September 17, 2014 – Sneaky, Sneaky.
There were lots and lots of interesting stuff from Sunday’s match, plenty of material to keep a mentor happy and busy. Two large swings came when normal 3NT contracts made at one table, but failed at the other. One of these, board 5, swung on opening lead:
With North-South vulnerable, and North dealing, these were the cards:
Game is cold on a major suit lead, and down easily on a club lead. The play would be quite complex on a diamond lead, but declarer may fail. One West tried the spade five, the other, the club five, to swing 12 IMPs.
The swing is hardly surprising, considering the auctions. Both South’s opened 1NT. One North invited game, which required bidding 2♠ . South accepted. The other forced to game, but, rather than bid the obvious 3NT, tried to locate a 5-3 major suit fit with a Puppet Stayman 3♣ call, giving East an easy chance to double for a club lead.
Puppet Stayman is a terribly abused convention. Keep in mind, even if you locate a 5-3 major suit fit, that fit must play two tricks better than notrump for the bid to triumph (at IMPs). So, here, did North pay out a heavy price when East doubled 3♣ ? No! East actually passed over 3♣ (WHY??), and West led a spade. The club lead was found at the other table. Isn’t that weird?
The other swing arose in the play:
The bidding was identical at both tables: With no one vulnerable,
West leads a fourth-best spade three to East’s king. Plan the play.
This one is very easy. You need to develop the diamond suit, which will require either diamonds three-three, or West to hold the diamond ace, short. Since spades appear to be 4-3, there is no reason to duck, and, indeed, that could be quite dangerous, should the opponents shift to hearts. So, win the ace, play a diamond to the king, come back in clubs, and play another diamond up.
One declarer played exactly this way, but the other ducked the first trick.
East shifted smartly to the heart two, and that was that (nice defense!).
I’ll close this off with two tougher play problems, from boards with no big swings. First up:
With North-South vulnerable, the auction was a simple transfer route to four hearts:
West leads the spade king. Plan your play.
Then, try this one:
With both sides vulnerable, you bid up to a truly terrible game contract:
West, despite your bidding hearts, leads the heart three, and East plays the queen. Again, what is your plan?
For the first problem, we might, on a bad day, lose a spade, two clubs, and a diamond. The play will be easy if the diamond finesse is on, or if East has both club honors. The hand is also easy if West has both club honors. Do you see how?
Simply duck this spade, win the spade continuation, and, after a diamond finesse, eliminate spades and diamonds. Then, you can play a club to the jack and endplay West. The cards, at the table, were:
The declarer won the first spade, drew trumps, and lost a spade. South trumped the third spade, crossed to the table in trumps, and played a diamond, to the five, queen, and six. Diamond ace, diamond ruff, club to the jack, netted a nice overtrick, and a 1 IMP gain. What do you think of this line?
Very little, I am afraid. First off, it has to be right to duck the opening lead. Giving East a cheap entry in spades can’t be best. Then, as the play went, declarer arrived at this position:
When declarer led the diamond four from the table, and East played the five, South should cover with the seven, and claim ten tricks. Whatever West returns gives up a trick. Finessing, here, was quite poor.
The right way to play this hand is pretty clear: Duck the lead, win the second spade, trump to dummy, trump a spade, trump back to dummy, and try to lose a diamond to West. At that point, the technically best play is to lead the nine from the table, catering to a layout like this:
However, I would play the diamond four from the table, not the nine, hoping to catch a sleepy East playing small. If East is sharp enough to rise with the eight on this type of layout, bravo. I’ll try to find easier opponents next time.
For the other hand, well, this is pretty desperate. You can develop your ninth trick in hearts, but, the opponents, looking at that dummy, will always find their diamonds. Is there any way to convince them to attack hearts, or spades, and not diamonds?
Personally, when they lead my best suit, I try to return the favor. I would win the king, play the club six to the ace, and a diamond to my queen. Will this work? Doubtful, but it has to better than giving up, and cashing out for down one.
My teammate, Jeff Juster, came up with a different swindle. He played the heart six under the queen. Interesting! No one will ever believe that you hold the king, jack, ten, (and the nine in dummy) with this play. East will certainly continue hearts, and West? Who knows, but I like that play a lot.