Finding the Elegant Play


Author: Michael Berkowitz
Date of publish: 08/24/2019
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

I grew up watching a little too much MacGyver. For example, growing up, I loved reading in bed. I used to have a flashlight that I would hold with one hand and hold open a book with the other. 

I eventually got fed up with the difficulty of moving around the flashlight and decided to improvise a solution, just like MacGyver: I had several small mirrors from a magic kit. I set it up so that I could prop the flashlight and it would reflect off the mirrors and back down onto where I was reading. Among other things, this involved me suspending a mirror from the ceiling using a rather ingenious cord made entirely out of duct tape. Voila! Two free hands to hold my book.  

My mother eventually walked in to me reading by way of the many-times-reflected flashlight and shook her head. Before she left in disgust, she walked over to my desk, unplugged my desklamp and plugged it on my bedstand. 

Just because an improvised solution works, doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to approach a problem. Often, we want to find the method that is sturdiest.

I hate to use terms like endplay or throw-in since those terms often scare off advancing players. Instead, make sure that you think about losing tricks to the opponent you want to or think about ways your opponents can be forced to help you. 

See how well you can plan the play on this hand: 

Lead: ♠J

DUMMY

♠ K5
♥ KJ6
♦ QJ92
♣ A873

 

DECLARER

♠ AQ
♥ AQ10952
♦ K7
♣ QJ10

 

WestNorthEastSouth (YOU)
      1♠ 
 Pass  2♠  Pass 2♠ 
 Pass 3♠  Pass   4NT
 Pass  5♠ Pass   6♠

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

About the auction:

You open 1♠, and partner bids a game forcing 2♠. You bid two hearts and partner bids 3♠ which should show some extra values. You have options now: Blackwood (Keycard Blackwood), control bid, or signoff. Certainly your hand is too good to bid just 4♠, so you need to decide whether you want to bid slam immediately or explore a little first. I think the plan is going to be to keycard eventually so control bidding will only reveal information for our opponents. You use Blackwood and find you are off 1 keycard. You bid 6♠, ending the auction. 

The Play

A quick look at both hands reveals some concerns: we have one definite diamond loser and it looks like we need to take a club finesse also. However, before we take finesses, it is always a good idea to see if there is a way to avoid needing them. Here, we have some useful diamonds. We are entitled to get rid of at least one of our clubs via our partner’s QJ of diamonds, but can we get two diamond pitches?

The answer is: maybe. If the 10 of diamonds drops doubleton or tripleton, our 9 will be good. Playing on diamonds is clearly a superior line, however maybe there’s a way to improve even more. If trumps are 2-2, then we can make the contract any time our RHO has the ace of diamonds. First draw the two rounds of trump, then cash your other spade. Which hand do you want to be in? Dummy. What does that mean? You should win trick 1 with the ace (or alternatively cash your second spade before drawing trump).  

Now, play a diamond to the K and another diamond to the Q. If your RHO wins it they either have to A) play spades, allowing you to pitch a club and ruff in dummy B) play clubs, giving away the finesse or C) play diamonds into the J9 giving you two pitches for your clubs. If your RHO plays the ace the first time, you play low and then cash the ♠K. Now you can go to dummy and throw away two clubs.

 

The Full Deal

 

Vul:
Dir:
♠ K5
♥ KJ6
♦ QJ92
♣ A873
 
♠ J1098
♥ 83
♦ 654
♣ 9642
  ♠ 76432
♥ 74
♦ A1083
♣ K5
  ♠ AQ
♥ AQ10952
♦ K7
♣ QJ10