 4
D A
D K
D 3
S 4
C J
2nd
2
3
2
2?
10
9
S 7
C 5
7
3rd
8
6
Q
10
4
5
Q
H 6
K
4th
K
H 3?
4
9
2
6
8
9
6
W L
0 1
1 1
2 1
3 1
4 1
5 1
6 1
7 1
8 1
S A Q J 10 9 7
H 9
D 10 9
C 9 8 7 2
TableS 8 6
H A K J 2
D 8 6 2
C 10 6 5 4


4 H South
made 4 +620
S K
H Q 10 8 7 6 3
D A K 7 3
C J 3

I thought I played this brilliantly — until I examined it later to see my errors at Trick 2 and 3. East also erred by ducking at Trick 4. No question really, just wanted to report an interesting deal.

Interesting indeed. Ruffing with the H 6 should be routine with equal spots; but leading a diamond instead of a club at Trick 3 is an Ottlik special, as was East’s failure to hop at Trick 4. West also played a key role, as a club shift at Trick 2 would spoil the timing for the trump coup. Deals like this certainly enhance the beauty of our game.

Nothing betterOctober 5, 2010 (9R07)

West

Pass
AP
North
Pass
1 NT
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
2 H
IMPs
E-W Vul
S 5 3
H 7 4 2
D K 10 8 4 3
C K 8 4
Trick
1 W
Lead
H 6
2nd
2
3rd
K
4th
A
W L
1 0
 
 
 
 
Table



2 H South
S K J 10 8 7
H A Q 9 5
D A 7 5
C 7

I think my first mistake was to win Trick 1. Having done that, how should I continue?

I would cross to the D K and lead a spade to the jack — hardly brilliant, but nothing better stands out. Leading a club early, even with the C A onside, could lose a vital tempo in developing spades.

It’s hard to see any merit in ducking Trick 1, but I can see reasons to win it. For example, if West held S A-Q-x-x H J-10-8-6 D x-x C Q-J-x, ducking (heart back) will put you down four instead of probably one.

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© 2012 Richard Pavlicek