THREE PROBLEM HANDS
by Barry Rigal
The next three hands posed a series of problems -- one in the bidding, one in declarer play and one in defense. First the bidding problem.
S 9 8
H A K 9 6
D K 5 3 2
C K Q T
Vulnerable against not you open a 15-17 notrump. You hear 3C on your left, double by partner showing cards. Passing would be an option at other vulnerabilities, but is it right here? And if not, what should you do?
S 98 S AJ43
H AK96 H T842
D K532 D AJ9
C KQT C 97
The winning action at the table was to bid 3NT. If you bid 3H you get raised to 4H and will have to guess well to succeed there. but 3NT on a small club lead was easy. You cash the HA and take a diamond finesse. The defense can't prevent you from taking a second-round heart finesse and you come home with 10 tricks for plus 630 for 10 matchpoints out of 12. Plus 620 was worth only 5 matchpoints.
On the next deal, you reach 4H on the lead of the D6, the unbid suit. Plan the play.
S KT863 S J975
H T3 H Q42
D QJ32 D 65
C J3 C KT92
The best line is to take the DK and play three rounds of diamonds at once. West wins and probably exits with a club.
You put in the queen, and it loses to the king. Back comes a low club to your ace.
You now lead the D10, and it is up to East to defend well by nonchalantly ruffing with the H2 a difficult play since
it seems to be giving up a sure trump trick. If East does this, you will have to guess the trump position to make your contract.
But note that if East does not ruff, the consequences are catastrophic. Declarer can infer that East's failure to ruff marks him with the HQ. He can pitch a club from dummy on the D10, run the HJ (!) from hand, draw a second round of trumps, ruff one club and pitch a second club on the SA for an overtrick.
The key to the hand as declarer is not to touch trumps at all. If you draw trumps by taking the trump finesse, the defense can exit with a third trump, leaving you with no chance.
And finally, your defensive problem, which also involves some good declarer play problems.
S 98632 S AJ
H 2 H AQT6
D KQT3 D A652
C Q32 C K96
When East played in 3NT he got the lead of the CJ. Declarer makes his first good move when he runs this to his king and
crosses to a top diamond to play a spade to the jack. This play holds your spade losers to two tricks when North has
the doubleton king-queen and when either hand has 10 doubleton. South wins his SQ and plays the C10. North wins -- what now?
Well, South's play of the C10 denies the 9, so playing a third club will set up a winner -- but that is not enough to beat the hand. Play the H9 and declarer is caught on the horns of a dilemma. If he puts up the 10 or queen, South wins cheaply and goes back to clubs to establish the defense's fifth trick. If declarer plays the ace and clears the spades, North wins the third round of spades and plays a heart, enabling South to cash two hearts for one down.