Sunday, January 23, 2011

Match 2 - Board 38

Board 38
Opponents vulnerable

♠ J 6 2 A 8 7 Q 8 2 ♣ J 10 7 6

RHO opens one notrump (15-17) and buys it.

After one notrump--three notrump, it would be normal to lead a major, hoping to hit a five-card suit in partner's hand. Against one notrump--pass, however, the situation is different. For one thing, since partner didn't balance, he is more likely to have a long minor than a long major, particularly when playing Astro. For another, when you are looking for seven tricks rather then five, there is less urgency in finding partner's long suit right away. You rate to have more entries defending one notrump than defending three, so you may have an opportunity to correct your course later on, and there is less reason to speculate at trick one.

This is a long-winded way of saying I'm leading fourth from my longest and strongest: the six of clubs.

♠ A K 10 5
10 5 4
10 6 4
♣ 9 8 3

♠ J 6 2
A 8 7
Q 8 2
♣ J 10 7 6

West North East South
1 NT
(All pass)

Declarer plays the eight from dummy, partner plays the queen, and declarer wins with the ace. Partner has eight to ten high-card points, and I've just seen two of them. So he has six to eight unaccounted for.

Declarer would usually duck the first trick with only the ace. So it is a fair inference that either (A) declarer has the club king as well or (B) there is a shift declarer is afraid of. If (A), as we've seen before, declarer would have done better to win with the king. Then neither partner nor I could draw this inference.

Declarer leads the heart queen. If partner has the king, I'd rather he win this trick so I can retain my entry to the long clubs. If declarer has the king, there is probably no hurry. This doesn't look like the kind of deal where he wants to sneak one trick through, then switch to a different suit. I play the seven--four--deuce. If the deuce is honest count, then declarer has king-queen-jack fourth or king-queen-nine fourth. If the latter, he is not taking his best play in hearts, so there is an inference he has some communication problems. With, say, queen fourth of spades, he might have used dummy's spade entries to lead up to his hearts twice.

Declarer plays the spade three. I play the six (routinely giving false count with the jack)--king--seven. As I said, I don't think partner has two small spades. I suspect partner has either queen-seven, queen-third, or nine-eight-seven. If declarer has the queen, then, when he cashes it and sees my deuce, he will know that either I gave false count with jack third or partner gave false count with jack fourth. If he thinks the latter, then perhaps he has some sort of endplay available against partner, in which case we will have given him a losing option.

Declarer plays the heart ten--jack--king--ace. If declarer had king-queen-nine fourth, he would have led low from dummy in case partner had jack doubleton. So it appears declarer has five hearts.

I also know that partner has at least one high diamond honor. This conclusion comes from the inference I drew earlier: either (A) declarer has the club king (in which case both diamond honors would give him 19 high-card points) or (B) there is some shift declarer is afraid of, which could only be diamonds.

If declarer has the spade queen, we are in a cashout situation. Declarer has at least nine cashing tricks (four spades, four hearts, and the club ace) and might easily have a tenth (the club king or diamond ace). So we should try to cash as many tricks as we can before giving up the lead. Partner can still have as many as seven high-card points that I haven't seen yet. So there is room in partner's hand for the club king or for the ace and king of diamonds. Either minor could be running:

(A) ♠ Q x x K Q 9 x x A x (x) ♣ A x (x)

If we cash out our clubs, we hold declarer to nine tricks. If we don't, he makes ten.

(B) ♠ Q x x K Q 9 x x J x (x) ♣ A K (x)

If we cash our diamonds, we hold declarer to seven or eight tricks (depending upon whether partner has four or five diamonds). Again, declarer takes ten tricks if I don't find the right shift.

Rather than win this trick and guess which suit to shift to, I could duck again, so that partner can signal when I win the heart ace. Can I afford to do that? How many tricks might declarer take if he abandons hearts? At most, he has two hearts, four spades, the club ace, and one more minor-suit trick, bringing his total to eight tricks. The only time we can hold him to fewer than eight tricks is if partner has ace-king fifth of diamonds, so ducking, while not always best, at least works out better on balance than a blind switch.

Accordingly, I duck. Declarer continues with the six of hearts--ace--ten--three. So declarer had only four hearts after all! Maybe I was hasty in assuming declarer would lead low from dummy with king-queen-nine fourth. Can leading the ten ever be right?  I suppose it would be right if partner had jack-eight fourth. But few defenders would duck with an offside doubleton ace. If I were declarer, I would rate that layout unlikely.

Partner wasn't able to signal on the heart ace, but I did find out declarer has one trick fewer than I thought he did. That makes a club shift less attractive. If declarer has only nine tricks to cash, there is no hurry to cash our three club tricks.

Could it be right to lead a club for some reason other than to cash out, perhaps because breaking diamonds gives away a diamond trick? How about this layout:

♠ Q x x K Q 9 x A J ♣ A x x x

The diamond shift establishes a diamond trick for declarer. That wouldn't matter if the minors were three-three. But with this pattern it costs a trick because the clubs are blocked. Still, the fact that I had to work to construct this layout suggests that a diamond shift is the percentage choice.

The question now is which diamond? A low one gives partner an impossible problem if he has the very hand I am hoping for: ace-king fourth or fifth of diamonds. How is partner supposed to know whether I am leading from the jack or the queen? If I lead low, partner might reasonably play ace, king, and another, playing declarer for queen doubleton. Leading the queen would make things much easier for partner.

Of course, the queen could be a spectacular failure. Imagine, for example, that declarer has

♠ x x x K Q 9 x K J x x ♣ A K

But I'm not so sure I should worry about that. The queen is wrong only when leading diamonds is the wrong idea altogether. If I'm going to lead the wrong suit, how much worse is it to lead the wrong card as well? Better to make sure I maximize my advantage if I happen to have made the right decision.

I shift to the diamond queen. Partner takes his ace, and declarer drops the five. Partner returns the five of clubs, declarer wins with the king, and I play the seven. The five is the highest outstanding club, so declarer began with three or four clubs. His hand is probably some variation on:

♠ Q x x K Q 9 x K x x ♣ A K x

That's 17 high-card points, so there isn't room for the diamond jack. But he might have the diamond jack if he's missing the spade queen. Let's hope not.

Declarer cashes the nine of hearts. I pitch a diamond; dummy and partner pitch clubs. If I'm right about declarer's hand, he's down to

♠ A 10 5
10 6
♣ ---

♠ Q x
K x
♣ x

His spades are good, so he has four of the last five tricks. But he doesn't know that. If he thinks I have the diamond jack, his best play now is a spade to ace, then back to the queen, strip squeezing me. This gives him four tricks any time I have the diamond jack, regardless of the lie of the spade suit. As the cards lie, he will be disappointed to take only three tricks. My queen of diamonds may have been a serendipitous choice.

I don't know if declarer doesn't see this line or if he is simply unconvinced that I have the diamond jack. For whatever reason, he banks on spades coming home. He cashes the spade queen, then plays a spade to the ace. My jack drops, so dummy's spade is good. It looks as though we are going to score partner's jack of diamonds at trick thirteen. That is, unless declarer has the nine of diamonds and finesses. That's a scary thought. Wouldn't partner have ducked my queen if he didn't have the nine of diamonds? Who knows? Maybe he was afraid I had king-ten fourth of clubs. If declarer does have the nine, let's hope he thinks I've come down to a singleton jack of diamonds and a winning club for my last two cards.

No worries. Partner has the nine of diamonds. Making four.

♠ A K 10 5
10 5 4
10 6 4
♣ 9 8 3

♠ J 6 2
A 8 7
Q 8 2
♣ J 10 7 6

♠ 9 8 7
J 3 2
A J 9 3
♣ Q 5 2

♠ Q 4 3
K Q 9 6
K 7 5
♣ A K 4

Four pairs held one notrump to nine tricks. It looks to me as if it takes an initial diamond lead to do that. I shouldn't think that would have been such a popular choice.

One pair reached three notrump, so we wind up with three matchpoints.

Score on Board 38: -180 (3 MP)
Total: 306 MP (67.1 %)

Current rank: 1st

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