Are These Experts?

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 06/27/2009
Level: Advanced


This deal occurred in the 2009 Las Vegas Regional:

Vul: None
? 8 6
? K J 5 4 3
? A
? 10 8 5 4 3
?J 9 3
? 8 2
? J 9 8 3 2
? K Q 9
  ? 10 7 5 2
? A Q 9 6
? 10 6 5
? J 6
  ?A K Q 4
?10 7
?K Q 4 3
?A 7 2
 Berkowitz   Cohen Sontag
-- -- --  1?
Pass 1?  Pass  2NT
Pass  3? Pass 3?
Pass  3NT (All Pass)  

I've simplified the bidding to show a normal "Checkback" auction.

Berkowitz (West) chose to lead the ?8.

Would you rather play or defend?

I'll tell it as a story and see if you can spot any errors.

After the heart lead, dummy played low and I won the ?Q. I returned a diamond and it looks as if declarer has only 7 top tricks.

In dummy, declarer led the ?8 and passed it to West's ?9. Berkowitz returned the ?K won by declarer, who exited with the ?10.

I won the ?A and exited with the ?7 in this position:

Vul: None
? 8 6
? K J 5
? --
? 10 5 4
?J 9 3
? --
? J 9 8 3
? Q
  ? 10 7 5 2?9 6
? 10 5
? --
  ?A K Q 4
?K Q 3

Sontag won the ?A and cashed the ?K and ?Q. Then, in desperation, he cashed the top spades and threw me in with the 4th round of spades. Lo and behold, I had to give dummy the last two tricks in hearts for the contract.

So, can 3NT always be made after West's heart lead?

Astute readers will notice my error (thanks a lot). I did well to exit with the ?7 in the diagrammed position. Exiting with the ?2 would have been fatal. In fact, the ?2 was the most important card remaining in my hand. I should have played all my high spades under declarer's A-K-Q. Then, when he tried to throw me in with the fourth spade, declarer would have found himself winning the ?4 (with me following with the carefully-preserved deuce). That would be a good trade for me. I'd have given him an extra spade, yes, but only for his 8th trick. Then, he would have to give the last 2 tricks to West--down one.

But, I wasn't the only one who took his eye off the ball. At trick 3, when declarer passed a club to David, recall that he continued clubs. Declarer won his ?A and made a big error. He played his ?10 to my ace. WRONG!  He should have cashed his A-K-Q of spades and K-Q of diamonds first. Then, and only then, he should exit in hearts. Now, I have no answer. If I've unblocked all my high spades, declarer would have cashed the ?4 before throwing me in with hearts. If I've kept a higher spade, all I get is that high spade and the ?A. Try it yourself.

Lastly, Berkowitz (West) was also to blame. When he won the ?9 at trick three, he should have played a heart. That would have gotten the ?A out of my hand at the right time. Then, I could never get thrown in during the endgame.

I realize this is a hard deal to follow (thus the "Advanced" tag). Anyone with double-dummy software or the patience to lay out the cards might be able to see all the variations. Bottom line: three errors were made -- one by each expert. I hope that makes all my readers feel better.