The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Alright, enough of this baseball nonsense. Long before I was a fantasy baseball blogging geek, I was a bridge blogging geek. This weekend was District 21's Flight B Grand National Teams competition, a five-round knockout to determine who would represent the district at the Summer Nationals in New York. My team lost in the quarterfinal last night to the best team in the event. Here are two interesting declarer play problems from yesterday's sessions.

At none vulnerable I was in third chair with SKT2 HA53 DAQ64 CK74.

Scott dealt and passed, showing 0-9 high card points as we open all hands with 10 or more points. RHO opened 1D, and I had an easy 1N overcall. Scott responded 2C Stayman. RHO thought a little bit but passed. I rebid 2D and Scott rebid 2N, inviting game and not necessarily showing a four-card major.

I was toward the bottom of my range, but I liked my quality high cards and figured that I could play two-on-one against my RHO. So I bid 3N.

LHO led the H6 and this is what I caught in dummy (my hand repeated for convenience):



I played low -- I could always try the heart finesse later -- and RHO played the H9. I won the ace and stopped to consider the lead. If the six was fourth-best, then LHO had led from QT76. (A shortcut to figure this out is the "Rule of Eleven" -- subtract the rank of the card led from 11, and that is the number of higher cards in the non-leaders' hands. Eleven minus six is five, and with four higher cards in my hand, there was one in RHO's hand and he had just played it.)

So I led a heart to the eight, which held (RHO pitching a diamond). I led a spade to the king and the ten of spades, which RHO won. Now I had eight tricks.

RHO led back the DJ. I was about to finesse this for my ninth trick -- if RHO didn't have the diamond king, he had an 11-count. But I forced myself to think it through. Suppose I won the ace, hooked the heart, and ran my majors. That would lead to a four-card ending. I could keep DQx CKx in hand, and when I led a club RHO could win the ace but I would still have diamonds stopped if he had the king.

And what if LHO had the king of diamonds? Club, won with the ace. Diamond to the king. Heart cashed (my run of the hearts would set up LHO's fifth heart). But if LHO started with DKx, he would be out of diamonds and would have to give me my ninth trick with a club.

So I rose ace of diamonds, finessed the heart, and ran my majors. RHO had only a doubleton spade; he pitched a diamond and three clubs (including the queen and ten), so he had pitched down to a bare club ace and three diamonds.

I led a club and RHO won. He led a diamond, I rose queen, and LHO won! He cashed a heart and led a club, as he had started with a doubleton diamond, so I made three notrump and my caution was rewarded.

On this next hand, I was declarer in four hearts after a Caroline Club auction that wasn't terribly important. (For the curious: 1C - 2C, 2H - 2N, 3N - 4H.) Here were the hands:



LHO led the DK and I ducked. He continued diamonds and I won the DA. I led a spade to the ace and led the HJ. This hand looked pretty simple; I would make if any one of three finesses succeeded.

Well, maybe not. The jack of hearts held the trick, but LHO pitched D9!

I went into a long study and decided to finesse in clubs. Fortunately the king was onside. I ran the jack, played a club to the queen, and cashed the ace. (RHO should have pitched the king, but made it easy for me to count the hand by keeping it.)

Now what? I had six tricks in and might or might not score more spades. RHO had five hearts, at least two diamonds, and four clubs, so there was room for a second spade. If I wasn't taking any more spades I needed to score all four trumps.

I could play a spade to the king and take another finesse. But what if RHO ruffed the king? I would ruff the diamond return and lead another spade. LHO would win while RHO pitched his king of clubs. A fourth spade lead would put me in my hand at trick 11, and RHO would get his king of hearts.

I thought for a long time until I realized that the finesse was safe; even if RHO won a stiff queen, he would be endplayed and then endplayed again. I ran the SJ, which RHO ruffed. He returned his last diamond, which I ruffed. A spade to the king was ruffed and I showed him my hand. If he returned a low trump I would run it to my ten and finesse. If he returned the king of trumps I would win with the ace and win the queen and ten separately. If he returned his club I would ruff small in hand and overruff in dummy with the ten. Making four!



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