Jack Detection


Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 05/07/2007
Level: Intermediate

More than 1 million dollars was in the prize pool for the 2007 Cavendish Invitational Pairs in Las Vegas. The winners (for the 3rd time) were Bobby Levin & Steve Weinstein. To read more, see the Cavendish website.

This deal from the final session contained some chances for expert play and defense:

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

 

Almost all tables played 3NT by South with a heart lead.

What's your analysis?

Declarer has to assume hearts are 4-4 (otherwise he loses too many tricks). He will work on clubs and the deal seems to depend on finding the ?J.

So, declarer won the ?A (either at trick one, or after ducking a round--it made no difference). Then he played the ?Q from dummy taken by East's Ace (more on that later). East-West then cashed their heart tricks, leaving West on lead in this position:

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

Declarer had lost the ?A and the 3 heart tricks, so he needed the rest. It seems that without X-ray vision, he will take a club finesse and go down.

 

But, look what happened next. West exited with a low diamond to East's king and declarer's ace. Now came four rounds of spades. East discarded his little diamonds on the 3rd and 4th spade to leave:

Vul: East-West
Dlr: South
?--
?--
?J 9
?3
 
?--
?--
?Q 10
?J
  ?--
?--
?--
?7 5 4
  ?--
?--
?--
?K 10 9
 

Dummy led a club and East played low. Should declarer finesse?

No! From the play, it seems as if East started with exactly 4 clubs. He showed up with 2? , 4? , and apparently 3?. (West shifted to a low diamond--only the Q10 of diamonds remain and it looks as if West has them. True, there could have been some fancy falsecarding, but it looks as if the diamonds are as you see them, leaving East with all the remaining clubs). So, what good would it do to finesse? If East indeed has all clubs remaining, and started with the jack, it won't fall. Finessing and then cashing the king would still mean down 1, losing trick 13 to East's jack.

So, given that clubs were probably 4-2, some declarers reached this ending and took their only chance of a club to the king. If East started with ?AJxx, it would be the same down 1. But, if East started with his actual ?Axxx, they would make their contract--as here.

Perhaps the defense should have disguised the distribution better, but also, it would have been best for East to duck smoothly on the ?Q. No doubt, declarer would continue with a club to the 10 for an easy down one.

Epilogue (what a coincidence):

The same night that I typed up this deal, I was reading an old bridge book ("The Most Puzzling Situations in Bridge Play" Reese/1978) and stumbled across this deal:

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

 

Declarer, in 6NT, received the ?Q lead. He knocked out the ?A and won the next diamond in dummy. He cashed all his winners outside of clubs (8 in all) leaving the lead in dummy:

Vul: 
Dlr: 
?--
?--
?9 6 4
?3
 
?--
?--
?10 8
?Q 5
  ?--
?--
?--
?9 6 4 2
  ?--
?--
?--
?A K J 10
 

From the play, East was known to have 4 clubs remaining (West had shown up with 3-3 in the majors and 5 diamonds). South needed all 4 club tricks, so ?Qxxx with East would be no good. Declarer must play clubs from the top to have any chance.

So, this was really the exact same theme as the Cavendish deal.

Epilogue 2 (another coincidence!):

One week later, my ACBL Bulletin (June 2007) arrived with this deal on Page 53 by Frank Stewart:

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

What's going on here? The same theme again! South reached 7NT with a spade lead. He tested 3 rounds of spades and diamonds, learning that East held 2 spade and 6 diamonds. Then came 3 rounds of hearts to reveal that East was exactly 2=1=6-4. In dummy, declarer needed the last 4 tricks with a singleton club opposite AKJ10. Knowing that finessing was useless, he dropped the doubleton queen offside to make his grand slam.