Smooth Duck

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 11/01/2020
Level: Intermediate

This deal is from the same Common Game set as last month. This was the layout:

Dlr: South
♠ 97
♥ 10
♦ AKJ1076
♣ QJ74
♠ J653
♥ 987
♦ 52
♣ K1032
  ♠ Q104
♥ KQJ64
♦ Q98
♣ 85
  ♠ AK82
♥ A532
♦ 43
♣ A96

South opens 1NT. What should North respond? At IMPs, maybe it is right to pursue a contract of 5 (maybe even 6) of a minor. Perhaps start with a transfer to diamonds, or some gadget to show the heart shortness.

However, at matchpoints, I believe it is practical to just raise to 3NT. For one, notrump scores/pays better. Also, it doesn't help the defense. After 1N-3N, West is unlikely to find the killing heart lead. He would lead a black suit and now declarer is in great shape.

The interesting part of this deal is the diamond suit. Let's say declarer wins a black-suit lead in hand an plays a diamond. He would take a first-round finesse, hoping to maintain communication with the dummy. East wins the ♠Q and no matter what he returns, declarer has at least 9 (more if the opening lead was a club) tricks.

However, what if East is ready for the diamond play and smoothly ducks his ♠Q? Could anyone find such a play? I think so. If declarer had xxx in diamonds, he would be unlikely to play this way. So, the first-round finesse smells like xx. When East plays low, without a care in the world, wouldn't you assume West has the ♠Q. Declarer would likely come back to his hand and take another diamond finesse (guarding against 4-1). Now, the finesse loses and East returns the ♠K.  Regardless of which black-suit was led at trick one, the defense is now in control and sets 3NT in spectacular fashion.