Did You See it?


Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 11/30/2015
Level: Intermediate

I played this deal in an online money game. At IMP scoring, I held:

♠ Q6  
♥ 843  
♦ AK952  
♣ 1097
 . With both sides vulnerable my partner dealt and opened 1♠. If playing "Standard" (which I would call old-fashioned") this hand might be worth 2♠. That bid (the old-fashioned way) showed 10+ -- and this hand is probably worth it due to the good 5-card suit and beautifully fitting ♠Q. Anyway, 2♠ would be GF (the modern way), so I had to respond 1NT semi-forcing, (my preferred way, which happened to be the default bidding system in this particular game). My partner bid 2♠. Now what? Partner's 2♠ has a wide range--it could be up to 17 or even 18 (just short of a jumpshift), so passing is too pessimistic. I took what is referred to as a "false-preference" back to 2♠. If partner is the expected 5-4 and has a minimum, 2♠ in the 5-2 would be just fine. But, partner bid again. He next called 2NT. What is this? He has to have extra values (he would have passed 2♠ with a minimum). I had extras myself (I just love that ♠Q). Partner is likely 5=4=2=2 and I pictured something like: ♠ AKJ72  
♥ A652  
♦ 103  
♣ A2
. That would be 9 easy tricks. I was a little worried about the club suit, but decided to raise to 3NT. A low club was led and I saw:

  ♠ KJ843
♥ A1092
♦ Q4
♣ AK
 
     
  ♠ Q6
♥ 843
♦ AK952
♣ 1097
 

I had 6 top tricks and could work on spades or diamonds. Which one? If spades are 3-3 (or 109 doubleton), there are 4 spade tricks + 1 heart + 3 diamonds + 2 clubs = 10 tricks. Even if spades don't come in, I could fall back on 3-3 diamonds for 5 potential tricks. It is better to play spades first, because if they don't break, you have the option of setting up the long spade in dummy with an entry to it. Working on diamonds first puts all eggs in that basket. More on this a little later.

So, you win the club lead and play a spade to the queen and a spade to the king and ace (neither the 10 or 9 has appeared). East returns a club to knock out dummy's other high club. You lay down the ♠J, but West discards a heart. Now what?

You have 8 tricks (2 spades, 1 heart, 3 diamonds and 2 clubs). If you play diamonds now and they split, you are fine. But, if they don't, you are out of options. It will be too late to go back to spades. On the other hand, if you set up the long spade (without testing diamonds), you might go down immediately. You are giving them 2 spade tricks and if clubs were 5-3, they have 3 clubs to cash. Imagine setting up the spades, watching them cash 3 club tricks and then finding out diamonds were 3-3 the whole time?

The answer is in trick 1. I purposely glossed over it at the time. Astute readers were likely wondering why I didn't tell them which club was led. In fact, it was the ♠2. A good declarer has to notice such things. Assuming your opponents are playing standard leads, the 2 tells you that West has only 4 cards in clubs. Yes, he could be deceiving you, but in general, defenders lead honestly. They don't want to fool their partner.

Knowing clubs are 4-4 gives you the answer. You should establish dummy's long spade. The defense can get only the 2 spade tricks and will have only 2 club winners to take. This was the Real Deal:

 

Vul:Both
Dir: North
♠ KJ843
♥ A1092
♦ Q4
♣ AK
 
♠ 75
♥ KJ5
♦ 10863
♣ Q852
  ♠ A1092
♥ Q76
♦ J7
♣ J643
  ♠ Q6
♥ 843
♦ AK952
♣ 1097
 

West led the ♠2 (make sure you take notice). You win and play a spade to the queen and a spade to the king and ace. East returns a club. If you try diamonds at this point, you will go down. The winning play is to set up dummy's long spade and take 3 spades, 1 heart, 3 diamonds and 2 clubs for +600.