Monday, November 2, 2009

Board 34

Board 34
Our side vulnerable

♠ 10 9 8 6 3 2 A 7 10 4 2 ♣ A 10

RHO passes. It hurts to pass with six spades. But at this vulnerability, what else can I do? I pass. LHO opens one club, partner overcalls one diamond, and RHO bids one heart. I bid one spade. I feel better now. It's generally not a good idea to suppress support for partner in a competitive auction. But it's important for us to find a spade fit if we have one. Spades offers our best chance to make game as well as our best chance to compete for the partscore. If the opponent are in three or four hearts by the time the auction gets back to me, I would feel a lot more comfortable passing with an undisclosed ten third of diamonds than with an undisclosed six-card spade suit. LHO bids two hearts (promising four, since Jack plays that double shows three-card support), partner raises to two spades, and RHO bids three hearts. As a Law-abiding citizen, I bid three spades, which ends the auction. West leads the king of hearts:


NORTH
♠ A Q
6 5
K 9 8 6 5
♣ Q 9 7 3






SOUTH
♠ 10 9 8 6 3 2
A 7
10 4 2
♣ A 10


WestNorthEastSouth
PassPass
1 ♣1 1 1 ♠
2 2 ♠3 3 ♠
(All pass)

It's unusual for partner to raise spades with a doubleton on this auction, especially since I declined to open a weak two-bid. But he seems to have judged correctly. Three spades looks like a perfectly acceptable contract.

I probably have to lose a spade trick as well as a heart trick and the ace of diamonds. I can afford a second diamond loser or a club loser but not both. I'd like to duck this to avoid giving East an entry to play clubs. That could prove awkward if West finds a diamond shift, but it's unlikely he will shift to dummy's long suit. I decide it's worth the risk. I play low from dummy, East plays the four, and I duck. I know from past experience that East's trick one signal indicates only whether or not he has an honor in the suit led. On that assumption, what does East have?

____

He must have the jack. If West holds king-queen-jack fourth, he can have only one spot card. Thus the four cannot be East's lowest card. He is playing high to show the jack, although, from West's point of view, he could be showing the ace. West shifts to the six of clubs. What's going on?

____

It's possible West is shifting from the club king hoping his partner has a doubleton ace and can get a ruff. But he has no particular reason to think his partner has the club ace. More likely, he is simply trying to set up club tricks before dummy's diamonds are established. If that's the case, he is more likely to have the jack than the king. Shifting from the jack may set up a trick by force when his partner has king-ten. Shifting from the king works only when I have a guess and guess wrong. But how does he know I even have a guess? I don't have to have the ten. I could simply have ace doubleton and have nothing better to do than to put up the queen. Or, even more embarrassing, I might have ace-jack. On this deal, a shift from the king is even more unlikely than usual, because West doesn't even know I'm ducking the heart. For all he knows, his partner may be able to win the second heart and shift.

I play the club three--king--ace. Now a spade to the queen, which holds, and the spade ace, dropping East's jack. I cash the club queen--deuce--ten--eight and ruff a club, dropping West's jack. West appears to be 3-4-3-3. What is the right play in diamonds to hold my losses to two tricks?

____

In a vacuum, the right play is to play low to the eight, then low to the nine, losing only to queen-jack doubleton offside. But we aren't in a vacuum. Assuming I'm right that East holds the jack of hearts, West has exactly nine high-card points outside of diamonds. That means he needs at least three high-card points in diamonds to have an opening bid. He can't have queen third or jack third. If I lead low to the eight, losing to the queen or jack, then West plays low on the second diamond, West must have the ace. So I should play the king on the second round. Note the importance of having decoded East's trick one signal. While it might have seemed insignificant at the time, it became important to know that East has the jack of hearts.

I don't make it to the second round of diamonds, however. West hops with his ace on the first diamond. I can now pitch my diamond loser on dummy's nine of clubs to make four:


NORTH
♠ A Q
6 5
K 9 8 6 5
♣ Q 9 7 3


WEST
♠ K 5 4
K Q 9 8
A J 7
♣ J 8 6


EAST
♠ J 7
J 10 4 3 2
Q 3
♣ K 5 4 2


SOUTH
♠ 10 9 8 6 3 2
A 7
10 4 2
♣ A 10


West was wrong to hop. I couldn't have a doubleton diamond, so he knew he couldn't lose the diamond ace.  Had he ducked, I would have made only three. I must finesse on the first round of diamonds to guard against West's having queen-jack third.

[Added at 11:30 am - Jeff Aker has pointed out that I had a blind spot on this deal.  Once East foolishly rose with the club king at trick two, I should have won and returned the ten of clubs, finessing to get a pitch for my diamond. If West covers, I can return to my hand with the heart ace to take the spade finesse.  I suppose I was so delighted with the gift in clubs that I didn't stop to rethink my plan.  I just proceeded with the line I was intending to adopt after the expected heart continuation.]

At the other table, my hand raises diamonds over one heart, then backs in with two spades:

WestNorthEastSouth
PassPass
1 ♣1 1 2
2 PassPass2 ♠
PassPass3 (All pass)


This sequence would appear to be more economical than mine, since South gets both of his features in at the two-level.  But it doesn't work out well. At my table, we found our spade fit early. North was able to show his support at a low level, and I could make the final decision. At Jack's table, North had to decide at the three-level whether or not to support spades, and, rightly in my opinion, he declined to do so with ace-queen doubleton.

Of course, selling out to three hearts isn't so bad if they beat it. South leads the deuce of diamonds. North wins with the king and shifts to a trump. South wins with the ace and decides to try for a club ruff. He plays the ace of clubs. North encourages with the nine, and South continues clubs. Declarer now has no club losers and can eventually pitch a spade on the diamond jack to make three.

This is surely the worst defense I've seen from Jack so far. Obviously if North wanted to encourage on the club ace, he should have encouraged with the seven, not the nine. But, with ace-queen of spades behind dummy's king, why encourage at all? He knows he has five tricks on a spade shift. This is a flaw of Jack's carding methods. His attitude signals relate only to the suit led, not to the hand as a whole.

But it's not so clear to me South should be cashing the club ace in the first place. The trump shift is suspicious. Partner isn't trying to cut down on ruffs. He is simply defending passively. He seems to think declarer can't come to nine tricks if left to his own devices. What reason does South have to think he's wrong and embark on an aggressive defense? This is another of Jack's failings as defender: an inability to draw conclusions about partner's hand from the defense he adopts.

As the cards lie, a spade shift is best, but I'm not sure South should find it. Leading spades could be wrong if either player has ace-jack doubleton. If declarer has it, he is unlikely to finesse on his own given the auction. And if partner has it, he's caught in Morton's fork. Either he hops with the ace, giving declarer two spade tricks, or he ducks, letting declarer win one spade then pitch his second on the jack of diamonds. If you let declarer play spades himself, he may lead up the king, hoping to catch you in Morton's fork. My choice would be to return a diamond. It might help partner count the hand to let him know declarer has the diamond queen. Better yet, maybe partner has the diamond queen and he's being sneaky. It's not clear how declarer will play from here. But he's certainly going down at least one.

Me: +170
Jack: -140

Result on Board 34: +7 IMPs
Total: +88 IMPs

4 comments:

  1. When you play a diamond and West hopped with the Ace, you said that had he not hopped you would have had to finesse to guard against him having QJx.
    If he really has QJx, then his opening bid consisted of:
    Kxx
    KQxx
    QJx
    Jxx
    That's a pretty filthy opening bid, even for a computer, even in third seat. Would Jack really open a J high 3 card suit in 3rd ??

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  2. Experiment time . I am wondering if Jack can get partner to shift to a Spade either by playing the 4 of Clubs or an alarm clock Q of Clubs . After all if declarer has the 10 of Clubs a Spade shift is necessary.

    Against 3S the Club shift from West is bizarre. There is absolutely no holding that it caters to. Seems likely that declarer will establish clubs to pitch Diamonds. A spade attacking dummy's entries seems like a more prudent defense.

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  3. L.B.: You are right. I tried it, and Jack doesn't open that hand. Although what does it hurt to finesse just in case?

    P.B.: If East shifts to any club at trick two, West returns the ten of spades. I was a little surprised by that. Isn't it right just to continue clubs? When you win the heart ace, you can lead a spade to partner's ace to get a ruff. Continuing spades is right only when partner has ace-queen of spades and a natural third-round club trick. (You can ruff away the king of spades so declarer gets only one pitch.)

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  4. I was referring to partner's play on the ace of clubs lead. What happens when Jack plays the 4 discouraging and what happens when he plays the Q alarm clock. Clearly from his POV declarer might be making if he has the 10 of clubs 2-5-2-4

    ReplyDelete