Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Board 40

Board 40 (Click to download pbn file)
Neither vulnerable

♠ 6 A J 9 3 Q 9 8 4 ♣ 10 9 5 2

LHO opens one notrump in first seat, and partner passes. I hope RHO bids something. Otherwise I'll be annoyed that we're not playing Astro, which would allow me to balance with two clubs. He does. He bids two clubs, LHO bids two spades, and RHO bids three notrump. Partner leads the queen of spades.

♠ 8 4
K 6 4 2
K 7 5 2
♣ K Q 3

♠ 6
A J 9 3
Q 9 8 4
♣ 10 9 5 2

1 NT
2 ♣
2 ♠
3 NT
(All pass)

Partner's spades should be headed by queen-jack-ten-nine. If partner is missing any one of those cards, he should be leading a low spade or, more likely, some other suit entirely. He has two to four high-card points outside of spades, so it's hard to believe he thinks he has enough entries to make leading spades productive. Dummy plays the four, I play the six, and declarer wins with the ace.

Declarer leads the jack of clubs--six--three. I doubt partner will have much to do on this deal, and I see no reason to help declarer count the hand, so I play the deuce.

I know a fair amount about this hand already. Since partner has no high cards in clubs, he must have either the heart queen or the diamond ace. The heart queen seems more likely, since he might have overcalled two spades with the diamond ace.  (Assuming he has six spades.  I suppose he could have the diamond ace if spades were five-five.)  If partner does have the heart queen, he might or might not have the diamond jack. Also, it looks as if declarer has three clubs. If he has four, he's just blocked the suit, and he wouldn't seem to have the flexibility to afford that.

Why is declarer playing clubs? My guess is he plans to cash three clubs, then lose a trick to me, forcing me to break a red suit. He probably suspects I have the heart ace for the same reason I suspect he has the diamond ace.

Whatever declarer was up to with his club play, he seems to have changed his mind. He abandons clubs and leads the eight of hearts--seven from partner--deuce from dummy. Declarer will have to lose the lead three times to set up a heart trick. With three entries plus the head start declarer gave me, I have time to set up my long club. I win with the nine of hearts and play the five of clubs. Declarer wins in his hand with the ace and plays the five of hearts--queen--king. I take the ace and play a third club. Declarer wins in dummy and plays a heart to my jack. Partner pitches the deuce of spades.

Partner's spade pitch disabuses me of any notion that spades might be five-five. Declarer must be 4-3-3-3, and he now has eight tricks. If I cash the club, will I rectify the count for a squeeze?  No. I guard diamonds and partner guards spades, so there is no squeeze. Unless declarer has the jack of diamonds, he has no prospect for a ninth trick. Is there any way I can talk him into a losing option if he does have the diamond jack? It's hard to see how. He has a complete count, so even if he has the jack-ten and has a two-way guess for the queen, he should get it right.

I cash the club, then exit with my last heart. Declarer doesn't have the diamond jack, so he's down one.

♠ 8 4
K 6 4 2
K 7 5 2
♣ K Q 3

♠ Q J 10 5 3 2
Q 7
J 6
♣ 8 7 6

♠ 6
A J 9 3
Q 9 8 4
♣ 10 9 5 2

♠ A K 9 7
10 8 5
A 10 3
♣ A J 4

As long as declarer was going to play hearts this way, why not attack hearts at trick two? If he hadn't given me the tempo to establish a club trick, he would have made it. In the end position, he would have king-nine-seven of spades and two diamonds. Even if partner had started with three diamonds, he would have been squeezed down to a doubleton. So declarer can cash diamonds and lead the nine of spades to endplay him.

This was possible only because of partner's questionable queen of spades lead. He had spades behind declarer and he knew I had hearts behind dummy. That suggests a passive defense to me, so I would have led a club. As it turns out, a club is actually productive, since clubs is our source of tricks.

The auction and lead are the same at the other table. Again declarer wins the opening lead and cashes the jack of clubs. I'm not sure what this jack of clubs play is all about. My teammate tries a different tack in the heart suit. He leads the five of hearts and ducks West's seven. West leads the queen of hearts, and declarer ducks that as well. He's going to have a hard time setting up a heart trick this way. West exits with a club. Declarer wins in dummy and plays a diamond to the ten and jack.  If  this play had established a diamond trick (that is, if he had found three-three diamonds or even nine-eight doubleton in West's hand), he would have made it.  He would have eight tricks and could endplay partner for the ninth.

West decides he's destined to give away a spade trick sooner or later, so he gets it over with. He leads the jack of spades to declarer's king, then shows he has a sense of humor by ducking when declarer leads the spade seven. That gives declarer his eighth trick, which was inevitable, but declarer has nowhere to go for a ninth. Down one for a push.

This is a difficult play problem for declarer. It's hard to decide whether to go after the eighth trick in hearts or in diamonds.  It seems to be close enough that Jack plays differently depending on which set of random hands he deals out for his analysis.  You should be glad I wasn't declaring, or this post would be considerably longer.  We would still be examining declarer's options at trick two. 

But I don't think cashing the jack of clubs would be one of those options.  Maybe Jack was just stalling.

Me: +100
Jack: +100

Score on Board 40: 0 IMPs
Total: +96 IMPs


  1. Once West chose to lead SQ, which pretty much telegraphs the spade suit, possible reason for Jack's consideration of three rounds of clubs might be to remove club exits from West. After three rounds of clubs, declarer can lead a small spade toward dummy. Now West has to give away a spade trick or has to break a red suit. That could be helpful to declarer, I think. I wonder if your false count in clubs caused declarer Jack to change his mind about that, for fear that three rounds of clubs would set up two long club tricks for you, and not just one, that can be cashed when you are in with HA.

    1. An even better play, in my opinion, is for declarer to duck the first spade trick. John Lowenthal should be proud of the result. Seeing the dummy doesn't make any other lead by West more attractive. If West continues spades, his partner has an immediate pitching problem.

      What if West does find the club shift? Declarer can win and cash a spade, and again East is squeezed in three suits. Best I think is to pitch a club. As it happens, declarer can make pretty easily if East discards a diamond, the situation after a heart discard is harder to read. If East does discard his fourth club, declarer can strip clubs and lead his last high spade pitching a low heart from dummy. East must also pitch a heart. Now lead the eight of hearts. East wins the nine. (Probably--other results are similar.) If he finds the nine or eight of diamonds exit he can (eventually) set declarer by one.

      Is this the best line for declarer? That is a tough question, even if you assume that West has honor doubleton in each red suit for his lead.

      And now for something completely different...

      I am a player, Phillip is a mechanic. Both styles of bidding and play work, but they are different. Booring contracts--and there are not too many of those in reality--don't find any difference. But given a 50% contract, Phillip will figure out the best line based on what the opponents hold. I will try to find the best line to induce the opponents to err.

      The errors I play for are often subtle, but that doesn't make them less devastating. For example, if there is a missing queen to pick up, Phillip will usually know his expected chance of success when he gets around to the finesse. Me? My first thought is whether I can induce an opponent to lead the suit in question. Phillip will try this as well, if no reason not to. But I am more likely to base my subsequent play on the fact that one opponent had the chance to lead the suit, and chose not to.

      The big practical difference, not visible here, is that I will often call a card from dummy, while partner is still arranging the cards. Why? I want the opponents forced to think on their clock not mine.

      Yes, we don't have chess clocks in bridge. That day may come. But until then, and even then, if you are going to draw conclusions from opponents hesitations, you don't want to mask them by your own slow play.

      Here it actually makes a difference. I am going to duck that first trick quickly. (Can't hurt, may help, done.) Now West may or may not conclude that he will squeeze partner if he continues spades, and he may or may not find the safe shift (clubs).

      Winning the first trick and returning a spade is in theory more likely to win three spade tricks. But ducking the first spade means that West doesn't get to see a discard by East before his second lead. To my thinking, not even close.

  2. Phil;

    Just stumbled upon your blog (saw the Great Bridge Links blurb).

    Kudos for making a serious commitment to a terrific, high-quality project.

    I look forward to reading the previous 39 boards.

    If you are not already doing so, you might enjoy loading old championship deals into Jack's database (Santorakos' website is a great source), playing same, and then reading the World Championship book (preferably one authored by Kokish) to see a) what happened in real-life and b) what could/should have been done.


    Nick Krnjevic

  3. I'm still trying to figure out how declarer should play hearts! Thank you Phillip. H8 at trick 2 seems best.

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