Greed is a Terrible Thing

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 04/01/2015
Level: Intermediate

This deal was played by Jesse Reisman (who directs on many of my cruises) at the Shrine Center Bridge Club in Livingston, NJ. With both sides vulnerable, you are in 4th seat holding:

KQJ10
AK5
Q65
A87

After 2 passes, RHO opens with 1. I like 1NT overcalls (especially vulnerable) to be up to 18 points. This hand is 19, so a bit too strong. Therefore, I'd start with a double, planning to bid notrump next round. After your double, LHO raises to 2, passed back to you.

I could see an argument for doubling again, or maybe even bidding the very chunky 4-card spade suit. Even passing is possible (hoping to collect 200). However, Jesse followed through with the notrump plan and chose 2NT. Everyone passed and the 8 was led:

 A76J96210921032 KQJ10AK5Q65A87

Dummy has quite a lot (a raise to 3NT was surely a possibility). RHO wins the K, A and plays the J. This is welcome defense, as you now have 8 top tricks. What do you think the opposing distribution is?

Actually, you have a clue at trick one. LHO raised vulnerable to 2. It is most unlikely he would have done so with only 3 cards. Now that he has all small ones, he rates to have 8xxx. Why would RHO open in a 3-card diamond suit? Usually because of 4=4=3=2 distribution (in that order). This is not a sure thing (he was in 3rd seat and might have preferred AKJ on only three to direct the opening lead).

With 8 sure tricks, you might as well try for an additional trick in hearts. On your AK, LHO drops the Q on the second round. That means RHO started with 10xxx. You're now up to 9 tricks, but greed is a terrible thing. I'm thinking of throwing RHO in to lead away from his 10x in the ending. This would provide 10 tricks and +180 for a great matchpoint score.

What's the problem with this plan? A good East player will unblock clubs from, say Kx, avoiding the endplay. But, if he doesn't unblock, or he started with 2 honors doubleton, he is in trouble. To make it harder for him to unblock, let's say you cross to dummy's A and lead a low club. RHO plays low. So much for 2 honors doubleton. You win your A and cash the spades, RHO following to all of them (further confirming his 4=4=3=2 shape).

In the ending, you have J9 in the dummy and if RHO's last 3 cards are K and 10x, you can play a club and make your extra overtrick. Should you? Are you still with me?

Jesse went for it (somewhat insulting his RHO for failing to unblock,--but that player was not an expert). This was the Real Deal:

 Vul: BothDlr: West A76J96210921032 92Q88743KJ965 854310743AKJQ4 KQJ10AK5Q65A87

Let's review the play. East started with three high diamonds to declarer's Q. Declarer laid down the top hearts, and 5 top black cards. In the 3-card ending, East was down to 107 and Q.

When declarer exited with a club, West's last 3 cards were KJ and the long diamond. Had West lazily followed with the J, East would have had to win his Q and concede 10 tricks. However, West was on the ball and figured out to rise with his K! This swallowed his partner's Q, preventing the endplay. West took the last 3 tricks, holding declarer to 120. This defensive play is called a Crocodile Coup (opening the jaws wide to swallow partner's honor).  Actually, the West hero was an expert (Will Ehlers), playing with one of his students. After the deal, East thanked West for his alertness in taking her off the endplay.