The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Tuesday, January 07, 2003


I played at the club today with my friend Eric. We didn't do well -- a little above 52% -- but there were two very interesting hands.

The first hand is a declarer play problem. I held:

SJxx HKQT8x Dx CKQJ7

Eric opened 2D, which we play as 20-22 balanced or semi-balanced. I bid 2S, a puppet to 2N. Eric bid 2N as requested, and the auction developed along standard lines: I transferred to hearts with 3D, and Eric bid 3H. (So far he has shown an excellent talent for following orders.) I bid 4C, which Eric raised to 5. I carried on to 6C; with this much power it's likely we have a slam.

LHO led the CT and dummy appeared:

SAKQx HAx DKxxx CA98

This should be easy to play; win the club in dummy, ace and king of hearts, ruff a heart, pull trumps, and run good hearts and spades. But when I played the ace of hearts, RHO followed with the 9.

Should this cause me to change my plan? If RHO has the stiff 9, I need to pull three rounds of trumps and hope they break 3-3. Then I can run four spades shaking a diamond, and knock out LHO's heart jack.

If RHO has 9x, I need the heart ruff for a 12th trick. (Actually it will be a 13th trick as well.) If RHO has J9, anything works.

Against an expert who would know to falsecard you, I think that trying for the ruff is correct; 9x of hearts is much more likely than stiff 9. Against a club player, I think it's right to pull trumps. ("Club player" is a polite way of saying "bad player.") Most club players probably don't give count when following to declarer's side suit.

In practice, I led a heart, and RHO ruffed and cashed her DA. I was down 1 for a 25% board. Clubs were 4-2 so trying to pull trumps would have resulted in down two or worse. This is another reason to try for the ruff; with 32 HCP these hands rate to be played in a slam by other tables, and it's worthwhile to try to limit the damage.

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Here is the second hand, which is a defensive problem. You hold:

SAQT72 H83 D52 CAQ64. You are second seat and unfavorable. RHO opens 1H, you overcall 1S, and LHO closes the proceedings with a jump to 3N. (This is British bridge writing style. One never delays or prolongs or adjournes the proceedings. It's jump to game, close the proceedings, God save the Queen.)

Partner leads the S7, which could be from two or three small. Dummy tracks with

S9 HAQ954 DAJT76 CJ63

You win the spade ace and switch to a low club. This doesn't work; declarer runs it around to the jack and plays another club off the board. You duck and declarer puts in the ten. It appears from the carding that declarer had four clubs, partner three.

Declarer plays the H2 and finesses the queen. Then he plays off the diamonds; he has KQxx. Partner pitches S6, C3, S2. What do you pitch?

I will leave the answer in the comments.


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