5-6-7


Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 01/01/2016
Level: Intermediate

I played this deal in an on-line game. As South, I held:

♠ 1065  
♥ 102  
♦ A2  
♣ AK9865.
  RHO dealt and opened with a weak 2♠. We were not vulnerable against vulnerable, which helps me rationalize my slightly light overcall of 3♠. LHO preempted to 4♠ and we ended in 6♠. I received a diamond lead and it was easy:

Vul:EW
Dir: East
♠ AQ4
♥ AQJ98
♦ 7
♣ QJ107
 
     
  ♠ 1065
♥ 102
♦ A2
♣ AK9865
 

Not much of a lesson here. Of course, I won the ♠A, drew trumps ending in hand (they were 2-1) and led the ♠10.

More on my result later.

This deal piqued my interest, because I thought it would make a good "Real Deal" had the opening lead been a low spade. In fact, here is the problem I pose:

How would you play on low spade lead if you were in 5♠, 6♠ or 7♠?

In 7♠, you shouldn't risk the spade finesse. You will need the heart finesse anyway, so you win the ♠A, draw trump and run the ♠10. You will need the heart finesse to win, and only a really bad layout would doom you at that point.

In 6♠, what would you do on that annoying low spade lead? If you win the ♠A and rely on the heart finesse, you will be defeated when the ♠K is wrong. Better is to try the ♠Q at trick one. If it wins, you are home free. If it loses, you can fall back on the heart finesse. That gives you roughly a 75% chance (making when LHO has either major-suit king).

In you underbid to 5♠, you should not finesse the ♠Q at trick one. That is the only way to go down! If RHO has both major-suit kings and LHO has the ♠J, finessing will hold you to 10 tricks! RHO would win the ♠K and return a spade to your 10, LHO's jack and dummy's ace. Now, if you take a losing heart finesse, you will go down in five! So, you can assure your contract (and still make overtricks if the lead is from KJ) by playing low from dummy at trick one!  Even if RHO wins the jack, he can't get at dummy's spades. (Given RHO's opening 2♠, the spade lead can't be a singleton.) Or, if you want to try for 2 overtricks, you can win the ♠A at trick one, draw trump and try the heart finesse (making 5 or 7).

Let's review that. On a low spade lead, your strategy in 5♠, 6♠ and 7♠ is to play the ♠4 or ♠A at trick 1, the ♠Q at trick 1 and ♠A at trick 1respectively! The teacher (and logician) in me is easily amused by such things.  This was the Real Deal:

Vul:EW
Dir: East
♠ AQ4
♥ AQJ98
♦ 7
♣ QJ107
 
♠ J872
♥ 7653
♦ Q1095
♣ 3
  ♠ K93
♥ K4
♦ KJ8643
♣ 42
  ♠ 1065
♥ 102
♦ A2
♣ AK9865
 

As you can see, on the easy diamond lead, I made 12 tricks in 6♠. A spade lead would have defeated my slam. On a spade lead against 5♠, declarer will go down if he plays dummy's ♠Q at trick one.