Going Backwards


Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 05/01/2015
Level: Intermediate

Usually, my article titles refer to the bridge deal, but this one comes from the circumstances. On our Lisbon-to-Miami cruise, a passenger broke her ankle. The captain decided to go backwards 500 miles so she could get to a hospital. When something like this happens, my group loves it--we just add an extra duplicate game! While in reverse, this deal was played. At favorable vulnerability, South dealt with:

?J76
?2
?A98
?AKJ872
She opened 1? and partner responded 1?. Rarely, I raise with 3 cards, but only if stuck. Here, South rebid a comfortable 2?. Her partner now bid 2?.  South took advantage to show the 3-card spade support with a bid of 2?. Partner next bids 3?. What's going on? Why is partner torturing us? This is a hard auction to define or teach, but partner's sequence should be forcing. She didn't raise 2? to 3? directly (invitational). She bid a new suit first, then raised. Over 3?, you have several choices, but since you've already raised spades and shown the 6-card club suit, I like 3?--a suit where you have some cards/values. Partner now raises to 5?, ending the discussion. The opening lead is the ?Q and you see: 

 

?AK92
?A
?10642
?Q1093
 
?J76
?2
?A98
?AKJ872

What is your plan?

As usual, I like to count losers (not winners) in a suit contract. You have no problems in clubs or hearts, but what are you going to do with your 2 little diamonds and the potential spade loser?

If diamonds behave (3-3 would be easiest), you can set up dummy's 4th diamond for a spade discard. Alternatively, you could play on spades, hoping for a diamond discard on dummy's 4th spade.

But, if you play on diamonds or spades unsuccessfully, you might have trouble. For example, if you lead towards your ?J (low from dummy) and it loses to the ?Q, and later the ?10 doesn't fall under the ?AK, you are likely down. Leading the ?J from hand won't work on many layouts (for example, ?Q10xx with East).

If you play diamonds first and they behave badly, you may lose 2 of them and eventually a spade at the end.

 

It turns out, there is a sure thing. Maybe I misled you when I said you had to lose 2 "little" diamonds. If they really were "little," you'd have to guess how to play the hand. But since the spots are the 9 and the 8, you can take advantage. Win the ?A, draw trump ending in dummy and lead a diamond. If East plays an honor, you are home free (capture the honor and drive out the other 2 diamond honors for a spade discard). And if East doesn't play an honor? Simply play one of your "little" diamonds. LHO will win the trick and have to help you. He is out of trumps (they are drawn). A heart would let you ruff in dummy and throw a loser from your hand. If he plays another diamond, you play low from dummy and East has to play another honor, after which you can drive out the 3rd diamond honor for the spade discard. Lastly, if West plays a spade, you play low from dummy. If East plays the ?Q, you have 3 spade tricks and a parking place for your last "little" diamond. If East doesn't play the ?Q, you won't lose a spade trick.

 

So, drawing trump ending in dummy and leading a diamond, planning on inserting the nine is a 100% line of play. This was the real deal:

Vul: E-W
Dir: South
?AK92
?A
?10642
?Q1093
 
?85
?QJ10643
?J3
?654
  ?Q1043
?K9875
?KQ75
? 
  ?J76
?2
?A98
?AKJ872
 

After drawing trump (even with the 3-0 break), a diamond from dummy goes to the 9 and jack. West has to help with either a spade or diamond play to yield 11 tricks.