Lots of Problems
At halftime in a sectional swiss, we have 68 out of 80 VPs.
That's a pretty good score, and the team is pretty happy as
we go to dinner. Most of the conversation revolves around
the hand on which we won 19 IMPs. That's a lot. I held the
big hand at our table:
K9 Q QJ94 AQ7532
In second seat at unfavorable vulnerability,
I opened 1 and heard a 4 overcall
on my left. Partner made a negative double (which just shows
a decent hand). RHO passed and I had a problem. If I knew which
minor suit to play, I'd probably bid it, but I don't. I refuse
to bid 4NT, showing roughly this shape, as if partner bids 5,
he won't make it after losing the first two spade tricks. So my
choices are 5 and pass. I think it's right to take the
money, so I pass. That leaves me with a defensive problem.
Partner leads a high club spot, dummy plays low, and I win the
Q. We have a rule that if I win a trick cheaply and
then switch, I'm not switching to a singleton. I'm not sure
this applies here, but I cash a second club and shift to a heart.
Declarer covers and partner wins. He continues with the 10,
which I ruff. Obviously, partner wants a club overruff, despite
the heart returned, so I do that. Partner ruffs higher than dummy,
but declarer is down to all trump and claims shortly. We get +300.
Upon reflection, I erred. From the lead, declarer is marked with
three clubs. If he has eight spades, then he has only two red
cards. If they are both hearts, I need to shift to a heart at
trick two, then (when declarer ducks this), give partner the club
overruff to cash the second heart trick. That would have produced
+500, as I'll get my trump trick later, because declarer has
no entry to dummy. If declarer is 1-1 in the red suits, it's
imperative that I don't ruin our club ruff. I played too fast.
Fortunately, it wasn't costly.
At the other table, the bidding and play was more enthusiastic.
The opening lead was the J. Declarer won the Q
and played a diamond honor. North won and shifted to a spade,
of course. Unfortunately, South pitched a spade on the diamond,
so the defense came to only 8 tricks, +1700. North complained
to his partner about discarding the seventh undertrick, but it was
only one IMP. My defensive error at the other table didn't even
cost that, but if my teammates had managed two grand, we could have
had 21 IMPs. I can live with 19.
Declarer didn't give himself the best play.
Ducking the first trick would have saved a lot of tricks.
(But if diamonds were 1-4, it would have cost 2300.)
Ducking in tempo would have probably seen a second club
come through. Declarer now has five clubs and a heart
trick. When he advances the Q, West is stuck.
If he holds his K, he gets endplayed with it; if
he covers, he blows two tricks. All in all, declarer
will come to seven tricks. Sticks and wheels isn't good,
but it's not as bad as 1700 or 2000. (It would even have
saved three IMPs.)
Did you spot the defensive error? East needs to cover
the club at trick one so this cannot happen. Declarer's
best shot is to play three rounds of clubs. West
can exit with the K. Dummy gets
three heart tricks and declarer gets two club tricks,
so we are back to 1700. If West exits with
the low heart instead, declarer gets five clubs and
a heart for "only" 1400. If West exits with a spade,
there's no carnage anymore. Declarer will end up with
ten tricks. He wins and knocks out the A. He
can either use the A to finesse the diamond or
he can run the Q, exit with a spade, and make
the A in the end.
Declarer can do still better! He wins the club at
trick one and immediately plays a heart. If West
doesn't unblock, declarer wins the A. If
he does, declarer cashes two hearts, pitching a diamond.
In either case, he then cashes the other high club
and exits with a club. West can take one spade and
one heart and one club, but has to lead spades. Then
all declarer loses after this is a diamond. That's
nine tricks and "only" -500. It's interesting that
the hand revolves around forcing West to lead spades.
If he had held the 2, he could have avoided
the endplay, but he didn't. What an "upside-down"
hand! Declarer has to attack first his third-best
suit, then his second-best, carefully avoiding his
best, in order to force the defense to lead their
Ought declarer have got this one right? It's hard to
say, but the double of 5 and the lead of a club
suggest that diamonds are 5-0. If so, it's likely that
spades are 8-1, too. Those inferences are a little
tenuous, but do suggest the winning (OK, less losing)
plays. The risk is not large, either, so I think he
ought to have done it. Not surprisingly, however, he
was rattled after the auction.
Upon reflection, all three players made errors on the
hand, costing 300-point undertricks. Given how poorly
I defended, I'm glad I wasn't playing the hand.
Copyright © 2000 Jeff Goldsmith