Good declarer, Good defender

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

This deal from the 2009 Las Vegas Regional was a bridge writer/teacher's dream come true. It featured good intermediate-lessons at both tables.

Vul: Both
? 7 6
? 9 8
? Q 5 3
?A Q J 10 8 2
?K J 9 3
? K J 7
? K J 9 8 7
? 7
  ? 10 5 4
? Q 6 3 2
? 6 2
? K 6 4 3
  ? A Q 8 2
? A 10 5 4
? A 10 4
? 9 5

At one table, the auction was sweet and simple:

  Bob Hampton   Steve Weinstein
Pass 3NT (All Pass)  

Even though 1NT was 15-17, I agree with Steve's "upgrade." With three aces, two tens and no jacks (they are overvalued), this hand is worth a strong notrump. Furthermore, the fact that the ?Q and ?10 are in the 4-card suit with the aces, adds value. (Consider instead if the ?Q were the ?Q--a doubleton queen is not worth as much as when the queen is with the ace and a four-card suit). North raised to 3NT and West led a 4th-best diamond. How should declarer play?

Declarer should play low from dummy and win the first trick in hand with the ace! If you carelessly win the first trick cheaply with the ?10, watch what happens. You lead the ?9 for a finesse. East won't help you out by taking his king right away. He will hold up. Now, when you play more clubs you will have no entry to dummy. Better is to win trick one with the ?A. Then, when you regain the lead, you can lead a low diamond and reach dummy with the queen to make your contract. Steve played it this way (in the postmortem he remarked, "I am a Life Master, you know") to score 600.

At the other table, this was the auction:

 LC   Dave Berkowitz  
 Pass  2? Pass 2NT
Pass 3? (All Pass)
 I'm not endorsing the North-South auction, just reporting the facts. David (East) led a diamond which was ducked to my king. I returned a diamond which was won in dummy (South). It appears that declarer has to lose only one trick in each suit. He can take the club finesse, but I have no quick entry to issue a diamond ruff. But, look what happened. At trick three, declarer led the ?9 and let it run. David made a great hold-up play. He ducked his ?K. Now, declarer continued trumps. He won the ace and knocked out the king. David exited with a spade and declarer was doomed. He had no way back to his hand in time. He tried the ?Q, but I was able to win the ?K and issue a diamond ruff for down one and a 12-IMP gain for our team.
Note the good technique used in the club and diamond suit at both tables.This was a Real Deal with a good lesson for declarer and defender. Well done, Steve and David.