Combine your chances by Barry Rigal

 

While a fair percentage of the E-W field reached 4S on this deal,with mixed success, 2S was a sensible partscore.

 

                              S J 10 4   

               Dlr: West     H A 10 4   

               Vul:N-S        D J 8 2    

                              C A 10 8 4 

               S 8 5                      S A K 7 6 3 2

               H Q 5                      H 8 3

               D K 10 9 6                 D A Q 3

               C K Q 9 3 2                C J 7

                              S Q 9

                              H K J 9 7 6 2   

                              D 7 5 4   

                              C 6 5

 

The C6 was the usual lead from South, and declarer usually put up the king to muddy the waters. When North takes the ace, he has the problem of whether to play for a ruff or to cash the hearts. It looks reasonable to return a club, I think.

 

Now declarer takes the CJ and has to decide what to do next. Obviously he has two potential winners in dummy for his heart losers. If diamonds are 3-3 he might emerge with 11 tricks, but if he plays for 11 he might finish with only nine winners. For example, if he tests diamonds and the suit is 4-2, he might not get the club discard in time.

 

The best play is to enlist the opposition’s help by leading the DQ before cashing the SA-K. Both defenders can be relied on to give count, assuring their partner has the DA, and when the suit seems to be 3-3, declarer can cash the top spades, unblock the diamonds and follow up with the CQ. When the same hand is long in both black suits, declarer can get both his hearts away for a valuable extra trick.

 

 

An awkward problem by Barry Rigal

 

This deal presented a very awkward problem. A typical auction:

 

               West     North   East      South

                                          2D

               2H       Pass    3C        Pass

               3NT      Pass    6H        All Pass

 

Holding a flat 7-count, you dutifully lead a low diamond. This is what you see:

                             Dummy

                             S A 9 7 6

                             H A 5 4

                            D --

                             C K J 7 6 4 2

     You   

     S K 10 8 5  

     H K 7 6     

     D J 8 7     

     C 9 8 3     

 

Declarer ruffs the first trick and leads a low heart to the 10. Over

to you!

 

Well, at least one many-time U.S. champion diagnosed the position, figuring declarer for

 

            S Qx    H Q109xx    D Axxx     C Ax.

 

He decided the time was right for a dramatic shift to the king of spades, dislodging declarer’s last sure entry to dummy. Declarer would win the ace of spades, unblock in trumps, then cross to the ace of clubs. Next he would draw the last trump and finesse in clubs -- and go down two! However, this was the actual deal:

 

                              S A 9 7 6  

                            H A 5 4    

                              D --

                             C K J 7 6 4 2    

              S K 10 8 5                     S Q 3 2

              H K 7 6                        H J 3

              D J 8 7                        D A Q 10 9 5 3

              C 9 8 3                        C 10 5

                             S J 4

                             H Q 10 9 8 2     

                             D K 6 4 2  

                             C A Q

 

Alas, as you can see, West had got just about everything right except for the location of the minor black- suit honors. As the cards lay, declarer could follow the same line, but he would emerge with 12 tricks at the end of the day as the club suit ran for six tricks. There is a winning defense of course-- duck the king of hearts! Now with the defense all set to cash the diamond ace, declarer can draw trumps and the hand falls to pieces.

 

There is actually more to the hand than that, as was apparent at our table. Assuming North can apply the brakes in 4H, on a low diamond lead declarer could pitch a club (not a spade, which gives the game away) at trick one. East should nonetheless win the ace of diamonds and shift to spades. Now declarer has to guess very well to realize 11 tricks. He wins the spade ace, crosses to the club ace and advances the heart queen. If this is not covered, declarer can draw a second trump and then turn his attention to clubs for 11 tricks easily enough.

 

But if North covers the heart queen with the king (a very unnatural looking play), I do not think West can bring home more than 10 tricks, can he?